Epilators or Waxing – Which at home hair removal method is better for you?
We get common questions like “do epilators hurt?” or “which is better?”. Epilators and waxing both remove hair from the root, so they’re similar in their end result. But the process is different for each. So here’s a guide that compares epilators vs waxing on some key characteristics, like waxing vs epilator pain or which costs more, that can help you determine which of these hair removal methods can work better for you.
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An epilator is an electrical hair removal machine that removes hair from the root. It has a set of tweezers on a rotating wheel that quickly removes many hairs with each pass of the epilator on skin. The tweezers grab hair and pull it out. There can be anywhere from 20 to 100 tweezers on an epilator, so the epilator can pull out 2 to 4 times the hair with each short pass.
Epilators can be plug in devices or rechargeable battery powered, for dry use only or for wet/dry that let you use them in shower, and come with a number of helpful accessories that can help reduce the pain.
Waxing is the process of applying a soft or hard wax on skin in the direction of hair growth, and then then removing the hair from its roots by quickly pulling the wax off. A good quality wax will cling fast to the hairs and not the skin, taking the hairs with it when it is pulled off. Waxes come in two main consistencies – soft wax and hard wax.
Soft wax is the gentler version that is removed with wax strips made of cotton or recycled paper. Hard wax is considered better for waxing coarse hair. It is somewhat less sticky and can be pull off as it cools by gripping the edge of the applied wax and so you do not need any strips for hard wax hair removal.
All waxing also lightly exfoliates the skin by also removing a layer of the topmost dead skin cells.
1. Compare – Which lasts longer
Both epilators and waxing hair removal remove the hair from the root. Lets assume that you have a good waxing technique and a good quality epilator and you are not breaking hairs at the skin surface and really are pulling them out by the root: Hair removal by either the epilator or waxing should last equally long, which can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 weeks.
But, after you epilate or wax and the hair grows back in, how soon can you wax or epilate? To wax again, you’ll need the hair to grow back to a 1/ 4 of an inch or more. Otherwise, the wax will not be able to grip the hair. On the other hand, a good epilator can grab hairs that are only 1/ 8 of an inch. So you could epilate sooner.
However, some people may find that if they epilate hairs as they come in, they need to epilate more frequently. Hair grows back in stages, so you always have hair growing in. It’s possible that during your regrowth, all the hair that you pulled out previously did not regrow. So you may find yourself epilating more often for everytime hairs cycle through their phases and grow back in. With waxing, because you have to wait until hairs reach a certain length, you may find that you’re able to remove more hairs because more hairs have grown back in since you last removed hair.
So each has its pros and cons. Depending on your lifestyle or needs, you may find that one works better for you.
Both the epilator or waxing win on the basis that they last equally long. But you’ll be able to epilate new growth sooner than you’ll be able to wax new growth.
2. Compare – Cost
Epilators come in all shapes, sizes, and price points from $30-200. Let us say you purchased a mid range epilator for about $100. Epilators are a one time purchase and if you take care of them, you don’t have to buy replacement heads or other parts for a lifetime. So that is a one time cost of $100.
If you’re waxing, you’ll need to replace your wax as you run out. If you’re using a hard wax, then all you need to wax is the wax. But if you’re using a soft wax, then you’re also using disposable wax strips and waxing applicators like popsicle sticks. Gigi brand’s replacement wax cost $10-20 and should last about 3 months even if you’re using it 2x a month. Replacement strips and applicators could cost $25 total but will last the whole year. So doing the math, you might spend $80 max for the first year of waxing at home if you’re hard wax, and $105 max for the first year of waxing with soft wax.
Of course, we compared epilators vs waxing at home for our example here. Getting a wax done professionally will cost much more than this.
The cost of epilators vs waxing is the same for the first year, but you’ll see your costs increase linearly each year with waxing while an epilator is a one time cost.
3. Compare – Pain
Both the epilator and wax pull the hair out by the root so both are more painful than shaving or a depilatory cream which only remove the hair at the skin’s surface and not below.
Epilators can be particularly painful if you normally shave or use a depilatory (chemical shaving) cream like Nair where the hair is not removed from the root but only at the skin’s surface. This is because over time your hair follicle (or root of the hair) regrows more hair each time it’s shaved and the hair follicle gets quite strong over time as it regrows and regrows. When you yank the hair out from its root, the hair that grows back in looks finer.
This is actually what causes people to think that waxing or epilating makes hair grow back less and finer, but that is actually a myth. In reality, shaving makes a thicker follicle (looks darker) and pulling it out from the root makes a thinner hair grow back. There isn’t less hair as a result.
So if you’ve only shaved to date and then you try to use an epilator, you’re pulling out that thicker follicle which will hurt more than if you were pulling out a follicle that had been yanked out recently and regrown. Tweezing out those hairs can be painful.
If you want to epilate long term instead of wax, but have only shaved to date, we recommend that you wax off all the hair once then epilate the regrowth. The epilator will hurt far less in this way.
That brings us to the pain of waxing. High powered epilators can have close to 100 tweezers and can pull a lot of hairs with each pass. Waxing also pulls out a lot of hairs at once. However, the process of putting warm wax on your skin, pressing, and then quickly removing the wax sends a lot of sensory information all at once to your brain and a lot of people find that waxing can hurt less. Some waxes are soothing to the skin as well and can reduce redness while conditioning the skin. Compared to epilating for the first time, waxing hurts less and is easier.
Waxing hurts a little less than an epilator. The sensations are different however, and many people find that they are quickly accustomed to epilator pain and find it easier to deal with than waxing.
4. Compare – How long each takes
Using an epilator is very easy. You plug it in or it is battery powered and ready to go. Pass the epilator on your skin against the hair growth and it will remove double digit numbers of hairs with each pass.
With wax, you have to do some planning to get ready for waxing. Namely, you need to warm your wax which can take 5-15 minutes depending on the wax.
If you account for warming up wax, the epilator can remove hair faster. However, once the wax is warmed up, an experienced waxer will remove hair just as fast as someone who uses epilators regularly.
5. Compare – Skill needed
If you’re a beginner, you probably will remove the same amount of hair faster with an epilator than waxing.
But if you’ve waxed frequently, it will take you the same amount of time to remove hair as if you were using an epilator.
So there is less of a learning curve with an epilator than waxing. However, that learning curve might be worth it because you are far less likely to break hair during waxing because wax does a good job of pulling hair out at the root with little effort. With an epilator, it is easy to get started but there is some skill involved with actually pulling the hair out and not just breaking it. A good quality epilator also helps with this.
Winner: Same for BOTH
6. Compare – Convenience
Lay down a towel and you can epilate anywhere. Especially if you have a battery charged epilator. You can epilate in front of the tv while you catch up on the latest show. You can even take an epilator with you when you travel and epilate in a hotel.
To wax, you need to cover the floor with a disposable cover of some kind (newspaper, a paper bag, etc) to catch drips. You also need a dependable heat source and may need to be near a microwave to reheat your wax or an outlet to plug in your wax warmer. It would definitely be cumbersome to try to take your wax kit with you while travel. However, none of these are are inconveniences if you’re home.
Winner: Epilator, barely
The epilator wins only because it is easier to pack for travel.
So what’s the takeaway?
The epilator wins barely overall. If you’re looking for a quick, easy electronic gadget, have a pain tolerance, and like the convenience of being able to remove hair on the go, then the epilator is your friend. If you have extra sensitive skin, don’t mind the additional prep of waxing, and prefer a tried and traditional method of hair removal, then waxing is your go-to.
That said, you may prioritize one feature or characteristic over the other, so only you can decide which can be a better method of hair removal for you. We hope this breakdown helped you determine which feature was more important and make an informed decision.
Learn more about epilators or waxing at home
Is this the first time you’ve heard of an epilator? If you want to learn more, check out our Complete Guide to Epilating with reviews of the best epilators here.
Or you want to try your hand at waxing at home because those salon visits are adding up? We’ve written a handy Guide to Waxing at home here. Check it out for tips on getting started as well as which wax options are available for different skin types or lifestyles.