What Is Electrolysis?

Electrolysis is the science of permanent hair removal utilizing a probe device. A fine, sterile probe is inserted into the hair follicle and a small amount of current or heat, depending on the modality used, is discharged destroying the hair follicle and preventing it from producing another hair.

We will choose the appropriate current for the client after analyzing the skin, texture, moisture gradient (dry or moist), hair type, and client sensitivity. With these options available, your treatment can be customized for maximum comfort, swiftness, and most importantly, permanency.

Modern Electrology began in 1875 through the efforts of Ophthalmologist, Dr. Charles Michel. He accidentally discovered electrolysis while removing an ingrown eyelash from one of his patients. Through his initial efforts and continued research, permanent hair removal through Electrolysis became  a reliable and safe method for halting excess hair. For the last 100+ years the medical community has recognized the three methods of electrolysis as the only process for permanent hair removal: Thermolysis, Galvanic and Blend.


A DC (direct) current passes through the needle charging the moisture (H2O) and salt (NaCl) naturally found in the follicle causing a chemical reaction. Sodium hydroxide (lye) is produced. The lye destroys the hair follicle by chemical decomposition. This method is the “original” electrolysis method  from 1875 but requires a multi-needle machine and they don’t make them anymore. Therefore, we do not use this method at Zap! 

The current causes the H2O (2 Hydrogen and 1 Oxygen atom) to split apart (ionize) into a Hydroxyl Ion (OH) and a Hydrogen Ion (H). Ions are unstable and tend to recombine with other ions. The Salt molecule (NaCl) is composed of one Sodium atom (Na) and one Chloride atom (Cl). The current separates it into a Sodium Ion and a Chloride Ion. The unstable Ions will pair up immediately to balance themselves. The Chloride Ions hook up in stable pairs (Cl2) to form Chlorine Gas. The Hydrogen Ions pair off to form Hydrogen Gas (H2). And most importantly, each Sodium Ion (Na) tends to combine with a Hydroxyl Ion (OH) to form Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH). This is our follicle-killing Lye!

For those interested, below is the chemical equation:

Galvanic Current + H20 (moisture in the follicle) + NaCl (salt in the follicle) = H2 (Hydrogen gas) + Cl (Chlorine gas) + NaOH (Lye)


An AC (alternating) current passing through the needle causes vibration in the water molecules surrounding the hair follicle which produces heat. The heat damages the hair follicle. This is the quickest method, but areas will need to be covered more times than with Galvanic or Blend.


This method combines the benefits of galvanic and thermolysis by passing a DC current through the needle, producing lye, which is then heated up by the AC current. The heat spreads the lye around the follicle, ensuring proper damage to the hair follicle tissue. This is faster than Galvanic alone, but still more time consuming than Thermolysis.

What Causes Excess Hair?

According to current medical science, excessive hair growth is primarily caused by three factors: Normal Systemic Changes, Heredity and Glandular Disturbances.

Normal Systemic Changes can be caused by puberty, pregnancy, menopause and hysterectomy. Puberty stimulates change in both the body and hair-growth patterns. Common pattern changes include an increase in hair follicle activity and an overall darkening/thickening of the hair shaft. The diminished hormonal levels in a woman¹s body following menopause and/or a hysterectomy can promote new hair growth on the face and body.

Glandular Disturbances originate in the endocrine system, which is responsible for our physical development. Certain specific medications, such as male hormones, birth control pills, and even pregnancy can disrupt the delicate endocrine balance and produce unwanted hair.

Hereditary Hirsutism, excessive and abnormal growth of hair, is found in all nationalities, some more than others. Electrolysis can permanently solve this problem regardless of nationality or the amount of hair. However, many cases of “excessive” hair growth are actually normal in relation to the physiological changes the client may be going through, just as it is normal for many men to go bald. Most instances of baldness are caused by heredity and are considered normal.

It is worth noting that stress (both emotional and physical) can stimulate the adrenal glands to initiate a hormonal reaction that can cause finer hairs to become more coarse and noticeable. Increased blood supply can also stimulate hair to grow thicker and darker. Waxing and tweezing can cause an increase in blood supply in many clients while others experience reduction of hair growth.

What Is A Normal Hair Growth Cycle?

All hair, regardless of the area of the body, has a different growth cycle. Eyelashes and eyebrows, for instance, grow for about four months and then are shed. The life span of a human scalp hair is from two to four years. After the hair is sloughed off, the follicle becomes dormant for a period varying from a few weeks to several months, and then begins once again to produce hair. Since only visible hair can be treated, the initial treatment period for any given area is four months.

What this means is it can take 4 months for all the different follicles to build and grow  the hair to a place where we can see them  on top of the skin and treat them with electrolysis. So it takes 4 months for us to get through the first treatment of all those hairs. The thicker the hair, the more times we will have to go in and treat  the follicle. 

Much of the perceived “re-growth” that occurs during treatment is really hair emerging from dormancy. Once this hair becomes visible, it can be treated for the first time.

How Long Does It Take To Be Rid Of The Hair?

Although the number of treatments required varies with each client, those that adhere to the recommended treatment schedule usually accomplish their goal between 12-18 months.

Some improvement should be observed within several months after initiating treatment, provided the client adheres to the recommended treatment schedule.

Factors such as hair growth cycles, the quantity and structure of the hair presented, previous uses of temporary hair removal methods, heredity, hormone function, normal physiologic changes, certain medications and stress may influence the treatment program. Hairs that have been tweezed, waxed or are very curly often have a good chance of coming back as a finer hair. It can then be epilated for good. This is due to the follicle distortion, which means it is not growing straight under the surface of the skin. Since the probe is straight, with a bent root, only part of the hair (and germinative cells) is treated on the first treatment.

Are All Hairs Eliminated In One Treatment?

Electrolysis is not a “one and done” process. It typically takes from 12-18 months to clear an area – especially hormonally driven hairs like the upper lip, chin, breast and chest area. That is an estimate and because we are all different, the time it takes to clear an area of unwanted hair varies. 

I like to use analogies and in this case the analogy is describing the cells that build hairs as if they were a construction crew building a house. The cells in the hair follicle have one job – to build hair. Once they’ve built a hair, it starts to move up and out of the follicle, which from our outside perspective just looks like a hair growing longer. The hair will eventually shed and fall out unless you remove it while it’s short, with a temporary method like tweezing, waxing, threading. Once the cells get the notification that the hair has been removed or has naturally shed, the cells go back into action and rebuild that hair. This cycle happens repeatedly all throughout our life. There are constant regeneration processes going on in our body at all times. There is a blood supply source (capillaries) at the bottom of the follicle and it literally fuels the cells to build. Like a protein bar, giving them the energy to keep working. What we want to do is cut off the fuel source and kill enough cells so they don’t have the ability or strength to rebuild. How we do this is by sending heat (or lye) into the follicle to burn them and simultaneously cauterize the capillaries, thereby cutting off their nourishment. Due to hair growth cycles, there are more cells at the earliest stage of growth so this is the best time to treat the follicle – when it first grows out after being treated previously. This is where the timing of the treatment comes into play.

Think of the follicle as a plot of land, the germinative cells are the construction crew. The crew’s job is to build a house on this plot of land. We want to stop them from building this house. We are going to do this by dropping well-times heat bombs. We only want to kill this crew. We don’t want to do any more damage than necessary or disturb other neighboring houses (collagen, dermal tissue, etc.).  Now when a home is just starting to be built, most of the crew members are there building the foundation – this is true of the cells too- so we can kill more crew members if we drop the bomb in the early stages of the hair being built. If we wait until the hair is mostly grown meaning it’s been growing for a while and is long then only the “finishing touch” crew members/cells will be present when we drop the bomb. (Cutting the hair making it short would still be considered as a hair that’s been growing for a while) Our goal is to kill the majority of the crew. If we drop bombs when the majority of the crew is in the house then we’re going to have to drop fewer bombs overall. But if we always drop bombs in a later stage of growth we will need to do many more bomb droppings. If you come in more frequently in the beginning – or when the hair first grows, you will need fewer treatments thereby costing you less money. The success equation is putting the right amount of heat/current in the right spot of the follicle at the right time ( stage of hair growth).  

So we drop a bomb, kill some cells, wait for the follicle to recover, and then we drop another bomb. We try to be cautious with the size of the bombs so we don’t harm anything other than the cells we are targeting. Since there are different follicles growing hairs on different schedules we may see you one week and bomb some follicles and then two weeks later we’re doing it again  but this time it’s different follicles.  To ensure you always have eyebrows, hair on your head, etc. there are always hairs in different growth stages sitting next to each other. We usually repeat treating the same follicle every 2-3 months or longer. Thicker hairs usually show up again in 2.5 months. The thinner the hair the longer we have to wait for it to grow again if we need to bomb again. The thinnest hairs permanently die out the fastest with the thicker hairs needing multiple bomb droppings to reach permanent removal. But all follicles will eventually stop growing hairs once we’ve reached the right amount of treatment.

What Are The Side Effects?

Immediately following treatment, there may be a slight redness and/or swelling which usually disappears within a few hours. Occasionally, small whiteheads or tiny scabs may occur. Whiteheads usually are indicative of either bacteria entering the follicle after treatment, or of the sebaceous gland within the follicle reacting to the heat, releasing sebum to soothe the heated area and the sebum getting trapped causing the whitehead It doesn’t happen often and when it does it’s only one or two.

Remember to keep the area as clean as possible for the 24 hours immediately following treatment.Scabs are part of the normal healing process and will not cause any permanent damage if they are not picked off. Trauma to the underlying tissue will sometimes cause lymph fluid to seep from the follicle. The lymph fluid rises to the top of the skin and in a dry environment will harden forming a tiny scab. Applying antibacterial ointment on the treated area will often deter the scabs from forming. You can read more about this in the After-Care Instructions on this website. When electrolysis is correctly administered there should be minimal irritation and no permanent skin damage.

How Much Does It Cost?

Cost is based on how much hair you have to begin with and how much of it you want removed. Since each individual¹s physiology is not the same, some clients require more treatments than others because of stronger follicular resistance. Upon your initial visit we can give you an estimate but it is simply an estimate. I wish there was a cut and dry answer to this question, but unfortunately there is not.

Is It Painful?

Each person¹s individual pain tolerance plays a major factor in the degree of sensation felt by the electrolysis treatment. Because we are in essence destroying tissue in the follicle there is sure to be an uncomfortable feeling. For some it is merely an annoyance, for others it is less tolerable. Fortunately there are topical numbing solutions that can be used, as well as over-the-counter pain relievers, which seem to help. See the Pre-Care Instructions for more detailed information.

What About Laser?

While laser promoters compare laser to electrology and some laser devices have been cleared for permanent reduction, laser assisted hair removal is considered a permanent reduction of hair removal as opposed to electrolysis which is classified as Permanent Removal. Additionally, laser hair removal has not been evaluated for long-term safety of the patient’s skin and health.

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