The History of Electrolysis


The first person to use electrolysis for hair removal was Dr. Charles E. Michel (1833 – 1913), a St. Louis, Missouri ophthalmologist (eye doctor) who, in 1875, reported the results of his use of electrolysis in trichiasis (ingrown eyelashes) (St. Louis Clinical Record, October, 1875, 2:145-148). He had been performing electrolysis since 1869.
Dr. W.A. Hardaway, a St. Louis, Missouri dermatologist, gave the credit for the first use of electrolysis to Dr. Michel (Transactions of the American Dermatological Association, 1878, 4:337-340.) In this paper, Dr. Hardaway described his own results and those of others; an indication that numerous other physicians were also performing electrolysis.

1880 – 1900

The use of electrolysis became well known in the latter part of the nineteenth century. During this time, Dan Mahler established an electrolysis practice, and subsequently, an electrolysis equipment firm. The family business exists today as the Instantron Company, which has been operating continuously for over a century and is one of the world’s largest suppliers to the electrolysis profession.


Paul N. Kree, of New York, developed the multiple needle technique for galvanic electrolysis. He was instrumental in the increased marketing of electrolysis services to the general public. Electrolysis spread from the medical profession to lay electrologists. The Kree Company dominated the performance and teaching of electrolysis in North America until the late 1970’s.


Dr. Henri Bordier, of Lyon, France, developed the method of thermolysis (also called short-wave, diathermy, high-frequency etc.) Medical literature of this period indicates that thermolysis was probably attempted as far back as 1910, in Germany by Dr. Eitner.


Dr. A. Rostenberg introduced thermolysis into the North American medical journals.


Dr. Mildred Trotter published her classic article proving shaving does not affect hair growth.


New equipment eliminated the crude spark-gap diathermy machines, which provided an unpredictable performance. Thermolysis became more widespread with the use of the simplified and more consistently reliable vacuum tube machines. Arthur Hinkel and Henri St. Pierre applied for the patent of their blend machine in 1945 and received it in 1948.


Gordon Blackwell began publishing Electrolysis Digest, and continued until 1986. His reviews and critiques were vital to the dissemination of helpful information to electrologists throughout the world.


Arthur Hinkel and Richard Lind widely publicized the blend in their text, Electrolysis, Thermolysis and the Blend. Hinkel formalized the concept of intensity x duration = units of lye (treatment energy), which is fundamental to a better understanding of electrolysis. The work of Hinkel and St. Pierre was brilliant, conceptually and technically, and of great assistance to a better scientific understanding of electrolysis.


Electrolysis equipment became much more reliable and simple to use with the development of transistorized equipment. In November, 1979, the Copperwaites of Toronto established International Hair Route, a publication which continues to print articles of interest to all electrologists.


Computerized electrolysis equipment became smaller, more reliable, and easier to use. Mr. Mark Van Orden, of the Fischer Company, was able to incorporate Hinkel’s formula into programmable computerized epilatorsepiltors. The AIDS virus stimulated development of pre-sterilized, disposable needles. In the early 1980’s, Drs. Toshio Kobayashi and Shiro Yamada described their technique of high-powered thermolysis, using an insulated needle.

1990’s ­ Present Day

Standardized training and improved equipment are making electrolysis more popular and more accessible to people around the world. It is still the only method recognized by the FDA as Permanent Hair Removal.

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