First-timers should know the basics of how to use an epilator to maximize the results and minimize the risks. But many men and women who have used epilators several times will still be surprised about the information presented here! But don’t worry as there’s no harm done since using hair removal methods usually involve trial and error, especially where DIY methods are concerned.
Aside from knowing these basics, you will also want to know the right epilator for your hair and, thus, make the best choice for yourself. After all, the tool matters as much as the person who handles it – and it applies to your choice in an epilator, too.
What Is an Epilator?
Basically, a hair removal epilator is a small, handheld electrical device used in the temporarily removal of facial and body hair at the follicle level. Each epilator acts as electronic tweezers that pluck hair away from the roots, thus, explaining the discomfort and the effectiveness of epilation. Emphasis must be made that an epilator for men works in the same manner as an epilator for women albeit with a few differences in features to account for the differences in physical anatomy and hair thickness.
How Does an Epilator Work?
Every hair epilator works in a similar manner – it grabs multiple strands of hair, pulls them away from their roots, and discards them, a cycle that continues until it is turned off. But the actual mechanism differs depending on the type of electric epilator, of which there are three categories.
- Spring type
The spring type epilators are the first of their kind – these were developed and released in Israel as Epilady in 1986. Basically, a curved coil spring with a rotating mechanism that opened and closed continuously (i.e., one part of the coil spring was squeezed close and the other part was apart). As one side flexed, it grabbed multiple hair strands while the other side plucked out the hairs.
Nowadays, the spring type epilators are used mainly for the removal of unwanted facial hairs (i.e., face epilators). These also feature a coil spring and two handles that can be turned to grab and pluck hair.
- Rotating disc type
The rotating disc type epilators are easier to use than the spring type although both work in a similar manner. In a rotating disc epilator, the metal discs (i.e. plates) mounted on its top rapidly rotate over the skin and, in the process, grab, pluck and discard the unwanted hair in an action similar to tweezers.
- Tweezers type
The tweezers type epilators typically have a head where the moving plates are placed; the tips of the moving plates are the ones making direct contact with the hair. As the head rotates, these tips open and close (i.e., come apart and then together) once per rotation. The rotating action causes the tips to catch the hair strands between them, akin to a tweezing action, pull them away from their roots, and release them afterwards.
Do epilators work regardless of their type? Yes, they do and, in fact, these products are considered as the best temporary hair removal method! Keep in mind, however, that correctly using an epilator will largely determine whether an individual can enjoy maximum use from the device.
Epilator vs. Shaving vs. Waxing
There have been countless epilator vs. wax vs. razor comparisons but in most, if not all, of them, the epilator wins on all counts! While buying an epilator requires a higher initial cost, the continuing cost is significantly lower than buying waxing and shaving supplies. Many users even say that their epilator lasted for 10 years and it’s something that cannot be said for waxing and shaving supplies that are quickly used up within a few sessions.
And in answer to the question of, “Does epilation work?” yes, it does! Epilation, which includes using an epilator and waxing, gives smoother results over a longer period than shaving ever will.
Does epilating hurt? Using an epilator involves mild to moderate discomfort, a given considering that the hair strands are pulled out from their roots, but it becomes more tolerable with each successive session.
It’s a similar experience with waxing so shaving is the least painful hair removal method of the three options. But the discomfort is well worth it because the epilator before and after results are excellent!
You will love your smooth, hairless skin that will last for three weeks at least before you see a need to epilate again. You will also notice that with each hair regrowth, your hair becomes finer and softer so it becomes easier to remove and less noticeable.
In comparison, you have to shave again in three days because the stubbles start appearing. The short period between shaving sessions can become inconvenient in a busy lifestyle.
Tips on How to Make Epilating Hurt Less: Preparatory Steps
Don’t be turned off from epilation because of the mild to moderate discomfort reported by newbies and veterans. There are numerous ways how to make epilating less painful although we have to say that it will never be 100% painless.
Keep these useful tips in mind and you will not feel as much discomfort as you expected while epilating.
- Take a warm bath or shower before epilating. You can also epilate in the tub or shower (i.e., wet epilation) instead of using the dry epilation method, if you’re a newbie.
- Exfoliate a day before your planned epilation session and then on the day itself.
- Get a professional wax or do a DIY waxing, especially on your sensitive areas, if possible.
- Rub your skin to slightly lift the unwanted hair and make it easier for the epilator to grab and pluck.
- Take an over-the-counter painkiller to decrease the discomfort. We suggest acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Take it 30 minutes before you start epilating. You shouldn’t feel too much discomfort during the session itself unless you have thick hair or you have plenty of body hair for removal.
If you are thinking of drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs before epilating, perhaps as a means to decrease the discomfort, you shouldn’t under any circumstances. These substances may numb your mind and body but these can also adversely affect your judgment, and your good judgment is a must when using a hair removal device! You don’t want to use the epilator in the wrong area or use it the wrong way.
Be sure to check that the hair strands for removal are also of the right length. Experts suggest epilating when the hair is about 2-3 millimeters in length, the ideal length because it allows the epilator to grab and pluck hairs with ease.
If the unwanted hair is too long, the device will just cut it instead of pulling it away from the root. If it’s too short, then the epilator can’t grab the hair well. If possible, check that the hair is about the same length for best results.
When you’re just starting out with epilating, you may have to do it within a few days of each other. This way, you can catch ever hair as it goes through its natural growing cycle.
But if you’re still hesitant about hair removal epilation or you want to skip an epilation session, you can also read our best hair removal cream reviews. Hair removal creams are as painless as shaving so it’s a great option for pain-averse individuals.
General Tips on How to Use an Epilator
When you have done the abovementioned preparatory steps, you are ready for the following tips on how to epilate and get the best results. Remember, too, that these are general epilator tips that can be used on whatever area of your face and body you’re working on. You will find more specific tips in the following sections so be sure to continue reading.
- Find a comfortable place where you can perform the epilation. Sitting on a stool where you can place your feet flat on the floor or prop them up against a stable surface, such as a tub, is a good idea. Standing in front of a mirror if you’re working on your face and armpits is recommended.
- Assume a comfortable position. You should be able to continuously run the epilator over your skin for a few minutes at a time without falling over, for example.
- With your free hand, pull your skin as tautly as possible, especially in fleshy and sensitive areas like the groin. Keep your skin taut as you move the epilator over it; slack skin including fine lines and wrinkles makes it more difficult for the epilator to grab the hair strands in a uniform manner. Plus, slack skin can be easily bruised and pinched by the tweezing action of the epilator.
But avoid tugging your skin until it hurts either. Just aim for a relatively smooth and flat area of your skin where the epilator will be moving along.
- Place the epilator against your skin. Check that it’s at about a 90° angle to get the best results and decrease the discomfort.
- Check, too, that you will be moving it against the direction of hair growth. You may have to move the epilator in different directions over the same area since hair growth can change in a different direction or it can do so in multiple directions (e.g., armpit hair). Move the epilator in an upward motion, too, since it will lift the hair strands and make them easier to pluck out.
- Turn on the epilator and start moving it across your skin. Keep it in direct contact with your skin while it’s turned on but it isn’t necessary to push against it. Let it do the work while you move it around to remove the unwanted hairs.
Choose the lowest setting on the epilator first. You can switch to the high setting when you have become familiar with the sensation and you have determine that you’re moving in the right direction.
- Keep a gentle yet firm pressure on your skin with the epilator. Keep the epilator positioned naturally against the skin and in your hand, too. Think of it as using a razor over your skin and you will soon get the hang of using an epilator like a pro.
- Stay calm while using the epilator. Even when you’re using it with water, cream or other fluids, it’s as safe as can be (i.e., no risk of electrocution). If you worry about the discomfort, you can use the cooling glove and/or massaging rollers provided by the manufacturer (e.g., Braun epilator).
If you are under stress or pressure for any reason, we suggest postponing your session with the epilator. You may use the device in a hurried manner resulting in extra-sensitive skin with red bumps, broken hair, and pinched skin.
- Go as slowly as possible over your skin. Don’t be in a rush when using an epilator because of the risk of breaking or snapping your hair strands and, thus, of increasing your risk for ingrown hairs. You should set aside about 30 minutes for a full leg session (i.e., both legs) and for your bikini area, perhaps more if you want thorough results. You should try to avoid leaving hairs that can become ingrown hairs in the future; ingrown hairs can be painful.
- Check that, indeed, you have removed all the unwanted hairs in the treatment area. You can check with your hands and with a mirror to do so. You may also pass over an area twice, if necessary, but since an epilator works so well in removing unwanted hair, a do-over isn’t usually needed.
- Apply a soothing cream, lotion or moisturizer on the treatment area. Don’t apply topical products that with strong scents and heavy ingredients since these can cause pore blockage. Choose the lightest possible topical product and apply it liberally over your skin; many manufacturers of epilators also provide these after-care products.
- Wear light, loose-fitting clothes, if possible, since your skin will still be sensitive after an epilation. Heavy, tight-fitting clothes can rub and irritate your skin. Avoid exposure to the sun for a few hours after epilating as your skin will also be sensitive to its rays.
You also have to decide whether you want to epilate wet or dry. This is a matter of personal preference and experience so there isn’t a right or wrong method here.
Some people like wet epilation because the moistness of the skin combined with the heat from the hot shower lessens the discomfort. Some people also like to epilate dry since the epilator can get a better grasp on the hair strands and, thus, do its work faster and better.
If you choose the wet epilation method, the less painful one according to many epilator fans, you should first apply a small dollop of shower gel on the treatment area. You shouldn’t apply cream, oil and lotion on your skin as a lubricating agent since these will make it more difficult for the epilator to grab and pluck hairs.
If you want the dry epilation method, you should wipe your skin with a clean, dry towel until it’s completely dry. Interestingly, a less than dry treatment area can mean more discomfort because the damp hairs become slippery and sticky. These are then harder to grab and pluck.
A few days after your epilation session, you should gently exfoliate your skin to prevent ingrown hairs. The emphasis here is on gentle as rubbing too hard on your skin can increase your risk of ingrown hairs, not to mention bring back its sensitive state.
We also suggest using a gender-specific epilator. This isn’t a case of gender inequality and bias but in consideration of the differences in hair type and physical anatomy between the sexes. An epilator for men, for example, may have a larger size than an epilator for women since men typically have larger hands than women.
If you’re new to epilating, you should ideally test a small area in a less obvious area. You can then test whether you’re holding the epilator in the right manner and you can tolerate the discomfort. You can try it, for example, on your ankles first before moving to the rest of your legs and thighs.
After using the epilator, be sure to clean it! You don’t want trapped hair as well as bacteria, germs and other pathogens to take up residence in its parts and, thus, increase your risk for infections and injuries the next time you use it.
Specific Tips for Epilating the Face
When you’re epilating your face, you should ideally use a dedicated epilator for face because it has face-specific features. Face epilators, for one thing, are smaller in size than body epilators and have batteries. But if you have a general purpose epilator and it can be adjusted for use on the face, then it will suffice for the purpose.
The abovementioned preparatory epilating tips still apply. Taking a warm shower, exfoliating a day before epilating, and applying a soothing cream are arguably more important when you’re epilating the face. You will likely have more sensitive skin in your face than in your legs and arms so it pays to be extra-careful.
- Using your dominant hand, hold the epilator in a perpendicular position relative to your face. You should hold it sideways on your face while moving it across, too. You must avoid moving it up and down your face as well as parallel to your body.
- Look and feel at the direction of your hair growth. Keep in mind that the epilator should move upward and against the hair growth direction.
- Place the epilator on the area of your face where you want to start. Using a gentle yet firm motion, press it against your skin just slightly below where you want to remove the unwanted hair.
- Turn on the epilator and start moving it across your face.
You should be careful when moving the epilator in awkward areas of your face, such as above your lip. Slow and steady is the way to go when you want to remove all unwanted hair, especially a subtle mustache. Be extra careful when maneuvering the epilator near your eyebrows, obviously.
Specific Tips for Epilating the Legs
Just as with the face, we also suggest using the best epilator for legs for best results. The process of epilating legs follows most of the steps mentioned above, too, not to mention that the legs are arguably the best place to start your epilating journey.
If you’re a beginner, you may want to keep these tips in mind, too.
- Shave your legs at least a day before epilating. This way, your hair will be of similar length and, thus, easier for the epilator to grab.
- Set aside an hour or more for your first session. You still have a learning curve so give yourself ample time to learn the process.
- Use the epilator at night, which will give your skin time to return to its normal state in the morning. Your skin will be slightly red, swollen and sensitive after epilating, thus, the suggestion.
- Start on the inside part of your lower leg, the least sensitive area. Get to the more sensitive areas, such as your ankles, last.
You may have to epilate your leg hair 2-3 times a week when you’re starting. This will get all the hairs out. You may also do touchups between full epilating sessions.
Specific Tips for Epilating Pubic Hair and Armpit
The skin on your underarms and private areas are more sensitive than the skin on your face and legs. You must then use a dedicated epilator for bikini area although the general tips on how to use epilator still apply here.
You may also buy the best epilator for Brazilian maintenance. While you can use an epilator to achieve a full Brazilian effect, we don’t suggest it because of the higher density of hair in the pubic area. You can, however, use it to maintain your Brazilian wax.
Prior to epilating bikini area, we also suggest starting first on a small patch of skin, such as the top part, to test your pain tolerance. Most of epilators for the bikini area come with attachment heads and massagers designed to reach awkward places and to cater to different types of sensitivity – get to know them before using the epilator.
A few useful tips for epilating the bikini area with less pain than expected.
- Keep the skin as taut as possible.
- Start with smaller sections first, especially in the less sensitive areas like the top. Leave the most sensitive area, typically the lips of the vagina, for last. You should have become more familiar with the discomfort and built up a higher tolerance by then.
- Keep your pubic hair short. You may wax or shave a few days before epilating the bikini area.
Of course, you should assume a comfortable position wherein you can easily see the area where you intend to use the epilator. You can sit in front of a mirror and prop yourself up using a pillow.
As for your underarms, you should stretch your arms over your head so your skin is as stretched as possible. You may want an assistant but, in time, you will be more familiar with the process and do it on your own.
Yes, there’s a learning curve as well as the inevitable trial and error method when using an epilator. But after a single session, you will find that it’s easier to use than you expected and give best results, too!