Permanent Hair Removal is the Number One Side Effect of Electrolysis

10 May

Other Side Effects from Electrolysis are Temporary

Permanent hair removal is the number one side effect of electrolysis.  Before you get to your “hair free” status you might experience less-desirable side effects. This article will explain the common and uncommon reactions that may occur after an electrolysis treatment.  

Side effects and their severity will depend on four factors.  Those factors include your type of skin, the aggressiveness of your treatments, the techniques and skills of your electrologist, and your compliance in following aftercare recommendations.

The most common side effect you can expect is redness. This reaction is caused by a dilation and congestion of superficial capillaries.  Also known as erythema, redness is short-lived.  The recommended aftercare is to apply a compress of witch hazel for several minutes to several hours after the treatment.

Redness may be accompanied by a histamine response at the site of the follicle.  This reaction may look like a mosquito bite and is a heat induced or physical urticaria, also described as hives, which appears within two to five minutes of treatment.  This reaction usually subsides within hours of the treatment.

The aftercare for a histamine response can be selected from the following:

  1. For extreme reactions and as a preventative measure take an oral antihistamine prior to treatment. Follow manufacturer directions when taking over-the-counter medications.
  2. Apply a topical antihistamine during or immediately after treatment.
  3. For mild reactions apply a compress of witch hazel with small amount of wintergreen alcohol added.

Occasionally, redness and bumps on the skin will last longer than expected.   This is an infrequent side effect and it is temporary.  Keep skin clean without overusing products and do not pick, scratch or squeeze the bumps.   

Treatment of dense hairs might result in a leaking of blood serum, which shows up as a yellowish crust, usually the day after treatment.  This is not a frequent side effect, and it is not alarming. A day or so after treatment, a scab  may form in the follicle opening.  A scab is nature’s band-aid and it may honey colored or darker, and will protect the healing skin.  It is common for scabs to appear on body areas after an electrolysis treatment.  It is less common for scabs to appear on the face so let your electrologist know if this occurs. 

Utilize the following steps if a scab or yellow crust appears
:
  1. Keep the area clean.  Gently wash with mild soap and water, rinse and pat dry.  Avoid rubbing the area and apply a compress of witch hazel.
  2. Keep a scab moist.  Topical ointments can be used to prevent infection and helps keep the scab moist.  Your electrologist may provide recommendations for products to use.
  3. Leave a scab alone.  It may itch, so look for a topical with an analgesic.  Avoid picking or scratching the scab.  Healing will take longer if you remove the scab before it is ready.
  4. As always – keep hands off!!!

An infrequent side effect of electrolysis is the appearance of a pustule a day or two after treatment.  A pustule is a small, inflamed, blister-like lesion.  If you are prone to developing pustules, apply a warm compress immediately after treatment to help prevent their formation.  Salicylic acid may be used sparingly to help dry out a pustule once it appears.

Another infrequent and temporary side effect is bruising. A bruise occurs when small blood vessels leak their contents into the soft tissue beneath the skin.  A bruise can occur from the pressure of the electrologist’s fingers on the skin, when the electrolysis probe punctures the follicle wall, or when the client has taken aspirin-like pain relievers.  Most bruising will show up immediately and the electrologist should indicate that it might be expected.  Witch hazel is the best treatment for bruising and should be used immediately to  enable its astringent action.  A bruise from electrolysis treatment should be gone within 2 weeks.

Clients who have the herpes virus may experience a new breakout if electrolysis is performed in the area of their previous breakouts. Antiviral products have been shown to stop repeated occurrences.  If you feel a breakout coming on, reschedule your appointment to allow for the herpes infection to heal and to avoid autoinoculation to other areas.  Electrolysis will not cause herpes in a client who does not already carry the virus. 

Scar formation is an infrequent and rare side effect. Scars are areas of fibrous tissue that replace normal skin after an injury.  Electrolysis treatments result in minor lesions which do not result in scars, however, over-treatment and improper aftercare and previous skin care can result in damage to the skin known as pitting.

Loss of pigment at the site of the follicle may occur with over-treatment on dark skin. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) may occur on some skin types.  It is not from an electrolysis error, but from the nature of certain types of skin.  PIH usually subsides once the irritation of treatments has been stopped and can take up to a year to disappear.  Pigmentation spots known as melasma are unrelated to electrolysis treatments but may become more noticeable once excess hair is removed. 

Most skin damage is caused by digging and picking of the skin prior to electrolysis treatments. Chin acne will clear up after electrolysis if it is caused by tweezing of chin hairs. Tweezing contributes to retention of root sheath remnants which inflame the skin.  Tweezing can also result in hairs being broken off under the skin to become ingrown to cause chin acne.  Your electrologist should recommend that ALL tweezing and picking of skin stop.  

What other suggestions can I make for you?

  • Contact your electrologist if you have any reaction that concerns you.  Permanent hair removal as an electrolysis side effect outweighs other side effects a million to one.  
  • Communication between you and your electrologist is important in helping you reach your hair removal goal.  It is common for the first treatment to result in the most skin reaction, so talk to your electrologist if this occurs. 
  • Make sure that your electrologist wears exam gloves and utilizes medical sterilization for instruments.
  • Make sure that your electrologist provides you with a new pre-sterilized and disposable electrolysis probe at every appointment.  
  • It is important for you to comply with aftercare procedures to avoid infection. Stop all tweezing and handle your skin carefully.   
 
Disclaimer:  Please use caution and follow directions when using any over-the-counter product.  Contact your physician for medical advice as this article is not presented as medical advice.
 
 

© Barbara Greathouse, CPE   This work may be reproduced as a complete document without alteration as long as credit and link back are provided.

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Is it time to call the doctor?

26 Mar

Every human is born with millions of hair follicles on their body.  Fortunately most of those hair follicles won’t grow “noticeable” hair, and unfortunately some of those millions of follicles will grow larger and longer hairs in the wrong area.

All hair growth is affected by your genetics, your health, and your hormones.  In some cases it is wise to seek medical intervention for excess hair.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine provides A Guide for Patients with Hirsutism and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  This guide describes the androgen sensitive sites for hair growth and lists the following causes of hirsutism.

  • Excessive production of androgens by the ovaries (PCOS: Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, tumor)
  • Excessive sensitivity of hair follicles to androgens (genetic)
  • Excessive production of androgens by the adrenal glands (NCAH: Non-Classic Adrenal Hyperplasia, tumor)
  • Insulin Resistance (HAIR-AN Syndrome:  Hyperandrogenism, Insulin Resistance, Acanthosis Nigricans)
  • Excessive production of cortisol by the adrenal glands (Cushing’s Syndrome)
  • Menopause
  • Medications

The following pictures are representative of the Ferriman-Gallwey score – a method of quantifying and evaluating hirsutism in women.  

Most women will notice hair growth on their face begin with a few scattered hairs on each side of their chin and a few at the corners of the mouth.  If the hair growth progresses, it will follow the pattern you see above until there is a male-pattern growth on the face.

For more information, click to read Evaluation and Treatment of Hirsutism in Premenopausal Women:  An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline.  

When is it time for a woman to call the doctor when she has unwanted hair growth?

1.  When your hair growth comes on fast.

2.  If you have an apple shaped body.

3.  If you have menstrual irregularity or infertility.

4.  If you begin to notice a darkening of your skin in the folds of your neck or underarms.

5.  When you notice masculine changes in your body such as an enlargement of your clitoris or a deepening of your voice.

Selecting An Electrologist for Treatment of Unwanted Hair

8 Mar

The following article was published several years ago on the AEA website.

Reprinted with the permission of Barbara Greathouse, CPE – Electrology Works

After choosing electrology treatments, the permanent method of hair removal, the next step consumers should take is to select a good electrologist. You might think that licensing, certification or association membership would indicate that the selection process stops there, but there are many more indications (and red flags) to look for when selecting an electrologist.Licensing, Certification, Association MembershipThirty-two states and the District of Columbia license electrolysis as a profession. The state boards overseeing the profession vary from boards of cosmetology and barbering, nursing and medical, health and human services, and include boards of professional regulation, consumer affairs and business. In licensed states, the required training ranges from 300 to 1500 hours. Keep in mind that in an unlicensed state no training is required. Schools of electrology usually require a minimum of 120 hours, designed for those in unlicensed states. Several licensed states include chair-side or apprenticeship training which is usually double the hours required when attending a school. With that in mind, look for an electrologist who has a diploma of training. The licensed electrologist will often use the credentials “LE” or “RE” (registered electrologist) after their name.

Certification is provided through testing by a national organization and is maintained by continuing education. The Certified Professional Electrologist (CPE) credential is the premier certification provided to electrologists by the International Board of Electrologist Certification (IBEC) and secured by PROMETRIC™ a global leader in testing and assessment services, including development and administration of licensing and certification exams for businesses and organizations. Membership in state or national associations is a possible indication that the electrologist is actively involved in the profession. Associations offer continuing education and allow members to keep abreast of the most recent topics affecting the profession. Knowing that your electrologist is licensed, certified or associated with other professionals should give you some assurance of security, but there is more!

Referrals: Phone Book, Internet, Physician, Personal Friends

When seeking an electrologist, personal referrals are a very good start. While many people don’t want to admit that they have excess hair, if you quietly ask, they might tell! Physician referrals can be helpful, but then again, many people don’t even admit to their physician that they have had electrology treatments. Also, local phone books and internet searches can help you find an electrologist in your area. When viewing print, internet and television ads, make sure that they are providing needle electrolysis. In yellow page and internet advertising you will often see “heading jumping,” a type of bait and switch, where practitioners of other hair removal methods advertise as electrologists. If you call, they will make an appointment for you and never tell you that they do not provide electrology treatments.

The Phone Consultation

When you find an electrologist, call for a phone consultation or look to see if they have a website that provides information. During the phone consultation, you can ask about training, licensing, whether or not they provide a free in-office consultation and what other procedures they provide. This would be a good time to ask if the electrologist uses pre-sterilized, disposable electrolysis needles and what other sanitation and sterilization guidelines are followed. Again, make sure they are providing needle electrolysis. An advertisement that states treatments are “painless” should be a red flag. (Electronic tweezers, patch devices, laser and light devices are not electrolysis.) The electrologist will ask you to discontinue any tweezing or waxing when you make an appointment.

The In-Office Consultation

At the consultation, look for a clean, well-organized office and expect a friendly welcome by a professional-looking electrologist. You will fill out a health history assessment form that asks for contact information, questions about the areas you want to have treated, what previous methods you have used to hide or remove the hair, and questions about other health considerations. The electrologist needs this information to provide you with information specific to your hair problem, and to determine if you have any contraindications to treatment. Red-flag the electrologist who does not have this assessment form.

When the form is complete, the electrologist will then explain several things about the treatment. The physiology of the hair follicle and the fact that hair grows in unsynchronized cycles is essential information to help consumers know what to expect from their treatments. The experienced electrologist will be able to design a treatment program for your specific needs, but they will not be able to state the exact number of treatments, or how long it will take you, since your physiology is unique to you. Genetic, hormonal and medication variations will contribute to your specific problem. Ask as many questions as you like during the consultation. If you forgot or missed something during that first consultation, the electrologist should be happy to provide any and all information to you at a later date, if you ask. The consultation should also provide information about what to expect after the treatment, as your skin might be pink or even red for a few hours. It is important that you keep your hands off the treated area, and to avoid situations where your skin will get dirty, sweaty, or irritated for the first few days after a treatment. After-treatment products should be discussed, including what to do if you experience a rare side effect such as a pimple or bruising.

The Treatment

Most consultations will also include a short treatment, where the electrologist removes a few hairs so that you can see what it feels like and how your skin will react. The insertion of the electrolysis needle into the follicle should not hurt, but the treatment energy does sting. Upon removal of the hair, you should not feel that the hair was plucked or tweezed – it should slide out of the follicle with ease. The exception to this extraction sensation is the slight traction that can be felt when some catagen and telogen hairs are removed – as they are held in the follicle by a dried root sheath. Red-flag the electrologist who provides an insertion that is painful or whose hair extraction feels like tweezing. Before any treatment begins, you should see the electrologist wash his or her hands and don gloves. Immediately after a treatment, the electrologist should dispose of the needle in a red sharps container, place the tweezers in a soaking container, dispose of any cotton used during treatment, remove gloves and decontaminate hands by using an alcohol gel or soap and water. Red-flag the electrologist who fails to follow these protocols.

The Sensation

If the treatment energy sensation is too uncomfortable for you, ask them to stop. Make sure that the insertion is not causing pain, as it’s the treatment energy that will sting. There are topical anesthetics available that some electrologists will apply to small areas such as the upper lip or they will sell to you to apply prior to treatment. Some licensed states forbid electrologists’ application of topical anesthetics, however, you can obtain products OTC or by prescription. It is essential that you follow all directions for these products. After the first treatment, most people will say, “Is that all it is?” when asked about the sensation of the treatment. The treatment energy causes the sensation during electrolysis – not the insertion of the electrolysis needle. Some electrologists will provide ice or other cooling methods for you to take with you. The electrologist should provide written instructions for at-home care, but any concern that you have at home should be immediately addressed by calling the electrologist.

The Cost

Many people dismiss electrolysis as an option believing that the cost is prohibitive, but it is very affordable. The consumer seeking hair removal on large areas with dense hair growth will spend more than the woman with a few hairs on her chin. However, all treatments will occur with decreasing length and frequency as they progress. The average consumer spends around $25.00 to $40.00 per treatment (depending upon the geographical area) and is completed within 12 to 24 months. Some electrologists offer reduced pricing with the purchase of blocks of time. You should not purchase a block of time until you have had a few treatments from this electrologist and are sure of your practitioner. Choosing the practitioner who offers the least expensive treatments does not mean the total cost of treatments will be less than choosing the practitioner who offers the most expensive treatment; just as choosing the practitioner who offers the most expensive treatment does not mean that you have chosen the highest quality available. The electrologist with the best skills will give you the most cost-effective treatment.

Office Policies

Professional electrologists will have written office policies about the hours they keep, the methods for scheduling appointments, and the requirements for cancellation. Respect their time by giving 24 hours notice to cancel an appointment. Most electrology practices are owned by women who make a living by selling their time. If you do not give them appropriate notice to cancel, they cannot sell that time to another client, so you should expect to pay for the time you reserved. Exceptions to this would be a medical emergency or the manifestation of a contagious condition such as a cold, flu, or cold sore. The electrologist will also want you to communicate any concerns you have after a treatment.

Savvy Consumers

The 21st Century has brought us to an age of information that exceeds anything known before. Consumers should be aware that there are practitioners from all walks of life who lack the skills needed for their chosen profession. The electrology profession began in the late 1800’s, and the 20th Century provided us with technology and information about the body’s physiology that amaze us still. Education and technology won’t override skills, but they indicate an investment in the profession. There is nothing wrong with consulting with several electrologists in your area before choosing one. The savvy consumer will be knowledgeable about the procedure, will communicate openly with the electrologist, will follow treatment recommendations, and will get results.

Link

Up Close and Personal: Skin, Hair, and Hair Follicles

1 Mar

Skin and Hair Revealed!

Photography has always fascinated me.  Finding photographs of small things can be amazing and scary!  See actual pictures of skin and hair on Barbara’s Pinterest page.  Page will be updated on an irregular basis.

I. Love. My. Job.

22 Feb

I do love my job.  A lot of people never get to say that.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have stumbled into this unique profession called electrolysis.  I was just a child (of 25) when I took the job that brought me to the electrology profession.  Being a hairy girl myself, it never crossed my mind there could be a profession dedicated to permanently removing this prickly, shiny,  awful stuff!  I didn’t realize how many other people had unwanted hair.  There is no amount of hair and no location of hair that I haven’t seen in my journey as an electrologist. I’ve had a wonderful life and met some amazing people on this hair removal journey.

With smiles, Barbara