Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal: Which Is Better? (2024)

When you’ve had enough of your expensive monthly waxing appointment, or you can’t stand another second shaving your full legs in the shower regularly, it might be time to consider some more permanent hair removal options. Both electrolysis and laser hair removal are more permanent hair removal alternatives to help get fuzz-free. And while both are significantly pricier than your average razor, each treatment can help make your body hair maintenance journey a lot easier.

The choice between electrolysis vs. laser hair removal will involve many factors, and choosing the best option for you will get a whole lot easier after reading below. We tapped two dermatologists for their insights on what each treatment is, what are the biggest differences between the two, how to choose which option is best for you, and what might be the risks with each as well.

What Is Electrolysis?

Electrolysis is a form of hair removal. This method works by inserting a wire into the hair follicle beneath the skin and destroying it with an electric current so it can no longer grow hair. “You'll need multiple sessions (usually six to eight over the course of a year or so) for the treatment to be fully effective,” explains Geeta Yadav, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology. “This technique is solelyused to permanently inhibit the growth of individual hairs, like one or two chin hairs that might bother you.”

What Is Laser Hair Removal?

According to Georgina Ferzli, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, laser hair removal uses a light-based energy source (a laser) to target the pigment cells in the hair follicle. “By targeting these cells, the hair follicle cells are weakened, leading to hair reduction and slower hair regrowth,” she says.

The laser that is used in laser hair removal targets the melanin in the hair follicle. This damages the follicle over the course of multiple sessions (usually five to ten spaced out approximately every four to eight weeks), ultimately resulting in reduced hair growth. “This technique is best for addressing larger areas of unwanted hair growth rather than one individual hair, such as thearmpits or bikini line,” explains Dr. Yadav. “Many people find that by getting laser hair removal, they reduce the formation of razor bumps (if they still need to shave the area) or ingrown hairs, as well as reduce the appearance of ‘strawberry legs’ (dark follicles surrounded by redness) as the follicle is significantly diminished.”

What Is the Difference Between Electrolysis and Laser Hair Removal?

According to Dr. Yadav, the methodology between electrolysis and laser hair removal is totally different, and the results are totally different, too. Once a hair is destroyed with electrolysis, it can never come back. Laser hair removal can also permanently damage the hair follicle, but targets it in a unique way and can treat a larger area all at once. “As you treat with laser, you can expect that the hair growth in the treatment area starts to thin out first, before disappearing,” says Dr. Yadav. “You may find that you need touch-up sessions to keep the hair growth sparse.”

Another difference between the two is shaving. You should absolutely shave before laser hair removal for more optimal treatment, as it will help the device better concentrate its energy on the hair follicle rather than the hair growing out of the skin. According to Dr. Yadav, you cannot shave before electrolysis because this will make it difficult for the provider to find the hair and administer the treatment.

Lastly, there's the matter of hair color. Laser hair removal is best performed on those who have darker hair. Those with lighter hair (or gray hair) will not get a great result or any result if the pigment is too light. “For the most part, those with deep skin tones should only get treatment done by an experienced provider who has the right technology to treat their skin color,” suggests Dr. Yadav. “Electrolysis is effective on patients of all hair colors and all skin tones.”

Unfortunately, electrolysis is typically more painful than laser hair removal. It's very concentrated energy and it can create a stinging sensation, even if you've been treated with numbing cream beforehand. Most people don't find laser hair removal to be particularly painful, but rather uncomfortable. The sensation is comparable to being snapped with a rubber band.

“Both treatments can permanently prevent new growth from existing follicles, but new follicles may still grow and appear in the skin, in which case there can be new growth,” warns Dr. Yadav.

How to Choose Which Is Best for You

Dr. Ferzli recommends asking your dermatologist which option is the best for you. But if you’d rather bypass the derm, she recommends electrolysis if you have blonde, white, or gray hair. “We have yet to design a laser treatment that works well for hairs that lack pigment,” she says. “I’ve participated in a few trials where we tried to tag the hair follicles with things like silver or gold to see if the laser can manage to treat the lighter hairs, but the results were unimpressive.”

You want to consider your skin tone, hair color, and the quantity of hair you want to address when determining which hair removal treatment to choose. “If you have a deep skin tone, white or fair blonde hairs, and a small quantity of hairs you want to destroy, electrolysis is the way to go,” says Dr. Yadav. “If you want to cover a wider treatment area and dark hair, laser hair removal is for you.”

Risks of Hair Removal

There are a few risks with each treatment option. “Your provider will ask you if you're prone to forming keloid scars to determine if you're at risk,” says Dr. Yadav. “There's also a potential for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation if the treatment isn’t done with the right device or settings.”

With laser hair removal, hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, and burns are all possibilities, regardless of your skin tone. When seeking out these treatments, it is essential to be treated by highly skilled and trained providers, which will greatly diminish your risk of side effects. According to Dr. Yadav, most side effects occur when being treated by unskilled or unqualified providers. Seeing a dermatologist for these treatments is the safest option.

Dr. Ferzli agrees, and suggests visiting your dermatologist or doctor who will know which lasers will give you the best results. “It’s a good idea for a professional to choose the most effective and most efficient treatment—yielding the best results in the fewest number of sessions will save you pain, time, and money,” she says.

Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal: Which Is Better? (2024)


Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal: Which Is Better? ›

Laser therapy and electrolysis

Electrology is the practice of electrical hair removal to permanently remove human hair from the body. Electrolysis is the actual process of removing hair using electricity.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Electrology
both produce longer-lasting effects compared to shaving. But electrolysis seems to work the best. The results are more permanent. Electrolysis also carries fewer risks and side effects, and you don't need the maintenance treatments required for laser hair removal.

Which is more effective laser or electrolysis? ›

Electrolysis is considered a more permanent solution than laser hair removal (it stops hair growth completely while laser hair removal slows and reduces hair growth), but it requires more individual sessions (closer to 14), and the sessions can take longer. You might not see full results for nearly 18 months.

What is a downside to electrolysis? ›

Drawbacks of Electrolysis

Multiple sessions are necessary, as each separate hair follicle naturally grows at different rates. Although both methods are safe and FDA-approved, side effects of electrolysis may include pain from the electric current, redness, swelling, scabbing, scarring or changes to skin color.

How much more painful is electrolysis than laser? ›

Electrolysis can be likened to having a tattoo—it stings or prickles. Many people get around this by taking an over-the-counter painkiller an hour or so before treatment. Applying ice packs afterward can reduce any post-treatment discomfort. Laser treatment is akin to having a rubber band snapped against your skin.

Should I get laser before electrolysis? ›

You do not want to have both electrolysis and laser done on the same area of your body at the same time; however, some people start their hair removal process with laser, wait a few months to see what growth remains, and finish the process with electrolysis.

Can hair grow back after electrolysis? ›

Because electrolysis destroys the hair follicle, hair can never grow back. It's effective for the greatest range of skin and hair types. Electrolysis is the only method approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permanently removing unwanted hair.

Is electrolysis cheaper than laser? ›

electrolysis in terms of cost, laser hair removal is cheaper than electrolysis. On the average, laser hair removal costs $200 – $400 per session while a 30-minute session for a small area will attract a cost of $45. However, several sessions will be required than what will be required in laser hair removal treatment.

Why is electrolysis not popular? ›

Dr Emma Wedgeworth, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, explains that electrolysis has become less popular with the introduction of laser hair removal because it is much more time-consuming (hairs are zapped individually) and requires weekly appointments for a year or more.

Who should avoid electrolysis? ›

Absolute Contra-Indications – Requires a Doctor's Note: Diabetes, heart condition, hemophilia, pacemaker, seizures, transplant, surgery.

How many years does electrolysis last? ›

Expect to go through around eight to twelve sessions for a permanent result. That may seem like a lot. However, it's important to remember – the results last forever. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) consider electrolysis the only permanent hair removal method.

Where is the most painful area for electrolysis? ›

Toes and Fingers: Many report feeling the most pain on the toes and fingers. This is because this is a very bony area and there is less fat tissue.

Why is laser hair removal more popular than electrolysis? ›

The electrolysis method is only effective for removing small hair–like around the eye region. But the laser hair removal method can be performed on any parts of the body like the face, chin, upper lips, forehead, chest, back, underarms, thighs, etc.

How much does electrolysis cost in the US? ›

A one-hour session can range anywhere from $50 to $200, depending on the area being treated. Electrolysis hair removal is often more expensive compared to other methods, but it is more effective in the long run as the results are permanent.

How long does chin hair need to be for electrolysis? ›

For some people, hair growth may be slower, which means you'll need to allow a week or more to ensure you have 3 mm of length. For others, hair may grow quick, so just a few days will be sufficient for electrolysis.

How painful is electrolysis? ›

How painful is electrolysis versus laser hair removal? Electrolysis is very painful as compared to laser hair removal. For most people, today's methods of hair removal don't hurt but electrolysis does hurt. Electrolysis removes the individual hairs from the body that's why causes a lot of pain.

How many sessions of electrolysis is needed? ›

The total number of sessions needed to remove hair permanently from a particular area will vary from person to person. On average, it takes around 12 months to complete 8 to 12 electrolysis sessions. However, the duration may range from 8 months up to 2 years in certain cases.

Can electrolysis remove hair permanently? ›

Yes, electrolysis safely and permanently removes hair from all skin tones. It is the only FDA-approved permanent hair removal treatment. Because electrolysis permanently destroys the growth cells in the hair follicles, the hair will not grow back.

What type of hair does electrolysis work best on? ›

  • Excellent for strong and coarse hair.
  • Excellent for distorted follicles – the Lye is fluid and flows into the base of the follicle.
  • Current is attracted to the area of greatest moisture, i.e. the lower follicular area, where the dermal papilla is located.
  • Less re-growth.

Is electrolysis 100% effective? ›

Alternatively, electrolysis targets the growth cells in the hair follicle itself so that the treatment is 100% permanent. It is effective across skin types and hair colours, and safe for all areas of the body.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Errol Quitzon

Last Updated:

Views: 6223

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (59 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Errol Quitzon

Birthday: 1993-04-02

Address: 70604 Haley Lane, Port Weldonside, TN 99233-0942

Phone: +9665282866296

Job: Product Retail Agent

Hobby: Computer programming, Horseback riding, Hooping, Dance, Ice skating, Backpacking, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Errol Quitzon, I am a fair, cute, fancy, clean, attractive, sparkling, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.