Working with Current
The hair on the body grows with part above the skin and part below the skin. When we remove the hair above the skin, as we might do in shaving, waxing, sugaring or threading, we are performing depilation. The process of epilation removes the hair from below the surface of the skin, by the root. Ouch.
Electrolysis - What is It?
Permanent hair removal is technically defined as removing hair so that it doesn't grow back for a period of one year. The FDA has approved only one method to accomplish this task and that is electrolysis. Also termed electrical epilation, electrolysis uses a thin metal probe which is inserted into a hair follicle without breaking the skin. Electricity passes through the probe and damages the area responsible for the growth of hair. There are three types of electrolysis used today; one based on a chemical reaction, one on heat and the third is a combination of both chemical and heat.
Different Types of Electrolysis
Galvanic electrolysis uses electric current through a probe. When the current passes it causes the salt and water present in the skin on the body to react, forming sodium hydroxide - in layman's terms, lye - which in turn damages the hair follicles. This chemical reaction halts hair growth from the cells.
The electrical current used in thermolysis causes the water molecules present on the skin to vibrate so much they produce heat energy. The hair follicles are damaged by the heat and again, cease production. In this case, heat energy causes the permanent cessation of hair growth.
A frequently used method is a blending of both the thermolysis and galvanic types of electrolysis. The lye produced by the galvanic method becomes more caustic when heated in thermolysis and is best used for rooting out hair growing cells.
Electrolysis has its own set of problems and disadvantages. It is both a tedious and expensive procedure. Large areas of hair are particularly difficult to complete and if the equipment is improperly used, serious skin damage may result. Having said all of that, it is still the only truly effective method of permanent hair removal. To date, no other method has been able to achieve the same results as electrolysis.
Flash Lamps and Lasers
Flash lamps use full-spectrum lights for hair removal. Along with low-range infrared radiation, this light is filtered to create a specified wavelength of light. Flashed from a hand piece to a particular area of skin, the light targets the pigment in the hair causing thermal and mechanical damage to hair follicles without damaging the surrounding area. Flash lamps present the same advantages and disadvantages as laser treatments and have made the same claims and counter claims.
Oral Medications that Work
There are a few oral medications on the market that have been found effective in retarding hair growth. Spironolactone, Finasteride, Flutamide, and Cyproterone acetate are some of the more common medicines used. They do, however, have the disadvantage of sometimes causing serious side effects so it is advisable to consult with a doctor before using any of them.