Electrolysis Vs. Laser Hair Removal: Which Is Best?
Originally published on February 28,2017. Updated October 15, 2021
Looking to stop shaving or waxing? There are two great long-term hair removal options currently available: laser hair removal and electrolysis. Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks.
In this post, we’ll compare laser hair removal vs electrolysis and explain why we prefer the former rather than the latter.
Laser Hair Removal
Laser hair removal is a permanent method of hair removal, although it will take several sessions to achieve the desired long-term results.
Laser treatments work by focusing high-heat lasers into hair follicles. The heat damages the follicle without disturbing the surrounding skin, making it difficult for hair to grow back.
Because lasers find their target by looking for contrast, laser hair removal has traditionally been most successful for those with dark hair and light skin. However, new breakthroughs in laser technology are making laser hair removal more accessible for all skin types including dark skin tones.
Benefits Of Laser Hair Removal
Laser treatments offer long-lasting hair removal nearly anywhere on the face or body. The relatively quick procedure requires little to no recovery time. Benefits include the following:
- Permanent hair removal
- Suitable for face and body treatments
- Little to no recovery time
- Minimal side effects
Drawbacks of Laser Hair Removal
There are few cons to laser hair removal, but the procedure does have its drawbacks.
- May cause a stinging sensation
- May work better for those with dark hair and light skin
- Requires multiple treatments for full results
- New hair may still grow, although finer and lighter than before
Side effects of laser hair removal may include redness, swelling, pigmentation or irritation at the treatment site. These side effects typically resolve themselves within a few hours and can be minimized by seeking treatment from an experienced, board-certified dermatologist.
Electrolysis is a hair removal technique that uses an electric current to destroy hair follicles. An electrolysis procedures starts with a small needle being inserted into an individual hair follicle. The needle delivers heat energy to terminate the follicle. The individual hair is then removed (plucked out) using tweezers.
Since the follicle is destroyed hair is not able to regrow. However, the process of electrolysis is relatively slow the treatment focuses on individual follicles which may require several treatment sessions to be fully destroyed.
Benefits of Electrolysis
Both laser hair removal and electrolysis can remove hair from anywhere on the face or body, and each works well on small or large areas. Electrolysis works similarly on all skin types, since hair follicles are selected and treated by hand.
Drawbacks of Electrolysis
Both laser hair removal and electrolysis require multiple treatments, as hair is only treated when it’s in the growth stage. Multiple sessions are necessary, as each separate hair follicle naturally grows at different rates.
Although both methods are safe and FDA-approved, side effects of electrolysis may include pain from the electric current, redness, swelling, scabbing, scarring or changes to skin color.
Video: Laser Hair Removal vs. Electrolysis
Side Effects & Complications of Electrolysis
Patients who undergo electrolysis can experience several negative side effects and complications including:
- Skin Discoloration: Electrolysis can spur areas of the skin to change pigmentation; creating patchy areas of discoloration. Individuals with darker skin tones or sensitive skin are more at risk of discoloration.
- Pain/Discomfort: The process of electrolysis can be painful, with individual hair follicles needing up to 20 seconds of electrical current to react to the treatment.
- Scabs: Many patients develop swelling, redness and scabs along the skin after treatment. Scabs can lead to serious infection if it’s not properly treated.
- Ingrown Hairs: After a single electrolysis treatment many hair follicles become damaged but not completely destroyed (the reason why multiple sessions are typically required). These damaged follicles typically become clogged which causes ingrown hair.
- Bruising: Bruises along the skin are possible, especially if the needle is inserted incorrectly or too deeply into the skin.
- Scarring: If the treatment is done by an inexperienced technician skin damage and scarring of the skin is possible.
- Other skin issues: Some electrolysis patients have reported several skin issues like dry skin, dullness, and reductions in elasticity; stemming from the skins interaction with the electrical current.
We Prefer Laser Hair Removal to Electrolysis
Laser hair removal treatments are superior to electrolysis in most cases. Laser treatments both safer and has a higher efficacy rate, which is the reason why it’s the only hair removal service we currently provide.
Laser hair removal sessions are much shorter in duration than electrolysis sessions. Electrolysis treats only one hair at a time, making it much more time consuming. Laser hair removal uses infrared light to target pigment in the hair follicles, converting the light into heat to cause follicular destruction. Unlike electrolysis which addresses one follicle at a time, laser hair removal treatments can quickly address large areas of the skin. The computer-guided system gently disables hundreds of hair follicles in less than one second. This dramatically shortens total treatment time while reducing discomfort for the patient.
Number of Sessions
Electrolysis sessions typically occur 2 weeks apart, and may require up to 30 treatments. Laser hair removal can be completed in just 4-8 sessions, spaced 4-6 weeks apart. While annual touch-ups are needed for laser hair removal, the procedure is much less time consuming than electrolysis.
Both procedures can be uncomfortable, but because electrolysis takes longer, you’ll experience this discomfort for a longer period of time.
Electrolysis costs less per session, but you’ll need far more sessions before seeing results. With electrolysis, treating large areas of the body can become very expensive. Laser hair removal can be more cost effective in the long run.
Both laser hair removal and electrolysis offer long-lasting hair removal results. Which is best for you ultimately depends on your pain tolerance, patience, and availability for multiple sessions.
Lower Risk of Side Effects
Laser hair removal also has a dramatically lower risk than electrolysis of side effects like pigmentation and scarring. It’s a simple treatment that requires no “downtime” but produces an excellent result.
Regardless of the permanent hair removal treatment you choose, visiting a board-certified dermatologist will reduce your risk of side effects and increase the effectiveness of your results.
Additional Resources Comparing Electrolysis with Laser Hair Removal