The Ultimate Guide to Tweezing Hair Removal
Tweezing (or plucking) is the term used to describe the removal of individual hairs by the process of pulling them from the root using a pair of tweezers.
Tweezing is a convenient, quick and cost efficient method of removing a small number of hairs, or where precision is required.
What are Tweezers Best For?
Tweezers are most popularly used for eyebrow shaping. They are perfect for precise work such as this, as they carefully remove one hair at a time.
It is much harder to go wrong with tweezing than with other methods such as waxing, which removes many hairs at once and is therefore harder to control.
Tweezing is also fairly easy to master at home, and so is convenient and inexpensive. A good pair of tweezers, cared for properly, should last for many years.
Tweezers are good for removing any odd stray hairs left behind after waxing or epilating, individual chin hairs, or in fact anywhere where there are pesky individual hairs.
Point-tipped tweezers can be used to remove ingrown hairs, if other less intrusive methods such as exfoliation have failed.
We would not recommend tweezing nose hairs as the membrane in the nose is very tender – if you have unsightly nose hairs, far better to trim them.
We would also advise against tweezing ear hair, unless it is on the outside of the ear.
Different Tip Types
There are numerous different types of tweezers in terms of the shape of the tip, but the three commonly used for hair removal are the slant, pointed and pointed slant tipped tweezers.
The picture above illustrates the differences between the three; the slant has a slightly angled edge, with a point at one end, the pointed tweezer tapers straight down to needle-like points, whilst the pointed slant is rather an amalgamation of the two.
Slant tipped tweezers are easily the most popular; they are versatile and easy to use and especially good for eyebrow shaping.
The flat edge of the slant can be angled parallel to the skin, to run easily along its surface following the contour of the brow.
The tweezer can be turned over to use the pointed end to isolate and grab any odd individual hair that is proving difficult, especially those very fine ones, or where particular precision is required.
Point tipped tweezers lack the versatility of the slants but are most effective when ultimate precision is required.
They are especially good for removing ingrown hairs from just below the skin but also for any very fine hairs that you have been unable to pick up.They have the added bonus of being great for removing splinters, glass fragments and the like.
They have very sharp, needle-like tips (in fact they are sometimes referred to as needle-tip tweezers) and you need to take care when using and storing them.
A steady hand is required and it may take a little time to master their use.
The pointed slant theoretically offers the best of both worlds; a slant tipped tweezer with a very sharp point at one end.
I know that some people have a preference for this type of tweezer, but personally I find them a bit harder to use for eyebrows than the slant – more difficult to grab individual hairs without pinching the skin.
Although they are very pointed at the pointy end, they do not have the pin-point tips of the dedicated style point tweezer.
They are undoubtedly sufficiently sharp and precise to cover most eventualities, but still I question that they will be as efficient for removing ingrown hair below the skin.
Having said all this, there are many fans of the pointed slant, so I guess in the end it is down to personal preference.
What Makes a Good Pair of Tweezers?
There are a huge number of different tweezers on the market, ranging from a few dollars at the budget end up to around $60 at the top.
So how on earth to decide which, out of all these, to choose?
Whatever the cost, there are three very important, key factors which must be present in a good, effective pair of tweezers:
The tips of the tweezers need to be perfectly aligned to meet from edge to edge. If they do not meet perfectly, you will not be able to grasp hairs consistently.
The very fact that you are working with each hair individually means that this is vitally important.
The tips of the tweezers need to be sharp, so that when they grasp the hair they can keep firmly hold whilst you pluck them out.
Dulled tips will lead to the hair slipping when pulled and gradually reduce their effectiveness over time until they become unfit for purpose.
You will see that most manufacturers of the more expensive tweezers offer sharpening services and in fact Tweezerman, a well-known and respected Brand in the field, provide a free sharpening service for the life of all their tweezers.
The best tweezers (and they don’t necessarily have to be the most expensive) have perfectly calibrated tension to provide a gentle resistance when the two arms of the tweezer are squeezed together.
This is important because it enables you to be in control while tweezing; Insufficient tension would make it difficult to grasp the hair firmly enough to remove it, whereas to firm a tension would make the tweezer uncomfortable in use for any length of time.
Special Features to Consider
In addition to the three elements discussed above, there are other special features that you may wish to think about prior to purchase:
Wide Grip Design
This is actually a pretty important factor especially if, like me, you suffer from weakness or arthritis etc. in your hands or fingers.
Some tweezers, such as The Tweezerman Professional Wide Grip (shown in the photograph) are specially designed with a wide thumb grip to make them easier and more comfortable to hold.
This is just one example and there are many other styles of tweezer with various different wide-grip designs.
There are a wide range of colours, coatings and designs available which can make a difference, not only aesthetically but also to the feel and grip of your tweezers e.g. a rubberised or embossed coating may also enhance the grip
One example of this is illustrated in the photograph, which depicts a close-up of the Revlon Expert Slant Tipped Tweezer. This one has an emboassed diamond design and a black enamel coat.
Another example, which I particularly like is the Slice Combo Tip Tweezer, which is pictured below.
As you can see it has a lovely ergonomic design, widening out to give a good firm grip. This is coupled with a rubberised, soft-touch coating, for ultimate comfort and control.
Other designs feature inset stones, cut-outs, animal prints etc. - I could go on forever!
Mini - Sized
Some tweezers are manufactured in miniature to make them easy to carry around in purse or pocket, for tweezing on-the-go.
I have looked at some of these including the Tweezerman LTD Mini Slant, and found that they can be just as effective as the regular sized tweezers.
I think they are best used as a second tweezer as they can be a bit fiddly to hold and I think they would become uncomfortable and a nuisance to use for any length of time.
As a stand-in when out and about or for emergencies, they can be a great addition to your beauty kit.
Of course the cost can often be one of the most decisive factors when making any purchase.
As I pointed out previously, there are huge variations in cost but it is not necessary to break the bank to get a good quality, efficient pair of tweezers.
On a Budget?
Rule of thumb, as with most things, is to purchase the best that you can afford as you do generally get what you pay for.
However, if you are on a budget you can shop around to find a pretty decent pair for around $7 - $10 (any less than that and I would be questioning their efficacy).
Conversely, you can buy a pretty top-notch product for $20 - $30 and after that, the higher price is likely to be due to finish and design rather than a huge difference in performance.
I have done a round up of the best slant tweezers in the low to mid-range price bracket and also the best for ingrown hairs.
When deciding how much to budget for your tweezers it is worth bearing in mind that investing in a good quality pair of tweezers should keep you going for several years.
There are various sets of tweezers on the market, commonly sets of 2 being a slant and pointed tipped pair, some with case and some without.
It can be a more cost effective way of buying the two, as generally they work out a bit cheaper than buying the same tweezers individually.
The following are a few easy steps you can take prior to tweezing to get the best results, minimise pain and reduce the risk of infection and ingrown hairs:
- Ensure your skin is clean and, preferably, exfoliated to remove any dead skin cells and bacteria lurking around the hair.
- For body hair, have a warm shower to soften skin and hair and open your skin's pores. Alternatively use a wet, warm flannel or towel against the relevant area for a few minutes to achieve a similar effect.
- If desired, a numbing cream may be applied to reduce the pain.
- Ensure that you have sufficient light and sanitize your tweezers prior to use using rubbing alcohol such as Beauty Secrets Cleansing Alcohol
- Hold skin taut with one hand with the tweezers held comfortably in the other hand
- Grasp the hair with the tweezers as close as possible to the skin, but without pressing into it
- Pull firmly and quickly in the direction of the hair growth to "pluck" it from the root
It is likely that your skin will be red and possibly slightly swollen following tweezing, but this should resolve within 15 - 30 minutes and is not lasting.
Ice may be used against the area to cool and refresh it, and a calming lotion applied, such as Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera.
It is a good idea to bear this in mind when tweezing eyebrows and make time allowances if you are intending to go out!
The art of shaping the perfect brow will take time to master - so be patient. It may be worth your while having them done professionally the first time. Then you can just maintain them by tweezing hairs straying outside the desired shape as they appear.
Alternatively, there are aids available such as the Billion Dollar Brow Buddy or Brow Stencils to help you get the best shape.
Things you will need
- Pair of Tweezers
- White Eyebrow Pencil
- Eyebrow Brush
- Magnifying Mirror
- Numbing cream (optional)
- Tweezer sanitizer
- Calming lotion
Follow the preparation steps as outlined above. Then:
- Use brush to gently brush brow in the direction of hair growth
- Use brow pencil to draw on the desired shape - I have written a complete guide on how to achieve the perfect shape with tweezers.
- Grasp each hair outside of the pencil line, as close to the base as possible without pressing into the skin
- Pull firmly away in the direction of hair growth
- Check at full distance in a normal mirror from time to time to check how it is looking
- When you have finished, apply soothing lotion to cool the skin (alcohol free)
Remember, it is easy to remove a little more hair, but impossible to replace it - eyebrow hair is slow - growing so try to avoid over-plucking by checking regularly as you go along
Is Tweezing Painful?
Pulling hair out from the root will always necessitate some pain however the pain from tweezing is, for most people, eminently bearable and resembles pin pricks.
You are only pulling one hair at a time, and can stop and start at leisure. You will find that, over time, the skin builds up a resilience and the pain lessens.
If it bothers you too much, you can use a numbing cream or, apparently, baby teething gel applied with a cotton bud a few minutes prior to tweezing works well.
The great thing about tweezing is that, providing you follow good hygiene practices, the side effects such as redness, puffy skin and soreness will be very transient, passing away after 15 – 30 minutes at most.
However, the same as any method involving removal of hair by the root, tweezing can occasionally lead to ingrown hairs
A Bit About Ingrown Hair from Tweezing
What are they? – Why do they Occur?
As the name suggests, an ingrown hair is one that has grown backwards or sideways under the skin and are is commonly caused by hair removal methods such as waxing, tweezing, epilating etc.
Also known as razor bumps, shaving is another common cause of ingrown hairs.
They can occur when a hair is cut off either very close to, or just under, the skin and it curls back inwards and continues to grow.
A less common cause is the build up of dead skin cells and other debris on the skin’s surface, clogging the pores and entrance to the hair follicle, so that the hair has difficulty in breaking through.
How to Minimise Risk
To minimise the risk of ingrown hairs when tweezing:
Make sure you exfoliate regularly and use good, well-maintained and aligned tweezers.
Always pluck hair in the direction of the growth, if you don't the hair is more likely to break.
How to Remove with Tweezers
You will need a good quality, sharp, point-tipped pair of tweezers, plenty of light and, preferably, a magnifying mirror:
- Sterilize your tweezer tips with rubbing alcohol, such as Beauty Secrets Cleansing Alcohol. Either put the alcohol on a cotton ball to wipe tweezers thoroughly or simply dip them in a little of the solution.
- Wash and exfoliate the skin around the ingrown hair to ensure skin is free from bacteria and dead skin cells.
- Use a hot compress (a clean flannel steeped in hand-hot water is fine) against the area to draw the hair nearer to the surface and open pores.
- Use one tip of the tweezers to carefully tease out the end of the hair to the skin's surface.
- Once the hair is released it is best to leave it for a few days, for the skin to calm down and the hair to grow out naturally. If it is long and unsightly you can trim it down. Plucking it out immediately runs the risk of it just growing back deeper.
- After treatment, dab the area with antiseptic to close the pores and prevent infection.
- You may also treat the area with an antibiotic cream such as Neosporin.
- Make sure that the area is kept clean, exfoliate regularly and try to avoid wearing tight clothing against it to prevent recurrence.
Use the pointed tip of the tweezer carefully and gently and avoid "digging around" trying to reach deeply embedded ingrowns.
Sometimes it is impossible to remove them without help - in which case you should seek medical advice.
Care of your Tweezers
A good quality pair of tweezers should last for years, so caring for them properly is time well spent to ensure that you get your money's worth.
Here are a few tips to get the most from your tweezers:
Ensure that your tweezers are cleaned properly before and after each use with a sanitizer such as rubbing alcohol.
Store carefully, always replacing the tip covers and putting them in their storage pouch, if provided and putting them safely out of reach of children.
Some tweezers come in a plastic tube, which is ideal to keep your tweezers in, especially for transporting them.
Inspect your tweezers to make sure that they remain aligned and the tips are sufficiently sharp. If the performance deteriorates and they start to slip, the chances are that they need sharpening.
General Care Advice
Try to avoid dropping the tweezers as it may damage the tips and put them out of alignment, rendering them useless.
It is possible to increase the tension of your tweezers by gently pulling them apart slightly - but be careful doing this and be aware that once you have done it, you cannot reverse the effect.
Pros and Cons of Tweezing
Pros of Tweezing
- Convenience - can be done in your own home as and when required
- Portable - small and easy to carry around - takes up very little space in your luggage!
- Accuracy - precisely removing individual hairs
- Lasting - longer lasting than shaving (can last up to 6 weeks)
- No mess
- Cost Effective - one of cost of a pair of tweezers which can last for several years
Cons of Tweezing
- Pain - as with any method of hair removal that removes hair from the root, there is an element of pain. Over time this may lessen as the area builds up resilience
- Not permanent - the hair will grow back
- Ingrown Hairs - along with other methods, tweezing can cause ingrown hairs
- Time consuming - can be time consuming as hairs are removed individually, though this will improve over time, with practice