What Is Electrolysis Hair Removal, And How Did It All Begin?

You probably know that electrolysis hair removal is the only permanent hair removal method recognized and approved by the FDA but do you know how it works, and why it was invented?

Electrolysis hair removal works by destroying hair matrix cells, so that the hair is no longer able to grow back. In order to do this, the electrologist uses a fine metal probe, about the size of a hair, which s/he slides into the hair follicle. Electricity is then conveyed, via the probe, to the follicle, and destroys the hair matrix.

There are three types – or modalities – of electrolysis used for permanent hair removal; galvanic, thermolysis, and the blend method – which, as you may have gathered, is a combination of the first two. Depending on the type of hair being removed, the client’s skin condition, and his/her pain threshold, the electrologist may use one particular modality, or a blend of both.

The galvanic method

Named after the Italian bioelectricity physicist, Luigi Galvani, Galvanic modality uses direct current (DC) to send an electrical charge to the hair follicle, which turns the salt and water present in the skin to sodium hydroxide (lye). As the lye builds up, it destroys the hair matrix. This method, while more time-consuming than the thermolysis modality, has a higher success rate.

The thermolysis method

Alternating current (AC) is used to send a charge through the probe to excite water molecules around the hair follicle, generating enough heat to destroy the hair matrix. Although this method of electrolysis hair removal is faster, it is not as reliable as the galvanic modality.

The blend method

Both AC and DC charges are sent through the probe into the hair follicle, and combines the advantages of both of the above methods to effect permanent hair removal.

So how did it electrolysis hair removal begin?

Who actually thought,

“Hmmm, here’s an idea – I wonder if zapping someone with electricity will stop their hair growing”?

No one person, as it turns out. Physicists had been studying bioelectricity for a couple of centuries before Charles Michel used electrolysis as a form of permanent hair removal, so it was less a ‘eureka!’ moment, and more a logical progression. However, in 1875, Michel, an ophthalmologist from Missouri, used galvanic electrolysis to remove ingrown eyelashes from one of his patients. Although he, and several other doctors, had actually been using it since at least 1869, this was the first officially-documented case of permanent hair removal using electrolysis.

Toward the end of the 19th century, electrolysis hair removal was gaining popularity; Dan Mahler, who, along with his wife, had been using galvanic electrolysis for permanent hair removal at their beauty parlor in Providence, Rhode Island, set up a company to sell electrolysis equipment. Over 120 years later, that company, Instantron, is not only still going strong but has become one of the world’s leading suppliers of electrolysis hair removal equipment.

In 1916, New York inventor, Paul Kree, developed the multi-needle technique, and was actively involved in bringing electrolysis to a wider market. The Kree Electrolysis Apparatus Company was at the top of electrolysis practice and teaching in North America right up until the late 1970s.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Dr Bordier in France, and  Dr Eitner in Germany, were both experimenting with thermolysis. According to medical journals of the period, Eitner had been experimenting since at least 1910 but Bordier is credited with perfecting the modality in 1924.

By the 1940s, new equipment, which superseded the unpredictable and rather crude spark-gap thermolysis machines, began to come onto the market. In 1948, Henri St Pierre and Arthur Hinkel patented the first blend modality electrolysis machine.

By the 1970s, with the advent of transistorized equipment, electrolysis hair removal became far more reliable. A decade or so later saw the introduction of computerized equipment, with engineer, Mark van Orden (RA Fischer Company), using Hinkel’s formula in a programmable epilation machine. With the advent of AIDS, disposable, pre-sterilized needles were introduced.

These days, as the demand for permanent hair removal increases, the development of improved electrolysis equipment and electrologist training continues.

If you are looking for the best electrolysis hair removal in New York, why not give us a call today on (212) 987-6900 to book a free consultation? Our Certified Professional Electrologists will be happy to meet with you to discuss the best method for meeting your permanent hair removal needs.

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