Transcutaneous and Transdermal
Permanent Hair Removal

Transdermal Hair RemovalTranscutaneous and transdermal permanent hair removal comes under the doubtful category of hair removing methods in view of the fact that no clinical data has been published so far to establish the claim that permanent hair removal is possible using those methods. Caution is necessary in that electricity is used for removal of hair.

History and background

When the use of electric tweezers was stopped, the manufacturers made some modifications in the apparatus. They replaced the electric tweezers with an electrified cotton swab and claimed same results. They called this transdermal electrolysis. They sold the modified apparatus with electric tweezers as an optional attachment. The US FDA did not evaluate the claim made by these manufacturers about the effective and safe use of transdermal electrolysis.

In 1999, a company named International Hair Removal Systems changed the transdermal electrolysis machine by making a modification. They introduced adhesive patches instead of cotton swabs and changed the name of the method as transcutaneous hair removal. Thus, the transcutaneous permanent hair removal method was born. In part, it is using a scientific method in that it uses the idea of using direct current for transdermal delivery of drugs (iontophoresis) without the use of a needle.

This no-needle delivery of medications offered a chance for the manufacturers of hair removal devices to try no-needle electrolysis. Those who claim transcutanous or transdermal methods are safe and painless continue to promote the devices illegally as their claims have not yet been evaluated.


Transcutaneous permanent hair removal devices work like this: First, a conductive gel is applied on the surface of the skin where hair is to be removed. Then electric current is passed through an adhesive patch touching the gel. It is expected that the hair root is damaged permanently by the electric current that travels down to the hair follicle.

In the Transdermal permanent hair removal method, a cotton swab is used instead of an adhesive patch. The rest of the mechanism is the same as the transcutanous permanent hair removal. It is claimed that the electric current passing through cotton swab results in a chemical reaction inside the follicle tissue. It changes the naturally present salt water into sodium hydroxide (lye), a highly corrosive substance, and damages the tissue.

Doubtful claims

So far, whatever claims have been made on the transcutaneous or transdermal permanent hair removal apparatuses are doubtful. No clinical data is there to support their claims. In fact, the laws of physics do not support the claims made by the promoters. Hair does not conduct electricity but skin does. As the electricity has the tendency to pass through the medium of poor resistance, it will spread along the surface of the skin than passing through the hair. Therefore, the promoters' assurance that it will reach the root of the hair to destroy it has no scientific backup.

The consumers' anxiety to get rid of the unwanted hair through an effective method is understandable. Nevertheless, the transcutaneous and transdermal permanent hair removal method lacks credibility and support by the government.


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