What to Know About Hair Removal With an Epilator

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on February 20, 2024
4 min read

An epilator is a device designed to remove unwanted body hair. Like waxing, it removes hair directly from the roots.

An epilator is an electronic device that removes body hair from the roots. 

In general, epilators remove more hair than electric shavers do. Although they can take more time and effort to use than shavers, they can save you time and energy in the long run. Because an epilator removes hairs at the root, you won’t have to use it again for several weeks.

Epilators can be used at home or at a clinic, depending on the type. You can buy an epilator for home use for as little as $25. More elaborate ones can cost more than $100.

There are three different types of epilators: needle, tweezer, and electrolysis.

Needle epilators. This type of epilator has a fine wire that goes under your skin to reach the hair follicle. It sends an electric current to destroy the hair root, loosening the hair. You can then remove the hair with tweezers.

Tweezer epilators. This type uses a rotating head containing many tiny tweezers. The tweezers grab the hair close to your skin and pull it out.

Electrolysis epilators. Electrolysis epilators, also known as medical electrolysis devices, destroy hair using a shortwave radio frequency. Since this type of epilator destroys the hair follicle, you can use it to get rid of unwanted body hair permanently.

Although this type of epilation is effective, it’s riskier than the other types. You also can’t do it at home. You need to book several appointments for the procedure. Consult a licensed professional for this kind of treatment.

You may need to undergo topical anesthesia for electrolysis.

Epilating and waxing remove hair by targeting the follicle. However, there are some differences.

Hair removal method. Waxing is more low-tech since you don’t need any electronic tools. All you need is wax and some cloth strips. You can get waxed in a salon or use a home kit.

Before you wax:

  • Look at the hair you want to target. It should be around 1/4 to 3/4 of an inch long. If it’s too long, trim it to the proper length so waxing will be easier and less painful.
  • Make sure you haven’t used skincare creams with prescription retinoids or retinol in the past two to five days. Otherwise, you might remove skin along with the hair.
  • Wash the area you’re going to wax to remove dead skin cells, dirt, and skincare products. Then, dry your skin as thoroughly as possible since wax won’t stick to wet skin.

Where to get treated. You do either waxing or some types of epilation at home or the salon. But you’ll need to book an appointment with a trained electrologist to get electrolysis. 

How long the treatments last. Waxing is not permanent, and the results typically last three to six weeks. However, the length of how long a waxing session will last depends on many individual factors, such as your hair growth rate and how often you wax. It also depends on your age, since someone younger may grow hair faster than someone who’s older.

Like waxing, the effects of epilating with a tweezer or needle epilator will typically last a couple of weeks.

While electrolysis epilation is permanent, you’ll probably need multiple electrolysis treatments. Ask your electrologist to determine how many sessions you’ll need, since it’ll differ from person to person, depending on how much hair you have and how much you want to remove. You typically would have appointments are typically for up to a year and a half every week or every other week.

Effectiveness. Compared with electrolysis epilation, waxing may be less effective although not by a lot. According to research, hair growth decreased by 46% when treated with wax versus 60% when treated with electrolysis.

Body areas for use. ‌Electrolysis epilation is fine for use on sensitive parts of the body, such as the bikini areas and nipples. 

Hair removal waxes aren't suitable for nipples, but like waxing, they can be used on bikini areas.

Risks of epilating versus waxing. Waxing comes with risks in some cases. Not only should you never wax very sensitive or sunburned skin, but you should also avoid waxing if you’ve taken isotretinoin in the last six months.

There isn’t much information on the risks of using needle and tweezer epilators, but there are some minor risks with electrolysis epilation:

  • skin redness,
  • swollen or inflamed skin,
  • tender skin,
  • scarring,
  • keloid scars, and
  • changes in skin color.

There’s also a slight risk of infection and scarring if the electrolysis isn’t done properly. It's best to get electrolysis done by a certified professional.