What is electrolysis?
Permanently removes hair by burning the hair and follicle by passing an electric current through it.
It's also known as Electroepilation or Electro.
What does electrolysis do?
How long does electrolysis last?
The effects of electrolysis are permanent and cannot be reversed.
How do I stay safe?
Anyone carrying out electrolysis in the UK must have a special license. They are legally required to display this license in the premises. Ensure you have seen this license before allowing anyone to carry out electrolysis on you, so that you know you are safe.
The British Institute and Association of Electrolysis maintain a directory of members which may be helpful for finding somewhere to treat you.
Attempting to do electrolysis yourself can lead to permanent skin damage
At-home, DIY electrolysis can cause permanent scarring or burns and should be avoided.
What should I be aware of?
Electrolysis may be painful or uncomfortable. You can reduce the discomfort by asking your GP to prescribe you lidocaine and prilocaine cream, also known as EMLA cream. This is a local anaesthetic, applied directly onto the skin, which numbs the skin so you feel less pain from the treatment. You will normally need to apply the cream around an hour before your treatment.
Who might want electrolysis?
Electrolysis often used as an alternative to laser hair reduction. Laser hair reduction can be up to 60 times faster than electrolysis and less painful 1. A common reason for using electrolysis is for treating blonde, ginger or grey hairs, which are unaffected by laser hair reduction.
Electrolysis is often used to remove facial hair.
Electrolysis is also commonly used to remove hair from the genitals before vaginoplasty, and to remove hair from donor skin sites before phalloplasty or metoidioplasty.
How much will it cost?
The price of electrolysis varies depending on the location of the clinic within the UK, the amount of experience your electrologist has, the size of the area to be treated. A common area is the face and neck, which costs around £80-90 per hour with an experienced electrologist, with more specialist work required before surgery costing £95-115 per hour. NHS Scotland have produced guidance suggesting that around 250-400 hours of treatment would be required for effective facial hair removal 2, p.6.
If you have a formal diagnosis and have unwanted facial hair, the NHS may provide funding for some electrolysis or laser hair reduction:
- NHS England: electrolysis sessions up to the value of 8 sessions of laser hair removal3, p.17
- NHS Scotland: at least 250 hours of treatment 2, p.10
- NHS Wales: facial hair removal is not currently funded by NHS Wales 4, p.40
The NHS will normally fund genital hair removal before vaginoplasty surgery or hair removal for donor skin sites for phalloplasty or metoidioplasty surgery if urethroplasty is to be performed.
Where can I learn more?
You can read more about facial hair removal methods in this booklet produced by the NHS GDNRSS.
There is a helpful page that answers common questions about electrolysis on the British Institute and Association of Electrolysis website.
- 1.Görgü, Metin, Aslan, Gürcan, Aköz, Tayfun and Erdoğan, Bülent (2000) “Comparison of alexandrite laser and electrolysis for hair removal.” Dermatologic surgery, 26(1), pp. 37–41. Link
- 2.National Gender Identity Clinical Network Scotland (2020) “Facial Hair Removal for Transgender Patients.” Link
- 3.NHS England (2019) Service specification: Gender Identity Services for Adults (Non-Surgical Interventions), NHS England. Link
- 4.NHS Wales (2019) Service Specification CP182b Gender Identity Service for Adults (non-surgical), NHS Wales. Link
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