First a word about needles. There are many types, and all of them have specific uses and certain adherents. However, there is a lot of hysteria about needles. Fact of the matter is, I can actually insert a needle alongside the hair and you will not feel it. The sensations that you feel are actually the effects of either form of energy when they are applied. Thermolysis produces heat and the nearby nerves (called Ruffini’s end organs) begin to send signals to the brain that a heating sensation is felt. In the case of galvanic electrolysis, the sources and the signals are a bit more complex. Because D.C. electricity used for Galvanic Electrolysis travels through the body in search of the positive anode (the handle you are holding) free nerve endings in the vicinity of the needle are activated and begin sending signals. At this point the brain interprets what it is feeling, because individuals vary, and the way that they sense pain also varies. This has been found to be genetic in origin. So what may be nearly painless for one client may be very uncomfortable for another. However, I should point out that the intensity of the power I use can be easily controlled, making the sensations quite livable.
The needles I use are either .002 or .003 inches in diameter. It is possible to have hairs that are easily 2 or 3 times that size. Secondly I do not jam these into the follicle. In cases where I have been the only operator to have worked on the client, insertions are easily accomplished as the skin is still flexible. I have found that several victims of “thermolysis” or “blend electrolysis” where the thermolysis is set excessively high tend to have the same characteristic regarding flexibility of the skin. As the collagen in the skin is boiled away by excessive temperatures, the result is scar tissue which is much less flexible. The concept that the follicle will follow the needle like a sock over a broom handle disappears and the result is much more difficulty with insertions and generally a more painful experience for someone who has already suffered enough. For the grim details, please see my section on Thermolysis.
There is a lot of eye-hand coordination and skill involved in getting the needle into place at exactly the right angle. I would also say here that under injected anesthetics it really doesn’t matter if the insertion is “proper” or not. You cannot feel the result of a bad insertion. However, you will be aware of it much later when the hair begins re-growing because the root of the hair was missed. Speed often leads to sloppy work and significant re-growth. You don’t always get what you pay for…
So why use needles when other modes are available?
Needles are most effective in placing the process accurately and effectively within the hair follicle. One of the triumphs of evolution is the location of the sebaceous glands just below the surface of the skin. Sebum secreted by these glands form a seal around the hair as it emerges from the skin. This seal of sebum is impenetrable by water and chemicals (alas, such as most topical anesthetics) and highly resistant to surface type galvanic devices, rendering them ineffective. The needle is able to penetrate this barrier and deliver the energy needed to the lower follicle where the root of the hair lies. This precision is impossible to duplicate with laser systems in use today. Skin damage can be minimized when power settings are correctly set. I find that the delivery of galvanic lye can be carefully controlled for a client’s skin moisture and depth of hair.
In 1875, Dr. Michel utilized a series of dry cell batteries, a switch and for a needle, he fashioned the first electrolysis needle from a “medical” needle. The purpose of his first “zap” was to remove a stubborn ingrown eye lash that was a constant source of infection for a client. For many years after that, the electrolysis profession was supplied with medical needles that were manufactured by the same company that produced sewing machine needles. The skill of the operator was not limited to using a needle, but also honing and re-shaping them as well. It was to be a long time before sterile, disposable needles were to become available. Strange to say, the shanks of many of today’s needles are still the same size as a sewing machine needle.
Straight shaft, two piece.
Consisting of a high quality “wire” crimped into a .050 diameter metal shaft, this type provides high flexibilty, allowing the needle to “curve” in accordance with the curvature of distorted hair follicles. I find that the flexibility interferes with insertions. In many cases that sebaceous plug can actually prevent a flexible needle from entering the hair follicle. However, other operators swear by them and like the way they work. To each their own.
Tapered shaft, short or long, one piece tempered stainless.
Plain or gold coated. I have heard interesting claims made concerning the use of gold plated needles. Being the devious sort, I did a blind study with several clients over a several week period and not surprisingly (well, to me anyway) there was no difference in either the performance of the processes I used or the sensations felt by the client. Some people swear by gold plated needles. When it comes to the plain stainless steel needles, I like `em.
My personal preference is for the .002 in general applications and .002 for substantially smaller hairs or emerging new growth or re-growth. The reason for the smaller size is for speed. It is easier for me to use a needle that inserts easily and quickly. The follicle is quite forgiving on this point (bad pun, sorry) A larger needle tends to produce more friction within the follicle wall and requires slower insertions to avoid pain. They also may require more time-consuming accuracy in aiming for the follicle opening.
Tapered shaft, insulated.
Most of the needle is coated with an insulative material except for the very tip. Designed to be used with Galvanic applications, not flash thermolysis, they isolate the majority of the galvanic lye in the lower portion of the follicle. In recent work, I have noticed that even in total galvanic situations, the even-ness of lye production with uninsulated needles allows a smoother removal of the entire follicle. However, this is highly dependent on the client’s skin moisture at the surface. In contrast, insulated needles concentrate the galvanic lye deeper in the skin for better removals, while avoiding too much surface contact in clients with high levels of skin surface moisture.
Tapered shaft, bulb end.
Either insulated or non insulated. These needles have a very small ball at the end of the needle which can be used to increase galvanic action by increased surface area at the tip or used by flash thermolysis to disperse high frequency energy in a more general pattern from the end of the needle. This “spread effect” would create a wider field of energy for complete coverage of the lower follicle. However, it seems that most of the benefits of “bulbous needles” as they are called, are largely theoretical and not significant in actual use.
The long and short of it.
All of the single piece tempered needles also come in “long” or “short” shaft lengths as well. The shorter needles are used for generally shallow or sebaceous hair and the long ones are used for deep coarse hair.