Recently, a TIA reader mentioned that the TRIA Beauty Laser Hair Removal System is not an option for her, given the fact that she desires to remove gray or white hairs. As lasers only pick up the pigment in dark hairs, the only other option for permanent hair removal is electrolysis – though to clarify, laser hair removal actually does not classify as a means of permanent hair removal. The FDA states that lasers can permanently reduce, not necessarily permanently remove hair, though they often work well enough that many people consider lasers a permanent method.

So, how does electrolysis work? A tiny probe, similar to a needle, is inserted into individual hair follicles, where it delivers an electric current that destroys the area thoroughly and renders the follicle unable to grow hair.

There are three different ways of going about removing hair through electrolysis. The first is thermolysis; it uses radio frequency energy to heat the hairs’ cells, which destroys them. Galvanic electrolysis uses electricity to produce sodium hydroxide, which kills hair cells as well. The blend method uses both an electric current and radio frequency to permanently rid the skin of hair.

The most obvious benefit of electrolysis is that it’s permanent. Other advantages include the fact that it has been practiced since the late 19th century, giving it the credibility that is often associated with time; people of any skin tone and hair color can benefit from the procedure, which is not the case with laser hair removal; there are also home electrolysis kits that may allow more people to gain access to this method of hair removal.

There are negative aspects of electrolysis to consider, though. The process of removing hair for good takes many painful sessions that may be conducted over several years. It is also an extremely expensive procedure that can easily cost several thousand dollars. Finally, it is important to go to a licensed electrologist; not every state requires electrologists to be licensed (as not every state recognizes it as a profession); New York happens to be one of those states. Still, there are plenty of practicing electrologists in New York who have received licenses (and completed other requirements) from nearby states like New Jersey. Essentially, anyone can start a business and practice electrolysis on consumers without any training at all, making it extra important to only allow someone licensed to come at you wielding a hot, electric probe. With the right precautions, electrolysis seems to be a safe and effective procedure.