Unwanted hair may be more than bothersome or unwelcome. In fact, whether on the face or the body, unwanted hair can make us feel self-conscious, uncomfortable, and even ashamed, affecting our confidence, our social life, and our relationships and friendships.
Unwanted hair may be the result of unfortunate genetics or hormone levels, or it may result from illness or the use of certain drugs. Whatever the reason we suffer from this unwelcomed bodily feature, one thing’s for certain: we will often do whatever it takes to rid ourselves of it. Shaving, waxing, chemical depilatories, and bleaches – you name it, Americans have tried it. But all of these hair removal products are nothing more than temporary solutions to a permanent problem.
Electrolysis, on the other hand, is the only form of hair removal that produces permanent results. It is also the only form of permanent hair removal that has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for this purpose.
Electrolysis, which provides both hair removal and hair elimination, is now a popular cosmetic treatment throughout the U.S. It is most often chosen on more sensitive areas of the body, such as the face and bikini line, although it can certainly be used on any area of the body, regardless of the client’s skin color, hair color, or hair type.
What is Electrolysis? The Evolution of Permanent Hair Removal
Electrolysis, which was invented in 1875, was first accomplished through a process referred to as galvanic electrolysis, a chemical action that involves turning normal body salt and water into compound sodium hydroxide, or lye, which destroys the cells that initiate hair growth.
Today, although galvanic electrolysis is still used today, the process has become more effective and efficient. Modern electrolysis, however, which was invented in 1923, involves a process called thermolysis, which involves using high frequency current to produce heat, which then cauterizes and destroys the hair follicles that are responsible for hair growth. About 20 years after thermolysis was designed, the blend method was developed; this type of electrolysis combines both galvanic and thermolysis.
All three methods are used today, and all three methods have been proven to be both effective and safe. Galvanic electrolysis is primarily used on deep, coarse, or curly hair, while thermolysis is better equipped for removing fine, straight, or shallow hair. Thermolysis is significantly quicker than galvanic. The blend method often allows for the removal of coarse hair with the swiftness of the thermolysis method; however, it may require more than one treatment for coarse hair.
All electrolysis methods may cause temporary redness or tenderness, although the degree to which clients experience this varies. Because many factors affect hair growth, most individuals need to return for several treatments. Typical electrolysis treatments last between 15 minutes and one hour.
Electrolysis costs significantly more than other forms of hair removal, although it is the only form of hair removal that offers permanent results. Therefore, over the course of just a few years, other forms of hair removal tend to cost more than electrolysis. Electrolysis is often chosen, not only for its permanent results, but because it offers a number of benefits over temporary hair removal treatments:
- Chemical depilatories (liquids or creams) contain chemicals that may be irritating, time-consuming, and messy.
- Bleaches contain harsh chemicals that do not remove hair, only slightly disguise it.
- Waxing can be painful, and at-home kits are often messy and difficult to use. When applied improperly, waxing can cause serious burns to the skin.
- Shaving must be done frequently, and razors often irritate and cut the skin.
Electrologists: Who Are They and What Are Their Qualifications?
Electrologists are estheticians who are skilled, trained, and often licensed to remove unwanted body and facial hair using an electrolysis machine. Electrologists first begin by sterilizing the client’s skin with antiseptic. A small needle is then slid beneath the hair root, where electric current travels and destroys the hair follicle when the electrologist activates the electrolysis machine. The hair is then easily removed using tweezers. In most cases, an electrode is placed into the customer’s hand to complete the electrical connection; sometimes, the customer’s hand is placed into a cup of water to accomplish this.
The process of electrolysis involves repetition, and electrologists must be skilled in both the timing and intensity of the current.
Electrologists must be tactful and sensitive, particularly if their clients are embarrassed or self-conscious. These beauty professionals must be professional, and they must take personal satisfaction in helping others. They must be comfortable working with both male and female clients, and they must always follow strict guidelines regarding sanitation and sterilization.
How to Become an Electrologist
If you want to become an electrologist, the first step is to learn about your state’s licensing requirements for electrologists, if any. Many states require electrologists to complete a formal program, although state requirements regarding the program’s length and structure vary considerably from one state to the next. Further, some states do not recognize electrolysis as a licensed profession at all, and some states allow the completion of an apprenticeship in lieu of a formal education.
Michigan, for example, requires electrologists to complete a program of at least 400 hours or a six-month apprenticeship, while in Florida, candidates for electrologist licensure must complete a program of at least 320 hours. Many states, such as California, require the completion of a program of electrolysis that is at least 600 hours in duration.
Electrologists may be licensed through their state board of cosmetology, department of public health, department of public health board, or other regulating agency. For example, electrologists in Connecticut must be licensed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health Board of Examiners of Electrologists, while in Montana electrologists are licensed by the Montana Board of Cosmetology.
Most states that license electrologists also have specific age and education requirements. For example, candidates for electrolysis licensure in Kansas must be at least 17 years old and must possess either a high school diploma or a GED, while in Michigan candidates must be at least 18 and must have completed the ninth grade to qualify for licensure.
Electrolysis programs are often found in esthetician or cosmetology schools, as well as vocational schools and junior colleges.
A comprehensive program, says the American Electrology Association (AEA), is structured and designed as to allow you to obtain knowledge in:
- The specific tasks of electrology
- The skills and attitudes developed in clinical experiences
- The development of interpersonal and communication skills
- Issues and concerns related to ethics, law, and business as an electrologist as a professional person
As such, an electrology program likely includes the following areas of study:
- State laws and regulations
- Current methods of permanent and temporary hair removal
- Basic sciences (anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, cytology, dermatology, body systems)
- Modalities of electrology
- Basic principles of electricity
- Modalities of electrology
- Electrology techniques and variables
- Professional considerations
Working as an Electrologist: Salary Considerations and Employment Settings
Electrologists may work in spas, dermatologist offices, or skincare spas. Many electrologists also go on to open and operate their own electrolysis business. The AEA reports that most electrologists are entrepreneurs, working as independent professionals and in private practices. The AEA also reports that the salary for electrologists averages between $25,000 and $50,000 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the mean, annual salary for electrologists, as of May 2013, was $32,990, with the top 10 percent in the field earning more than $56,930. The BLS also reported that the top-earning electrologists in the field during the same time worked in general medical and surgical hospitals, earning an annual, mean salary of $47,430, followed by outpatient care centers, where they earned an annual, mean salary of $45,620.
The top-paying states for electrologists, reported the BLS, as of May 2013, were:
- New Hampshire: $42,300
- District of Columbia: $39,820
- Arkansas: $39,250
- Massachusetts: $39,010
- Virginia: $37,370
Professional Certification for Electrologists
Many electrologists, particularly those working in states where professional licensure isn’t recognized, choose to achieve professional certification through the American Electrology Association (AEA).
The AEA is the largest nonprofit professional organization for permanent hair removal professionals. It currently has more than 2,000 members throughout the U.S. In addition to offering continuing education for electrologists, publishing the Journal of Electrology, and hosting an annual convention for electrologists, the AEA offers the Certified Professional Electrologist, the International Board Certification Program.
The Certified Professional Electrologist (CPE) credential, a voluntary credential, is recognized as going “above and beyond” in the profession and is designed to demonstrate your commitment to the profession and to continuing education in the industry.