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Electrology

Electrology is either of two electrical epilation methods for the permanent removal of human hair. A practitioner of electrology, as the term is used in epilation, is called an electrologist (or sometimes electrolysist in the United Kingdom).

One method really is galvanic electrolysis (named after Luigi Galvani), using a person’s body as an electrolytic cell. The other method does not involve true electrolysis, and is known as thermolysis, RF, shortwave or diathermy. Galvanic and thermolysis are often combined in a method known as the blend. All three of these methods use a metal probe 50 to 150 µm (0.002 to 0.006 inches) in diameter which is inserted into hair follicles to the depth of the dermal papilla or hair matrix, which is the site of formation of hair from highly mitotic and keratinized cells.

Galvanic electrolysis was first reported in the medical literature by ophthalmologist Charles Michel in 1875 to remove ingrown eyelashes in patients with trichiasis. A galvanic epilator is essentially a positive ground power supply that delivers 0-3 milliamperes through the body. The follicular probe is the cathode of an electrolytic cell. Sodium hydroxide formed at the cathode burns out the hair matrix cells. Modern galvanic epilators automatically adjust the voltage to maintain constant current.

Thermolysis was developed in the 1920s. A thermolytic epilator is essentially a radio transmitter, usually with an output of about 0-8 watts at a frequency of 10.56 MHz. RF energy emanates from the probe to tissue within about a millimetre. The idea is to heat the hair matrix to about 48°C, causing electrocoagulation.

Thermolysis allows more depilations in less time, typically 1-4 seconds per insertion, compared to 15 seconds to several minutes for galvanic. On the other hand, the galvanic method is more thorough, and leaves fewer follicles capable of regrowing hair. A third method, called “blend”, was developed by Arthur Hinkel in 1948 and combines RF and direct current, combining many of the advantages of both methods.

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