What is an Epilator and How Does it Work

You may have heard of epilators but have never tried them for yourself. Here are a few basics on what they are, how they work and how to use them. Read on and learn about epilators and how to best use them for an efficient hair removal and a silky smooth skin.

What do epilators do?

Epilators are electrical devices which are used to temporarily remove hair at the follicle level. They are, in fact, electronic tweezers used to remove unwanted hair from legs, underarms, arms, bikini area or from the face. They work the same way waxing or tweezing does, by plucking away hairs from the roots. As opposed to these methods, these devices use spinning discs or springs to capture hair on the skin level while the rotating motion of the moving parts pull away the hairs straight from the root, leaving the skin smooth.
Epilators can provide people with a quick hair removal solution that lasts a long time. There are many efficient epilator devices constantly appearing on the market, and many of them are quite inexpensive. Some are cordless and use batteries, others are rechargeable, while some epilators are directly powered through a cord.
While these electrical provide a faster epilating action than other methods, they are generally more painful. However, their availability and ease of use make them among the preferred methods of removing unwanted bodily hairs.

Types of epilators

Epilator devices have evolved from battery charged spring type ones to more modern cordless models. Here are the three main types according to their main parts and mechanism of action.

Spring type

The spring type epilators are the first devices ever to appear. They were developed in Israel in 1986 and released on the market under the name Epilady. The design was quite simple involving a coil spring that was bowed into a curve. The spring was bowed in such a way that one part of the coil springs were squeezed close together while the others were apart.
The spring epilator also had a rotating mechanism which meant that the rotating spring would flex on one side and then on the other. Moving the epilator across the surface of the skin would have the coils grabbing hairs at the flexed side, and then the rotating motion of the skin would pull them out while the coils that were apart on the other side would squeeze tightly and grab and pluck other hairs. Because the springs would constantly coil and flex they were susceptible to failure and that is why springs were also sold separately as replacement parts.
Nowadays, spring type epilators are mostly used for removing facial hair, and they are usually referred to as face epilators. Some of them are manual, consisting of a spring and two handles which are turned to capture unwanted hairs and then pluck them out with a twist of the handles.

Rotating disc type

Rotating disc epilators use a similar action to spring type ones but they use small rotating metal plates or discs instead of coiled springs. The first company to invent the rotating disc epilator was Remington, although there were some problems with the patent as the device had many similarities with the Epilady spring type. However, Remington won the patent litigation and this allowed them and other manufacturers to use this design that is based on rotating metal discs.
The rotating disc epilator has a few metal plates or discs mounted on the top of the epilator, protected by a plastic housing. This device works by rotating a series of small metal discs rapidly, with the moving tips causing an effect similar to tweezers. When disc tips are close together they grab multiple hairs while their rotating plucks out the hair away from the skin similar to waxing. The hair that has been pulled away is then discarded thanks to the centrifugal force caused by the rotating discs. Moving a rotating disc epilator across the skin will result in a continuous action of grabbing, pulling away and discarding of unwanted hair.

Tweezer type

The tweezer type epilators have a somewhat similar design to rotating disc epilators, the notable difference being that the concept has been refined, with the discs no longer being complete, with the plates being discontinued in certain areas. This allows for a much more efficient pulling action.
All modern tweezer type epilators have a head on top which contains the tips of the moving plates. When the head rotates, these tips will come close to one another and then apart once per rotation. This causes the tips of the plates to first catch hairs between them in a tweezing action and then pull them out from the root, releasing them afterwards.
Because hairs have varying strengths and some may be more brittle than others, the tweezing action may sometimes cause the hairs to snap rather than to be pulled away. This can lead to the so-called stubble effect just as in the case of shaving. However, unlike shaving, tweezer epilators leave less stubbles which are also sparsely spread since most hairs are actually pulled out from the root. Most modern epilators are of the tweezer type, and even Epilady has switched to this design after discontinuing their spring type models.

Do epilators work?

The fact that epilators are the preferred method of hair removal is a proof of their efficiency in itself. Epilators can be used in a variety of situations and circumstances, and, since they are small, they can also be taken along when traveling. Epilators also provide a long lasting effect while also being inexpensive. While other methods of hair removal may require you to constantly spend money on creams, waxes or razors, epilators must only be purchased first. So this makes epilators a real money saver in the long run, especially since they also do not require changing any spare parts.
Epilators also cause no mess since you don’t need any creams or other substances for them to work. Epilating devices work for most types of people, and they are efficient in removing every type of hair, from the dark and thick one to the light and thin one. Another benefit to using an epilator is the fact that it can be used regularly in order to keep unwanted hair growth in check with minimum effort.

How long do the results last?

Epilators work by removing hairs straight at the root level, and this means the hair will take a long time to grow back. What this means is that using an epilator could provide results lasting for two weeks or even more, depending on the hair thickness and strength. Constantly epilating will also cause the hair to become thinner and finer so that you may need to use your machine less and less in time, in addition to being able to epilate a lot faster.
Also, the hairs will take longer and longer to regrow, and after long term usage hair follicles may become damaged permanently and cause the hair to stop growing all together. In addition to removing hair for two to more weeks, epilators will also be able to remove hair that is shorter for other removal methods, allowing you to remove stubbles with no effort. So epilators can help you get rid of unwanted hair for weeks at a time while also maintaining a smooth appearance.

Epilating – does it hurt?

While epilators are much more efficient than most other methods of hair removal, they may hurt a bit, especially during the first few times they are used. This is mainly because the body is not used to having multiple hairs pulled out. However, pain is subjective and each has her own threshold. Another thing to know is that epilating will only hurt less and less the more times you do it, and that is not only because your body will get used to it, but also because the individual hairs will grow thinner and thinner and get pulled out faster.
Epilating devices are also becoming more gentle and efficient at painlessly removing bodily hairs. Some designs have a pre-massage mechanism, such as the Bruan silk epil 9 and the Philips Satin Perfect Deluxe, while others use a wet system. Some may also be used in combination with creams to reduce both pain and skin irritations. So the bottom line is that while epilating will hurt a little the first few times, it is not as you’d imagine with screams and cries. And the modern epilator models are also more comfortable, so with a bit of practice, you will soon enough be able to epilate on a regular basis without feeling any discomfort.

Where can you use an epilator?

Most epilators are designed for full body use, so you can remove any type of hair from any part of the body. However, you may want to use specific epilators or specialized heads for certain areas. Removing facial hair with a full-sized epilator may not be a good idea, and you might want to either use a smaller device like a facial epilator or change the head. For removing hair from the bikini area you might also want to work with a smaller, lighter and more maneuverable epilator.
There are numerous models and makes on the market which can make it a little confusing and this is why we have created a comparison table to make it easy to choose the best epilator to suite your needs. The good part about epilating is that you can use it on 90% of your body hair with even more if you use a specialised head. Besides using the appropriate epilator for certain areas you may also want to use wet wipes, creams or other accessories in order to minimize discomfort.

What’s better, waxing or epilating?

Although waxing may have its benefits, epilating is generally considered more effective and convenient. Waxing will take a long time to master and it can yield not so good results when not performed correctly. Waxing also takes a lot longer than epilating, since in the latter technique you don’t have to apply warm wax, wait for it to cool and then pull. An epilator can also be used on the go in many areas, as you can simply put it in your purse and take it along with you.
Another benefit of epilating is that it will cost less in the long run, as you only have to spend money on an epilator once. With waxing you will constantly have to buy wax, paper strips and creams while with an epilator you won’t have to purchase anything else besides the actual devices. Waxing may be less painful than epilating, but it can also remove less hair if not applied properly. Waxing will also imply a lot more mess since you may have residue wax, oils or you will have to treat your skin with creams afterwards. So from the convenience and efficiency point of view, epilating may be a better choice than waxing.

Why does my epilator give me ingrown hairs?

While most other hair removal techniques can cause ingrown hairs, epilators tend to cause it more often. However, this problem can be easily avoided by applying the proper techniques and safety measures. One of the most common mistakes which lead to ingrown hair formation is inappropriate epilating motions. This can disturb the hair follicles and cause the hairs to grow in an unnatural direction.
Learning to epilate against the natural growing direction of the hair is critical in preventing ingrown hair. Epilating motions should also be smooth and constant and not jerky and chaotic as they might cause the hair to break just beneath the skin which would also lead to ingrown hairs. It is also highly important to ensure the skin is hydrated and soft, especially before epilating.
Another effective method to prevent ingrown hair is to use exfoliating creams. These will cause the exterior dead cell layers to be removed – otherwise, they might block the exit of the hair shafts and cause them to bend under the skin, resulting in the dreaded ingrown hairs. So, while epilators may cause more ingrown hairs than others methods, learning to properly use them and keeping your skin in a good shape are keys to getting rid of this problem.

Tips on how to use an epilator

One of the best ways to reduce pain and discomfort when epilating is to relax and desensitise your skin by sitting in warm water for a few minutes. There are also special epilators that can work underwater, being able to perform the so-called wet epilating. When dry epilating, you should ensure that your skin is clean and that there are no oils covering it. You could also use some special wipes to thoroughly clean your legs and other body parts before epilating, an added benefit being that they also sooth your skin and provide you with a smoother, silkier look.
If you are new to epilating, a good idea would be to do it when you are not going to spend a big night out. That is because epilating might leave your skin irritated for a short while and not as silky as you may want it. It is better to epilate in the evening and then apply a soothing cream. After a good night’s sleep, your skin will be soft and super smooth!