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Electrolysis Explained

“Electrolysis” is defined in the Registered Electrologist Act in Oklahoma as “the practice of using an electrosurgical apparatus to accomplish permanent hair removal by inserting electric current into the hair follicle thereby destroying living tissue and germinative hair cells.”  In simple language, electrolysis involves inserting a sterile needle/probe, about the same size as the hair, into the hair follicle opening down to the very bottom known as the dermal papilla.  Then a low-level electrical current is applied that will destroy the dermal papilla, that part of the follicle that contains blood vessels and nerves and feeds the growing hair.  If the papilla and the regenerative cells surrounding it are destroyed, the hair will loosen in the follicle.  The hair is then permanently destroyed and will be lifted out by the electrologist.

Many hairs will be eliminated with only one treatment, but some may need two or more treatments to achieve permanency, especially if they are curly, in scar tissue, or just a distorted follicle.  Electrolysis involves a series of treatments over a period of time.  The length of time depends on the amount of hair, its coarseness, the cause of the excessive hair and many other factors.  However, once the cells that produce a new hair have been eliminated that follicle cannot produce another hair.

Hair Growth Cycle

There is no difference whatever between the male and female distribution of hair follicles.  It is a common misconception that males have more hair follicles than females.  Both males and females are born with all the hair follicles they will ever have.  Some of the hairs are just more visible than other hairs.  The fine, light colored hairs are called “vellus” hairs, while the more coarse hairs are called “terminal” hairs.  Vellus hairs, when influenced by heredity and/or hormones, can become terminal hairs.  All hairs have different growth activity cycles and are not visible on the surface of the skin at the same time.  Hair normally grows for a certain period of time and then naturally sheds.  You may notice this process when you lose hair during combing or brushing your hair on your head or when you notice an eyelash shed.  Hair on all parts of our body will shed after it’s normal growing cycle. At any one time, you have active growing hairs and dormant follicles with no visible hairs in them on all parts of your body.  After the hair sheds, the follicle remains dormant for an indefinite period of time.  In most areas of the body, within 3 to 12 months the follicle will become active again.  However, in some areas, such as the underarms and eyebrows, it can take  up to 18 months to 2 years.  The appearance of these replacement hairs from dormant hair follicles should not be mistaken as regrowth from previously treated follicles.

History of Electrolysis

In 1875, Dr. Charles Michel, an opthamologist, experimented with ways to remove the painful ingrown eyelashes of his patients.  The early techniques used fine wires attached to a battery to produce Galvanic Electrolysis.  This was a chemical method that utilized direct current to convert normal body salt and water into the compound sodium hydroxide (lye).  Lye destroys the cells that initiate hair growth.  The galvanic electrolysis method is still used today, though the modern machines are now more efficient and computerized.

In 1923, after the discovery of radio waves and high frequency current, a new method of electrolysis was born.  This method, called Thermolysis, uses the high frequency current to produce heat, which cauterizes and destroys the cells in the follicle that causes hair growth.  Surprisingly, the needle itself is not hot.  The salt water in the tissue around the needle, however, becomes hot because high frequency current causes the atoms in the moisture to be agitated and vibrate against each other generating heat from friction.

In 1945, Arthur Hinkel developed the "blend" method, which combines galvanic and high frequency currents.  This combination causes destruction by both heat and chemical action at the same time.

All three methods have been proven to be safe and effective.  The members of the Oklahoma State Electrologist’s Association are all Registered Electrologists in Oklahoma and are well trained.  After careful evaluation, they will be able to determine which method is best for you.

Oklahoma Electrologists Are Well Qualified to Help You

Oklahoma Registered Electrologists are licensed by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision. Though licensure requirements differ from state to state, Oklahoma Registered Electrologists are required to have a B.S. degree (with a heavy science background) prior to their twelve month electrolysis internship.  After completion of the internship the student is required to take a written, practical, and oral board exam at the Medical Board.  To find out more about how to become an electrologist in Oklahoma contact the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision.

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