Electrolysis vs Laser Hair Removal: Upper Lip

Everything you need to know about electrolysis and laser hair removal for your upper lip. Get expert advice from our estheticians & laser technicians about which method is the best for you.

Electrolysis vs Laser Hair Removal

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Permanent Hair Removal for your Upper Lip

“Don’t touch it, it’s normal.”
When I hit puberty, every adult used to say this as they (ironically) stared at my new and very hairy upper lip.

I didn’t listen, of course.

It was embarrassing. It made me nervous. And it made me very, very insecure.

So I picked up a razor that morning, carefully shaved my upper lip, and set myself up unknowingly to do so for the next decade.

Discovering permanent hair removal gave me more than a sigh of relief—it made me incredibly excited.

I knew it would be life-changing.

But most people will only do what they know or what is convenient—not necessarily what suits them best.

Now you’ll finally settle the electrolysis vs. laser hair removal upper lip debate and know which one will work best for you and your lifestyle.

Ask the Expert: Electrolysis vs. Laser Hair Removal for the Upper Lip: Which is better?

BY SAMANTHA WELCH, ESTHETICIAN


The upper lip is where patients commonly have unwanted facial hair.

Choosing electrolysis or laser hair removal for your upper lip depends on the color of your hair, its thickness, pain tolerance, and your lifestyle.

  1. Hair Color: If you have dark hair, you can do both. If you have blonde, red, grey, or white hair, you can only do electrolysis because lasers need a lot of melanin in the hair to work.
  2. Hair Thickness: If your hair is thick and coarse, you’ll do well with both. If it’s thin and wispy “peach fuzz,” laser hair removal may not work as well because vellus hairs also have very little melanin in them.
  3. Efficacy: Electrolysis is permanent hair removal, while laser is permanent hair reduction.
  4. Pain: Electrolysis is generally more painful, especially in the upper lip with its delicate tissue. The use of numbing cream is a must. Laser is a much more comfortable experience.
  5. Time: Electrolysis on the lips can take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes, depending on the technique used and hair density. Laser hair removal is around 10 minutes overall on average.
  6. Cost: Electrolysis can total $1,200 to $1,600 for a complete set of treatments for the upper lip. Laser hair removal ranges about $600-800 for 6-8 in-clinic visits.
  7. Frequency: Hair in the upper lip grows back quickly, just between 10 to 14 days. You can do laser every 2 weeks for faster results. Electrolysis can only be done every 4 weeks minimum to give your skin time to heal.

This is where at-home laser hair removal is very convenient. You can do it quickly with less pain, time investment, and money to spend.

The ideal device would be something like the Tria Beauty Laser Hair Removal Device 4X, which is extremely powerful and has a smaller precision window. Darker skin tones work best with the Silk’n Infinity.

The Difference Between Electrolysis & Laser Hair Removal for the Upper Lips

Electrolysis

Electrolysis is an effective long-term solution for permanent hair removal.

It’s been around since 1875 but has lost in popularity with the emergence of the more convenient and affordable laser hair removal.

Its main drawback is the pain and time involved in the process.

Electrolysis works by safely inserting a very fine needle into each hair follicle to kill its growth cells. This is done through consecutive treatments until the hair is destroyed permanently.

Image: The Process of Electrolysis
Image: The Process of Electrolysis

The upper lip is a very sensitive area, so electrolysis can be a very uncomfortable experience. The use of numbing creams is necessary for each session.

These visits can take around 15-30 minutes for thermolysis and 30-40 minutes for the blend technique (galvanic + thermolysis). This is in addition to the 30-40 minute wait time for the topical anesthetic to kick in.

You will also need to hold off on shaving 3-4 days before coming in. This is because your electrologist needs to see which hairs are in their active growth phase so she knows which ones she can work on.

I don’t know about you, but coming to work with a stubble mustache when all you want is to make it disappear is excruciating.

Video: Electrolysis/Extremely Small Hair Under & Upper Lip/Permanent Removal

Although upper lip hair grows back within just 2 weeks, 4 weeks is the minimum you can get electrolysis on the same area. This is because your skin needs time to heal. At the beginning of your treatment, you return once a month. Your schedule will taper off as your hair growth slows down until it’s all gone.

Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal is another option for long-term hair removal.

It uses laser and light technology to safely disable your hair.

Your hair will grow back very light and refined over extremely long periods. Hair growth can take anywhere from months to years.

Image: The process of laser hair removal
Image: The process of laser hair removal

Laser hair removal is classified as “permanent hair reduction” instead of electrolysis’ “permanent hair removal.” It can only delay regrowth and reduce your hair’s thickness and density until it’s negligible.

This result is usually good enough for most people, but it’s not complete hair loss.

You will need to do maintenance once or twice a year.

Laser hair removal on the upper lip is swift and easy to do.

Settings used on you will depend primarily on your skin tone, hair color, and pain threshold. The higher the power, the quicker your results.

If you do lip and chin, you’ll notice that the energy used for the upper lip seems more potent.

In laser hair removal, it’s very important for the hair follicle to retain heat long enough to kill its own growth cells.

Fine hair releases heat much quicker than thick hair, so we need to give it more energy in a shorter time frame to do its job before that heat evaporates.

The upper lip is also generally a more sensitive area. The skin is so thin that you’ll feel it more acutely even with the same amount of energy used in other areas.

A cooling mechanism is used to make you more comfortable during your session.

Laser Hair Removal | Lip & Chin

Unlike electrolysis where you can only visit your clinic once a month, you can safely get laser hair removal as soon as your upper lip hair is in its most vulnerable active growth stage. This occurs 2 weeks after your last treatment.

Committing to this 2-week schedule can fast-track your results.

An At-home laser hair removal is a more convenient and cost-effective way to do this.


Upper lips are usually done with the chin because excess hairs on these areas are hormone-driven.

Most women who have unwanted hair also have PCOS.

Hairs on the upper lip can be thick and coarse or fine and downy.

If your goal is to reduce your upper lip hair until it’s no longer noticeable, you can opt for laser hair removal. It’s quicker and more affordable.

Electrolysis is the way to go if you want total hair loss in the area.


Compatibility: Are you a good candidate for electrolysis or laser hair removal on the upper lip?

Hair Color

Image: Laser hair removal is only effective on dark hair.
Image: Laser hair removal is only effective on dark hair.

Electrolysis is effective on all hair colors.

Laser hair removal can only work on hair with melanin—dark hair. So blonde, red, white, and grey cannot be treated with laser.

Skin Tone

Image: EU Skin tone and hair color guide for Silk’n Infinity, with their corresponding energy level allotment. Most home devices can only treat light to medium skin complexions. Silk’n Infinity is one of only two (2) home devices we’ve tested that cover all skin shades.
Image: EU Skin tone and hair color guide for Silk’n Infinity, with their corresponding energy level allotment. Most home devices can only treat light to medium skin complexions. Silk’n Infinity is one of only two (2) home devices we’ve tested that cover all skin shades.

Electrolysis is effective on all skin tones.

Laser hair removal or IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) works best with contrast: light skin and dark hair. (Fitzpatrick I-III or IV)

Darker complexions (Fitzpatrick V-VI) need a special kind of laser technology to safely and effectively remove hair. IPL will not work on darker skin tones.

Hair Thickness

Thick, coarse, terminal hairs work well with both methods.

Laser, however, will have a hard time with vellus hairs or “peach fuzz” because there is very little melanin in fine hair.


Efficacy: How effective is electrolysis & laser hair removal on the upper lip?

Both can be very effective for long-term hair removal on the upper lip.

Electrolysis is FDA approved as “permanent hair removal,” so going down with route can get rid of that hair forever.

Laser hair removal is “permanent hair reduction,” meaning it can delay hair growth for months to years. You’ll have to go back eventually for maintenance.

An at-home laser hair removal device can help with the upkeep in the long run.


Pain Scale: How painful is electrolysis compared to laser hair removal on the upper lip?

The upper lip is one of the most delicate parts for facial hair removal, second only to the eyebrows.

Electrolysis can be painful, especially when treating the philtrum or the middle area.

You need to find a very good electrologist who uses great technology for a more comfortable treatment. (I personally prefer blend, a combination of galvanic and thermolysis as it is gentler.)

Topical anesthetics are a must. A numbing cream can help significantly with the experience.

Laser hair removal is a much more comfortable experience overall.


Cost & Price: How much will electrolysis & laser hair removal for upper lips cost?

Electrolysis is charged per hour. The length of your session depends on the number of hairs you have and how often you have to return until it’s all gone.

Electrolysis on the upper lips can last from 15-30 minutes on average, about $40-60 in most states. It can take 4-10 hours in total, spanning several visits, to permanently remove hair. Total costs range from $1200 to $1600.

Laser hair removal is charged per treatment size. Upper lips take no less than 5 minutes and come in at around $100 per visit. You’ll need 6-8 in-clinic visits for permanent hair reduction. The total cost is about $600-800.

Alternatively, you can invest in an at-home laser hair removal for a more cost-effective solution.


Time & Frequency: How long does it take to remove upper lip hair with electrolysis? How many sessions of laser hair removal are needed for the upper lip?

Time

Electrolysis shouldn’t take more than 15-30 minutes per visit because of the delicate tissue on the upper lip. It can take 4-10 hours in total for permanent results, spanning several visits.

Laser hair removal takes less than 5 minutes each session, with 6-8 treatments in total. You’ll have to return for maintenance once or twice a year.

Frequency

Upper hair grows faster than most hair on the body. After each treatment, new “true” growth can be seen as early as 10-15 days.

You can treat this with laser hair removal, but not electrolysis. It takes a minimum of 4 weeks for the tissue to heal with this method.

tria 4x laser hair removal device
Image: Image: The Tria Beauty Laser Hair Removal Device 4X. With at-home laser hair removal, you can get treatments as often as necessary at the convenience of your home.

Risks & Side Effects: Electrolysis vs Laser Hair Removal for Upper Lip

Electrolysis immediately after causes swelling and redness in the areas where the needle was inserted.

Upper lips treated by thermolysis shouldn’t exceed 15 minutes in my experience because it takes too much toll on this sensitive area.

Blend (galvanic + thermolysis) is a gentler method and should be fine for up to 40 minutes.

Electrolysis on the upper lips shouldn’t scab too much. This is highly dependent on the skill of your electrologist, though, and the technology she used.

You can use a polysporin ointment to help heal and avoid infections.

Video: Electrolysis: UPPER LIP (Indian)

Laser Hair Removal can also cause some redness, but it should fade in under an hour.

You can apply an aloe vera soothing gel or laser enzyme gel to promote healing.

Learn More:

  • Electrolysis: Aftercare, The Complete Guide
  • Laser Hair Removal: Aftercare, The Complete Guide

Operators and Home Use: Who can do electrolysis and laser hair removal?

Electrolysis is a highly technical skill performed by state-licensed electrologists.

There are personal electrolysis kits available on the market. Still, you have to be skilled in using it to avoid side effects.

Laser hair removal is performed by laser technicians and estheticians with state licenses.

The FDA clears portable hair removal devices to be safe for home use. Most devices have safety mechanisms built-in, so it’s foolproof.

The safest devices we’ve tested (35 total) are the Gillette Venus Silk-expert 5 and the Silk’n Infinity for dark skin.


FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions


References:

  1. Vaidya T, Hohman MH, Kumar D D. Laser Hair Removal. 2021 Aug 26. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 29939638.
  2. Marks DH, Hagigeorges D, Manatis-Lornell AJ, Dommasch E, Senna MM. Excess hair, hair removal methods, and barriers to care in gender minority patients: A survey study. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020 Jun;19(6):1494-1498. doi: 10.1111/jocd.13164. Epub 2019 Sep 25. PMID: 31553137.
  3. Shenenberger DW, Utecht LM. Removal of unwanted facial hair. Am Fam Physician. 2002 Nov 15;66(10):1907-11. PMID: 12469966.
  4. Haedersdal M, Wulf HC. Evidence-based review of hair removal using lasers and light sources. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2006 Jan;20(1):9-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2005.01327.x. PMID: 16405602.
  5. Wagner RF Jr, Tomich JM, Grande DJ. Electrolysis and thermolysis for permanent hair removal. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1985 Mar;12(3):441-9. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(85)70062-x. PMID: 3989007.
  6. Richards RN. Point-counterpoint: electrolysis for permanent hair removal. J Cutan Med Surg. 1999 Jul;3(5):239-40. doi: 10.1177/120347549900300504. PMID: 10381947.
  7. Pickens JE, Zakhireh M. Permanent removal of unwanted hair. Aesthet Surg J. 2004 Sep-Oct;24(5):442-5. doi: 10.1016/j.asj.2004.07.006. PMID: 19336191.
  8. Richards RN, Meharg GE. Electrolysis: observations from 13 years and 140,000 hours of experience. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1995 Oct;33(4):662-6. doi: 10.1016/0190-9622(95)91290-8. PMID: 7673501.
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Michelle Evans

Michelle Evans is an esthetician specializing in skincare and hair removal. Her battle with acne throughout her 20's has fueled a lifelong passion for health & beauty. “Knowledge is a gift and you have the opportunity to educate and empower with it.” Michelle believes that everyone should be able to look and feel their best.