Electric tweezers (WARNING!)

Electric tweezers

Basic facts

Electric tweezers and treatments with them should be avoided by all consumers. They're often promoted as permanent, but facts indicate otherwise.

Description

  • Electric current is applied to a hair through an electrified tweezer.

  • The tweezer grasps the hair above the skin's surface and holds it anywhere from 15 seconds to several minutes.

  • Promoters claim (without adequate proof) that the electricity travels down the hair and permanently damages the hair root.

Advantages

  • Some find treatment has less associated pain and side effects compared to ordinary tweezing.

  • Safe if performed properly.

Disadvantages

  • No published clinical proof of claims that they can achieve permanent hair removal.

  • No published clinical proof that electricity can travel through a hair and cause permanent damage to the root.

  • Up to 100 times slower than ordinary tweezing.

  • Can be expensive despite no published proof of permanence (especially costly "professional" units and treatments).

Quack claims

There is no published clinical data to substantiate the following claims:

  • “Painless and permanent.”

  • “No side effects.”

  • “Clinically proven.”

  • “More effective than electrolysis, and without the needle.”

  • “Hair can conduct enough energy to kill the root.” (considerable scientific evidence suggests this is not possible)

These devices generate additional victims when sold as business opportunities:

  • “Makes a great home business.”

  • “Offer your salon clients permanent hair removal.”

Background

Electric tweezer claims are simply too good to be true. If a permanent method that required no skill and caused no pain or side effects came along, market forces and word of mouth would quickly make it the industry standard.

Personal units are usually sold for home use for $100.00 to $200.00, but sometimes as much as $3,500.00 or more. Accessories like conductive gels, humidifiers, or pre- and post-treatment products to "increase effectiveness" can add to total costs. "Professional" treatments usually cost consumers $0.50 to $2.00 a minute.

"Professional" units are usually sold as home business opportunities or to beauty salons as an add-on service. The unwitting practitioner then treats consumers seeking permanent hair removal. Practitioners often sincerely believe the device works as claimed and sell treatments without knowing it's quackery. This ends up unintentionally bilking clients and ruining the practitioner's business reputation in the long run.

Electric tweezer promoters are very sophisticated in their sales pitches. They blend facts and fiction to make their scientifically unsound explanations seem believable. They also carefully phrase claims to fool unsuspecting consumers.

By charging exorbitant prices for "professional" units, electric tweezer promoters have found that some consumers will assume it's permanent simply because of the high cost. When prices are competitive with needle epilators or lasers, it suggests to some consumers that they are competitive in terms of effectiveness.

Although electric tweezers are marketed as "professional" or "personal" units, there is no published proof indicating any difference in effectiveness between the two types.

Electric tweezer marketers sometimes claim there is a difference between electric tweezers using alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC), but there is no published proof indicating any difference in effectiveness between the two types.

General marketing terms: no-needle electrolysis, non-invasive electrolysis, tweezer electrolysis, tweezolysis. AC tweezers are also marketed as radio-frequency (RF) tweezers, high-frequency (HF) tweezers, ultrasonic tweezers. DC tweezers are also marketed as galvanic tweezers.

History

Electric tweezers were patented in 1959 by Elizabeth Fozard [1] and hailed by promoters as a "painless and permanent" alternative to electrolysis. Eventually, "professional" electric tweezer units were heavily promoted in the 1970's to beauticians, who in turn unwittingly charged their clients for unproven “permanent” treatments.

In 1985, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged electric tweezer Removatron with deceptively advertising that the product can permanently remove hair. [2] At that time, FTC estimated Removatron was responsible for 80% of the electric tweezer market revenue. FTC estimated consumers spent a total of $37.5 million on electric tweezer devices and treatments that year. [3] In 1987, FTC forced Removatron to include in all promotional material the following: "IMPORTANT: There is no reliable evidence that Removatron provides anything more than temporary hair removal." [4] Although this was modified in 1991, FTC still held there was not sufficient evidence to support claims of permanent hair removal. The company is still prohibited from making unsubstantiated hair-removal claims.

Following FTC's Removatron action, electric tweezers using direct current appeared, exploiting a loophole in the1985 FTC ruling, which only prohibited claims by AC tweezers. [5] Some electric tweezers began selling conductive gel with the tweezers, which was used to bolster dubious claims of hair conductivity.

In the 1990's, millions of electric tweezer "personal units" (notably the IGIA brand) were sold through direct response television. In 1997 alone, the top-selling brand IGIA sold over $75 million worth of their electric tweezers. [6] The 1990's also saw the modification of electric tweezers called “transdermal electrolysis”

In 1998 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that "there is no statistically significant scientific data available at this time to support promotional claims of permanent or long-term removal of hair through use of the device." [7]

Costs:

Equipment: Between $100.00 to $5,000.00+

"Professional" treatments: Between $0.50 to $2.00 a minute.

Accessories: Some brands sell items like conductive gels, humidifiers, or pre- and post-treatment products to "increase effectiveness."

Brands and manufacturers of electric tweezers

Clinical data

Published clinical data indicate that electric tweezers cannot achieve permanent hair removal. [8, 9]

Unpublished reports written or commissioned by manufacturers typically claim permanent results. [10, 11]

However, non-manufacturers have demonstrated that electric tweezer claims of "hair conductivity" do not pass scientific scrutiny [12, 13]

Despite their scientific-sounding sales pitches, these devices have not demonstrated they can achieve permanent hair removal. Save your money.

References

  1. U.S. Patent 2,888,927.

  2. FTC Press release. 2 October 1985.

  3. FTC v. Removatron. 1985 complaint, p. 72.

  4. FTC Press release. 23 July 1987.

  5. U.S. Patent 5,026,369. This loophole was further widened in wake of the decision in FDA Docket K892514, Aug 8, 1990. Following several failed submissions rejected by FDA reviewer Theodore Stevens, electric tweezer maker AHRS submitted an unpublished in-house report on 5 subjects followed for 9 weeks. The new FDA reviewer, Paul Tilton, allowed 9 weeks as a performance standard for permanent hair removal. Subsequently, AHRS (and a clone called GHR, which Tilton cleared in 1991) can claim they are "permanent." For an extensive critical analysis of the Tilton decision, you can download Docket 99P-1614. The Tilton decision is an unfortunate footnote in the history of hair-removal regulation and a triumph of quackery over good science.

  6. Gladwell, Gina. The 25 most innovative people in DRTV (1998).

  7. FDA Docket 97N-0199.

  8. Verdich J. A critical evaluation of a method for treatment of facial hypertrichosis in women. Dermatologica 1984;168(2):87-9.

  9. Please see my selected list of the electric tweezer medical literature.

  10. Cole HL. Comparison of the effectiveness of needle and no-needle electrolysis. (unpublished, 1990).

  11. Konnikov, N. Evaluation of the effect of radio frequency energy delivered by the Removatron hair removal device on hair regrowth, (unpublished, 1990). Available through FDA Freeedom of Information, or contact hairfacts.com.

  12. Schuster J. Electronic tweezing [excerpt]. (unpublished, 1992).

  13. van Orden, M. Human hair conductivity tests. (unpublished, 1998).