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October 24, 2007

Electrolysis and the Pain Factor  

By Ronni Kolotkin

There are many different methods to manage the pain associated with electrolysis (permanent hair removal).
You may be one of the many people living with unwanted hair that is afraid to have electrolysis treatment because you have heard it can be painful. It is certainly understandable that this could be a concern when considering this permanent option of hair removal, however; there are options for management of any pain that may be associated with electrolysis.


When I began practicing electrolysis in 1972, I wanted to know how to keep my clients comfortable during their treatment. I remember asking my dentist what he would recommend; he told me that ice is a great skin desensitizer. To this day, we use tons of ice at my Fifth Avenue electrolysis office in New York City. A plastic bag is filled with ice and placed on the area to be worked on and in a couple of minutes the area becomes quite numb.

Ice is usually used to numb more sensitive areas of the body or places where it’s necessary to use a higher amount of current. There are some places on the body, such as the breasts, that electrolysis is not as uncomfortable. The fatty tissue in the breasts absorbs the current and there is less pain. In women, we use ice for hair removal on bikini lines and underarms. In men, it is mostly used on shoulders and the back area.

It amazes me when I learn from my clients that they previously had Electrolysis on one of the painful areas without the benefit of ice. When I use ice on a client for the first time, they absolutely cannot believe the difference. It’s quite common for someone to actually fall asleep during their treatment. Imagine that!

There are other options available to numb the pain associated with electrolysis. We have a cream available called Emla. This prescription cream is actually used for some topical surgeries; any physician will give you a prescription for this. You can get it for a nominal fee if you have a prescription plan through your health insurance.

Emla works best when applied an hour before electrolysis treatment. If you put saran wrap on top of the cream, it helps to activate the numbing action, but be careful not to wrap the saran wrap too tightly. Do not to put it on the eyebrow area because if you rub the area and the cream touches your eye, it could be extremely irritating. Also, if you are having work on the face area it doesn’t make sense to walk around with saran wrap on your face. Just apply the cream to your skin one hour before treatment. It will be white at first but will quickly become translucent.

Another way to manage pain with electrolysis includes taking a few Advil or Tylenol an hour before treatment. Many people swear by this. Also, if you are female, you should know that you will be more sensitive when you are premenstrual and it is better to avoid making electrolysis appointments during that time.

It’s so great that we have so many options now for pain management and they really do work. When I meet a new electrolysis client and they seem frightened of pain, I always tell them not to worry. If you find it too uncomfortable, you don’t have to stay, but I have never had anyone get off of my table and walk out. The response at the end of
electrolysis treatment usually is "That’s it?" Because the pain of electrolysis is manageable and it leads to permanent hair removal, looking forward to the reward of being hair free should far outweigh any fears of pain you may have!

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