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Electrolysis tips for consumers

Sterilize your hands

Wash your hands before starting– you will probably be feeling around your face for strays at the end of the session.

How to find stray hairs at the end of a session

Wash your hands prior to starting. Your hands should be sterile before touching your treated face. Once your electrologist has treated all the obvious hairs, run your fingers across your face as lightly as you can. When you feel one, run your finger in a tiny circle over the area until you locate it exactly. Put your fingernail just below it and move into the light where your zapper can see it. I like to lightly push my nail into the skin and leave a reference mark for my zapper when I move my finger.

Once you’ve gotten all the really obvious ones, stretch the skin tight on your face and repeat the process. Next, I have my electrologist cleanse the area with witch hazel. For some reason, it’s easier to find some of the coarse strays when they’re wet. Next, use a hand-held mirror to look at your face from different angles. Sometimes a long fine stray needs the light to hit it just right to be visible. When you see one, locate it with your finger and move to a position where the zapper can see it. You may find it helpful to describe the hair: straight or curved, fine or thin, long or short, light or dark, direction of growth.

After that, look and feel for ones that are just under the skin. You may be feeling a bit of dry skin, a scab, or something else, but once in a while your zapper will take a closer look at one of these raised places and find a hair that would have popped out in a day or two.

Close mouth during chin work

I find it less fatiguing on my jaw to have my teeth lightly clenched while working on the chin. With my mouth open, the jaw muscles tire quickly from the electrologist pressing down on the area, sometimes to the point of shaking. Gritting the teeth a bit gives the electrologist a more solid and steady foundation to work on.

Newly treated hairs can be deceptive

The Looking Glass Society makes this astute observation: “It is also worth noting that male-type ‘virgin growth’ hairs may have particularly large bulbs, which may produce friction as they slide through the follicle (which is a significantly smaller diameter than the bulb). This can produce an illusion of traction, which in turn can lead to accidental over-treatment. If there is genuine traction, the hair will not move at all and should be re-treated; if it moves a little and then appears to have traction then this suggests that the hair is in fact adequately treated but jamming in the follicle, and it should simply be pulled out.”

Creating a feminine hairline from male sideburns

Also from the Looking Glass Society: “It is also worth mentioning the ‘sideburns’ typical in male facial hair growth. Women have fine hair in this area, similar to scalp hair rather than the thick beard-like terminal hair characteristic of the male. Clearing this area outright gives a result which ‘looks wrong’, but careful application of electrolysis, accompanied with the effects of the hormones, can actually convert the male-type growth to a good facsimile of the female pattern. The method is as follows: the client must first grow her hair in this area to a length of about 8–10mm. Then for each hair in the sideburn area, look closely at it and determine whether it is a coarse male-type hair or a finer vellus hair. If it is vellus, it should not be treated. If it is a coarse terminal hair, it should be deliberately under-treated: apply rather less power than normal, and remove the hair even if there is traction. The effect of this is to deliberately fail to kill the follicle outright, but to damage and weaken it. Over time, this produces the desired effect.”

Galvanic effects

Some people report getting a metallic taste in their mouth when getting galvanic or blend electrolysis. This happened to me, and I have no cavities or dental work. It tasted like when you put your tongue on a 9-volt battery to test if it works. I also had an occasional blast of galvanic that would make the muscle in the treated area clench up like a cramp. This usually happened on my neck, and I found it very unpleasant.

Oil pop or sizzle

Every now and then you will hear a tiny pop or sizzle as you get treatment. This is more common in the early stages, and happened two or three times per hour for me. It’s caused by oil in or near the follicle heating up. It doesn’t hurt and doesn’t pose any problem, but if you’re hearing this a lot, it may indicate improper procedure by your electrologist.

Good analogy

Nicki came up with a lovely simile: “I know what it reminds me of: it’s like raking leaves! You know how in the fall you knock yourself out trying to get every last leaf off your yard? Finally, you get all done, put everything away and go in to take a shower. You come afterward and discover the whole yard’s covered again. I mean, each time, there are fewer leaves and eventually it turns to winter and then spring, so you do know they are going to be gone, but in the meantime it seems like it is never going to end.”

Quite true. Here’s an observation I made this year: I ride my bike to work about 13 miles a day. That’s not a lot, but one day after doing it a couple of years, I looked at my odometer and saw I was over 5,000 miles. That’s more than enough to ride from Chicago to San Francisco and back, something that sounds next to impossible!

So, just like electrolysis, that cumulative effect is hard to notice while you’re doing it.

This is the analogy I used when I thought I’d never be finished: Imagine having a big jar of pennies and taking one out every day. The gradual progress would be hard to see, but eventually, the cumulative effect is obvious. Before you know it, the jar is only half full, then finally it’s empty.

Coming to treatment en femme

Some people have reported that this has been an issue where they get electrolysis. This is much more likely to occur at a large salon than at a smaller, gender-friendly place. Use your own judgment on this. I avoided the hassle (since I wasn’t out at work anyway) by just coming in boy mode. If you are made to feel uncomfortable because of your appearance, you should consider leaving. People like that don’t deserve your support.


If you get a comment from someone about post-treatment redness, you may want an excuse handy. My fave is “Darn this shaving rash!”, but I’ve also had a couple of food allergies, windburn, stress-related eczema and even a rash from my bike helmet. Feel free to use any of these.

Odd observations

Especially early on, I’d find that my ears got full of removed hairs during treatments. You may want to clean them out before you leave. I found it strangely rewarding to look at all these removed hairs, as well as all the hairs on the paper when I got up after a session. I also found it fun when they would show me a “good one,” a hair removed with its root sheath and stuff intact, or a long one that was under the skin. But then I’m a weirdo.

Photographic record

You might consider getting a “before” photo with a few day’s growth before starting. I wish I had one (I’d never grown my facial hair more than a few days, because I hated it so much).


Another concern about going to a big salon, or going to the only electrologist near where you live or work, is the possibility of running into someone you know. If you are not out about your situation, you may want to avoid this possibility. Apparently, there are electrologists who will travel to your home, although I know nothing about the cost or availability of this.

If you have no choice, and you do run into someone, keep in mind that plenty of men do go to electrolysis, so don’t panic. Also, most women don’t really like to advertise the fact they’re getting electrolysis, so you may be able to engage in a conspiracy of silence. Perhaps you can go at off hours or arrange treatment after they’re closed.

Electrologist comfort

Don’t forget that your electrologist’s comfort is important, too, especially for sessions over an hour. Ask if they need a break every now and then. The less fatigued they are, the better job they’ll do. The more you care about them, the more they’ll care about you.