Hair says something about a person. You style it, you play with it, you run your fingers through it -- or you let someone else have that privilege. Whether it's short, long, shaved, permed, spiked, dyed, braided or buzzed, your hair makes as much of a statement as the clothes you wear, the car you drive and the food you eat.
Getting rid of unwanted hair also can make a statement about your personality. Although women have struggled with excess and unwanted hair, men in recent years have become caught up with the activity, too. In fact, men have become so involved in hair removal that a new term -- "manscaping" -- has come into use.
Methods of everyday hair removal range from shaving and plucking to using hair removal creams, or chemical depilatories. Many salons and spas also provide hair removal services, including threading and waxing. Often, these methods suffice, but they may not always get the job done. Some people may want a more permanent solution. Electrolysis and laser hair removal are two such options.
With so many choices available, it can be difficult to determine which methods are best. Not every method works well for each area of the body or for different types of hair and skin. Expense can also be an important consideration, as more permanent hair removal options tend to carry higher price tags. Greater potential side effects are also a factor. And for those who decide to use electrolysis or laser hair removal, they face an additional and critical choice -- selecting a hair removal specialist.
Regardless of the type of procedure you choose, you should ask around and get answers to some important questions before going ahead with anything. Read on to learn more about your hair removal options.
Hair Removal Specialist Training
A simple Internet search calls up thousands of electrolysis and laser hair removal services. Highly trained professionals, such as dermatologists, may offer these services, as well as technicians at spas and tanning salons. The level of experience, education, knowledge and skill of these specialists varies greatly.
Electrolysis involves inserting a needle into a hair follicle and running an electric current through the needle. The current kills the hair root. Similarly, in laser hair removal, a laser zaps the hair follicle to prevent growth. With either procedure, you want someone who's trained to do it properly, so you should consult a dermatologist or a certified specialist. These professionals most likely have the highest level of training [source: Hirsch].
When looking for an electrologist, check to make sure that the person is certified by a reputable program. Certification requires training, which helps ensure that the person wielding the electrically-charged needle has had adequate training to provide for your safety and well-being [source: WebMD]. For laser hair removal, you should see a medical doctor, such as a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon [source: Bernstein]. A doctor has received specialized training and has the medical expertise to deal with any potential complications or side effects.
The laws governing what type of training is required vary from state to state, so find out what those requirements are and make sure your specialist has the right qualifications. It's also helpful to see whether he or she has gone above and beyond in training -- continuing education, professional organization memberships and other certifications are often good signs.
General searches for practitioners in electrolysis and laser hair removal may lead you to advertisements for special deals and "inexpensive" permanent hair removal treatments. Permanent hair removal can be costly, so these deals may look tempting. You should resist that temptation. Often, specialists that offer low-cost deals have had little or no formal training, and they have invested only in the equipment with which to conduct the procedures. Trusting your follicles to these untrained hands could have serious -- and painful -- repercussions, such as skin lightening, zebra striping, burns and even permanent scarring. In such cases, the medical treatments needed to repair such damage will end up costing you more in time, suffering and savings [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
Keep reading to find out what else you should know before choosing a hair removal specialist.
Hair Removal Specialist Experience
Now that you know that your hair removal specialist has been properly trained, you need to find out what kind of experience he or she has. Some practitioners have more experience and success performing hair removal procedures than others.
Even medical professionals such as dermatologists and dermatological surgeons, commonly called dermasurgeons, have varying degrees of expertise. Some specialists may have had more practice performing procedures such as electrolysis and laser hair removal. One good way to find likely candidates is to ask family, friends and other trusted physicians. Personal recommendations can be the best sources of information. If you don't have a personal source, you can check rating Web sites, such as Angie's List or Rate MDs, to get a better sense of other patients' experiences with particular physicians [sources: American Society for Dermatological Surgery].
To evaluate a specialist's experience, you should always go in for a consultation first. Many practitioners provide free consultations. During these meetings, you should ask how long the practitioner has been performing electrolysis or laser hair removal and how many procedures he or she has done. You might also ask to see pictures of his or her work. This visual evidence will enable you to evaluate the quality of the specialist's work for yourself. You can also take advantage of the consultation to look around the physician's office. Consider the behavior of the staff, the cleanliness of the space and the comfort that you feel [sources: WebMD].
During a consultation, you might want to find out whether the practitioner has his or her own equipment, and you should ask questions particular to your skin type and overall health, such as what procedures are best suited to you and what the risks and probable outcomes of treatment are. The practitioner should also explain what to expect before, during and after the procedure. A good physician will ask you about your medical history before agreeing to perform any procedure [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
Once you've found the right professional, you want to ask a few more questions before you go in for the procedure. Read on for some final thoughts on safety.
Hair Removal Specialist Safety
As with any medical procedure, safety is a concern with hair removal. As you schedule electrolysis or laser hair removal, you should keep in mind a few safety concerns.
First, be sure that the hair removal specialist you choose follows appropriate measures for infection control. For example, if you choose electrolysis, you should know that the American Electrology Association has developed standards based on the published guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Association for Practitioners in Infection Control and Epidemiology. If you don't see the standards for one or more of these posted in your specialist's office, then be sure to ask what guidelines the physician follows [source: American Electrology Association].
Prior to the actual procedure, your hair removal specialist should inform you about any specific safety concerns and procedures. You should check to be sure that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved all equipment that your specialist plans to use. If you have chosen laser hair removal, you can check the equipment being used in the FDA's Medical Service Database. You should also make sure that the doctors, nurses and other staff follow appropriate guidelines for equipment use. For example, everyone in the room should wear protective eyewear during the laser procedure [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
Now that you have learned what questions to ask when choosing a hair removal specialist and what precautions to take, you're ready to move forward with electrolysis or laser hair removal -- or you can pursue a completely different option. If you still have questions and concerns, be sure to consult your doctor or schedule a free consultation with another practitioner.
For lots more information on hair removal and skin care, follow the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Cheaper Isn't Always Better." (Aug. 15, 2009) http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/cosmetic_procedure_deals.html
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Laser Hair Removal." (Aug. 15, 2009) http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/cosmetic_laserhair.html
- American Electrology Association. "Frequently Asked Questions." (Aug. 16, 2009) http://www.electrology.com/faq.htm#question1
- American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. "Choosing a Dermatologic Surgeon." (Aug. 14, 2009) http://www.asds.net/ChoosingADermasurgeon.aspx
- Bernstein, Eric. F. "Choosing Your Doctor." The Hair Removal Journal. (Aug. 25, 2009) http://www.hairremovaljournal.org/choosing.aspx
- Mayo Clinic. "Laser Hair Removal: How You Prepare." March 28, 2008. (Aug. 16, 2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/laser-hair-removal/MY00134/DSECTION=how-you-prepare
- Mirsch, Larissa. "Hair Removal." Nemours Foundation. Jan. 2008. (Aug. 15, 2009) http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/skin_stuff/hair_removal.html#
- National Institutes of Health. "Excessive or Unwanted Hair in Women." Medline Plus. July 17, 2007. (Aug. 16, 2009) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003148.htm
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Medical Device Databases." June 18, 2009. (Aug. 16, 2009) http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/DeviceRegulationandGuidance/Databases/default.htm
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Laser Facts." May 6, 2009. (Aug. 16, 2009) http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/ResourcesforYouRadiationEmittingProducts/Consumers/ucm142607.htm
- Web MD. "Cosmetic Procedures: Electrolysis." April 1, 2005. (Aug. 15, 2009)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/cosmetic-procedures-electrolysis?page=2