Epilator FAQ and Beginner’s Guide

Are you considering an epilator for hair removal? There is a lot to learn about epilators, especially if you are starting out. Instead of making you hunt all over the web for some basic answers about epilation, I’ve got all the most common questions hanging out together. Just click on a question to get the answer.

Epilator Meaning

What is an epilator?

Woman and text that says your epilator questions answered

An epilator is a small electrical device that removes hair by the roots. It’s basically a hair plucking machine that uses spring coils, discs, or plates to tweeze multiple hairs at once, getting the job done fairly quickly like with waxing. It’s used by both women and men to remove hair from legs, arms, face, pubic area, back, and other areas of the body. Unlike waxing, using an epilator doesn’t affect the skin much, so usually causes less irritation.

What is an epilator used for?

An epilator is used to remove hair at the roots. Once hair is removed at the roots, it takes days or weeks to grow back, so epilator users have beautiful, hair-free skin longer. It works similar to waxing except epilation usually does not disturb the skin.

What is epilation hair removal?

In the late 1800’s, epilation was a medical term for any type of hair removal. It came from the French word for tweeze, which is, “épiler.”

Hair removal in those days was more medically oriented than cosmetic, usually focused on removing ingrown hairs or hairs causing pain or functional impairment. There were many contraptions used to do this, including tweezers called, “epilation forceps,” which sounds a bit terrifying, if you ask me.

Early in the 1900’s, business people started to see the commercial potential of hair removal. Hair removal for cosmetic reasons became en vogue and beauticians dubbed “epilation specialists” began opening hair removal salons for women.

In the 1980’s, mechanical hair removal machines called epilators were invented in Israel. Since then, the term epilation has been used more and more to specifically refer to removing hair with these machines. However, any type of hair removal that removes hair by the roots can be referred to as epilation. This includes removing hair with chemicals or physically.

On this site, however, the term refers to removing hair with an epilator unless otherwise specified.

Difference Between Epilator and Depilator

Epilator and depilator are often used interchangeably to describe hair removal products. However, if we are going to get specific about semantics, epilation and depilation describe two very different things.

Epilation has been used for over a hundred years to refer to any type of hair removal, but it is most often used specifically to mean a hair removal method that removes hairs by the root, such as tweezing. In contrast, depilation usually refers to removing only the part of hair above the skin surface, such as with shaving or hair removal creams (depilatory creams).

Epilators are supposed to remove hair from the roots, so calling them “depilators” is a little misleading, but is done anyway for some reason.

Epilator Types

There are three main types of epilators. These are sping epilators, rotating disc epilators, and tweezer epilators. I go into a full explanation of epilator types and the history of epilator design in this article about the types of epilators.

How Epilators Work

Do epilators work well?

Good quality epilators work well. Think about it: does tweezing work well? That’s what an epilator essentially does: it’s tweezing on steroids.

Twenty or more discs or coils work at the same time, grabbing hairs and pulling them out at the root. Many epilators call pull out hairs shorter than a millimeter.

Now, like waxing, this can be a painful process. And if you are not careful, you can end up with ingrown hairs, so exfoliation is a must if you epilate. But on the bright side, you will be hairless for quite a while: anywhere from several days to a week to a month at a time. If you continue to epilate, hairs will begin to come in much thinner or stop growing at all over time.

Will an epilator remove hair permanently?

An epilator does not remove hair permanently.

Do epilators work for facial hair?

Epilators do work for facial hair. There are even some epilators models made specifically for facial hair. Women with both peach fuzz and darker, coarse hairs can use an epilator on the face to keep their face more feminine looking. However, not everyone gets great results. We covered the pros and cons of epilating the face on this post.

Do epilators work on the bikini area?

Yes. This can be a more sensitive area, but if the pain is tolerable, epilating is a great option for the bikini area for many reasons. No more of those awkward salon visits is one!

Can I use an epilator on fine hair?

Yes. Epilators usually work well on fine hair. I cover this in depth here. 

Will an epilator make hair grow back thicker?

Nope! In fact, there is some evidence that using an epilator may reduce hair growth over time.

Epilator Pain

Do epilators hurt? Do epilators work? All your epilator questions answered in one place!
Do epilators hurt?

When deciding on a hair removal method, there are tons of things to take into consideration. Cost, effectiveness, and time required for that method are all important to think about. However, if you are interested in using an epilator, the first issue you should think about is probably epilator pain.

So do epilators hurt? Yep! Epilators do hurt. No pain, no gain, right? Seriously though, epilating does hurt, especially at first. As your body gets used to it, pain will subside.

If you are uber sensitive to pain, epilators might not be for you. Or you might have to limit epilating to only certain areas of the body. Some women find it too painful on the face and bikini area, but have no problems with the arms or legs. Your mileage will vary! But for decades, women around the world have chosen epilators over less painful methods because it can be well worth it.

How painful is epilating?

Epilation is painful, but how much? I wish there was some type of epilator pain scale that would be correct for everyone, but the truth is that everyone is different.

However, the general consensus is that epilation “hurts like hell” the first time, but becomes more tolerable the more times you do it. Some people will never be able to deal with the pain to get through the first sessions, but for those who do, it ends up not hurting too much in the long run.

If you want an idea of how much it hurts initially, take a pair of tweezers and start plucking hairs like crazy. This is how epilation feels, but with many more tweezers.

Factors Impacting Epilator Pain

There are several factors that affect the level of pain felt with epilating as well. They include:

Area of the Body

The level of pain you feel can be drastically different, depending on the body part. Most people find that epilating the legs isn’t very painful. But pain levels can increase with areas like the underarms, bikini area, around joints, and the face.

Length of Hair

A general rule of thumb is that the longer the hair is, the more it will hurt when pulling it out with an epilator. Epilating as soon as the hairs are long enough will help reduce pain.

Pain Sensitivity

Everyone has different levels of pain sensitivity, developed through genetics and life experience. For example, people with red hair carry a gene that makes them feel some types of pain more but makes them less vulnerable to the spiciness found in peppers. Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do about genetic susceptibilities to pain sensitivity.

Which Epilator You Use

An epilator that works well and gets the job done quickly will allow you to feel less pain overall. The lower quality models make people go over the same pack of hair multiple times to get the hairs out, which is NOT fun. Also, some models come with features like a massaging head that helps with pain as you epilate.

Stress and Anxiety

If you are stressed or anxious or feeling any other negative emotions like anger, your pain tolerance may be lower than normal.

Every Body is Different

So there are tons of factors that affect your pain perception when epilating. And there is a ton of variation in pain tolerance between people. To get an idea of the wide range of pain levels experienced when epilating, compare these two videos:

Why does epilating hurt so much?

Epilation removes hairs from the root. Essentially, that’s not a normal thing for the body. Hairs are there for a reason, or at least your nervous system thinks so. So when you pull them out, your sensory nerves sense a threat.

But luckily, those nerves don’t have the last say when it comes to experiencing pain.

Does epilation hurt more than waxing?

So how painful is epilation compared to waxing? Ask ten different women this question and you’ll get ten different responses.

For some women, it does hurt more than waxing. For others, it is the opposite. Some find waxing so painful they can’t handle it and find it a breeze to epilate. And vice versa.

Here’s a hint: take tweezers to an uncharted territory such as your ankles. Pluck a few hair quickly. That’s how epilating feels, but you’ll have many more tweezers pulling at once.

With epilating, you’ll feel the pain longer, since waxing just rips out so many hairs at once. Epilating takes it slower, pulling out less at once. The pain is usually not as intense all at once.

Does epilating get less painful?

Epilating does get less painful after the first session. After a few session, most users report little to no pain when using an epilator.

Benefits of Using an Epilator

There are many benefits to epilating compared to other hair removal methods including being a do-it-yourself method, time savings, low cost, better for your skin, convenience, it’s easy to master, and reduces waste.


If you’ve been going to a professional for hair removal, you might be excited to learn that you can get the same benefits at home with an epilator. Fewer trips to the salon mean more time for other activities and more money in your pocket. Also, it’s always nice to not have to pay someone to see you half naked and/or rip your hair out.

Time Savings

When you use hair removal methods that pull the whole hair out by the roots, it takes much longer for hair to reappear than with shaving and depilatory creams. One epilator session can provide smooth, hairless skin for days or weeks.

Low Cost

Once you buy an epilator, that’s it. You basically have no other costs for hair removal until it needs to be replaced. In contrast, think of how much people often spend on waxing, razors, and depilatory creams over the course of a few years.

Better for Skin

Unlike waxing, shaving, and depilatory creams, epilation doesn’t usually affect the skin since you are gripping the hairs from above the skin. So you’re less likely to have skin irritation, rashes, and breakouts.


Most epilators are the size of electric razors or smaller. They fit in small purses and bags for hair removal on the go. Although a loofa and exfoliation wash is a great thing to have too, it’s usually easier to travel with an epilator than with messy stuff like shaving cream, wax, and stinky depilatory creams.

Easy to Master

There is no steep learning curve for hair removal with an epilator. Use it for a single session or two, and you will pretty much be a pro.

Less Waste

There is nothing to buy regularly or throw away with epilation. It’s about as tree-huggin’ and Earth-friendly as you can get when it comes to hair removal.

Buying an Epilator

Should I use an epilator?

Is your current hair removal method lacking? Does waxing and/or shaving irritate your skin? Is it hard to find time to shave? Then epilating can be worth a try! Epilating works best for women who want to limit hair removal to once or twice a week and those who aren’t afraid of a little discomfort in the name of beauty and overall convenience.

What is the best epilator?

The truth is, there is no such thing! Every epilator on the market has its pros and cons. The epilator I’m currently using and love is the Braun Silk-épil 9. You can check it out here.

What is the best epilator brand?

As with the best epilator, the best brand is also dependent on your personal needs. Braun is one of the best selling epilator brands currently. Emjoi and Epliady are two companies that specialize in making epilators. Panasonic, Philips, and Remington also have quality epilators.

What is the difference between wet and dry epilators?

Dry epilators generally costs less and are for use outside of the tub. They need to be kept dry or will likely stop working.

Wet epilators, on the other hand, are designed to be waterproof. You can use them in the bath or shower which can be very convenient for many users (think about shaving: do you do it inside or outside of the tub?).

T are also easier to clean. Dry epilators usually must be cleaned with a dry brush or towel, while wet epilators can be cleaned with water and even soap.

How long does an epilator last?

The life of an epilator ranges depending on the model, how it is used, and the amount of use it gets. Generally, though, you can expect an epilator to last at least one year. Higher-quality models can last much longer, often up to five years or more, especially if you take care of it well.

Most epilators have a 12-month manufacturer’s warranty. This will cover any defects that you have for the length of the warranty. If your epilator has defects or fails within the time frame of the warranty, you can usually just send it back through the mail and the manufacturer will repair or replace it at no additional cost. Before purchasing a new epilator, read the description well to make sure it comes with a warranty.

To lengthen the life of your epilator, you should always follow the manufacturer’s use and maintenance instructions.

Other Questions About Using an Epilator

Should I epilate before or after I shower?

It’s ideal to shower before epilating. A warm shower will open up your pores and calm your skin. Exfoliating in the shower with a loofah or exfoliating scrub will help prevent ingrown hairs as well. For optimal results, exfoliate a day before epilating and take a warm bath or shower a few minutes before epilating. If you want to, you can shower or bathe as well after epilating to help soothe skin or to exfoliate again.

Can you shower after epilating?

Sure! There is no reason why you shouldn’t shower after epilating.

Thanks for reading! If you found this information helpful, check out my blog for more content on epilation and hair removal. And don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest!

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National Health Service: Ingrown Hairs