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Electrolysis Side effects - what to expect - OTH Laser and Spa

Updated: Apr 6


Most Side Effects from Electrolysis are Temporary

Permanent hair removal is the number one side effect of electrolysis, and at Off The Hook Laser and Spa, it is what we are driven to acheive.  Before you get to your “hair-free” status, you might experience less-desirable side effects. This article will explain the common and uncommon reactions that may occur after an electrolysis treatment.  

Side effects and their severity will depend on four factors. Those factors include your type of skin, the aggressiveness of your treatments, the techniques and skills of your electrologist, and your compliance in following aftercare recommendations.

The most common side effect you can expect is redness. This reaction is caused by a dilation and congestion of superficial capillaries. Also known as erythema, redness is short-lived.  The recommended aftercare is to apply a compress of witch hazel for several minutes to several hours after the treatment.

Redness may be accompanied by a histamine response at the site of the follicle. This reaction may look like a mosquito bite and is heat-induced or physical urticaria, also described as hives, which appear within two to five minutes of treatment. This reaction usually subsides within hours of the treatment.

The aftercare for a histamine response can be selected from the following:

  1. For extreme reactions and as a preventative measure, take an oral antihistamine prior to treatment. Follow manufacturer directions when taking over-the-counter medications.

  2. Apply a topical antihistamine during or immediately after treatment.

  3. For mild reactions, apply a compress of witch hazel with a small amount of wintergreen alcohol added.

Occasionally, redness and bumps on the skin will last longer than expected. This is an infrequent side effect, and it is temporary. Keep skin clean without overusing products and do not pick, scratch or squeeze the bumps.   

Treatment of dense hairs might result in a leaking of blood serum, which shows up as a yellowish crust, usually the day after treatment. This is not a frequent side effect, and it is not alarming. A day or so after treatment, a scab may form in the follicle opening. A scab is nature’s band-aid, and it may be honey-coloured or darker and will protect the healing skin. It is common for scabs to appear on body areas after an electrolysis treatment.  It is less common for scabs to appear on the face, so let your electrologist know if this occurs. 

Utilize the following steps if a scab or yellow crust appears:

  1. Keep the area clean. Gently wash with mild soap and water, rinse and pat dry.  Avoid rubbing the area and apply a compress of witch hazel.

  2. Keep a scab moist.  Topical ointments can be used to prevent infection and help keep the scab moist. Your electrologist may provide recommendations for products to use.

  3. Leave a scab alone. It may itch, so look for a topical with an analgesic.  Avoid picking or scratching the scab. Healing will take longer if you remove the scab before it is ready.

  4. As always – keep your hands off!!!

An infrequent side effect of electrolysis is the appearance of a pustule a day or two after treatment.  A pustule is a small, inflamed, blister-like lesion.  If you are prone to developing pustules, apply a warm compress immediately after treatment to help prevent their formation. Salicylic acid may be used sparingly to help dry out a pustule once it appears.

Another infrequent and temporary side effect is bruising. A bruise occurs when small blood vessels leak their contents into the soft tissue beneath the skin.  A bruise can occur from the pressure of the electrologist’s fingers on the skin when the electrolysis probe punctures the follicle wall or when the client has taken aspirin-like pain relievers.  

Most bruising will show up immediately, and the electrologist should indicate that it might be expected. Witch hazel is the best treatment for bruising and should be used immediately to enable its astringent action. A bruise from electrolysis treatment should be gone within 2 weeks.

Clients who have the herpes virus may experience a new breakout if electrolysis is performed in the area of their previous breakouts. Antiviral products have been shown to stop repeated occurrences. If you feel a breakout coming on, reschedule your appointment to allow for the herpes infection to heal and to avoid autoinoculation to other areas.  Electrolysis will not cause herpes in a client who does not already carry the virus. 

Scar formation is an infrequent and rare side effect. Scars are areas of fibrous tissue that replace normal skin after an injury. Electrolysis treatments result in minor lesions which do not result in scars, however, over-treatment and improper aftercare and previous skin care can result in damage to the skin known as pitting.

Loss of pigment at the site of the follicle may occur with over-treatment on dark skin. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) may occur on some skin types. It is not from an electrolysis error but from the nature of certain types of skin.  PIH usually subsides once the irritation of treatments has been stopped and can take up to a year to disappear.  

Pigmentation spots known as melasma are unrelated to electrolysis treatments but may become more noticeable once excess hair is removed. 

Most skin damage is caused by digging and picking the skin prior to electrolysis treatments. Chin acne will clear up after electrolysis if it is caused by tweezing of chin hairs. Tweezing contributes to the retention of root sheath remnants, which inflame the skin. Tweezing can also result in hairs being broken off under the skin to become ingrown to cause chin acne.  Your electrologist should recommend that ALL tweezing and picking of skin stop.  

What other suggestions can I make for you?

  • Contact your electrologist if you have any reaction that concerns you. Permanent hair removal as an electrolysis side effect outweighs other side effects a million to one.  

  • Communication between you and your electrologist is important in helping you reach your hair removal goal.  It is common for the first treatment to result in the most skin reaction, so talk to your electrologist if this occurs. 

  • Make sure that your electrologist wears exam gloves and utilizes medical sterilization for instruments.

  • Make sure that your electrologist provides you with a new pre-sterilized and disposable electrolysis probe at every appointment.  

  • It is important for you to comply with aftercare procedures to avoid infection. Stop all tweezing and handle your skin carefully.   

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