The Difference Between Electrolysis and Laser Hair Removal

Hair removal on the body and face can be an important part of medical transition for many trans, non-binary, and gender-expansive people. There are many methods of hair removal that trans people use to help reduce their experiences with gender dysphoria, including trans folks who want bottom surgery and feminine spectrum trans people who want to stop the growth of hair on their face or body. As of March 2020, we are now offering laser hair removal in our San Francisco office.

Electrolysis v. Laser

For feminine spectrum trans people, using estrogen as a method of hormone replacement therapy can slow down hair growth on the face and body, but it will not completely eliminate hair follicles that already produce hair in those areas. And for trans people for whom bottom surgery is a transition goal, eliminating hair follicles in the groin area is required before bottom surgery can happen.

Electrolysis and laser hair removal are commonly used methods of hair reduction for these two groups of people. Electrolysis is a more time-consuming (and therefore more expensive) process because it targets individual hairs, one at a time. An electrologist uses a small tool to deliver an electric current to the growth center of an unwanted hair, then tweeze out that hair, effectively killing hair follicles one by one.

Laser hair removal, on the other hand, is a more time efficient (and therefore less expensive) process. During a laser hair removal treatment, a medical provider will use a handheld laser to deliver laser energy, which passes through the surface of the skin and is absorbed by the hair follicle pigment. Because the energy from the laser is absorbed by the pigment in the hair follicles, laser hair removal works best when hair has dark pigment. That means that laser might not be the most effective with blonde or auburn hairs. In most cases, laser hair removal is permanent after multiple treatments and the provider can use the laser to target larger regions of the body in one session.

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