Permanent Hair Removal is the Number One Side Effect of Electrolysis

Fragile skin

Other Side Effects from Electrolysis are Temporary

Permanent hair removal is the number one side effect of electrolysis.  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 a heat induced or physical urticaria, also described as hives, which appears 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:

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

Apply a topical antihistamine during or immediately after treatment.

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

Occasionally, bumps on the skin will last longer than expected. This is not a frequent side effect, nor is it alarming.  Keep skin clean without overusing products and do not pick, scratch or squeeze the bumps.


A day or so after treatment, a scab may form at the treated follicle's opening.  This is nature's band-aid and it protects the healing follicle.  It is common for pinpoint scabs to appear on body areas after an electrolysis treatment.  It is less common for them to appear on the face.  

Utilize the following steps if a scab appears:

1.  Keep it clean.  Gently wash with mild soap and water, rinse and pat dry.  Avoid rubbing the areas.

2.  Keep the scab moist.  Triple antibiotic ointments can be used to prevent infection and helps keep the scab moist.

3.  Avoid picking or scratching the area. It may itch, so look for an antibiotic ointment with a topical analgesic.  


Another 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 as soon as you get home after a treatment to help prevent their formation.  Salicylic acid may be used sparingly to help dry out a pustule once it appears.  

Most skin damage electrologists see has been caused by digging and picking of the skin prior to electrolysis treatments.  Chin acne will clear up after electrolysis if it was caused by tweezing.  Root sheath remnants inflame the skin, broken hairs become ingrown, and most home tweezing is done with unclean instruments resulting in acne in the area.  Electrolysis/permanent hair removal is the ONLY method to clear this problem.


Scar formation is not a side effect of electrolysis treatments.  A scar is fibrous tissue that replaces normal skin after an injury.  Electrolysis treatments can cause minor lesions which do not result in scars.  Over-treatment and improper aftercare, along with over zealous temporary methods such as tweezing can result in damage to the skin known as pitting, which is often temporary.  Loss of pigment at the site of the follicle may occur with over-treatment on melanin-rich skin. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) may occur on some olive-toned skin types.  PIH usually subsides once the irritation of treatments has been stopped.  Pigmentation spots known as melasma are unrelated to electrolysis treatments but may become more noticeable once excess hair is removed.


  • 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 utilizes medical sterilization for instruments and 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.   
Disclaimer:  Please use caution and follow directions when using any over-the-counter product.  Contact your physician for medical advice as this article is not presented as medical advice.

© Barbara Greathouse, CPE   This work may be reproduced as a complete document without alteration as long as credit and link back are provided.

To learn more about your healing skin after electrolysis watch videos by Michael Bono.