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Insulated Needles – A Primer

There are three types of electrolysis needles on the market today. Stainless steel needles, gold plated needles and insulated needles. All three types of needles start with surgical stainless steel as the base. Stainless steel is a blend of metals, including nickel, that provide strength, ductility, and flexibility. Gold needles are stainless steel needles that are coated with thin layer of 24 karat gold. Insulated needles are stainless steel needles that are coated with a polymer layer along the length of the needle, starting at the taper point and down except at the tip. Unlike gold, which is a conductive metal, the polymer layer insulates the needle, so it cannot cover the shank nor the tip of the needle. Ballet and other insulated needles have an insulation layer that protects both the movement of electricity, and your client.

Insulated Ballet needle
Insulation coating covers from the taper down almost to the tip of the needles

Definitions: Insulation on Stainless Steel

Insulated Needles are stainless steel needles coated with a polymer material. There are two types of insulation used with electrolysis needles, polytetrafluoroethylene - PTFE, most commonly known via tradename Teflon - and polymethylmethacrylate - PMMA, most commonly known via tradename Plexiglass.

Teflon is a plastic with low friction and is used for a variety of applications including nonstick coating and pans. It is so slippery, in fact, that even gecko lizards cannot climb a surface coated with Teflon. In addition to having low friction (i.e. non-stick), Teflon-type materials are also corrosion resistant and strong. Teflon is used in a variety of applications in a variety of fields, including coatings for medical devices to composites. Note: We have heard from manufactures of Teflon coated electrolysis needles that electrologists should be careful when picking up needles that use Teflon as the coating may flake off. Please use caution when handling Teflon-coated electrolysis needles.

Plexiglass is a transparent and rigid plastic, and is used in a variety of applications that take advantage of its toughness, clarity, and scratch resistance. Examples include windows, lenses, displays and medical devices. In fact, acrylic nail polish uses this same material as its base. Ballet uses a proprietary version of this polymer for coating needles to create the Ballet Insulated Needles. Due to its excellent adhesion to the stainless steel and the material's toughness, use of tweezers on the coating will not causing flaking or cracking. Electrologists can easily use the Ballet Insulated Needles the same way they use stainless steel or gold electrolysis needles due to its robust coating.

Electrologists can use the Ballet Insulated Needles the all of the ways that they use stainless steel or gold electrolysis needles as the coating is so robust. In fact you would be hard-pressed to purposely scrape the polymer off as it is quite well-adhered to the surface of the Ballet needle.

-S. Paisner, President of Synoptic Products

Insulation and Electrolysis

The purpose of insulation is protection; protection of your client's skin and protection from current loss.

Skin Protection: Protecting your client's skin is a major factor in how each electrologist chooses their settings. While hair removal is the goal, skin protection is just as important. As most electrologists know, the length of time and amount of current determines the efficacy of electrolysis, and balancing these two factors properly will also affect how the skin responds to treatment. Set the current too high or run it for too long and your client can develop scarring and/or other skin damage. By insulating the surface of the electrolysis needle, the Ballet Insulated Needle add a layer of protection between the metal surface, which heats up during electrolysis, and the client's skin. This effect is the same reason we use oven mitts when baking, to protect our skin from the heat of baking dishes coming out of the oven. The electrolysis needle can become quite hot, and by adding an plastic insulation layer, the client's skin is protected from this heat.

By coating the electrolysis needle with an insulation layer, electrologists can protect the client's skin from the heat that would be felt along the sides of their hair follicles during treatments.

Electrical Current Protection: Unlike heat, which travels through the body of the needle, electrical current travels as a flow of electrons along the surface of conductive metals. The needles' surface smoothness determines the evenness of movement of electrons along the surface of the needle.

Electrical current (AC or DC) primarily moves along the surface of the needle, and heat primarily moves through the bulk of the needle.

Electrons, as they flow across the surface, follow the path of least resistance, and similar to a car driving fast over a hill, struggle to remain connected to the travel surface if angle of travel changes too drastically. Luckily for cars, gravity brings them back down to the road surface. Unfortunately for electrons, once they separate from the metal surface, they have a tendency to keep going. Placing a polymer (I.e. plastic) insulation along the needle creates a barrier that keeps the electrons so that they don't fly off the surface, thus increasing the amount of electrical current that reaches the tip of the needle. The more current that reaches the tip of the electrolysis needle, the lower the initial current can be.

Additionally, the more consistent the amount of current that reaches the tip of the needle, the more repeatable current settings can be. Finally, when current falls of the surface of the needle, these electrons do the same work that they should be doing at the tip, created lye and heat. This extra heat causes the needle to heat up all over more quickly, potentially causing more damage to the skin surface. Electrical cords in your home are coated with a plastic insulation material for this reason as well, to avoid electrons from traveling from the surface of the wire to, for example, your hands as you touch the the electrical cord. By increasing the flow through of electrons, the treatment is more effective and electrologists can potentially reduce the current and/or reduce the time of the treatment with similar results. Reduced time and/or current also improves your client's comfort as in either case, the needle doesn't heat up quite as much.

Effectively, insulating an electrolysis needle has double purpose, protecting your clients skin and protecting against current loss, both of which result in an improved experience for your clients.

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