I’ve gotten this question quite a few times, and I’ve always answered based on my personal experience. However, I decided recently to look into this a lot more so that I knew for sure I was giving everyone the most reliable information. This is what I found out:
So does epilation reduce hair growth? Epilation with a rotary epilator can sometimes make hair grow back thinner and less conspicuously. In some instances, long-term use damages the hair follicles, which reduces hair growth. Other epilation methods, including electrolysis, IPL, and laser hair removal, are more likely to reduce hair growth.
In my personal experience, I’ve found that after epilating for a while, my hairs do seem to be thinner, less dense, and less noticeable when they grow back. I’ve heard this from lots and lots of other epilator users online and in person.
However, this isn’t the case for every person. And this subject has not been studied very much, so we just don’t know for sure. I have drawn my ideas from tons of anecdotal accounts, the opinions of hair removal professionals, and what we know about anatomy and physiology to come to an educated, but not quite conclusive verdict.
How Epilators Reduce Hair Regrowth
If epilators reduce hair growth, how exactly is that happening? There are three possible explanations that are most frequently used to explain this puzzeling benefit of epilation.
First, compared to shaving, hair just feels softer when it grows back, giving the appearance of less hair growth.
Why is this? Shaved hair has a blunt tip, which feels thicker when it’s growing out.
Since epilation pulls the whole hair out, it doesn’t grow out with a blunt tip and therefore just feels and looks thinner without necessarily being thinner.
Hair Growth Cycles
Another aspect of hair regrowth is that hair grows back in cycles. Once you’ve epilated a few times, hairs will be growing back at different times.
if you are epilating on a regular basis, you will only see a small portion of hairs on your skin at any time. This makes it appear like you have less hair than before.
However, if you stopped hair removal for months at a time, all your hairs would make it through their growth cycles and you’d likely see a lot more hair than you imagined you still had.
Hair Follicle Damage
A third possibility is that long-term use of epilators causes damage to hair follicles and this affects hair regrowth.
This damage may be causing hair to grow back less dense or with a finer texture. Or it may be preventing some hairs from growing back at all if the follicle is damaged enough.
There are a few other explainations for reduced hair growth to consider. If someone sees a change in hair growth after using the same hair removal method for a long period of time, there may be other changes causing the hair reduction besides the hair removal method.
One possibility is hormonal changes or health issues crop up unnoticed, affecting hair regrowth before other symptoms are apparent.
Another common occurrence is that hair follicles simply stop working as well as people age. This is why it’s common to see thinning hair in older people.
Other Types of Epilation and Hair Growth
Since epilation is a word for removing hair by the root, there are several other epilation methods besides rotary epilators. Out of all the methods of epilation, there are three types that have been shown in studies to reduce hair growth. These are electrolysis, intense pulsed light, and laser hair removal.
Electrolysis or electrology is a type of hair removal that uses a thin metal probe to deliver electricity to a hair follicle. This damages the hair follicle after a series of sessions.
Electrolysis is the only method of hair removal that consistently produces permanent hair removal in studies. However, for it to be effective, it has to be done properly, which takes a degree of skill.
Another issue is that it just doesn’t work for about 5-10% of the population for various reasons. However, even in this subset of the population, it does provide reduced hair growth.
Laser and IPL
Laser and IPL (intense pulse light) are two types of hair removal methods that use light to cause heat and damage to the hair follicle.
The main difference between the two is that IPL uses a wide spectrum of wavelengths while laser uses only one wavelength of light.
After a series of sessions of laser or IPL, hair regrowth is reduced or in some cases, hair is permanently gone.
Other Methods that Reduce Hair Growth
Beyond epilation, there are two other methods commonly utilized to reduce excessive hair growth, particularly in women with hirsutism. These are topical cream and oral medications.
Vaniqa is a prescription cream that is applied to the skin and reduces hair growth. It is different than other hair removal creams because it doesn’t remove hair, it just prevents hair from growing.
It is approved for women with unwanted facial hair. Unfortunately, it is only effective in about half of people who use it, however.
Anti-androgen medications including Spironolactone, Finasteride, Cyproterone acetate, and Flutamide are sometimes prescribed by doctors to treat hirsutism and other medical conditions that involve unwanted hair. These medications can have serious side effects, but some people with excessive unwanted hair find the benefits outweigh the risks.
There are many over the counter supplements marketed for this as well, but most or all of them have little evidence to support their claims of reducing hair growth and should be avoided.
All epilation methods can potentially reduce hair growth, but electrolysis is the only guaranteed method to work for most people.
This is how I see it: it’s worth it for me to use an epilator for hair removal simply because I get the benefits of waxing at home at a reduced cost and with less waste. Getting lucky and being one of the many users who see reduced hair growth is a sweet bonus, but shouldn’t be your main reason for using an epilator.
Does epilating stop hair growth?
Epilation with a rotary epilator will not stop hair growth. The only well-proven method of permanent hair removal is electrolysis. However, even electrolysis doesn’t stop hair growth permanently in everyone.
Does epilating make hair grow back thicker?
Epilation, like any other hair removal method, does not make hair grow back thicker or darker. This has been debunked quite a few times.
Have more questions about epilation? Check out the Epilator FAQ and Beginner’s Guide!