The first epilator, invented and sold in 1986, was created by an Israeli company and called the Epilady – and since then, numerous epilators have hit the market with the promise to remove unwanted hair for as long as six weeks.
An epilator is a device that removes hair by grasping and pulling them out from the root. Epilators can be purchased in drug stores, beauty supply stores and department stores, as well as online.
For this guide, we’ve obtained input from a Harvard-trained Medical Doctor who is a specialist in aesthetic and cosmetic surgery, and has advised numerous patients with hair removal options, including the use of epilators.
We also include the advantages of using an epilator, the potential side effects, and a list of 8 epilators that have earned high ratings by customer reviews on various websites.
Since the time of the Egyptians, women have sought to groom their body hair in efforts to achieve their concept of beauty and to smooth skin and remove unwanted hair, said Dr. Adrienne Lara, a Harvard-trained OB/GYN and cosmetic surgeon who founded the Celebrating Women Center for Health Beauty and Wellness in Southern California.
“We have come a long way since the Epilady out of Israel,” Dr. Lara said.
In her experience as a gynecologist and primary care provider for women, as well as a specialist in aesthetic and cosmetic surgery, she noted that “women today prefer less body hair than more body hair. Specifically, my patients will groom the face, armpits, legs, arms and pubic area.”
According to Dr. Lara, the advantages of epilators include the following:
Availability: You can purchase an epilator in drug stores, beauty supply stores, department stores and online, and do not need a license or Rx to buy one.
Affordability: An epilator can cost between $30 and $100 depending on attachments and features.
Features: Epilators offer a variety of features, including different speeds, custom attachments for particular areas such as face cleanser attachments, and designs for wet and dry use. They are also battery-operated or electric, and many are rechargeable.
Maintenance: Except for cleaning and the replacement of batteries, the maintenance of epilators is minimal.
“The benefits of using an epilator over waxing include availability and cost,” Dr. Lara noted. “Epilators are a one-time cost and you need an appointment for waxing.”
In other benefits, epilators can also be used on the face, “as they have advanced in the technology to be safe for the delicate skin of the face.”
As far as choosing an epilator based on the cost is concerned, “choose the features you want and that will define the epilator that you choose,” Dr. Lara recommended. “I am reminded of the old adage: You get what you pay for.”
“Both epilators and waxing can be painful,” said Dr. Lara, who prescribes numbing cream for her patients that wax – especially for the pubic area.
Using an epilator is really a personal choice made once a woman decides to remove hair and then discovers the best, most comfortable and convenient way to do it, she said.
“As with any skin treatment, it is a good idea to try the treatment on a small discrete area prior to using it on a larger area to see what kind of response you will have,” Dr. Lara advised.
“Women who have sensitive skin should take caution with any care of the skin, but most especially with epilators that pull the hair from the root,” she said. “Waxing will pull the hair from the root and will remove some of the epithelium of the epidermis – therefore, a form of exfoliation.”
In addition to potential pain, other possible side effects of using an epilator include scarring, hyperpigmentation, ingrown hairs or inflamed hair follicles.
If you’re using an epilator on your face, Dr. Lara said it’s best to hold the face taunt to prevent pinching, which can leave marks on your skin. The same goes for any area of the body to help make the pain less intense.
You can also diminish pain by using numbing cream; or trying the wet option, because water will decrease discomfort.
In other advice, “take a shower before,” Dr. Lara advised. “This will open pores.”
Exfoliating prior to using an epilator can also help.
“Removing dead skin cells helps to prevent ingrown hairs,” Dr. Lara said. “Use a scrub or exfoliating glove.”
She added for people experiencing pain from initially using an epilator, “the pain gets better with more treatments.”
It’s also important to follow the directions exactly, according to the Mayo Clinic, which states that if you choose someone else to perform these techniques, make sure that individual is well-trained and experienced.
The following tips were provided by Remington, a company that manufactures epilators.
Best results are achieved by gliding the epilator lightly over the skin in short, circular, motions, sweeping the head up and away at the end of each pass. The discs should gently glide over the skin, barely touching it.
Repeat the motion within the same area a few times until all hair is removed. The duration of use depends on the quantity and density of the hair. After several months of cumulative use, there will be less hair and those remaining will be thinner. There will also be a longer interval between re-growth of the hair.
Epilate in the evening so any possible reddening can disappear overnight.
After use, apply a body cream or aloe lotion to soothe the skin and reduce irritation.
Clean the epilator after every use.
If the bikini line hair is too long, trim the hair first. Afterwards, use the epilator to remove the hair from the root.
Initially, use the epilator about once a week. Touch-ups will contribute to the weakening of hair and will keep area like the legs smooth. Removing hair once a week is recommended particularly for women with sensitive skin.
The following epilators are considered best-sellers on Amazon, with at least 3.8 out of 5 stars based on Amazon customer reviews. They have also earned high ratings on Ebay, Best Buy and other sites, to give you an idea how they’re ranked by customers elsewhere.
The number of customer reviews on Amazon change daily, and prices tend to fluctuate on other sites, so the following information is based on the latest figures provided in September of 2018.
Best for Legs: Philips Satinelle Essential HP6401
This compact hair removal epilator created by Philips Norelco earned 3.8 out of 5 stars based on 4,589 customer reviews on Amazon, where it costs $34.49.
Comparatively, it received a 4.5 average out of 5 stars on eBay based on 104 product ratings, and costs $36.88. At Best Buy, the overall customer rating is 4.1 out of 5 stars based on 163 reviews, and costs $41.99.
- According to Philips Norelco, the Philips Satinelle Essential epilator “gently removes hairs” as short as 0.5mm from the root, and makes the process easy with an ergonomic handle.
- It also has a corded design for nonstop use on dry skin, which is preferred for its efficiency and picking up more hairs on the first pass.
- It offers “thorough results” with gentle tweezing discs that remove hairs without pulling the skin; as well as two speed settings to grab thinner and thicker hairs.
Best for Wet and Dry: Braun Silk-epil 9 (9-579)
This women’s epilator, which performs hair removal both wet and dry, earned an overall customer rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars with 39 reviews on Best Buy, where it costs $139.99.
On eBay, it received 4.6 out of 5 stars based on 58 product ratings, and costs $80.32.
- According to Braun, the Silk-épil 9 has a 40% wider head versus other Braun epilators, removing more hair in one stroke for a faster epilation.
- The Braun Silk-epil 9 also features wider, longer and deeper tweezers that remove even the shortest hairs that wax cannot catch – down to 0.5mm.
- This product also features a “high frequency massage system” with pulsating vibrations for an “extra gentle” epilation; as well as a pivoting head that adapts to body contours.
- As a bonus, this product also comes with a facial brush to remove makeup and clean the pores.
Best for Entire Body: Emjoi® AP-18 Emagine Dual Opposed 72 Tweezer Head
With 72 tweezer heads and patented glide technology, this epilator received 3.8 out of 5 stars based on 1,962 customer reviews on Amazon, where it sells for $74.95.
Comparatively, it received a 4.6 average based on 114 product ratings out of 5 stars on eBay, where it costs $89.97.
Bestreviews, which spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products, named this epilator as the “Best Bang for the Buck,” noting that this product is “known for its easy clean-up and prevention of ingrown hairs.”
- According to the manufacturer, this electrically-operated epilator can remove hair from the root – as short as 0.5mm – for six weeks.
- Its Patented Glide Technology lifts up and removes hair by gliding the tweezer discs over the skin with less irritation.
- Its Silver Ion Technology provides antimicrobial protection.
- This epilator is gentle enough to remove delicate facial hair on the upper lip and chin; and is also great for removing hair on the legs, bikini line and underarms.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Panasonic ES-ED90-P Wet/Dry Epilator and Shaver
With six attachments, including a pedicure buffer for foot care, this product received 4.1 out of 5 stars out of 754 customer reviews on Amazon, where it costs $76.99.
Comparatively, it received 4.4 out of 5 stars based on 29 reviews at Walmart, where it costs $93.32.
- According to the manufacturer, this epilator features ultra-sharp, extra-durable blades and protective foils made from highest-quality, hypo-allergenic stainless steel to protect sensitive skin.
- Additionally, six snap-on attachment heads and dual speeds provide smoother, longer-lasting hair removal on arms, legs, underarms and bikini areas.
- It’s 100% waterproof, so it can also be used in the bath or shower with foam, gel or soap.
- This epilator also has a built-in LED light, making it easier to spot lighter, thinner or hard-to-see hairs.
Best for Bath and Shower: Braun Silk-epil 9 9-521 Women’s Epilator
This cordless wet and dry epilator earned 4.1 out of 5 stars based on 145 customer reviews on Target, where it costs $114.99.
Comparatively, it received 4 out of 5 stars based on 129 customer reviews at Walmart, where it also costs $114.99.
- According to Braun, this Silk-épil has wide, long, deep tweezers that remove even the shortest hairs, down to 0.5mm.
- It has pulsating active vibrations for an “extra gentle” epilation.
- It also has a pivoting head to adapt to body contours, and can be used either dry or in the bath or shower because it’s waterproof.
- It comes with a cord and has a long lasting battery that charges in one hour for 40 minutes of use.
Best for Face and Body: Emjoi® EPI Slim Epilator
This battery operated epilator earned 4 out of 5 stars based on 720 customer reviews on Amazon, where it costs $29.95.
- According to Emjoi®, this compact, battery-operated hair remover has 18 tweezers, and its patented 3-disc system can keep hair away for up to six weeks.
- It features Skin Glide Technology that lifts up and removes hair with less irritation.
- It also removes hair from the root as short as 0.3mm, and is considered great for both facial and body hair.
Best for Face and Body: Epilady® Legend 4th Generation
This fourth generation rechargeable epilator earned 4 out of 5 stars out based on 617 customer reviews on Amazon, where it costs $58.98.
Comparatively, it received 4 out of 5 stars based on a handful of reviews at Walmart, where it costs $61.29.
- According to Epilady®, this epilator can be used on the arms, legs, underarms, bikini and face.
- It features a wide epilating head to ensure fast and smooth epilating action; a dual-voltage power adaptor; and a fast motor for 32,000 tweezes per minute.
- It has a rubber touch at gripping points to ensure a firm hold, and removes the shortest and finest hair by the root for results that can last up to six weeks.
- It can be used corded or cordless and the charge lasts up to an hour.
Best for Bikini Area: Panasonic ES-ED50-N Multi-Functional Wet/Dry Shaver
This epilator with four hair removal attachments earned 4 out of 5 stars based on 754 customer reviews on Amazon, where it costs $69.99.
Comparatively, it earned an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars based on a handful of product ratings on ebay, where the cost starts at $44.50.
- According to Panasonic, features of this product include a dual-speed motor and 24 precision rotating tweezers.
- It has hypo-allergenic blades and foil for sensitive skin, and there are three attachments for the legs, arms and bikini areas.
- A contoured bikini attachment trims the bikini area when used with the shaver head.
- Additionally, the epilation head pivots 30 degrees forward and 30 degrees backward to conform to contours of the body.
Both waxing and epilators will create a smooth hairless skin for at least two weeks which is much longer than shaving, Dr. Lara noted.
“Some patients will wax routinely and maintain in between waxes with an epilator,” she said.
While epilators can be used on the face, “I would draw the line on the eyebrows as those need shaping and are a small finite area, unlike the cheek or chin,” Dr. Lara advised.
She added that exploring options is the key.
“It is your responsibility to research your options,” she said. “Research out of self-love for finding what is best for the beautiful, intelligent, attractive, powerful you.”
» For Further Reading: Women’s Facial Hair Removal: Expert Guide to Best Options