Before I used an epilator for the first time, I researched epilation like a maniac. Because of this, I had a good idea of all the possible epilator side effects and how to prevent them. So many of the epilator horror stories I’ve read on the internet could be prevented by knowing this information before you buy and use an epilator.
So what are the side effects of using an epilator? Common epilator side effects include pain, redness, swelling, and ingrown hairs. Less common side effects include bleeding, swelling, red bumps, pimples, rashes, whiteheads, bacterial infections, pinched skin, bruising, itchy regrowth, and scars.
Sounds scary! BUT! Most of these side effects are not inevitable. And many go away as you get used to epilating. Thankfully, there are tons of things you can do to prevent them from happening. Read on to find out the risks of epilation, how to prevent side effects, and how to treat unwanted side effects and epilation accidents.
One of the most common side effects of using an epilator is pain. Since you are pulling hairs from the root, you will experience some pain. However, the level of pain experienced varies widely from one person to another.
The good news is that the pain usually subsides after the first few epilation sessions. Many long term users, including myself, can epilate without feeling pain. So if you can get through the first few times, you’ll probably be fine with epilating long term. Until then, try ice before and after epilation to prevent pain or check out my post on how to make epilating less painful for more ideas.
One of the other most common side effects of epilating is redness. The hair follicle becomes slightly inflamed after you pull out a hair by the root. This activates the body’s defensive responses which results in skin redness.
You should expect some redness after every session, but this usually goes away within a few hours.
The easiest way to deal with this is to epilate at night before bed. Then your skin has time to recover before you will be in public. However, if you want to speed up the skin’s recovery process, use ice or a anti-inflammatory cream to soothe your skin after epilation.
Bleeding and Red Dots
I’ve never experienced bleeding with epilation, but it is a well-known side effect of pulling hairs out by the root. The idea of bleeding may make epilation sound terrifying, but it’s perfectly normal and not anything to be worried about.
Each hair follicle is connected to a blood vessel, so if you pull it out when it’s in the growth stage, a little bleeding is perfectly normal. Your body will respond quickly by swelling at the pore to cut off blood flow, so bleeding doesn’t last long. Then your body will reabsorb any blood left in the pore.
If epilation causes bleeding or red dots from blood for you, you’re most likely to see it after your first time epilating in tight-pore areas or areas with thick, coarse hair such as the underarms or pubic area.
As your hair roots become weaker, bleeding tends to stop happening. So the best way to deal with this side effect is to keep the area clean to avoid infection and expect it to go away within a few sessions.
If you see bleeding happening beyond the first few epilation sessions, you may need to use an epilator with a lower speed.
Other causes of bleeding include medications or health issues. Some medications, including NSAIDs (non steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Tylenol, thin the blood, which makes bleeding more likely. Health issues that affect blood clotting often cause bleeding so talk to your doctor if you seem to be bleeding more than normal.
As mentioned, after hairs are pulled from the root, each pore swells a little to prevent bleeding. And if your body is feeling a little too hypervigilant in that moment, your pores may swell enough to be noticeable, making your skin look swollen.
You’re most likely to see swelling on sensitive areas of the body including the underarms, bikini areas, or your upper lip. Thankfully, swelling is normal and temporary and should go away within minutes or hours. To speed up the process, apply ice to the area for about 10 minutes at a time.
Red Bumps, Pimples, Rashes, and Spots
Now we are venturing into the more significant and not always harmless side effects of epilation: bumps, pimples, rashes, and various spots. Some of these are pretty easy to deal with and others can cause serious health issues, but they all look pretty similar. So to pinpoint what exactly you’re dealing with, you need to know if it’s caused by bacteria or an inflammatory response by the body.
Bacterial Infection: Whiteheads, Pimples, and Folliculitis
Bumps and rashes caused by a bacterial infections will typically look like small whiteheads or red pimples. There may just be one bump or a cluster of many together. They usually appear 24-72 hours after you use an epilator and most commonly appear on the chest, back, or upper lip.
Bacterial infections after an epilation are caused by bacteria getting into the pores. This happens when you don’t clean your epilator after each use or share an epilator with other people. It can also happen if you touch freshly epilated skin with dirty hands or if bacteria-carrying sweat gets into your pores.
The best way to prevent a bacterial infection is by only touching your skin with clean hands and avoiding working out or other activities that cause you to sweat a lot for about 24 hours after epilating. You should also make sure that any clothing you wear after epilation is clean.
Once you have a bacterial infection, it’s best to consult your primary care doctor or dermatologist for medical advice.
Histamine Bumps After Epilating
If you experience bumps almost immediately after epilation or you experience red itchy bumps, hives, or welts, you are most likely experiencing an inflammatory or allergic reaction. This is often known as histamine bumps. These bumps can appear anywhere, but are most common on the chest, lips, cheeks, or around the eyes.
Does this mean you’re allergic to epilation? Not exactly.
When tissue is injured, your body’s defense system reacts so to protect and heal. And this reaction can involve a release of histamine from mast cells, which are also released when your body reacts to allergens.
Basically, your body is just over-reaching to the situation. This could end up being a one off fluke, which means you can continue to epilate without problems. Or in some cases, it becomes your body’s bad habit, and you will have this reaction every time you epilate.
The good news is that skin should calm down in a few minutes to a few hours. The best way to deal is to take steps to reduce your discomfort such as using a cool compress or applying a calming lotion like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. Another option is to consult your pharmacist for medication recommendations.
If you continue to have these reactions after epilating, it’s best to consult your doctor to ask about treatment recommendations or see if you should avoid certain hair removal procedures.
Ingrown hairs are a common side effect of most hair removal methods, including epilation. Few people can epilate without experienceing at least a few ingrown hairs now and then.
After being pulled out by the root, new hairs have to break through the surface of the skin. Sometimes these new hairs have difficulty breaking through, either because they aren’t growing straight up or because dead skin cells are blocking them.
The best way to prevent this from happening is to exfoliate well before and after epilating and then continue to exfoliate skin 2-3 times a week. Once you get an ingrown hair, it’s likely to go away on it’s own. If it doesn’t go away or you end of seeing signs of a bacterial infection, it’s best to seek medical advice.
One of the worst things that can happen from using an epilator is pinched skin or skin getting caught in the epilator head. This happens when the skin is too loose or you push down on the epilator.
It’s most common on the underarms and public area (labia), but may happen almost anywhere on the body. This causes anything from mild pain and bruising to severe pain, cuts and bleeding.
I’ve been an unfortunate victim of one of these tragedies. It happened after I bought a more powerful epilator.
I had been used to the limited power and slower speed of the older epilator and didn’t adjust my epilator technique to match the speed of the newer epilator.
The result was my armpit getting stuck in the epilator for a split second. It hurt like a mofo but only left a tiny bruise that went away after a few days. Since then, I’ve more careful and have avoided anymore of these accidents.
The best way to avoid the same fate is to always pull your skin taut and try to create a flat surface to move the epilator over. Always be mindful of nearby skin when working around joints and the pubic area.
Some people have suggested baby powder to avoid pinching skin with an epilator. Here’s a suggestion from a reddit user by the name of caarbonn:
Baby powder is key for epilating lady bits and underarms, it helps prevent the skin from getting caught, and for me it prevents a lot of weird pulling and tugging that results in slight bleeding post epilation. Just make sure you don’t get the baby powder too close to your vajayjay or wash it off immediately to prevent a yeast infection!-Reddit User
If you do get pinched, it’s likely to only happen for a tiny moment and the skin will come out of the epilator quickly on it’s own. If not, turn the epilator off and ease the skin out as gently as possible. Then treat the injury with basic first aid.
Bruising is not a normal side effect of epilation. If you find bruises on your skin after using your epilator, you are likely pushing too hard on the skin, pulling on the skin too taut, or using a speed that is too high for you.
It’s also possible that you have an underlying health condition that thins the blood or reduces blood clotting or you are taking medications that cause that effect. If bruising continues, it’s best to seek medical advice.
Although less common than with shaving, epilator regrowth can be itchy. The main reasons for itchy regrowth are ingrown hairs, bacterial infection, histamine reactions, dry skin, or you may simply just have thick, coarse hairs that irritate your skin while growing back.
If your problem is ingrown hair, bacterial infection, or histamine reaction, refer to the sections above and resolve the underlying cause.
If the problem is your hair type or dry skin, the best solution is to exfoliate 2-3 times a week, drink plenty of water, and thoroughly moisturize your skin daily with a soothing fragrance-free, alcohol-free cream designed for sensitive skin.
I’ve had chronic itchy skin for most of my life and found Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Lotion (click to check out the reviews on Amazon) to work really well to relieve and prevent itchiness from dry, sensitive skin.
Scars from epilation are rare. I’m accident and scar prone (I get a new scar from cooking on a monthly basis!), but I’ve yet to get a single epilator scar after years of epilating. However, there is a small chance you can get scars from epilating.
If you end up with scars, it will be due to damage caused by other side effects such as ingrown hairs or bacterial infections. The best way to prevent scars from using an epilator is to treat side effects promptly and appropriately.
For example, don’t dig out ingrown hairs yourself, don’t pick at damaged skin or bumps, and don’t ignore bacterial infections. And always seek medical advice before things get out of hand.
Once you have scars, you can do what I do with my scars and simply embrace them. Or if you’re not into that, there are many options available to treat them.
The easiest step is to try an over the counter scar cream like Mederma (click to read reviews on Amazon). Your primary care physician or dermatologist can also prescribe stronger creams and medications that may work better. For deeper or stubborn scars, steroid injections or surgical interventions may be necessary to completely remove them.
The only side-effect free way of dealing with unwanted hair is to embrace it and go natural. Every hair removal method is going to have some risks and potential side effects.
If you use an epilator, the most likely side effects are pain, skin redness, swelling, and ingrown hairs. There are also more rare but serious side effects including bacterial infections and pinched skin.
One way to deal with pain and inflammation side effects is to use ice before and after epilating. And epilating at night will give your skin time to recover before it needs to look good.
Take steps to prevent bacterial infections by cleaning your epilator regularly, using clean hands, and keeping dirty hands and sweat away from freshly epilated skin.
And finally, always move your epilator slowly and keep your skin taut when epilating to avoid pinching the skin, bruising, or other epilator accidents.
What is the best epilator for beginners?
My pick for the best epilator overall is the Braun Silk-épil 9. However, for beginners, I typically recommend the Emjoi Epi Slim (click to check it out on Amazon). This is a small affordable epilator that works best for the face, underarms, or bikini area. The low price lets you test out epilation for yourself without spending a lot. Then if epilation works out well for you, you can eventually upgrade to a better epilator and use this as a back up or travel epilator.
Have more questions about epilation? Check out the Epilator FAQ and Beginner’s Guide!