Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal: Which Is Best For Facial Hair? (2024)

Removing facial hair can be a bit tricky even with all the at-home methods and treatments out there. Yes, you could opt for dermaplaning to get rid of some peach fuzz or using tweezers to pull out a few stray hairs. If that fails, waxing, threading and shaving are other options you can try out too but they won't produce long-lasting results. Enter electrolysis andlaser hair removal, two methods of permanent and semi-permanent hair removal that can effectively ridfacial hair.

Now we know the idea of electrolysis or laser hair removal on your face might seem a bit scary so we consulted with four experts to breakdown everything you need to know about both procedures. Read on so that you can decide whether electrolysis or laser hair removal is the right option for you.

Meet the Expert

What Is Electrolysis?

Electrolysis is a cosmetic procedure for removing unwanted hair. According to Dr. Husain, it uses a thin metal probe to deliver a low-level electrical pulse to each undesired hair follicle and stops new hair growth. "This method is safe to target hair follicles near sensitive areas and is very precise," he notes."After many repeated treatments, electrolysis results in permanent hair removal." In terms of ouch-factor, you can expect to feel some discomfort due to the brief pinch and heat sensations throughout the treatment.

The Benefits of Electrolysis

Does electrolysis work? Our experts gave a resounding "yes," touting the procedure for its ability to make the skin hair-free for good. Though electrolysis requires lengthy sessions (15 to 60 minutes) spaced one month apart (for roughly 12 to 30 sessions in total), Dr. St. Surin-Lord maintains that results are considered to be permanent since the hair follicle is destroyed by the electric current. Plus, it's also safe to use on finer areas of the face like the eyebrows.

Electrolysis Pros and Cons

If you are considering electrolysis, take the following into account. On one hand, electrolysis produces permanent results, is clinically proven to safely and effectively remove hair, works on all hair and skin types, is safe on sensitive areas like the face, and can be cheaper than other methods. However, to some, the treatment is painful and takes many sessions to fully eradicate the follicle.

According to Dr. Sobel, electrolysis is more uncomfortable than other hair removal processes. "It is an older technology that hasn’t made many advancements over the years," he explains.

"Whileelectrolysisis generally suitable for most people, those with implanted devices may need to avoid it," Ramirez says. "Pregnant women should also consult their doctor before undergoingelectrolysis. Individuals prone to keloids or scarring should approach it cautiously."

Electrolysis Risks and Side Effects

Electrolysis is a fairly safe procedure but like any beauty treatment, there is potential for unwanted side effects. "With electrolysis, there can be damage to melanin as well as redness in all skin types that should be transient," says Dr. St. Surin-Lord. When done improperly, there is a risk for dark spots or pigmentation. There is also a little risk for some swelling in the affected area.

What Is Laser Hair Removal?

Unlike electrolysis, Dr. Husain explains that laser hair removal uses specific wavelengths of light to target the melanin in dark hair follicles in a desired area."It does not target individual hair follicles like electrolysis does, and it uses light energy instead of electrical currents," he says. And because the laser selectively targets the melanin in the hair, Dr. St. Surin-Lord says it works better on dark brown or black hairs and not grey, red, or blonde hairs.

"Until recently,patients with light hair or red hued hair colors and candidates with darker skin tones, were unable to utilize laser hair removal due to the laser not being able to effectively detect the difference in color variation between the hairs and the skin," Dr. Sobel adds. "There are now new laser advancements, including the Aliya laser that works on a broad range of skin tones and hair."

Depending on how well you tolerate pain, many find laser hair removal more tolerable than electrolysis, comparing the pain of laser hair removal to a rubber band snapping. Still, Dr. Husain says that there would be some discomfort due to the heat from the laser pulses. "Some devices have a cool spray or cold handpiece that cools the skin prior to the pulse of laser," he notes.

The Benefits of Laser Hair Removal

Dr. St. Surin-Lord praises laser hair removal for its ability to give a desired outcome quicker than electrolysis. "Laser hair removal is very selective, fewer treatments are required, and results are seen sooner," she says."Individual treatments are more expensive than electrolysis, but ultimately, it may be less expensive, as laser hair removal treatments only require six to eight sessions. Also, laser hair removal is much less tedious and time-consuming than electrolysis." That said, while you'll notice a significant reduction in hair, many experience hair regrowth and may have to opt for occasional laser maintenance to have a long-lasting result.

Laser Hair Removal Pros and Cons

Unlike electrolysis, laser hair removal requires fewer treatments and typically, results are seen sooner. Treatments also tend to be shorter and more efficient. However, some find that hair grows back (even after the recommended amount of sessions), and require follow-up treatments. Laser hair removal works well on deep hair shades like brunette or auburn, but it struggles to pick up lighter tones like blonde and gray. It can also leave behind dark spots and hyperpigmentation, which is much rarer for electrolysis.

Laser Hair Removal Risks and Side Effects

Just like electrolysis, laser hair removal is a heavily tested procedure and is very safe. However, there are still some risks. "With laser hair removal, there is the risk of developing light spots or dark spots, and even burning or scarring if the wrong laser or wrong setting is used," Dr. St. Surin-Lord says. You may also experience swelling from both procedures.

Ramirez says people with darker skin tones should ensure the clinic uses appropriate lasers to minimize the risk of discoloration or burns.

Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal: Which Is Best For Facial Hair?

It all depends on your skin tone and how permanent of a result you're looking for. "Laser hair removal is more suitable for people with light skin and dark hair, and can be done on both smaller and larger parts of the body," says Dr. Husain. "Electrolysis, on the other hand, is suitable for anyone regardless of their hair type and hair color or skin tone." Electrolysis is best for small areas or for those who are looking to rid unwanted hair around the eye region.

Byrdie Tip

You should avoid sun exposure with both procedures to let the treated area heal as well as lessen the risk of hyperpigmentation occurring.


  • What lasts longer laser hair removal or electrolysis?

    Both laser hair removal and electrolysis provide long-lasting hair removal results, especially when compared to waxing or shaving. However, electrolysis has been shown to deliver permanent results more consistently.

  • Can you switch from laser hair removal to electrolysis?

    Yes. Some switch from laser hair removal to electrolysis when multiple laser treatments haven't fully eradicated stubborn hairs.

  • How many sessions are needed for electrolysis?

    This varies from person to person. However, the average amount of treatments is anywhere from 12 to 30 sessions. Usually, the whole process takes around a year.

  • Which is cheaper electrolysis or laser hair removal?

    The individual treatments of electrolysis are cheaper, however, it requires more sessions (12 to 30 on average). By contrast, laser hair removal is more expensive per session, but it requires fewer sessions. The cheaper option depends on how many sessions an individual receives.

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Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal: Which Is Best For Facial Hair? (2024)
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