Electrolysis Versus Laser Hair Removal

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If you're ready to get rid of body hair on a long-term or permanent basis, two methods come to mind: electrolysis and devices that use lasers to remove hair. For the average consumer, one may seem more desirable than the other on first blush. However, these two ways of removing hair are different and yield different long-term results. So before you book an appointment at your day spa or dermatologist's office, get the real scoop on what you can expect from electrolysis versus laser hair-removal services.

What's the Difference?

The biggest difference between electrolysis and laser hair removal is that electrolysis eventually eliminates hair growth permanently with enough treatment sessions. Laser treatments, however, are a form of hair reduction. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which approves all medical-laser devices, specifies that laser services may make the claim of "permanent hair reduction." In the FDA's words, this means a steady reduction in regrowth after a treatment regime--and this can require numerous sessions.

However, several other variables should be taken into consideration by the consumer who's undecided between these two methods--namely, the amount of time they have to devote to getting rid of body hair, how much money they have to spend, and if these various procedures will give them their desired results.

About Electrolysis

Electrolysis is most effective when it is performed by a skilled electrologist with a number of years of experience, although home-electrolysis systems are available for home use as well. Electrolysis is a time-consuming procedure that involves removing one hair follicle at a time. A thin probe is inserted into the skin next to the hair root and delivers a small jolt of electricity that kills the root. Getting rid of hair on a small area of the body, such as the upper lip, can take only an hour, while removing hair from a large body part, such as the back, can take upward of 150 hours. Some hair follicles will grow back and require additional electrolysis treatment. Electrolysis also can be used to clean up hair in between and around the eyebrow area, while laser hair removal cannot be used to remove hair around the area of the eyes due to safety issues.

About Laser Hair Removal

Removing hair using laser treatments is far less time-consuming than electrolysis. A laser beam is directed at a cluster of hairs. The follicles themselves are destroyed using heat without causing permanent damage to the skin, if this procedure is done correctly by a dermatologist or other qualified health-care provider. Some people see up to 80 to 90 percent permanent hair reduction with enough treatments. Removing hair from a small area on the face can take minutes, while removing hair from the legs or back could take two or more hours. The Laser Hair Journal, a site maintained by professional dermatologists, states that between four and seven laser hair-removal sessions are usually required to get the best results for "good candidates" for this procedure, and herein lies the biggest caveat to opting for laser hair-removal treatments.

The "Good Candidate" Factor

Electrolysis works the same for everyone, regardless of skin tone and hair color. However, laser hair removal tends to give optimal results to those with fair skin and dark hair, says the Mayo Clinic, although those with darker skin and hair also can get favorable results. Laser hair removal is ineffective on people with fair, light red or white body hair. So while getting rid of body hair using laser treatments may be more appealing, you might not get the best results--or any results at all.

What's the Bottom Line?

Decisions, decisions. When it comes to removing body hair, perhaps they're best made with your bottom line in mind. Electrolysis costs between $45 and $125 per hour; according to the Laser Hair Journal. The nationwide cost of a single laser-therapy session was $366.75 in the first week of September 2009 (these prices are subject to change depending on season, your specific location and the body part treated). When using laser hair removal, maintenance sessions, usually once a year, are also required to address regrowth.

If you only want to get rid of hair permanently in a small area of the body, such as the face or bikini line, electrolysis may be your best best. But if you have a large amount of hair to remove, laser hair removal may give you the best results for less cost over time--as long as you're a good candidate for this method of hair removal. For a price comparison between these two procedures, see the Resources link below.

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