Thursday, 31 July 2014

Fifty thousand follicles

And by 'fifty thousand follicles' I mean that over the five years that I've been having electrolysis, this is the number of times that a needle has been inserted into a hair follicle - mostly on my face - and an electric current passed through, electrocuting the hair. That's obviously fifty thousand moments of pain, of course. It's been bearable, but talk about slow torture! Many a reader will understand perfectly how exquisite the discomfort can be.

It's a simple calculation to arrive at 50,000 hairs. Roz (who has throughout wielded the needle, except on two occasions when her business partner Trish lent a hand) uses the blend method of killing the hair. Going flat out, it's Death To Bristly Hairs at the rate of one every five seconds, or twelve per minute. Each session lasts ninety minutes. So in theory that's 12 x 90 = 1,080 electrocuted hairs each time. But Roz reckons that her true rate has been about half of that, so more realistically it's about 500 hairs per session.

And yesterday it was the 100th session! So we have 100 x 500 = 50,000 hairs cleared by electrolysis since it began in mid-2009.

As with the 50th session, I gave her a bottle of wine to mark the occasion. But it also happened to be her birthday tomorrow, so the bottle has served a secondary purpose!

There still much to do, even now. Clearing the upper lip took so long, as there was so much regrowth. It is now cleared of all the darker bristles and most of the lighter-coloured stuff too; and lately Roz has been able to give prolonged attention to hairs elsewhere, on my chin and jawline for instance. But cheeks and neck remain practically untouched so far.

If only I'd had dark hair! Then laser treatment could have quickly killed off swathes of the offending hair growth, and I might have been done with it all much, much sooner. But laser only works on dark hair, and being naturally fair-haired (some would say blonde, of course) and old (like Father William in Lewis Carroll's poem), most of my facial hair has been colourless, grey or white. Lasering would be useless for that. It had to be slow-but-sure electrolysis, and therefore a long, long tale of hot needles.

Apparently - depending on the individual - it can take 200 to 300 hours to get rid of facial hair by electrolysis alone. I've had 150 hours so far. Roz is now getting into parts where there shouldn't be any regrowth, so once fixed, it'll stay fixed, and we will make faster progress henceforth. Or would have. Roz and Trish are both retiring, and from November, possibly from October, I will have to find another place to get my electrolysis. Fortunately a local friend has recommended somewhere in Brighton. I'll give them a go when the time comes.

One day I will get to the 'maintenance stage' - when basically it's all cleared, and although the odd hairs will still come through, they can all be dealt in a brief session once every six weeks or so, just like an ordinary woman with a hair problem. But I think it'll be another two years before I get to that stage.

The ambition of course, is to get rid of everything except the soft downy vellus hairs, unnoticeable on me. O Happy Day when that state is achieved! I have loathed facial hair - really all hair except head hair - since puberty kicked in. It'll be so nice to finally feel soft-faced and 'clean' fifty years after the onset of what I've always regarded as a dreadful and depressing disfigurement.


  1. Hi Lucy,

    Everything you have written mirrors my feelings and experience exactly! I have had some LASER but to be honest, it has done virtually nothing with perhaps a 10% kill rate tops.

    So it's been electrolysis for the last two years and all I can afford is an hour a fortnight. It's certainly slow going and we have cleared the upper lip too (interesting we both started there?!?) whilst moving on to other areas.

    I have found some success in plucking between sessions, and this is done with tweezers and very gentle usage of an epliator. It makes for a much better success rate due to only having hairs in the growing phase available to treat. I have to limit this due to having these 8 sessions of LASER as part of my treatment through my GIC and this needs the hair to be in situ to work. My final one is next week and I plan to epilate the whole face. It will be interesting whether this has any effect on getting to that "maintenance phase".

    Here's hoping we can get to that soft faced look and feel sooner rather than later :)

    Lucy x

  2. Ouch! There is a product which when used allows light coloured hair to be effectively removed by laser or epilight. I would have thought your technician would know about it as it has been around for some years now.

    Shirley Anne x

  3. The product is a dye, isn't it? But it wouldn't work unless it coloured the hair right down to the root, which of course might be a some millimetres below the skin surface.

    Roz warned me against indiscriminate plucking, as it can pull the follicle out of shape, and this advice has kept me away from epilators, even though I know they are popular.


    1. Evidently it does work Lucy. I am not sure about the advice regarding plucking though there can be a problem with the occasional case of ingrowing hairs but two or three out of thousands can't be bothersome. Does it matter that the follicle might become out of shape if the hair never grows back there?

      Shirley Anne x

    2. Nicola, my electrologist, has suggested plucking to be a good idea. I appreciate the negatives of plucking with regards alignment but it has dramatically decreased clearing times for me.

      I have also heard of these pre-LASER products, and I know of someone trialing one at the moment. It sounds good on paper, but given growth rates of hair I am skeptical myself. As Lucy says, it needs to go right down to the follicle itself and immediately prior to the session.

      Lucy x


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