Epilating: Your Need-To-Know Guide

Photo: Brogues Cozens-Mcneelance/EyeEm.
Hair removal is a complicated arena. Some people choose not to touch their body hair, while others are religious about their routine. There are layers of privilege, too: while people with fairer skin often have less visible and more manageable hair, those with darker skin often have an entirely different experience. Body hair can be political, cute, painful, laborious, a source of pride or, simply, just there. If you do choose to remove your hair, there are now countless ways to do so, which can be at best confusing and at worst exhausting. Waxing, threading, shaving, sugaring, and tweezing are all highly popular, practised across the world in various forms.
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One method that gets arguably less airtime is epilating. An epilator is a handheld machine that plucks multiple hairs quickly as it rolls over the skin – while that sounds slightly frightening, many women prefer it to other methods. "My mum used to tell me to wax instead of shave, to keep hairs fine, and epilating is the more affordable way to do that," Sasha Buckham, 26, tells me. "It allows me to just leave my hair for about a month before having to epilate again, although I know that isn't for everyone." So if you're sick of ankle shaving cuts and post-wax rashes, here's your handy guide. We spoke to Adam Boulding, Gillette Venus research + development expert, about the ins and outs of epilating.
What is epilating?
Epilation works by gently plucking hair from the root with a series of tweezers which can grab the smallest of hairs (as short as 0.5mm – the equivalent of two days' growth). This means that with epilation you don’t need to wait for regrowth, so there are no more in-between days.
How does it differ from other methods of hair removal?
There are two key types of hair removal: surface hair removal and root hair removal, and women use on average 2.5 methods across different body areas/at different times. Surface hair removal refers to the cutting of hair at the skin’s surface – this would be shaving or hair removal creams. Epilation is a form of root hair removal, which refers to methods which see the hairs removed from the root for lasting results.
How often do you need to epilate?
Around every four weeks.
How painful is it?
The imagined pain hurdle can put people off from trying epilating, but they are often surprised by the low level of pain they actually experience. The pain also diminishes with use. The second time you use your epilator, only 30% of hairs will have regrown, so pain is diminished by two-thirds.
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Any tips and tricks?
Purchase an epilator which can be used in the shower, as the warm water opens pores which loosens the hair follicles so they are removed more easily. Pre-treating the skin makes the epilation process gentler. If you’re epilating dry, rub your skin with a dry towel – do this prior to epilating as it causes hairs to stand up from the skin surface, ensuring a perfect finish. Epilating systems do not remove skin layers, so exfoliating with a separate product as part of your skincare routine helps to avoid ingrown hairs and again helps to lift the hairs ready for epilation. Hold skin tightly and do small areas at first. Your hairs should be short – if they are too long, shave first and then wait a day or two before epilating.
Our pick of the best epilators:
Braun Silk-épil 5 Wet&Dry Cordless Epilator Starter Kit, £79.99, available at Braun
Philips Satinelle Advanced Wet and Dry Epilator, £99, available at Philips
Braun Silk-épil 9 Epilator and Facial Cleansing Brush, £102, available at Look Fantastic
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