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Electrolysis Methods

All methods described here are based on techniques using needle type electrolysis. 

The three methods used in electrolysis are GalvanicThermolysis, and Blend.  All three methods involve inserting a small needle into the hair follicle. 

Galvanic Method

The galvanic method was the first method developed for removing superfluous hair. This method removes hair through chemical decomposition. Galvanic refers to galvanism or galvanic cells (a battery). As does a battery, the galvanic method uses direct current. It is long been understood that the application of direct electrical current to a solution of salt water produces a reaction that causes the salt and the water to break into their constituent parts. These parts quickly rearrange themselves to form an entirely new substance. This process is called electrolysis. The new substances that are formed are sodium hydroxide (lye), hydrogen gas, and chlorine gas. The process of electrolysis was first used for permanent hair removal in 1875 by Charles E. Michel, M.D. 

It is the sodium hydroxide, or lye, which is the source of follicle destruction in the galvanic method. The galvanic method is basically a chemical process. 

Here is the mechanism behind “true” electrolysis: With the galvanic method, the body salts combined with the moisture found in body tissue make a type of salt water solution. The moisture content of this salt water solution is at its greatest concentration deep within the follicle. When the electrolysis current is applied to be inserted needle, the newly manufactured lye causes a chemical decomposition of the hair growing cells to occur. Two electrodes are required for this process to take place. One electrode is actually the electrology needle, the other electrode touches the patient’s body in some location. This “patient electrode” is usually a metal wand held in the patient’s hand. This process is very slow and requires about two minutes to generate enough lye to spread through the follicle of a course, deeply rooted hair. This single needle galvanic method is no longer used because of this time constraint. However, modern electronic design allows the multiple needle galvanic method (12 to 16 hairs treated simultaneously) to work very effectively. The galvanic method kills about 80 percent of the hairs treated.

Thermolysis Method

The thermolysis method is not true electrolysis since no chemical action is involved. It does, however, provide for permanent hair removal. Thermolysis is often referred to as electrolysis. In this everyday usage, electrolysis refers to all types of permanent hair removal.

Thermolysis, also called shortwave method, high frequency method, or diathermy, destroys the hair follicle by heat or electrocoagulation. It is the most widely practiced method of permanent hair removal available today. Thermolysis was first put into practice in 1923, but did not become popular until the 1940s. All thermolysis equipment operates at a specific radio frequency approved by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), since it is a type of radio device. With thermolysis treatment, high frequency radio energy is emitted (mostly) from the tip of the electrolysis needle, first inserted into the hair follicle. The high frequency energy agitates the molecules making up the hair growing cells. This agitation causes the cells to heat, ideally to the point of permanent tissue destruction. This destruction is referred to as electrocoagulation. A microwave oven is another example of radio waves heating organic tissue. The thermolysis method does not require the use of the second patient electrode.

Thermolysis is ideally suited for thin, shallowly rooted hairs. It is a straightforward approach, and requires a minimum of operator training. However, its usefulness greatly degrades with the larger, course and deeply rooted hairs that generally comprise the typical male beard. We find the incidence of treatment complications to be somewhat higher with thermolysis as compared to multiple needle galvanic or the blend (described next). Additionally, treatment complications greatly increase with the use of flash (high intensity, short duration) thermolysis. We feel the adverse result of pitted scarring to be greatest with flash thermolysis.

The flash method is intended for treating small follicles, but has been adopted for treatment of large follicles. The flash method dispenses a high intensity blast of high frequency energy within less than one second’s duration. When this intensity is proportionate to the size of small follicle, it is an acceptable method. But when this intensity is increased enough to treat larger follicles, serious permanent side effects may occur. This intense heat can cause pitted scarring. For details on how this side effect occurs, please see High Frequency Blowout. Thermolysis typically provides a 5 to 15 percent kill rate for follicles treated.

Blend Method

The blend method, also called dual action method, is the combination and simultaneous use of galvanic and thermolysis techniques. This combination method alleviates the shortcomings of each of the individual techniques, while bolstering their advantages. By doing so, blend electrolysis incorporates the high kill rate associated with the galvanic method along with the swiftness found in thermolysis. It is especially useful in treating the deep, course hair follicles that typically make up the beard. We have found no better approach than the use of blend electrology in the treatment of the male to female transgender “trans woman”.  

Basically, most of the blend’s capacity for destroying the hair growing cells is accomplished by way of chemical decomposition. That destruction, as indicated previously, is through galvanically produced lye. But unlike galvanic on its own, this combination current reduces the normal two-minute duration down to about 10 seconds. And just as important, the high kill rate is still maintained. We find the kill rate for blend to be about 70 — 80 percent.

The high frequency current that is used to produce a cooking action with thermolysis, is instead used with the blend mainly as an accelerant. This is attributed to three separate actions: 

  • Increased Causticity — heated lye is considerably more caustic.
  • Porosity — the tissue very close to the needle is turned into a porous mass through which the heated lye solution can easily diffuse.
  • Agitation — rather than working its way through the tissue by diffusion, the lye surrounding the needle is spread by agitation. This turbulence sends the hot lye solution into every area in the hair follicle and around the hair shaft.

This spreading action is also very important when one considers the need for properly destroying the undifferentiated cells found slightly higher up in the follicle, called stem cells, that are responsible for new hair growth. Additionally, the blend is able to successfully treat curved and distorted follicles along with near-miss insertions due to its spreading action.

Despite all of its technical advantages, blend electrolysis does have some circumstantial disadvantages. Typically, galvanic action tends to be somewhat more painful than thermolysis. Proper pain management, while certainly feasible, does prove to be more of an issue. Also, administering effective blend electrolysis is a more complicated and involved process, requiring more training and expertise along with more sophisticated equipment. While older, foot pedal type epilators may prove satisfactory for smaller, less involved situations, state-of-the-art computerized blend epilators are better suited due to the extensiveness and sheer volume of follicles requiring treatment during beard removal. However, computerized epilators have been readily available for about the last ten years, and the increase in transgender individuals seeking services has allowed many electrologists throughout the country to develop expertise in this area. We believe that for most locales within the United States, a suitable blend electrologist can be found no further than 50 – 100 miles from your home.

Source: Transgender Care

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