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What Is An Epilator And How Does It Work?

What Is An Epilator And How Does It Work?

Epilating is a fantastic, long-lasting method of hair removal. After your initial purchase, you hardly have any running costs and it is a very convenient method to use. Epilating is becoming more popular, but many people still don’t know what one is. We are going to tell you everything you need to know about epilators, and why an epilator is about to be your new best friend!

An epilator is a small, handheld device with a rotating roller containing multiple sets of tweezers. You place it against your skin and as the roller rotates, the tweezers remove your unwanted hairs from your skin. It is an extremely cost-effective method of hair removal which can be used all over your body.

You should also know that the word “epilating” is also a term that refers to any hair removal from under the surface of the skin, not just by using an electronic epilator. Waxing is also a form of epilation. However, for the purpose of the discussion, when referring to epilating we are talking about the use of a handheld, electronic epilator device.

How Does It Work?

Epilating is effectively automated, electronic tweezing, but on a much grander scale. There have been other types of epilator since it was first invented, but the most popular and effective is the tweezer design. You get the same long-lasting smooth skin as you do with waxing, in the convenience of your own home without the stickiness or skin irritation.

The epilator surface rotates, and as it passes over your skin, it grabs the hairs and slickly removes them from the follicle and releases it so that the hairs do not clog the device. Often epilators will have two rotation speeds, meaning you can use the slower one for your more sensitive areas!

Many epilators come with a range of attachments. These can range from skin massagers or delicate area caps to exfoliation brushes and even pedicure foot buffers! Some even come with a shaver head for your most sensitive areas, so depending on which one you pick, you can get a complete hair removal, pamper kit!

How Long Will The Smoothness Last?

Everyone’s hair growth happens at a different rate, so it is hard to say exactly how long you can go between sessions. If you notice five o’clock shadow the same day you shave, then chances are you will have to epilate more often than someone who only gets stubble a week after shaving. However, over time, you can notice your hair growth slowing down.

Why Is Regrowth Slower Compared To Shaving?

When you shave, you are simply trimming the hair at the surface of your skin. This means that as the hair grows, which it constantly does unless you damage the follicle, only has to break through the skin to become stubble. When you have epilated, however, the hair has to travel further to reach the surface of the skin. You are also potentially damaging the follicle, which can interrupt the growth cycle, so it may not begin to grow straight away. These factors combined mean that compared to shaving, you have much slower regrowth before you will want to touch epilate again.

Don’t be disheartened if you notice some regrowth soon after you first epilate. Chances are, this is because these hairs are at a slightly different stage of the growth cycle to the one you epilated before and they weren’t above the surface and able to be grabbed. As you epilate more often, your hairs will soon become more aligned in the growth cycle and their growth will become less staggered.

What Are The Benefits of Using An Epilator?

  • Long-lasting smooth skin – it can take weeks for hair to regrow, and often your hair will grow back finer and more sparse over time when you have only epilated, meaning they are less noticeable.
  • No harsh products – this makes it great for sensitive skin and those with allergies. It is also eco-friendly, because other than your unwanted hair, there is no waste from an epilating session!
  • Suitable for almost your whole body – you are likely to find some areas more sensitive than others, but you can use epilators all over your body and some even on your facelike these facial epilators, with the right attachment
  • Can be done in the shower – some epilators are specifically designed for you to use them in the bath or shower, where you are more relaxed and the warm water soothes pain and opens pores.
  • Short regrowth time – modern epilators can even remove hairs that are as short as 0.5mm (0.02 inches), so unlike with waxing, you won’t need to grow it out in between epilating sessions.
  • Very efficient – some epilators have as many as 72 tweezers, so they have a wide pick-up range. They also pick up shorter hairs and can remove even the awkward ones lying flat against your skin.
  • Cost effective – after the initial expense of buying an epilator, which can range between $30 and $300 depending on the quality, you only have to pay for the energy to power it – minimal running costs.
  • Convenience – you can easily slip it discretely in your suitcase if you go away, and you won’t be left sticky or burnt after an epilating session. It doesn’t create a mess and minimal preparation is needed.
  • Easy to use – it will take you no time at all to get the hang of epilating, and you will speed up as you get more confident using it. After a while, you will epilate almost as quickly as you can shave!

How To Use An Epilator

How To Use An Epilator

As we mentioned before, you won’t take long to get used to using an epilator, but there is a knack to it. Don’t be disheartened if you accidentally snap the hairs rather than extracting them the first couple of times you use it. Here are some tips to get the most out of your epilator:

  1. Have a warm shower before you exfoliate. Wash off any lotions or moisturizers that can cause the hairs to be slippery and exfoliate all of the areas of your body that you would like to treat.
  2. If you are using your epilator dry, then thoroughly pat your skin dry and don’t apply any products. Some epilators can be used in the shower, in which case you don’t need to dry off!
  3. Pull your skin taut, particularly for more sensitive and fleshy areas.
  4. Place your epilator against your skin, at 90° for the best results.
  5. Turn on the epilator and move it along your skin against the direction of your hair growth. Your hair growth will probably change directions a few times, and for some areas like your underarm it will probably grow in multiple directions, so you may need to go over some areas in different directions to collect all the hairs!
  6. Keep your epilator in contact with your skin, but there is no need to push against it.
  7. After you have finished, if you want to add some soothing cream or lotions you can do so now. However, try not to choose products which are heavily scented, strong or those which are oily and likely to block your pores.
  8. If possible, try not to wear tight clothes which are likely to rub and irritate your skin. Your skin may be a little red and sensitive for a few hours so don’t expose it to sunlight
  9. After a few days, gently exfoliate the area again to prevent ingrown hairs.

Is Epilating Painful?

Is It Painful?

If you are new to epilating, then you can expect to feel some discomfort, but we expect it will not be as bad as you think it is going to be! It is more like a tingling or smarting sensation than actual pain, and as you epilate more, you will notice that the sensation reduces. Not only will you get used to it and be more relaxed, but the hairs will be finer and therefore will come out easier.

If you are concerned about whether epilating will be painful, then choose one which you can use in the shower and bath. You can then let the warmth of the water both relax you and open your pores, so your skin is less sensitive. Choosing a slower speed setting can also make it a little less uncomfortable, particularly for your more sensitive areas, although it will then take longer for you to complete it overall.

Make sure you don’t have the temperatures of the water too high though, as hot water can dry out your skin and make the epilation more uncomfortable.

Some epilators can even be used with your favorite products such as shower gel, soap or foam. As the epilator rotates, the product lathers up, which can be a very soothing feeling on your skin.

If the discomfort is something you are particularly concerned about another option is to epilate the regrowth after a wax. This means you will be epilating fewer hairs and will let you and your skin get used to the sensation.

Should I Epilate Before Or After Showering?

If you choose a “Wet and Dry” model which can be used underwater, you don’t need to decide – you can use it happily in the shower or bath! However, overall it is better to use an epilator on clean skin, where you are not wearing any moisturizers or lotions which can make the hairs more difficult to grab. The warmth of the water also opens your pores so that the hairs come out more easily. Remember that your pores are open for a while after the hairs are removed, so having clean skin before you epilate will be much more hygienic and reduce your chance of folliculitis or infection.

If you are using a corded or “dry only” epilator, ensure that your skin is completely dry before you use it.

How Does Epilating Compare To Waxing?

Epilating is very similar to waxing – both methods remove hair at the follicle level, but epilating is a lot more effective and convenient. Modern epilators can remove hair as short as 0.5 mm (0.02 inches), compared to a minimum of 2mm (0.08 inches) that wax can pick up. That means you get more hairs out in the first place with an epilator, and you don’t need to wait for the regrowth to grow as long with an epilator.

Epilating is also quicker, and it doesn’t create any mess, other than the discarded hairs of course! Waxing, on the other hand, can leave your skin sticky and it is easy to leave trails between the wax pot or warmer and yourself as you are applying the wax, which can be difficult to clean up. As it is a cleaner option, it is also easier to take your epilator away with you. The devices are small and can very discreetly fit into your suitcase in case you need to touch-up mid-trip!


Unlike waxing, epilating does not remove the dead cells from the surface of your skin. It is only the hairs which catch in the tweezers and as there is no product or heat applied to the skin, it is a better choice for those with sensitive skin. Waxing is not suitable for people who are taking certain medications such as retinoids (e.g., Accutane) because they make the skin more delicate and more likely to tear, but it is still fine to epilate.

Epilating also works out a lot more cost effective than waxing. Buying an epilator can set you back between $30 and $300, depending on the quality of the device you buy, but once you have bought it, there are no costs other than the minimal price of powering it. Compare that to the price of waxing, where an average bikini wax can cost between $30 and $35, and a half leg wax can cost between $35 and $40. If you are paying for waxing every four to six weeks, the price will very quickly add up to be more than even the higher-priced epilators!

On the other hand, you can wax yourself at home with a home wax warmer, which you can find out more about here.

It is easy to see that there are many benefits to epilating compared to waxing. With an epilator, you get less mess, better results, and it is considerably more cost-effective over time.


You should now have a better understanding of what an epilator is, how it works and how to use one. Epilators are very effective and convenient methods of hair removal that don’t require you to have long hairs to be able to pick them up. If you are keen to choose an epilator, check out what the OGLF team thought of the epilators we tested for our reviews.

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