Permanent Hair Removal Modalities

November 7th, 2014
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Permanent Hair Removal ModalitiesElectrolysis is a great option for removal of unwanted body hair, and the only option the FDA allows to call itself permanent. So, how does it work? Magic, right? Well, looking at the results, you'd think so, but that's not quite the case.

Permanent Hair Removal Modalities

Electrolysis actually has three main methods – modalities – of use. All three modalities result in permanent hair removal. Which one is used depends on what area of the body you are treating, and what condition your hair follicles are in. We're awfully mean to our bodies sometimes, and it turns out that temporary hair removal methods such as plucking and waxing actually distort our hair follicles after a while! Your electrologist may use any or all of these modalities when helping you get rid of unwanted hair.

So, what are the different modalities of electrolysis, and how do they work?


Galvanic is the original modality. It was developed in 1875 by American opthalmologist Charles Michel, as a treatment for a painful condition called trichiasis. Trichiasis is the result of an eyelash growing towards the eye instead of away, often resulting in scratched corneas and other vision problems. The traditional treatment was to pluck the offending lash out, but that had two problems. The first, of course, was that it hurt. A LOT. The second was that the lash would grow back in a week or two, requiring yet another trip to have it plucked out. Michel discovered that by inserting a tiny, battery-powered needle into the offending follicle and applying direct current, a chemical reaction occurred that destroyed the hair-producing cells. Galvanic electrolysis is the slowest of the modalities, and is typically used for coarse, wavy, or deeply rooted hair, or hair whose follicles have become distorted by years of waxing or plucking, such as eyebrows. Galvanic electrolysis usually uses a single probe, but multi-probe instruments - which first came into being in 1916 - are common when working with a larger area of hair, such as beards.

Thermolysis / Shortwave

Developed in Lyon, France, in 1923 by Dr. Henri E. Bordier, thermolysis is also called Shortwave, RF, or High Frequency electrolysis. During themolytic treatment, a tiny probe is inserted in the follicle, alternating current is applied, and friction is created by the constant change in direction of the current. This friction creates heat, and the heat destroys the follicle. Thermolysis is much faster than galvanic treatments, and is best suited for fine, straight hair and down (vellus hair).


A combination of galvanic and thermolysis, blended electrolysis was developed in San Francisco in 1945 by Dr. Henri E. St. Piere and General Electric engineer Arthur Hinkel. They had observed that both prior modalities had advantages, and sought to increase effectiveness by combining them. During a blended treatment, direct current is applied (galvanic method) to induce chemical reaction. Then, alternating current is applied (thermolysis) to heat the resulting chemicals and push them further into the follicle, thereby destroying it. Blended electrolysis is most commonly used to chase down scattered, coarse hairs, but is effective for all use cases.

Not sure which permanent hair removal modality is best for you? Consult with your electrologist! Your electrologist has been trained to use the method that is most effective for your needs, and will help you achieve the results you want.

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