Impact of Electrolysis on the Skin
Electrolysis is a technique which works by inserting a fine needle into the base of the hair follicle and passing an electric current through the needle to destroy the follicle. It is an invasive procedure and therefore needs to be performed with the utmost care; otherwise, there is a high risk of damage to the skin.
A large degree of the skin damage can be prevented if the electrolysis professional is adept and if appropriate after-care and precautions are exercised. Some people observe a reduction in skin reaction if gradual hair removal from an area is done rather than rigorously removing every single hair.
Persons undergoing electrolysis commonly experience skin redness and a mild swelling after the procedure. Other possible side-effects are temporary ones like skin dryness, blisters, scabs, infection, bruises and permanent ones like hyperkeratosis or keloid formation, skin pitting and scarring. Hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation are extremely rare side effects. There is no scientific evidence proving a link between electrolysis and the development of ingrown hairs.
Redness and SwellingMost people observe skin redness in the treated area immediately after undergoing electrolysis. This persists for a few hours in most cases. Swelling of the area may also occur in some people, which subsides on its own in a couple of days. You are strongly advised not to use any other method of hair removal like shaving, etc. on the treated area until the swelling completely resolves. If the skin inflammation is a serious concern, you may take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-histaminic drugs before the procedure to minimise it.
Blisters, Scabs and Skin InfectionBlisters are also one of the temporary side effects of electrolysis. These can be due to a higher-than-required strength of current used (for example, to remove coarse hair), a very rigorous treatment regimen focusing on an area, an incorrect procedure, or an extremely sensitive skin (as in the upper lip area or the bikini line). If blisters occur, you should absolutely avoid touching them and should seek advice from a skin specialist if they persist or worsen.
Skin scabs can also occur, especially if electrolysis is inaccurately performed. These scabs have a high risk of becoming infected and also of leading to skin scarring. If your skin starts developing scabs after electrolysis, you should discuss this with both your electrolysis professional and dermatologist who would advise you to stop electrolysis on that particular area until the scabs heal as otherwise the chances of scarring would become greater. Your dermatologist would prescribe appropriate medication to prevent the development of infection and facilitate healing.
Skin infections can also develop if the equipment used for electrolysis is infected. The use of sterilised needles as well as good quality, clean equipment for electrolysis is of great importance to prevent infection as also indicated in the guidelines specified by the professional electrolysis bodies.
Skin DrynessThe skin becomes prone to dryness with frequent electrolysis sessions. This dryness can be easily combated by regular use of perfume-free, good quality moisturising lotions or aloe vera gel.
BruisesSkin bruises can develop if the needle is misdirected and causes subcutaneous bleeding. It is because of the risk of subcutaneous bleeds also that it is imperative to use disposable, sterilised needles for every treatment as otherwise the chances of any infection gaining entry into the blood stream are high.
Skin Pitting and ScarringThese are the potential side-effects of electrolysis which are the cause of greatest concern as they can be permanent. Fortunately, they are rare. These are most commonly the result of an incorrect or carelessly performed electrolysis. Another cause may be extremely sensitive skin or a very high strength of current used. A wrongly inserted needle can cause skin pitting which itself leads to scarring.
Scarring usually develops after a few months of treatment, so, it is not possible to know during the initial treatment sessions whether you would develop scarring or not. However, if you experience a high incidence of skin scabbing, then, you should consider it as a warning sign and consult your skin specialist for the appropriate course of action. For these reasons, electrolysis as a method of hair removal, does not find much favour as a hair removal procedure for the face.
Hyperkeratosis or Keloid FormationKeloids are accumulations of keratin that are formed as a skin reaction in some people undergoing electrolysis, especially in those individuals who are especially prone to keloid formation.
Most of the adverse effects of electrolysis on the skin can be prevented by a proper electrolysis procedure and high standards of safety and hygiene employed, and also by appropriate after-care. If you observe a serious, worsening or persistent skin reaction after undergoing electrolysis, you should consult a dermatologist without delay so that any skin reaction is nipped in the bud and permanent skin damage is prevented.