Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal and metabolic condition that can cause unwanted hair growth. Electrolysis is a permanent hair removal option, but it requires multiple sessions and can be costly.

Electrolysis is a cosmetic procedure used to remove unwanted hair. The procedure uses an electrical current to destroy the hair at its root and prevent it from growing again.

There is no cure for PCOS. Electrolysis will not help with the condition’s hormonal effects or other underlying aspects. Still, it may help remove unwanted hair in smaller body sections, such as the upper lip.

This article reviews how PCOS affects hair growth, how electrolysis works, possible benefits, and more.

A person using an electrolysis device and tweezers to destroy a person's chin hair. Share on Pinterest

PCOS affects about 1 in 10 females of reproductive age. The condition is a result of a hormonal imbalance.

It can cause several different symptoms, which include:

About 70% of people with PCOS experience hirsutism. Experts also link PCOS with depression and anxiety, which additional hair growth may exacerbate.

Electrolysis is a cosmetic procedure. Insurance will not likely cover the costs.

In electrolysis, a technician inserts a fine needle into a person’s hair follicle. They then send an electric current into the hair follicle, killing the hair at its root and preventing regrowth.

The procedure may cause moderate pain, which can worsen in sensitive body parts. It also typically requires multiple sessions.

Possible treatment areas include:

  • chin
  • abdomen
  • eyebrows
  • breasts
  • feet
  • upper lip
  • jawline
  • legs
  • shoulders
  • underarms
  • bikini line
  • back
  • genital regions

Due to the need to individually target each hair, technicians usually treat smaller areas.

Learn more about types of hair removal.

What to expect

Technicians typically perform the procedure in an outpatient facility or clinic. Some may offer local anesthesia to help numb the treatment area.

During the procedure, a technician repeats a standard process. First, they insert a needle into a hair follicle. Then, they generate an electrical current to destroy the follicle.

After destroying the follicle, the technician can remove it with tweezers.

The length of time it takes and how many sessions a person needs will vary greatly and depends on factors such as:

  • the size of the treatment area
  • the amount of hair
  • a person’s pain tolerance
  • the number of treatment areas

A person typically does not need to do anything special to prepare. They should be able to resume daily activities following the procedure, though they should follow all instructions from the healthcare professional.

Learn more about removing hair permanently from the body.

According to the PCOS Awareness Association, electrolysis is a permanent hair removal procedure.

The procedure can help make unwanted hair less noticeable for people with PCOS. This may help improve a person’s body image, which may help prevent depression associated with PCOS or reduce its impact.

According to a 2019 study of transgender women, hair removal helped improve and prevent depressive symptoms, anxiety, and other forms of distress due to unwanted hair.

Though this study may not translate directly to people with PCOS, another study noted the relationship between body image and depression.

In the 2021 study, researchers noted that negative body image shares a bidirectional relationship with depressive symptoms. They note that a poor body image can negatively affect depressive symptoms.

Learn more about body image and how to improve it.

Electrolysis may not be the best procedure for everyone.

Some potential drawbacks can include the following:

  • It may not remove all unwanted hair.
  • It may not be permanent.
  • It can be painful or uncomfortable.

Other considerations include:

  • possible lengthy sessions
  • the number of sessions needed to achieve the desired results
  • the cost

Learn more about ways to remove hair at home.

Laser hair removal can also help remove unwanted hair growth due to PCOS.

The main difference is that laser hair removal involves using concentrated light to penetrate the skin and kill the hair follicles. Technicians can also use the procedure on larger body areas, making it more effective for people with large areas they want to treat.

However, laser therapy may be most effective for people with light skin and dark hair.

Both procedures may:

  • be mild to moderately painful
  • require multiple sessions to achieve results
  • not qualify for insurance coverage

Learn more about electrolysis vs. laser hair removal.

Electrolysis is one possible treatment for unwanted hair growth due to PCOS.

A person may find that treating PCOS with certain medications may help prevent hair growth.

Healthcare professionals may prescribe spironolactone to a person with unwanted hair growth, though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the drug to treat PCOS. This medication helps reduce androgen levels.

Drawbacks of spironolactone include the following:

  • The risks of long-term use are unknown.
  • It is not safe during pregnancy.
  • It does not decrease hair count — though it does make hair thinner and less noticeable.

A person can search for electrolysis services in their local area online. It is important to ensure that the electrologist is licensed to perform the procedure.

Sometimes, a doctor’s office may have information about local service providers for people with PCOS.

A person may find that joining a support group is helpful. People involved in the group may be able to provide information on local or regional providers. A person can join myPCOSteam here if they are interested.

The following sections answer some commonly asked questions about PCOS and electrolysis.

Is electrolysis permanent for PCOS?

Experts consider electrolysis permanent, though a person will likely require several sessions to achieve the desired results.

How much does electrolysis cost?

Costs will vary based on several different factors, including:

  • geographical location
  • number of sessions needed
  • length of session
  • provider’s pricing

Insurance does not typically cover the cost due to the cosmetic nature of the procedure.

How long does electrolysis take for PCOS hair growth?

Session length and the number of sessions required will vary based on the following:

  • the affected area
  • how much hair needs removing

Electrolysis can provide permanent hair removal for people with PCOS. The procedure is generally safe but can be uncomfortable.

A person will often need more than one session, which may vary in length. Insurance does not typically cover the costs.