Electrolysis treatments: Are you in good hands?

2 Jan

We’ve all heard the advertisement telling us “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”  Upon seeing this ad, I began wondering how the electrology client would be able to recognize they are “in good hands.”  You are literally in the hands of your electrologist when you seek permanent hair removal.  Most electrology providers have excellent skills, but those who provide improper electrolysis treatments end up giving the rest of us a bad name and they are the reason some consumers believe electrolysis hurts too much and/or doesn’t work.  Improperly performed electrolysis treatments fail to provide permanent results; increase client discomfort and cost; and contribute to a client’s perception that electrolysis does not work. 

The intention of this article is to help you recognize when you have a great electrologist. It is my goal to help you discern good techniques and statements about electrolysis treatment from not so good ones.

THE CONSULTATION

Prior to beginning electrology treatments you should receive a thorough consultation. This video is an example of a great electrology consultation.  Every consultation will be different, but your electrologist should provide you with the information you need and want to complete your treatments.  During the consultation, the electrologist may determine that more information is needed before proceeding and on rare occasions treatments will be delayed or contraindicated until the practitioner can determine what is appropriate. Most of the time – treatment can proceed immediately following your consultation. 

THINGS YOU MIGHT HEAR DURING THE CONSULTATION

“Don’t shave.” 

A consumer posting on hairtell.com reported an urban legend about shaving:  “She told me that shaving breaks down the hair under the skin into several parts, like a tree with many branches.”  This statement can be added to the long list of old wives’ tales about hair.  Shaving is depilation, or removal of hair at the surface of the skin.  The simple act of cutting hair off will not change its structure under the skin.  Another hair-related wives’ tale is “shaving will make hair grow in longer, larger, faster, and darker.” The hormones at puberty turn on hair follicles that were previously dormant. Statements about hair growth should be based on science and not coincidental events.

“Each hair needs several treatments to be weakened.”

Statements like this can be heard from many electrologists.  One electrologist’s website states: “Because it is important to protect the skin, we cannot use an electrical intensity high enough to completely destroy the follicle. A little destruction of the hair root occurs with the removal of a hair in a particular follicle, and over time this hair root will be completely destroyed. At that time, this follicle will never be able to grow another hair.”  I was trained to say this during the consultation.   Upon further practice and experience I discovered techniques that allow hair follicles to be treated once without returning.   An over-cautious consumer might believe this is a safe practice, but repeated applications of current in the follicle might cause unnecessary damage to the skin.  With education and practice your electrologist can apply current to the lower 2/3rds of the follicle upon first treatment while preventing surface damage. 

Perhaps the statement about multiple treatments per follicle is made to help the consumer understand that electrolysis takes a series of treatments. The science of hair growth should be explained in such a way that consumers understand the unsynchronized cycles/stages/phases of human hair growth.  The reason electrolysis takes multiple treatments is due to the time it takes for ALL of your hair to reach the growing stage.

“Tweezing and waxing are okay.”

My friend and colleague, Jeannie M. Bush, RDH, RE, CPE, LI, www.AmenityElectrolysis.com, an electrologist from Wisconsin coined a phrase about tweezing that many electrologists around the world have adopted.  That phrase is, “Only tweeze the hairs you want to keep.”  If the client tweezes or waxes between electrology treatments, then the electrologist will have little or no hair to treat.  Hairs must be present and visible on the skin to be treated with electrolysis.  Repeated tweezing can cause hair follicle problems such as distorted and ingrown hair. 

THINGS YOU NOTICE DURING TREATMENT

“I felt hairs being tweezed.”

The client should not feel like the hair has been yanked out.  When hair has been plucked without proper current application then the hair may need to be treated again.  Being hydrated at the treatment time will help you and your electrologist in several ways.  Hydrated skin allows the electrologist to reduce epilator settings while it also decreases skin sensitivity and increases moisture in the follicle, allowing for the “easy slide” the electrologist is looking for upon hair extraction.

“It really hurt.”

While individual sensitivity will vary, electrolysis should not be a horrible experience.  Yes, there are a few people who feel discomfort to a high degree – I call these people the “Princess and the Pea.”  For most people, electrolysis is uncomfortable at its worst and relaxing at its best.  If your treatments are horrible, then do schedule consultations with other electrologists for a comparison treatment. 

Perfect insertions should result in no sensation.  The sensation comes when the current is applied.  State-of-the-art equipment (there are many good brands) will provide a more comfortable sensation than early epilator models.  The electrologist should be able to adjust epilator settings for your comfort and topical anesthetics can be used (prohibited in some jurisdictions) to help desensitize the area.  You might also consider taking an OTC pain reliever or an antihistamine (please follow manufacturer directions) prior to your visit.  A new item in the profession is Buzzy®, a cute little bumblebee that acts as a distraction during treatments.  Soft music, a calm atmosphere, avoiding stress and caffeine, plus being well hydrated can also help.

“My skin looked bad afterwards.”

Electrolysis does require some healing time. It is common to have some redness, slight swelling, and even the occasional scab after an electrology treatment. The electrologist should give you instructions on how to take care of your skin after a treatment. While there might be some tenderness, there should be no deep pain.  Talk to your electrologist if you have concerns about your healing process. If there are any skin manifestations the electrologist will want to see your skin and should be sympathetic to your concerns.  Read Permanent Hair Removal is the Number One Side Effect of Electrolysis to learn more about possible skin reactions. 

“I take my needle home.”

What!!  No, never. One consumer reported on hairtell.com that during the consultation the electrologist said, “This is your probe. It has only been used on you. You can take it home, or you can leave it here, where it will be placed in a file, or sealed container until you come back, and we can reuse it then.”  This practice is an attempt to economize by the electrologist and results in an infection risk that can and should be avoided.  Electrolysis needles (also called probe or filament) costs up to $3.00 (U.S.) and should be used once then disposed of in a labeled sharps container made of durable, puncture resistant plastic, which is designed to be disposed of as regulated medical waste.  Clients can expect the cost of the needle to be included in their treatment charge. 

Years ago, I wrote an article entitled Selecting An Electrologist For Treatment of Unwanted Hair. My hope is that both articles will provide hair removal consumers with information which will help them recognize when they are in good hands for their permanent hair removal needs.  

In Good Hands

 

About the author: 

After providing electrolysis services for over thirty years, I believe I’ve seen it all when it comes to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of electrolysis services. I was apprenticed by Wilma B. George in Topeka, Kansas.  I worked with her for almost 10 years before opening my own practice.  In the 20th century, Topeka was a mental health hub of the world, with the world renowned Menninger Foundation, bringing people to Kansas from all over the world, allowing this little country girl to learn about the diversity (and various amounts of hair growth) of humans and to hear about the travels of others.  I am honored to have provided electrolysis to clients who have come from all walks of life and from all over the world. 

3 Responses to “Electrolysis treatments: Are you in good hands?”

  1. Dee Fahey January 2, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    Very accurate information on modern electrolysis care. Thumbs up from me

    • Frances Listou January 11, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

      Thanks for the most comprehensive educational article for consumers and probably some electrologists!

  2. Arlene Batz July 2, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

    Thank you for providing great information to clients and colleagues. I really appreciate all that you have done and continue to do.

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