Short answer: No. If you are using a high quality epilator the right way, epilators should NOT cause ingrown hairs.
However, you ended up here because you are using an epilator that is causing more ingrown hairs than you expect. So why is this happening? Let’s go over two explanations and how to avoid them for the future.
Hair is breaking instead of being pulled out from the roots
Sometimes hair breaks at the surface of the skin instead of being pulled out. You may think that the epilator is removing hair and not the notice the difference. But it will grow out quickly like as if you had shaved instead of waxed.
These hairs were pulled at by your epilator but broke before they could be yanked out. Because they were pulled and then broken, they are more likely to curl inward and cause an ingrown hair. So why does this happen?
There are three possible reasons for this.
First, you may not be pulling your skin taut before passing over it with your epilator. The epilator is not able to grab the hair near its root to pull it out completely and instead grabs the hair shaft midway and ends up breaking it. So what can do you do to prevent this?
Make sure your epilator head is as flat as possible on your skin so that it can grab the hair close to the root and remove it. In areas such as your arm pit or your upper thighs, use one hand to pull the skin tight and then epilate. If these areas are especially sensitive, check out our tips for less painful epilation.
Worry about the pain
This brings us to our second reason. Sometimes, when we first start epilation, the pain is intimidating. If you’re starting out and it hurts, you may be afraid to press the epilator head flat on your skin. The epilator will feel less painful when it is only breaking hairs halfway and more painful when you’re pulling the hairs out by your roots. So you may only be skimming the skin surface, only breaking hairs… and ending up with a lot ingrown hairs.
Ingrown hairs are even more painful than epilating, and can be prevented! So if epilating is too painful for you to do right, consider another less painful hair removal method. Shaving alongside a home laser hair removal might be a good option for you. Here are our recommendations for the best home laser systems.
Finally, the last potential reason could be a cheap epilator or one that has a low number of tweezers. The tweezers are the mechanical pieces that rotate in epilator and pull the hairs out. The higher number of tweezers, the more hair grabbed and pulled out by the epilator. A lower number of tweezers could mean less hair is being grabbed at the root and some hair is attempted to be grabbed but is just pulled halfway until it breaks. A good epilator has anywhere from 20 to 60 tweezers. Some epilators even come with 100+ tweezers!
Epilators can last a long time. So there is no reason to assume that you have a low quality epilator causing your ingrown hairs. We recommend that you try the other tips in this article first before concluding that the problem is your epilator. However, if you’d like to upgrade to a better epilator and smoother skin without ingrown hairs, check out our recommendations for the best epilators available this year.
Lack of exfoliation
The other major key to preventing ingrown hairs is exfoliation. Exfoliating regularly helps turn over the top layer of skin. It also makes sure that hairs do not have opportunity to grow inward or into the skin’s top layer and become a painful ingrown hair. Your skin sheds every day and exfoliation helps speed up this process. Some people shed skin faster than others. You may be prone to more ingrown hairs because your skin does not shed as fast.
There are two ways to exfoliate – physical and chemical.
Physical exfoliation includes using brown sugar or coffee or a formulated body scrub like Gigi No Bump Scrub to help remove dead skin. You can also use a loofah or pouf to lightly scrub your skin. This can be done both inside the shower with your body wash or you can do a dry scrub with a dry scrub brush right before you hop in your shower or bath.
Chemical exfoliation involves using a lotion or cream with exfoliating acids, like alpha hydroxy or AHA, to speed up the skin cell turn over. Common AHA acids include lactic acid, glycolic acid, and more. Be careful if using both chemical and physical exfoliation at the same time. Over exfoliation can ruin your skin’s natural moisture barrier, overdry your skin, and takes longer than you think to reverse. So if you plan on using both physical and chemical exfoliation, check with your dermatologist.
We also recommend that you always wear sunscreen if you are using a chemical exfoliant, because they can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
Both have their pros and cons. As for which is better, it depends on a few factors – your sensitivity level, how much time you want to spend on exfoliation, and your type of skin. To pick which is best for you, read more about the pros and cons of chemical vs physical exfoliation.
Ultimately, there are many possible reasons why you are getting a lot of ingrown hairs from epilating your hair. Be sure to eliminate each of the above reasons and maybe even try an updated or new epilator. If you continue to get ingrown hairs, despite exfoliating, good epilating technique, and a high quality epilator, we recommend trying another method of hair removal. Ingrown hairs are not just painful, but can cause long term scars. While there are certainly ways to fade scars over time, it may be better to switch back to shaving, try a depilatory cream, or combine shaving with an at home laser hair removal system.