Is Laser Hair Removal Really Permanent?

Within the last few weeks, I have had several new clients come into my office requesting electrolysis on their underarms and bikini area.  After evaluating each of these clients specific area’s, it became clear that due to the color, texture and amount of hair growth present, laser hair removal would have been the quickest and most effective option for them.  After recommending laser hair removal to them, each one immediately said; “electrolysis is permanent and laser is not“.  And when I asked them why they thought electrolysis was the better option, they all responded that their decision was based on the research that they did on-line.  This way of thinking is not new.  Over the years, I have heard this response from clients during their consultation over and over again.

In just about every case, this way of thinking is due to the the FDA’s “permanent” classification of electrolysis and “permanent reduction” classification for laser hair removal.  While both of these classifications are correct, let me explain what they actually mean.  Let’s take the example of a 1 inch area of skin covered in 10 hairs; 8 being brown or black in color and 2 hairs being light; blonde, red, gray or white in color.

Let’s start with laser hair removal, which the FDA classifies as “permanent reduction”.  During this hair removal process, the laser device is pressed against the skin to emit a concentrated light energy into the hair follicle.  This laser light energy is only attracted to brown or black melanin/pigment.  Once this laser light energy is absorbed into the root system of an actively growing brown or black hair, the hair is destroyed.  And because it only recognizes brown or black pigment, it will not be effective on hair that is blonde, gray, white, red or extremely fine hair growth.

A pair of legs on a procedure table undergoing laser hair removal therapy.

Treat an entire leg with Laser hair removal in just 20-30 minutes!

The advantages of laser hair removal is that it’s incredibly quick on large areas of the body and typically requires an average of about only 6 treatments.  A man’s back can be completed in about 15-20 minutes, woman’s legs in 20-30 minutes and a Brazilian bikini in about 5-7 minutes.  And results can be seen with just 1 treatment!





Electrolysis is classified by the FDA as “permanent”.  During the process of electrolysis, a small probe is inserted into the base of each individual hair follicle.  Once inserted, a small electrical current is administered into the root system (papilla) to destroy each hair.  Multiple treatments are required for each individual hair before getting permanent results.

The advantage of electrolysis is that since it’s directed manually into each hair follicle (and doesn’t rely upon brown or black melanin to pull the energy into the hair) it’s effective on all hair colors, textures and all body area’s .  And unlike laser hair removal, it can be used on the eyebrow area. 

A technicians hands on a leg, applying the electrolysis procedure for hair removal.

Electrolysis is a slow process for larger area’s.

However, because each individual hair can only be treated one at a time, and must be treated several times, the process can be extremely slow and tedious, possibly requiring intense weekly treatments to start.  Because of this, electrolysis is usually not recommended on large body areas.



Now lets go back and take a look at the example of skin (covered in 10 hairs) which we spoke about earlier.  If electrolysis was performed on this 1 inch of skin, each individual hair being manually treated, no matter what color, would eventually disappear as permanent.  If laser hair removal was performed on this 1 inch of skin, the laser’s energy would only recognize the 8 darkly pigmented hairs, destroying them permanently, with 2 hairs (white, gray, red or blonde) remaining causing permanent reduction.  These few hairs can then be treated with electrolysis is desired.

Now that you know the differences between electrolysis and laser hair removal, it’s easier to understand why the FDA classifies electrolysis as permanent and laser hair removal as permanent reduction.  Both electrolysis and laser hair removal are extremely effective and work well either independently or in combination with one another.

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