Frequently asked questions
How does electrolysis work?
Electrolysis involves the insertion of a very fine, disposable, sterile probe (the same diameter as the hair) into the hair follicle, which is a natural opening in the skin. A tiny amount of energy is then skilfully discharged into the hair follicle. The only sensation felt by the client is heat passing down the probe to the base of the follicle. The follicle destruction is achieved by heat (with thermolysis) or a chemical reaction (with galvanic) or both blended together (with the blend).
The treatment can be adapted to suit each client’s skin, hair and pain threshold.
During a course of treatments there will be a constant, gradual decrease in the growth of the hair until it has all been permanently removed (a bit like watching a man go bald, e.g. 200 hairs reduce to 150 , 125, 100 etc. until there are no hairs left, as follicle destruction has been achieved). The number of treatments required will vary from person to person and will be discussed at the initial consultation.
Electrolysis can be used on any part of the body. No type or volume of body hair is too stubborn for treatment and no body part too embarrassing. Treatment areas include all facial areas, legs, bikini line, chest, nipples, back, abdomen, underarms, fingers, toes and eye brows. Some BIAE members also treat eyelashes, whilst others treat transgender clients, removing intimate body hair prior to surgery.
The first sign that electrolysis treatment is working is that the hair growth becomes softer, finer and lighter in colour. You will see and feel the difference throughout the course of treatment, so you do not have to wait until the end of your course to see a difference.
Following treatment clients will be given strict aftercare instructions to adhere to in order to support the electrolysis treatment.
It’s crucially important to get the amount of destruction in the follicle just right in order to prevent any damage to the surrounding skin tissue while at the same time treating the hair follicle effectively - hence the need for the British Institute & Association of Electrolysis. We are the ONLY professional organisation to personally check the skills of all listed members through additional practical and written assessments, and require members to undertake annual Continuous Professional Development to update skills and knowledge.
What's the difference between electrolysis and laser?
Electrolysis treats each hair follicle individually with a very fine, disposable, sterile probe to permanently destroy the follicle’s ability to reproduce, thereby eradicating hair growth on completion of the course of treatment.
Laser tends to treat large areas of skin using a laser or light-based lamp which can reduce hair growth, but not remove all of the hair permanently. It is termed hair reduction rather than hair removal. Several BIAE members perform both electrolysis and laser (or IPL, which is similar to laser) as the two treatments can work well in conjunction with each other in some circumstances. Permanent hair removal with electrolysis requires a longer course of treatment but results in complete, permanent removal of all hair treated.
Laser/IPL treatment requires further treatment when the hair grows back. You can read more about laser/IPL here (external link). Please note we have no affiliation with any laser/IPL company or clinic, nor can we endorse any brand or give advice on any aspects of laser/IPL. We strongly advise you to speak to a qualified laser/IPL technician to discuss your needs.
LASER and IPL [Intense Pulsed Light] can provide a permanent reduction of hair. Up to 85% of the hair can be permanently removed. Unlike electrolysis they cannot permanently remove all the hair in any given area.
In addition to this, many people and hair types are not suitable for LASER and IPL e.g. fair, blonde, red or grey hair; people with a tan or on certain medication.
During treatment with LASER or IPL intense pulses of light are applied to each section of the area to be treated. The light is attracted to and absorbed by the melanin [pigment] in the hair causing the cells which stimulate hair growth to be heated and destroyed. This process is called selective thermolysis and a course of treatment is required.
Which areas can be treated by electrolysis?
Virtually any area, apart from the inner ear (the rim of the ear can be safely treated).
Common areas for woman are facial areas, (top lip, chin, neck, cheeks, eyebrows) breasts, abdomen, underarms, bikini line, legs, fingers and toes.
Common areas for men are the upper arms, around the ears, top of the nose, eyebrows, top of the back, cheeks above the line of the beard, around the edges of the beard and any areas where ingrown hairs are causing problems.
Transgender/transsexual females often require full beard removal, some chest hair removal and pre-surgery genital hair removal for sex reassignment surgery (SRS).
Can I have electrolysis if I'm pregnant?
Yes, as pregnancy is not normally a contra-indication to the Thermolysis/Shortwave diathermy method of electrolysis. This method uses alternating current (AC) which produces a very weak intensity of current during the procedure. There is no risk to mother or unborn child although treatment of the breast and abdominal areas should be avoided, especially in the later stages of pregnancy – this is entirely due to the fact that the skin in these areas is stretched and therefore under duress – no harm could be caused to the foetus as the current does not pass through the body at all.
However, the 'Blend' or 'Galvanic' methods of electrolysis is best avoided during pregnancy. These methods use direct (DC) electrical current. If you are unsure which method you may be offered, please ask your electrolysist.
If, by chance, you have been having ‘Blend’, please do not worry, it too can be used during pregnancy and should not pose any problem, especially if treatment has been to the facial area. Many clients have treatment before they know that they are pregnant, without any ill effects whatsoever. If you are at all concerned, please discuss this issue with your therapist/practitioner or GP. (Please note some members may choose not to offer treatment during pregnancy.)
Does electrolysis hurt?
Pain is highly subjective however the general sensation is of a mild warming sensation or heat (a slight discomfort). This sensation varies according to the area being treated, previous method of hair removal, and hair & skin type along with client pain threshold.
Electrolysis treatment can be adapted to suit each individual client by adapting current intensity, timing application and probe type, along with the choice of 3 different methods of electrolysis available. A skilled practitioner will review and adapt treatment to suit the clients’ needs.
How many treatments do I need?
The number of treatments required will vary from person to person as each client will have a different density of hair growth (e.g. there may be between 50 hairs and 500 hairs packed into a small area of skin tissue, whilst some clients will have less hair which is spaced out). This means that each treatment course will vary, and therefore no actual figure can be put on the number of treatments required, but you will quickly feel and see a difference giving you the confidence to continue with your treatment course. You will need to have regular appointments over a period of time (at least a year if not more) for most areas. Not all our hair is growing at the same time, and it can be quite a shock to find that those 3 or 4 hairs on your chin could actually be 30 or more hairs ‘taking turns’ to grow! On top of this hair thickness, skin sensitivity, dryness and other factors affect how quickly each hair can be eliminated. Appointment times can vary from as little as 10 minutes to as much as several hours, depending on how large an area needs to be treated.
Is there a good time to start electrolysis treatment?
It is best not to start electrolysis just prior to a long holiday, before a busy period or just before an important event when it will be difficult to stick to your appointment schedule. Please book a consultation with your nearest member to discuss the best treatment plan for your hair problem and lifestyle and to have explained the process, time and costs involved. You will be able to see the hair reducing throughout your treatment though, so you do not have to wait until the end to see an improvement.
What does the skin look like following treatment?
Generally there is some redness and a little localised swelling immediately following electrolysis. This will disappear in time depending on the skin sensitivity and skin type. Generally the next day your skin will show very little sign of treatment, however some people may see tiny reddish brown pinprick scabs, especially on body areas or where hairs are distorted or ingrown. These scabs drop off naturally within a few days to a week depending on the individual’s healing ability. If however you notice any unexpected after effects then please mention it to your BIAE member.
Will I be scarred?
If strict aftercare instructions are not followed there is a VERY small risk of temporary marking (your electrolysist will go through this with you). Provided the treatment is carried out correctly and aftercare is followed then there is no risk of scarring. This is why it’s so important to seek out a BIAE member for your treatment.
I am a blood donor, can I still have electrolysis?
No, unless you stop donating for the duration of your treatment. According to the official Give Blood website you should not donate blood if you have had a cosmetic skin piercing treatment in the past 4 months.
I have heard electrolysis doesn't work.
Do you know if they went to a BIAE member? Did they have regular treatment and stick with their treatment plan or give up after a few weeks? There are many reasons why someone might not have the best impression of electrolysis, usually because of poor treatment, but we can only speak for our members as we have checked that they are performing electrolysis correctly. Why not have a chat with your nearest member, or perhaps just have a very small area treated first to see for yourself. Electrolysis will ALWAYS work when performed correctly by skilled and experienced practitioners.
I want electrolysis but I can't bear the thought of letting the hair grow between
You can still remove hair between appointments by cutting or shaving (yes, even on the face). The hair does not have to be any longer than it would be when you remove it yourself.
I can't find a non BIAE member near me. Any tips for choosing a non BIAE member?
Sorry we can only advise and represent those who have taken our entrance exam and are current members.
Advanced electrolysis - treatments/results
Please note that realistically a reduction in red veins of 60 – 80% can be expected and that with all other lesions we are unable to guarantee that all normal pigment will return.
Why shouldn't I wax, shave, tweeze, epilate?
Nothing else is permanent - electrolysis is the only method of permanent hair removal, and is approved as such by the British Medical Association.
Other methods advertise as permanent, but the best they can do is reduce a hair growth - this includes laser. Some methods actually increase the growth over a period time. Companies that advertise permanent removal (but not by electrolysis) are gradually being identified by the Advertising Standards Authority and stopped from advertising permanency.
Waxing, Tweezing, Threading & Epilating:
If you use a temporary method of hair removal that removes hair mechanically by the root your hair growth will increase (although at first it will appear to reduce as it takes longer to grow back after being removed by the root). This is because, as a result of the trauma to the hair follicle caused by these methods, the blood supply to the follicle is increased.
Each time a hair is removed in this way it will grow back a little stronger. Even fine hair will become stronger
Shaving, Depilatory Creams, Dermaplaning, Cutting & Abrasives:
These methods of removal do not actually increase the hair growth, but they will never get rid of it either! Sometimes they appear to increase it because the hair feels stubbly when it grows back. Because it has been chopped off half way down the shaft of the hair and is now blunt rather than being naturally tapered. Plus, because all the hair grows back at the same time, it may look & feel as if there's more hair than there was before.
If it’s necessary for you to maintain your hair growth between electrolysis treatments you can use one of these methods but the way to get the best and quickest result from electrolysis is to have the length of treatment at each session that allows you to leave the clinic with the area free of hair.