What is an Epilator And Do Epilators Really Work?

what is an epilator

When it comes to body hair removal, most people are familiar with the usual methods for getting rid of it such as shaving, depilatory creams or waxing. Epilators, on the other hand, although nothing new, have yet to be discovered by quite a number of people. I’ve come across questions while researching from people asking what does an epilator do or what is an epilator used for.

In this article, we’ll look in depth at what an epilator is, how it works, the best way to use one and the differences between an epilator and a shaver as well as how it compares to other hair removal methods.

What Exactly Is An Epilator?

An epilator is a small device designed to effortlessly remove unwanted hair. As to what one looks like – think electric shaver – for men or women and this will give you a good idea. You simply run it along your skin while it rotates and it removes hair from the root from anywhere you want on the body.

Emjoi AP18 Epilator

There are a few different types of epilator styles available and most devices on the market today do a pretty good job.

Generally, epilators can be used anywhere on the body but there are models designed purely for facial hair removal.

Read more about the Emjoi eMagine AP18 here…

This method is a very affordable solution to unwanted hair woes and something that you can use any time you want. Investing in an epilator can help to smooth things over and give you more confidence in the way you look.

The term ‘epilating’ refers to the removal of hair from under the skin’s surface which can include waxing and other forms.

Using an epilator is just one method for removing hair from the root. We will look closely at how it works and see how it stacks up to other methods later in this article.

How Does an Epilator Work For Hair Removal?

An epilator is a great way to take control of unwanted hair but it is not a shaver.

Unlike a shaver where the hair is clipped away at the skin’s surface, with an epilator, the hair is pulled out from the hair follicle. There are a couple of different types on the market so the way in which it works can vary slightly .

epilating removes hair from the root

Essentially, however, they all work to remove hair from the root. Which one you choose depends on you and of course brand and budget.

Spring-Type Epilators

Interestingly, this was the very first type of epilator ever created. In 1986, the first one to hit the market was by Epilady. This spring-type style featured rotating metal coils that would move in such a way to squeeze together and then apart to pull out your unwanted hairs.

As someone who purchased this device way back then, the word that springs to mind is “torture device”. I used it once and swiftly put in the back of a drawer although I made several attempts to use it regularly.

Epilady Epilator Today

While they’ve come a long way since 1986, these types of epilators may require you to replace the springs when they wear out. They can often cause pinching but they will get the job done.

This style of epilator, using metal coils, is more common in those epilators specifically designed for facial use.

Check Today’s Price For the Epilady on Amazon

Rotating Disc-Type Epilators

With the success of Epilady, shaving giant, Remington, followed soon after by using rubber discs rather than springs. The result was that the springs lasted longer, a definite plus. Another plus? It was less painful. These days, you will find them with metal discs.

Tweezer-Type Epilators

While you can still find spring-type and rotating disc-type epilators, most on the market today are tweezer-type. They feature a head with multiple plates of metal, usually, that rotate continuously, operating like tweezers to pull out unwanted hairs. You can find epilators with any number of tweezers from 6 to 84 so this will give you a good idea as to what you can expect to find available.

braun silk epil 3 20 tweezer head

The number of tweezers will likely influence your purchasing decision as facial epilators usually have a lower tweezer count.

What Else To Consider – Wet and Dry – Corded or Cordless

Other options you’ll have with epilators are electric, corded and cordless versions.

Some of the modern options allow you to charge it much like your smart device so you can operate it without having to plug it in when you use it. You may also choose between epilators designed to be used in water and those that must stay dry.

Braun Silk Epil 7

Like any hair removal method, epilators do take some getting used to.

Some people like the option to use the device in the bath or shower to help ease any discomfort while for others, it doesn’t matter. Some people prefer an electric model as there are some battery choices but they’re not as durable and likely a better fit for eliminating peach fuzz from your face.

Most of the Braun Epilators for example are wet and dry.

What Kind of Hair Will This Work On?

Just about every epilator out there is created for use on your legs, but you can use them on any body part. They work equally well on thick or coarse hair as they do on fine hair.

The higher-end models will come with removable caps that can be used on different parts of your body. This makes it easier to target hair on your lip as well as on your bikini line. Yes, for anyone wondering if you can use it on pubic hair – you can. These attachments are a nice bonus when you want to epilate those hard-to-reach or super-sensitive areas.

There are also dedicated facial epilators for those who are only interested in removing hair from the face.

You’ll find epilators made by all the big electric shaving brands like Braun, Philips, Emjoi, Panasonic, and Norelco, just to name a few.

Benefits of Epilating

There are so many benefits to be had from using an epilator as compared to other hair removal methods. Here are just a few…

benefits of epilating

Versatility – You can use an epilator on just about any part of your body. If you have specific concerns, look for models that address them with a change of heads to help remove all your unwanted hair from multiple areas of concern.

Inexpensive – Buying an epilator is a one-time investment. Depending on the model you choose, there may be maintenance for the upkeep of it, but those things are nominal. It certainly costs less over time than it does for other hair removal methods.

No mess – Other methods of body hair removal involve shaving or depilatory cream or wax while an epilator is really easy to wipe off and store away.

No chemicals – Those with sensitive skin have trouble waxing. Using an epilator keeps you from having to put any kind of irritating chemicals on your skin.

Slower hair regrowth Hair takes a longer time to grow back – hair today, gone tomorrow with an epilator! You’ll enjoy a much longer stretch without that unwanted hair. And when it does grow back, it will be finer and thinner.

Time saver – Using an epilator can save you tonnes of time. Shaving is also quick but has other drawbacks. Methods of hair removal like electrolysis or laser hair removal as well as sugaring can take up a lot of time since you will usually need to go a salon to have these treatments performed.

Epilator vs. Shaving

We’ve given you the pros of using an epilator. But some people wonder what is the difference between an epilator and a shaver or razor? And how does it compare to shaving?

With shaving or using a razor, hair is just cut or sliced away at skin level. The rest of the hair shaft remains in the bulb in the follicle. The hair will continue to grow – how quickly depends on your rate of hair growth.

Many women need to shave their legs daily which really is a hassle. With an epilator, however, they could eliminate this habit and get longer lasting periods of hair free skin.

Most women choose to shave because it seems quick and convenient. And it is! It’s simple, just a razor and some shaving gel. Using an epilator does take a bit of time, plus an epilator can cause a little pain or discomfort. With shaving, it only hurts if you cut yourself. You can also buy cheap razors and gel or shaving cream.

However, if you look at the longer-term, epilators come out ahead of shaving any day.

With shaving, the hair grows back fast. If you have that dreaded facial hair, a very embarrassing fact that many women have but few will admit to and have ever tried to shave it off, you know how quickly it grows back. The same applies to legs which is why it is very often a daily task.

To top it off, with shaving, you will always have to buy razors and shaving cream to work with. And if you’re in a hurry or just plain forget until you jump into the shower, you may use a dull razor which will leave you with a less-than-smooth, stubbly feeling.

Let’s not forget razor burn either and how much those cuts can zing and sting. Nothing looks less sexy than a leg full of nicks and cuts. Or armpits that are inflamed and irritated!

Bikini season? Try shaving that bikini line and you’re likely to find yourself with that agonizing pain that only ingrown hairs can bring. Shaving is more prone to irritate your skin overall, which is why we’re all about the epilator.

Epilator vs. Waxing

Wondering what is better, waxing or using an epilator? Both of these methods remove the hair directly from the root. Both give long-lasting smoothness. However, there are some key differences.

epilator vs waxing

Hair length – With waxing, you need to wait until your hair is at least ¼-inch in length to wax again. If not, it’s pointless as the wax won’t be able to get a grip to your hair. A quality epilator allows you to grip that hair even if it’s just 1/8-inch.

Expense – The cost is also something to consider between these two methods. You will find epilators for cheap (like $30) along with more expensive models that can range up to the $200 mark. However, it is a one time purchase, unlike waxing.

Maintenance – If you invest in a quality epilator, you won’t have to do much else but care for it. But with waxing, you’ll always have to buy what you need to wax, that is if you can stand to do it yourself. Some women just can’t get it right or don’t want to be bothered with the mess. They head to the salon to have it done professionally, which can cost quite a bit over time.

Pain – What about the pain? Waxing tends to hurt the first time you do it, as does epilating. In fact, it’s recommended that you get waxed before you epilate if and only if you’ve only shaved previously. The reason for this is that shaving causes a thicker hair follicle (that’s what makes it look dark) and this can initially be very painful when using an epilator for the first time.

If you’ve waxed before though and buy an epilator, you likely won’t be bothered by pain. Many women find waxing to be less painful overall than an epilator, but that pain doesn’t happen every time you use your epilator. Like waxing, it just takes time to get used to it.

Convenience – It’s also faster to use your epilator. With waxing at home, you need to get your wax ready. Professional waxing requires scheduling an appointment that fits your schedule. But with an epilator, you can use it whenever you’re ready to, all in the privacy of your own home.

Mess – Another major and obvious difference between waxing and using an epilator is that waxing is messy. Unless you’re doing it at the salon, you’re going to have to make some preparations to get ready for the mess that’s to follow. With an epilator, you can use it anywhere without a mess. It’s perfect for travel too, something you can’t rely on with waxing.

Epilator vs. Laser

Some people wonder if an epilator can remove hair permanently but laser hair removal or electrolysis are the only techniques that can lead to permanent removal of hair for some. Often however, it is just a longer-term solution to unwanted body hair. All hair grows in stages, so for laser hair removal to be effective, one must visit the salon to have the process repeated as needed to remove all hair.

The laser device releases a hot pulse over the skin, killing the hair. It falls out around 7 to 10 days later. It can be a painful process though numbing cream is often applied by the treatment specialist to make it easier.

The thing with laser hair removal is that it’s very expensive and while it can remove hair permanently, it may take several procedures to completely eliminate body hair. While an epilator can’t stop hair growth, it is an effective solution that slows it down, giving longer periods of smoother skin and costs significantly less. Over time, you may even find it reduces hair growth as sometimes when hair is ripped out at the root, it might not grow back at all.

How to Choose an Epilator

Most women opt for an epilator because of the affordability, ease of private use (especially on private regions like where pubic hair is a factor), and for its ability to lead to semi-permanent hair removal. If you’re intrigued and want to break the cycle of shaving and waxing, buying an epilator is a smart move.

But how do you choose one? There are many quality options on the market. You’ll find one that suits you best if you look for how many tweezers it has and if it has speed options. This will ensure a quicker, easier hair removal process.

If it has a light on it, it’s ideal because it will illuminate sections of hair you might otherwise miss.

Ergonomics play a role too. Find one that easily contours to all the parts of your body. You don’t want a struggle when it comes to removing hair from under your arms.

Another must…an efficiency cap. This is a removable head that allows you to epilate more quickly and remove more hair at once.

What About Pain…Does Using an Epilator Hurt?

One of the big questions people have is what’s it like using an epilator? Are they painful to use?

We’re all different so the pain you feel from using an epilator could be minimal or extreme, depending on your tolerance for pain. It also depends on which epilator you buy. Some women say it feels like getting a tattoo. Others say it just feels like waxing while more say it’s hardly noticeable.

Personally, when first new to epilating, I found it intolerable. But having heavy hair growth, it really was a choice as to what was worse – the pain from epilating or furry legs! It took some time to get used to it and it was a gradual thing. I would use the epilator and because I didn’t get into a habit, would end up shaving if I was in a hurry or hadn’t planned it properly. I couldn’t epilate and go out immediately afterward, as just like waxing, the skin will be a bit red and tender after.

If you’ve never waxed before, you’re likely going to experience more pain than someone that has waxed prior to using an epilator. That’s why getting waxed once first before buying your epilator to keep up your hair removal is a good idea. It’s not necessary though. You can prepare yourself for the pain. Some women who have never waxed or epilated before reported that the epilator didn’t hurt at all. After using for some time off and on and getting waxed in between, I can honestly say it’s not even uncomfortable.

It’s also important to be aware that you might not feel any pain when you use your epilator on your legs, but when you use it on your underarms or bikini line, you might find that it’s a very different story. These areas are more sensitive than the legs. It will take a little longer to get used to using an epilator on these areas.

Exfoliating is so important to reduce ingrown hairs

How To Reduce the Pain From Using an Epilator

Keeping your skin exfoliated is always best for healthy, glowing skin. But it serves an additional purpose with epilating. When you have dead skin cells in the way, it can slow down your epilator, causing you to feel every hair being ripped out.

You could invest in a waterproof epilator to get it done while having a bath or your skin is wet. Make sure the water is warm, not hot, for hot water can dry out your skin.

Don’t epilate long hair – it will hurt! Instead, either shave or wax first and take out your epilator when hair starts to grow back. Some epilators come with a handy trimmer which is great for trimming down the bikini area and underarms.

Final Thoughts on Epilators

Epilators are a prime choice for removing unwanted body hair because, put simply, they work.

Body hair removal is a chore that takes up a lot of time depending on the method you choose. It can also be expensive, particularly laser hair removal. Epilators are a fantastic invention being convenient, discreet, affordable and easy to use.

They may cause a little pain the first few times you use them, much like waxing, but after a few uses, AND if you establish a routine, it won’t bother you. You can always take a pain reliever before using your epilator, a tip I picked up while reading reviews.

Epilators are an ideal solution for women that are embarrassed about unwanted hairs. Instead of spending time shaving and waxing, you can use your epilator to remove hairs and keep them away for weeks at a time as hairs are removed by the root.

That sure beats shaving every day, making a mess with wax or spending gobs of money at the salon on waxing treatments or laser hair removal!

With this guide, we hope you have a better understanding of what epilators are and how they work. You should be better set to choose one now that will fit your hair removal needs.

Get one today and your only regret will be that you didn’t try it out sooner!

One of the most popular brands of epilators are Braun – find out more about Braun Epilators here.


The author Sue

Sue Walker is the Editor and Chief at Just Talk Beauty, a website designed to help women in their quest to look and feel good.


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