After choosing electrology treatments, the permanent method of hair removal, the next step consumers should take is to select a good electrologist. You might think that licensing, certification or association membership would indicate that the selection process stops there, but there are many more indications (and red flags) to look for when selecting an electrologist.
Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia license electrolysis as a profession. The state boards overseeing the profession vary from boards of cosmetology and barbering, nursing and medical, health and human services, and include boards of professional regulation, consumer affairs and business. In licensed states, the required training ranges from 300 to 1500 hours. Keep in mind that in an unlicensed state no training is required. Schools of electrology usually require a minimum of 120 hours, designed for those in unlicensed states. Several licensed states include chair-side or apprenticeship training which is usually double the hours required when attending a school. With that in mind, look for an electrologist who has a diploma of training. The licensed electrologist will often use the credentials "LE" or "RE" (registered electrologist) after their name.
Certification is provided through testing by a national organization and is maintained by continuing education. The Certified Professional Electrologist (CPE) credential is the premier certification provided to electrologists by the International Board of Electrologist Certification (IBEC) and secured by PROMETRIC™ a global leader in testing and assessment services, including development and administration of licensing and certification exams for businesses and organizations.
Membership in state or national associations is a possible indication that the electrologist is actively involved in the profession. Associations offer continuing education and allow members to keep abreast of the most recent topics affecting the profession.
Knowing that your electrologist is licensed, certified or associated with other professionals should give you some assurance of security, but there is more!
When seeking an electrologist, personal referrals are a very good start. While many people don't want to admit that they have excess hair, if you quietly ask, they might tell! Physician referrals can be helpful, but then again, many people don't even admit to their physician that they have had electrology treatments. Also, local phone books and internet searches can help you find an electrologist in your area. When viewing print, internet and television ads, make sure that they are providing needle electrolysis. In yellow page and internet advertising you will often see "heading jumping," a type of bait and switch, where practitioners of other hair removal methods advertise as electrologists. If you call, they will make an appointment for you and never tell you that they do not provide electrology treatments.
When you find an electrologist, call for a phone consultation or look to see if they have a website that provides information. During the phone consultation, you can ask about training, licensing, whether or not they provide a free in-office consultation and what other procedures they provide. This would be a good time to ask if the electrologist uses pre-sterilized, disposable electrolysis needles and what other sanitation and sterilization guidelines are followed. Again, make sure they are providing needle electrolysis. An advertisement that states treatments are "painless" should be a red flag. (Electronic tweezers, patch devices, laser and light devices are not electrolysis.) The electrologist will ask you to discontinue any tweezing or waxing when you make an appointment.
At the consultation, look for a clean, well-organized office and expect a friendly welcome by a professional-looking electrologist. You will fill out a health history assessment form that asks for contact information, questions about the areas you want to have treated, what previous methods you have used to hide or remove the hair, and questions about other health considerations. The electrologist needs this information to provide you with information specific to your hair problem, and to determine if you have any contraindications to treatment. Red-flag the electrologist who does not have this assessment form.
When the form is complete, the electrologist will then explain several things about the treatment. The physiology of the hair follicle and the fact that hair grows in unsynchronized cycles is essential information to help consumers know what to expect from their treatments. The experienced electrologist will be able to design a treatment program for your specific needs, but they will not be able to state the exact number of treatments, or how long it will take you, since your physiology is unique to you. Genetic, hormonal and medication variations will contribute to your specific problem. Ask as many questions as you like during the consultation. If you forgot or missed something during that first consultation, the electrologist should be happy to provide any and all information to you at a later date, if you ask. The consultation should also provide information about what to expect after the treatment, as your skin might be pink or even red for a few hours. It is important that you keep your hands off the treated area, and to avoid situations where your skin will get dirty, sweaty, or irritated for the first few days after a treatment. After-treatment products should be discussed, including what to do if you experience a rare side effect such as a pimple or bruising.
Most consultations will also include a short treatment, where the electrologist removes a few hairs so that you can see what it feels like and how your skin will react. The insertion of the electrolysis needle into the follicle should not hurt, but the treatment energy does sting. Upon removal of the hair, you should not feel that the hair was plucked or tweezed - it should slide out of the follicle with ease. The exception to this extraction sensation is the slight traction that can be felt when some catagen and telogen hairs are removed - as they are held in the follicle by a dried root sheath. Red-flag the electrologist who provides an insertion that is painful or whose hair extraction feels like tweezing.
Before any treatment begins, you should see the electrologist wash his or her hands and don gloves. Immediately after a treatment, the electrologist should dispose of the needle in a red sharps container, place the tweezers in a soaking container, dispose of any cotton used during treatment, remove gloves and decontaminate hands by using an alcohol gel or soap and water. Red-flag the electrologist who fails to follow these protocols.
If the treatment energy sensation is too uncomfortable for you, ask them to stop. Make sure that the insertion is not causing pain, as it's the treatment energy that will sting. There are topical anesthetics available that some electrologists will apply to small areas such as the upper lip or they will sell to you to apply prior to treatment. Some licensed states forbid electrologists' application of topical anesthetics, however, you can obtain products OTC or by prescription. It is essential that you follow all directions for these products. After the first treatment, most people will say, "Is that all it is?" when asked about the sensation of the treatment. The treatment energy causes the sensation during electrolysis - not the insertion of the electrolysis needle. Some electrologists will provide ice or other cooling methods for you to take with you. The electrologist should provide written instructions for at-home care, but any concern that you have at home should be immediately addressed by calling the electrologist.
Many people dismiss electrolysis as an option believing that the cost is prohibitive, but it is very affordable. The consumer seeking hair removal on large areas with dense hair growth will spend more than the woman with a few hairs on her chin. However, all treatments will occur with decreasing length and frequency as they progress. The average consumer spends around $25.00 to $40.00 per treatment (depending upon the geographical area) and is completed within 12 to 24 months. Some electrologists offer reduced pricing with the purchase of blocks of time. You should not purchase a block of time until you have had a few treatments from this electrologist and are sure of your practitioner. Choosing the practitioner who offers the least expensive treatments does not mean the total cost of treatments will be less than choosing the practitioner who offers the most expensive treatment; just as choosing the practitioner who offers the most expensive treatment does not mean that you have chosen the highest quality available. The electrologist with the best skills will give you the most cost-effective treatment.
Professional electrologists will have written office policies about the hours they keep, the methods for scheduling appointments, and the requirements for cancellation. Respect their time by giving 24 hours notice to cancel an appointment. Most electrology practices are owned by women who make a living by selling their time. If you do not give them appropriate notice to cancel, they cannot sell that time to another client, so you should expect to pay for the time you reserved. Exceptions to this would be a medical emergency or the manifestation of a contagious condition such as a cold, flu, or cold sore. The electrologist will also want you to communicate any concerns you have after a treatment.
The 21st Century has brought us to an age of information that exceeds anything known before. Consumers should be aware that there are practitioners from all walks of life who lack the skills needed for their chosen profession. The electrology profession began in the late 1800's, and the 20th Century provided us with technology and information about the body's physiology that amaze us still. Education and technology won't override skills, but they indicate an investment in the profession. There is nothing wrong with consulting with several electrologists in your area before choosing one. The savvy consumer will be knowledgeable about the procedure, will communicate openly with the electrologist, will follow treatment recommendations, and will get results.