How Does Thermolysis Destroy Hair Follicles?

Thermolysis is an effective technique used for permanent hair removal. But how exactly does it work to destroy hair follicles and prevent hair regrowth?

What is Thermolysis?

Thermolysis, also known as shortwave electrolysis, is a method of permanent hair removal that uses a high-frequency alternating electric current to generate heat and destroy hair follicles.

The process involves passing an electric current through a fine needle or probe that is inserted into the hair follicle. The current generates heat through the resistance of the tissue, which causes thermal damage to the hair follicle structure.

Key Features of Thermolysis

Here are some of the key features of thermolysis:

  • Alternating Current: An alternating electric current is used, which means the direction of current flow alternates rapidly. This allows quicker heat generation compared to direct current.
  • High Frequency: The frequency of the alternating current is typically above 1 MHz. Higher frequencies allow for faster rise in temperature.
  • Fine Probe: A very fine needle or probe is inserted into the hair follicle to target the electric current directly to the follicle.
  • Rapid Heating: Heat is generated rapidly, within fractions of a second, unlike slower heating with galvanic electrolysis.
  • Precision: The current can be precisely targeted at individual hair follicles for selective damage.

How Does the Electric Current Destroy Hair Follicles?

The high-frequency alternating electric current applied during thermolysis generates heat in the hair follicle tissues through two main mechanisms:

1. Resistance Heating

As the current passes through the tissues, it encounters resistance which causes the tissues to heat up rapidly. The heat generated depends on:

  • Power level or voltage of the electric current
  • Resistance of the tissue
  • Duration of current flow

So with the high power and precision of thermolysis, significant resistance heating occurs in the hair follicle within milliseconds.

2. Electromagnetic Heating

The rapidly alternating electric field induces very fast oscillations of water molecules and charged particles in the follicle tissues. The kinetic energy of these oscillations is converted into heat.

This electromagnetic heating adds to the resistance heating to raise the follicle temperature above 70°C within a fraction of a second, which is enough to cause permanent damage.

Structures Damaged by the Heat

The precise and rapid heating of the hair follicle by thermolysis targets and destroys several structures:

Hair Shaft and Matrix Cells

The cells producing the hair shaft are located in the hair bulb at the base of the follicle. The generated heat coagulates the proteins in the hair shaft making it brittle. It also kills the matrix cells preventing further hair growth.

Dermal Papilla

This structure at the base supplies blood and nutrients to the hair. The heat damages the dermal papilla cells preventing them from stimulating further hair production.

Stem Cells

Hair follicle stem cells located in the bulge region can stimulate regeneration of the follicle after damage. However, the high heat can kill these stem cells preventing follicle regeneration.

Blood Vessels

The small blood vessels nourishing the follicle are also coagulated by the heat cutting off nutrient supply to the damaged follicles.

So in essence, thermolysis destroys all the key structural components of the hair follicle – the hair shaft, the dermal papilla, stem cells, and blood supply – thereby preventing hair regrowth.

Advantages of Thermolysis for Hair Removal

Compared to other techniques like electrolysis, thermolysis has several benefits that make it an effective method for permanent hair removal:

  • Speed: Heat is generated within milliseconds so each hair follicle can be treated much faster – in less than 5 seconds.
  • Precision: The current can be targeted accurately at individual hairs without affecting surrounding tissues.
  • Efficacy: The rapid high heat thoroughly damages hair follicles for long-term hair reduction.
  • Comfort: Treatment is relatively comfortable and less painful due to the very short duration of current application.
  • Safety: Risk of scarring is low when performed correctly by a skilled practitioner.
  • Versatility: It works for all hair types and colors, unlike laser which is less effective for light hair.

The Thermolysis Treatment Process

So what does a typical thermolysis treatment session involve? Here is an overview:

Patient Preparation

The skin is cleaned and a topical anesthetic applied for 20-30 minutes to numb the area for comfort.

Probe Insertion

Using a high magnification lens, the practitioner carefully inserts a fine probe into each hair follicle.

Current Application

Current is precisely applied for 3-5 seconds per hair to generate heat and destroy the follicle.

Post-Treatment Care

The treated area is cleaned and an antibiotic ointment applied. Cooling packs help soothe any irritation.

Several sessions are required to treat all hairs. Maintenance may be needed to target occasional regrowth.

Thermolysis Techniques and Devices

There are some variations in techniques and devices used to deliver thermolysis for hair removal:

Traditional Thermolysis

This uses a simple fine needle or probe with high frequency current ranging from 3-5 MHz.

Flash Thermolysis

This involves application of a high voltage pulse for an extremely short duration (millionths of a second). This generates very rapid heating.

Blend Method

It utilizes a combination of thermolysis current along with a galvanic or electrolysis current. The galvanic current enhances chemical destruction of the follicle.

Microwave Thermolysis

This uses microwaves focused at the hair bulb to generate localized heating that damages the follicle.

LASER Thermolysis

LASERs produce a high intensity pulsed light beam that targeted at hair follicles generates heat and destruction. This is technically a form of photothermolysis.

So in summary, various devices can be used to produce the rapid, focused heating effect that makes thermolysis an effective treatment for permanent hair reduction.

Side Effects and Risks

When performed correctly, thermolysis is considered a safe procedure, but some potential side effects may occur:

  • Redness, swelling, irritation of the treated skin
  • Risk of scarring if current is too high or heating prolonged
  • Pigment changes may occur in people with darker skin
  • Pain or discomfort during treatment
  • Ingrown hairs if hair is broken below skin and grows inward
  • Infection if poor hygienic technique (rare with an experienced practitioner)

Proper settings, technique and aftercare help minimize risks and side effects.

Takeaways on How Thermolysis Destroys Hair Follicles

  • Thermolysis uses high frequency alternating electric current to generate rapid, precise heating of hair follicles.
  • The heat coagulates hair proteins, destroys the dermal papilla and stem cells, and cuts off the blood supply to the follicle.
  • This damages all the key structures of the hair follicle preventing regrowth.
  • The speed, precision and efficacy of thermolysis makes it an effective treatment for permanent hair removal.
  • When performed correctly, it is a relatively safe procedure with minimal side effects or risks.

So in summary, thermolysis offers a rapid, targeted method to destroy hair follicles through the precise delivery of heat using high frequency electrical currents. The resulting damage to the follicle prevents regrowth of the hair


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