The term “epilation” simply refers to the process of removing hair by the roots. The goal here is similar to that of pulling weeds – pulling a plant out by the roots is far more effective than trimming it. In this case, epilation is a process of hair removal that lasts longer than shaving.
Epilation is a temporary hair removal process that is used to remove unwanted hair from underarms, legs, face, arms, and bikini area. You can think of an “epilator” as an electronic tweezer. This handheld device removes hairs by yanking them out at the root – just like waxing and tweezing.
Epilators utilize springs or spinning discs to captures hairs at skin level. The rotating motion of the device’s moving parts pulls hairs out from the root, leaving your skin smooth and soft. Epilation is a quick solution to unwanted hair that is appropriate for both men and women.
Epilation hurts, but the pain will diminish as your body gets used to the process (i.e. it will hurt less each time you do it). How much it hurts depends on your individual pain tolerance. Those who are particularly sensitive to pain may want to choose a model with a small head and slow speed (we recommend the Braun Silk-epil 3). It may also help to hold your skin taut while using the device.
Modern epilators are designed to minimize pain. Some utilize a wet system while others have a pre-massage feature. With practice, most users are able to epilate regularly with minimal discomfort.
Types of Epilation
Epilation is largely a DIY procedure. That’s because it is easy to do and carries few risks. Laser hair removal and waxing, on the other hand, are more complicated and will produce better results when done by a professional.
There are three main types of epilators:
- Spring type
- Rotating disc type
- Tweezer type
The spring epilator was developed in the 1980s in Israel. The simple design utilizes a coil spring bowed into a curve. The spring is bent in such a way that one section squeezes close while the others remain open.
The spring type also features a rotating mechanism, which bends first on one side and then the other. As the device is dragged over the skin, the coils on the flexed side grasp hairs. The rotating motion then pulls the hairs out while the coils on the other side grasp and pluck more hairs.
But metal grows weak when it bends and the coils in spring epilators are prone to breaking. Today, spring epilators are used almost solely to remove facial hair. They are typically described as “face epilators.” Some face epilators are manually operated (see image at left).
Remington was the first company to develop the rotating disc epilator, a device that uses rotating metal discs or plates instead of coiled springs. The metal plates are mounted to the device and covered with a protective plastic housing.
As they rotate, the tips of the rotating discs work like a pair of tweezers. When moved across the skin, a rotating disc epilator continuously grabs, pulls, and discards unwanted hair.
The tweezer type epilator is a refined, modified version of the previous type that allows for more efficient plucking action. Modern tweezer epilators feature a head containing moving plates. As the head rotates, the tips of the plates alternate between squeezing and opening – creating a cycle of hair pulling.
Tweezer type models are generally considered the “best” and “most advanced,” but which model you choose depends on personal preference.
Specialized epilators do exist, but most are appropriate for full-body use. When removing hair from the face or bikini line, I recommend using a small, maneuverable model. You may also want to use creams, wet wipes, or other accessories to minimize discomfort when epilating sensitive areas.
What to expect
Not all hairs are the same. Some are stubborn and thick; others are dry and brittle. Some hairs may snap off during epilation. This causes the “stubble effect” you notice after shaving. Tweezer epilators will produce less stubble than shaving, however, since most hairs will be yanked out from the follicle.
One of the biggest downsides to epilation is that it can cause ingrown hairs. You can minimize/prevent this problem by:
- Epilating against the hair’s natural growing direction
- Moving the device with a smooth, consistent motion
- Hydrating the skin before treatment
- Using exfoliating creams
Some men and women will experience irritated skin after epilating – especially if they are new to the process. Your skin will become used to the process as time goes on, but you won’t want to try epilation for the first time before a big night out.
The ideal time to epilate is just before bed. Apply a soothing cream to the area and your skin should be silky smooth when you wake up. Those with sensitive skin may want to choose a model with hypoallergenic ceramic discs.
Does epilation work?
Yes! Epilation is one of the most popular methods of hair removal. Here are a few benefits as compared to waxing, shaving, and laser hair removal:
- No mess
- Works for every hair type adn every skin type
- Can be used regularly
Epilation slows hair growth considerably by pulling hairs out at the follicle level. Each person is different, but the procedure can easily provide results that last two weeks or longer.
Ongoing epilation causes hairs to become thinner, meaning you can epilate faster and less frequently as time goes on. Hair follicles will become permanently damaged over time, causing hair to grow slowly or not at all.
With IPL devices, your frequency of use is limited. Epilators can be used regularly, meaning that you can remove hairs as soon as stubble appears. In fact, modern epilators are effective on hairs less than one millimeter long.
Compared to waxing, epilating is far more convenient and effective. It’s easier to do at home, less messy, and considerably less expensive.
Before you Buy
Here are a few things to consider before you buy:
- Dry or wet: epilation works better on dry skin, but is less painful/irritating on wet skin
- Amount of tweezers: more tweezers = faster and more painful
- Pain tolerance: many models have pain-reducing features
- Areas of the body: look for a special head or small model when using on face/bikini area
- Cordless vs corded
- Speed settings
- Price: epilators range from $30 – $120 depending on features
- As I said before, tweezer type epilators are typically considered to be the best and most effective. However, the epilator you purchase should depend on your specific needs and goals. Each model has its own features and accessories and what works for me might not work for you.
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