Laser hair removal only works if the hair is black or brown i.e. darker than the color of the skin. For blonde hair or hair that's lighter than the color of the person's skin, electrolysis is the only option. Electrolysis uses electric currents to permanently remove hair and is more painful compared to laser hair removal, which is a newer procedure that uses lasers.
Electrolysis uses electrical epilation to permanently remove hair. A practitioner delivers electricity directly to the hair follicle by sliding a solid hair-thin metal probe into each follicle, causing localized damage to the areas that generate hairs. The power is started at the lowest setting and then turned up until the hair comes out easily.
Laser hair removal uses selective photothermolysis (SPTL) to cause localized damaged to the hair cell by selectively targeting the melanin in the follicle.
The complete removal of hair using electrolysis takes between 1 and 4 years, with an average treatment time of 2 years. Usually patients require between 15-30 half-hour sessions for best results. Each session costs approximately $60.
Most patients need around 3-7 treatments of laser hair removal, spaced 3-8 weeks apart. Each session takes approximately 10 minutes and costs between $150 and $200.
Electrolysis is recognized as giving complete and permanent hair removal by the FDA. It works on all hair colors and types. However, as it targets hair follicles individuals, it is not usually suitable for removing hair from large areas.
Laser hair removal only works on brown and black hair and is most effective on patients with dark hair and light skin. Some patients experience the regrowth of hairs after treatment and it is not certified as “permanent hair removal” by the FDA.
Electrolysis is regulated in many states, meaning that practitioners require training and an official license to offer the treatment to patients.
Laser hair removal is unregulated, meaning that anyone can perform the procedure.
The side effects of electrolysis may include redness, swelling, drying and an increase in ingrown hairs.
The side effects of laser hair removal may include itching, pink skin, redness, swelling, a change in skin pigment, some pain, flares of acne, scab formation and infection.