This Old-School Method Is the Only Way to Get Rid of Your Unwanted Hair Forever
We live in an age of quick fixes. Need an at-home blowout? There's an app for that. Want glowing skin? Get an express facial. Desire thinner thighs? Zap fat away in minutes. But, for me, when it comes to hair removal, my mantra is "slow and steady wins the race." I have seen my co-workers receive results from speedy methods like laser, but I come from a camp that is a more meticulous method — electrolysis.
I started getting electrolysis when I was in my teens from a very talented woman named Ronni Kolotkin. Ronni is an NYC-based electrologist who has been helping women get fuzz-free since 1972 (she started when she was 26!). What made her get into the niche practice? "I had a lot of hair that I wanted to get rid of," she explained. "Now I don't have any hair on my body! It's all gone forever. I haven't had to shave my legs in 42 years."
Though this permanent hair-removal method (laser is actually only permanent hair reduction) has been around for decades, it's rarely talked about and often seems to be standing in laser's shadow. But I am not one to follow the crowd, and I truly believe that electrolysis is the best way to get rid of unwanted body hair. Not only is it permanent (and I have had those lasting hair-free results!), but it also allows you to target specific hairs rather than an area so you will never cause stimulation. For those who don't know, stimulation is when fine blond hairs are targeted and then come back darker or thicker.
While Ronni recently wrote a book, Hair Removal Solutions ($4), explaining the electrolysis procedure, I interviewed her to get even more insider info on what electrolysis feels like, how to make it hurt less, and why it might be the right hair-removal choice for you.
POPSUGAR: Let's start from the beginning: What is electrolysis?
Ronni Kolotkin: Electrolysis is the only method of hair removal that is permitted to say "permanent" by the FDA. It's a process. It's not a magic wand. It's not an instant fix. And if it's taken to the end, it will be permanent for the rest of your life.
PS: What happens during the service?
RK: A tiny little needle — that's finer than a hair — goes into the follicle. A slight bit of current travels to the tip of the needle, and it seals off the root. Once the root is sealed off, that root cannot produce another hair.
PS: How many times do you typically have to treat each hair?
RK: Probably about two. A thicker hair would have to be treated about three times, and a fine hair can sometimes be treated once. If the hair comes back after one treatment, it can often be so fine that you wouldn't even notice it.
PS: How long does it take to do an area like your lip versus your leg?
RK: A lip is not a big deal because you can come in for a series of 15-minute treatments for your upper lip. It depends on how much hair you have. It's hard to tell without seeing the amount of hair. The more hair you have, the more treatments you would need. Some people need three treatments; some people need 12 treatments.
PS: What does it feel like when the hairs are removed?
RK: It feels like a slight bit of heat — very briefly for a split second — each time a hair is treated. And then you shouldn't feel the hairs coming out. It's not like tweezing. The hairs slide out.
PS: What can you do to make it hurt less?
RK: Don't come in when you're premenstrual, because you're more sensitive to everything when you're premenstrual. You can also take a couple of Advil an hour before, which really helps. There's a numbing cream called Emla that you need a prescription for, but it numbs the area. We can use ice also to numb the area. Most people find that it's tolerable.
PS: What should you look for when you're choosing an electrologist technician?
RK: Look for somebody who has experience. You have to look for a clean office. It's very important that they use disposable needles and that the needle comes out of a sterile package. You should never feel the hair being forced out. If you feel like your hairs are being tweezed, the electrolysis is not going to work. The hairs have to slide out.
PS: How do you know it's not being tweezed?
RK: It should feel like a very split second of heat, and that's all you should really feel. You might feel the electrologist testing the hair, but if it doesn't come out, you shouldn't feel the electrologist pulling it out.
PS: What should you do after the treatment to make sure the area heals properly?
RK: I recommend that people use witch hazel, which is natural. It's a natural astringent that comes from a tree, and if you get a commercial witch hazel ($10) over the counter, it should have 14 percent alcohol. The alcohol will keep the area clean, and the witch hazel will keep everything calm. We also give clients medicated makeup cover up. But usually in 20 minutes, the area should calm down so that by the time you get to where you're going, you shouldn't really be able to see it.
PS: Sometimes you do get scabs, right?
RK: Sometimes on the body it's normal to get scabs. It's a tiny little dot that will appear in three days and will last about 10 days. You should just let them fall off.
PS: And you can put makeup over those?
RK: Well, you shouldn't get scabs on your face if it's done properly. But you can wear makeup over the medicated cover-up that we give our clients.
PS: Who is a good electrolysis candidate?
RK: Anybody. You can do electrolysis on any hair color or skin color. It's for anybody who wants to get rid of their hair permanently.
PS: What should you not do when you're doing electrolysis?
RK: If you get scabs, you shouldn't pick them. You can go out in the sun — that's not a problem — and you can exercise. But never ever pull the hairs out. If you tweeze or thread or wax while you're going through the electrolysis process, the electrolysis will not work. You can cut the hairs, shave, use a depilatory cream, and bleach. But you can't do anything that pulls the hair up by the root. You can't tweeze, you can't thread, you can't wax.
PS: Why's that?
RK: Because when you pull a hair out, it stimulates growth.
PS: What are some of the most popular areas to do?
RK: The face is very popular. A lot of women don't know that a lot of women have breast hair. They don't talk about it, but that's a very popular area. A lot of times clients come in, and they're embarrassed to even mention that they have breast hair, but it's very common. Bikini line, lower legs, and underarms are very popular too.
PS: Anything else that we should know?
RK: It's an investment. If you decide you're going to have electrolysis, you should make a commitment. Because if you have a certain amount of electrolysis, and then after you start tweezing or waxing, the electrolysis won't work. You should be really ready to make a commitment and see it to the end.
PS: Why do you think it's a superior hair-removal technique?
RK: Because it's permanent. That's the main thing. I've been doing this many years, and I've never had anybody come in and say, "I'm sorry I did a certain area." Everybody always says, "I wish I would have done this a long time ago."
PS: It must be very rewarding job!
RK: I have made many, many women really, really happy. And some men too! A great percentage of my clientele are women, and it's really life-changing. People tell me all the time that its the best thing they ever did.