Epilator Hair Removal vs Waxing – the Pros and Cons
Both epilators and waxing hair removal methods effectively "pluck" multiple hairs simultaneously, from the roots.
Which is best is largely a matter of personal preference, however if you are trying to work out which to opt for as a new user, we hope that this article will help you make the right decision for you.
How does an Epilator Work?
Briefly, epilators are electrical devices, the head of which consists of a series of metal plates or discs, held in a plastic casing. As the head rotates, the metal plates are continuously pinched together and then parted again in a pincer or tweezer like action.
Multiple hairs are simultaneously caught by the closing metal plates, which continue to rotate, thus tearing the hairs out at the root, quite similar to the way in which you might pluck out individual hairs using tweezers.
The hairs are then released and discarded as the metal plates open up.
The main difference between using an epilator and tweezers is the obvious ability to remove multiple hairs, making it much more viable for larger areas. There is another difference, however, in that the way in which the epilator should be used pulls hairs in the opposite direction to which they grow.
How does Waxing Work?
There are two different types of wax - hot or cold. Although the preparation is slightly different, the basic principles of how each method works remains the same.
To find out more about the pros and cons of hot and cold waxing see our article:
In a nutshell, softened wax is applied to the skin in the direction of hair growth with a spatula. A waxing strip is placed over the wax and pressed into place with the heel of the hand in a smoothing motions, in the same direction.
The wax is then pulled away in one quick movement in the opposite direction to the hair's growth, pulling out the hairs from their roots and taking them with it.
Similarities between Waxing and Epilators
Both epilators and waxing use the process of epilation. In other words both remove hair by pulling it out at the root, below the surface of the skin.
This is unlike shaving or depilatory creams, which use the process of depilation i.e. removal of hair at the surface of the skin.
One obvious advantage of the method is that it leaves the skin very smooth and hair-free for much longer.
Ease of Use
Whilst it is fair to say that the correct technique for waxing may take a little more practice to perfect, neither waxing nor using an epilator is actually difficult.
Once the correct way to use either method has been learnt, they are both very easy to carry out, in the comfort of your own home.
It would be ridiculous to suggest that pulling out hair from the roots will ever be completely pain-free. Certainly, the first time you use either method is likely to be very uncomfortable.
The pain threshold of each individual is very different, so that whilst many find it bearable, others try once and refuse to repeat the experience!
The vast number of people who regularly use both epilators and waxing for hair removal bears testament to the fact that, with regular use, the pain lessens and becomes more easily tolerated as the skin (and the individual) become used to the process.
There are ways to reduce or minimise pain, which can be used for either method - to find out more read our article:
Over time, using either epilators or wax regularly will lead to finer, more sparsely populated regrowth and the amount of time between treatments will reduce.
In both cases, the skin is left smooth and hair free for 2 - 4 weeks at a time (or possibly even longer) after initial few treatments.
Parts of the Body
Either method can be used for almost all parts of the body, with certain obvious exceptions e.g. eyelashes, nose, ear etc.
The caviat to this is that it is very important to refer to the manufacturer's guidelines and recommendations as to each product's suitability for the body part from which you wish to remove the hair.
There are various different waxes available, and it may be that the best ones for arms and legs are not necessarily recommended for more sensitive areas.
Epilators come with various accessories and it is worth checking that your required accessories are available/included for the parts of body you wish to cover, prior to making any purchase.
For more information about epilators and available accessories see our article:
Use of waxing or epilators can leave the skin vulnerable to infection in the immediate aftermath of treatment and require use of a natural, soothing lotion with antiseptic qualities e.g. Witchazel, Aloe Vera or Tea Tree.
Due to the fact that waxing also removes the very top surface of the skin, this method is slightly more risky in this regard, but with proper after care, these risks can be greatly minimised.
In the case of epilators, it is very important to make sure that the device is cleaned thoroughly after use and sanitised regularly with a suitable alcohol based antiseptic.
Common transient side effects are redness and/or irritation, which usually calm down after a few hours, and certainly within a day or two,
Ingrown hairs can be another, annoying side effect but if the correct procedures are followed, can be largely avoided.
Differences between Waxing and Epilators
Although waxing does require some time for preparation, once you are ready it is possible to wax large areas very quickly.
The epilator needs to be passed slowly across the skin to ensure that hairs are not missed. Although regular use will reduce the time it takes to cover an area, you will still need around 40 minutes to remove the hair from both legs.
Some waxing kits can be messy and difficult to clean up afterwards.
Conversely, epilators are easy to clean afterwards - for dry method simply brush clean with the brush provided, or for wet use - rinse under a tap. Then sanitise with a suitable antiseptic and you are done.
An epilator requires an initial outlay of anything from around $35 to upwards of $130 depending upon whether you opt for a basic model or an up to the minute, all out "bells and whistles" device.
This may seem a lot, in comparison to the average cost of an inexpensive waxing kit, but when weighed up over time, the ongoing cost will undoubtedly add up to more in the long run.
Length of Hair
Epilators are able to remove shorter hair than waxing, therefore there is less unsightly regrowth between treatments.
Hair needs to be at least 1/4" long (approx. 5mm) for waxing to be effective, whereas modern epilators can pick up hair from only 0.5mm and, in fact, the longer the hair, the less effective and more painful it can be.
Waxing is, of course, available at salons so you can opt for professional treatments if you prefer, although costly, it removes the hassle and mess of at-home use.
This can also be particularly useful for hard to see/reach areas such as the back.
Summary of Pros and Cons
Pros for Epilators & Waxing
- One-off cost - no need for costly replacement parts. Properly maintained, the device should provide many years of service
- Smooth skin - leaves skin smooth
- Finer regrowth - with regular use
- Long lasting results - from 2 - 4 weeks
- No mess - quick and easy to clean after use
- Short hair removal - no unsightly regrowth
- Good when travelling - easy to pack take with you
- All parts of body - (with the right head attachments) but especially good for arms and legs
- Quick to use - can remove hair from large areas very quickly
- Smooth skin - leaves skin much smoother than shaving
- Finer regrowth - with regular use
- Long lasting results - 3 - 6 weeks
- Professional treatment - available in salons
- All parts of body - especially good for large areas
Cons for Epilators & Waxing
- Painful - especially for first few treatments
- Risk of infection - leaves skin vulnerable immediately after treatment
- Ingrown hairs - can be a side effect
- Time consuming - for large areas
- Painful - but larger area "over in one go" reportedly slightly less painful than epilator
- Risk of infection - leaves skin rather more vulnerable as it also removes top layer of skin
- Ingrown hairs - can be a side effect
- Regrowth length - needs to be at least 1/4" before waxing
- Ongoing Cost - regular need to buy more wax/accessories
As stated right at the beginning of this article, the choice between epilator or wax is, ultimately very personal, however, based on our findings we conclude the following:
When wax is best
If you are new to epilating - using wax for a few times before using an epilator will prepare your skin and you can gauge the pain level
For professional salon treatment - if the hassle of do-it-yourself hair removal is all too much for you, or you have no-one to help with impossible to reach areas
For speedy hair removal - there is no doubt that waxing is much quicker than using an epilator
When epilator is best
To avoid unsightly regrowth - epilators can treat very short hair, so if you can't bear to have obvious hair growth between treatments, this is the one for you.
For convenience - if you want the convenience of "touching up" as and when required, no mess and to take travelling with you, the epilator is by far the easiest. That is not to mention not having to remember to purchase more product when you need it.
To avoid ongoing costs - speaks for itself!
These are the 3 key points for each method, but in terms of actual effectiveness and results, we have found no clear cut information upon which to base a firm recommendation:
Whilst some individuals swear by epilators and say that they are the best investment they have ever made, others are staunch devotees of waxing,
For information about our recommended products see the articles below: