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Epilators Hurt Like Hell, But They're the Best Hair Removal Devices

Braun Silk-épil 9, $125
Graphic: Chelsea Stone

I like to think I have a relatively high pain tolerance, particularly when it comes to hair removal. Over the years, I’ve endured countless physically and mentally challenging bikini waxes, I’ve plucked my eyebrows until tears involuntarily sprung from my eyeballs, and my hair follicles have been literally zapped into oblivion via laser hair removal. It all hurt, sure, but none elicited more than a flinch out of me.

The first time I used an epilator, though, I literally screamed. Alone in my apartment, shrieking in agony while running a weird, loud handheld device up my legs, I wondered why anyone would ever subject themselves to such torture. But now, I understand. Weeks later, after that terrifying first experience, I’m here to say that we should all be using epilators on the reg.

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I’m telling you all of this not to scare you away from epilators, but instead, to prepare you fully for what’s to come if you decide to embark on this particular hair removal journey. It would be pretty fucked up if I recommended that everyone go buy an epilator, and then didn’t mention that it will hurt. It will hurt. It will also be worth it.

The reason it’s so painful initially is because epilators literally rip out your hair at the root. Essentially, an epilator looks a bit like an electric razor, but instead of blades, it has what amounts to a series of tweezer heads that yank out your hairs as you roll it along your skin, as opposed to just trimming the hairs down like a razor does. My epilator, the Braun Silk-épil 9, comes with seven attachments as well—shaver head, a trimmer cap, a high frequency massage cap, a skin contact cap, a charging stand, among others—but honestly, I just stick with the main tweezer attachment.

Because epilation pulls out the whole hair, it takes ages for said hair to grow back in, and when it does, it’s markedly thinner. Over time, that thinning out should only become more pronounced. This also translates to practically no stubble, which is the main issue when it comes to post-shaving regrowth. Therefore, depending on how long it takes your hair to grow, you really shouldn’t epilate more than once a week, if that; there needs to be some hair there for the epilator to grip. For me, it’s more like once every two to three weeks (granted, I’m lazy). And epilating does actually get less painful the more you do it.

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I decided the safest body part to start epilating was my legs, but really is anywhere safe? Anyway, the epilator I own has two speeds; I started off with the slower speed, but as I got used to the sensation, I tried bumping it up and found that there wasn’t a huge difference in pain level. Unlike shaving, epilators demand that you go slowly up your leg—it takes a shocking amount of will power—and you really don’t need to apply much pressure to know it’s working. Your entire leg will probably need two or three passes to remove all the hair, but each pass is less painful than the previous. By the time I was done, my legs were beet red, but man, they were smooth.

Since then, I’ve also epilated my underarms with similarly positive results. Since the area is much smaller, the whole episode only took a few seconds, but it did demand multiple passes in order to completely vanquish all the hairs in its path.

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Most epilators, including the Braun Silk-épil 9, are safe for use on both wet or dry skin; I’ve tried both, and both suck! I will say, it is easier to see what you’re doing when you’re not also trying not to slip and fall in the shower; the Braun actually has a bright light on the front that helps you see even the finest of hairs. Something you should try to do prior epilating is exfoliate. It will help your hairs come out more easily and less painfully.

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Finally, epilators do not come cheap. The Braun Silk-épil 9 costs $125, a price that hurts almost as much as the epilation itself. But still, I’m very much looking forward to all the money I’ll save on disposable razor heads, and maybe some day, to having skin as hairless and smooth as that of a dolphin and a pain tolerance that reaches as high as the sun.


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