A few weeks ago I decided that I wanted to try an epilator for no other reason than I was going to be travelling around the same time and I didn’t want to deal with the inconvenience of carrying hand-warming waxing strips or a razor and shaving cream.
I have been waxing for 12 years now, and of those 12 years I have been self-waxing for 4, so I am no stranger to the pain of hair removal. But let me just tell you that an epilator is not for the faint hearted. It hurts, but there are definitely a number of benefits as well as a few other drawbacks to using an epilator instead of waxing, and here they are.
First things first, what is an epilator?
It is an electrical hair removal machine that removes hair from the root. It has a set of tweezers on a rotating wheel that quickly (and painfully) removes many hairs with each pass of the epilator on the skin. They can be plug in devices or come with rechargeable batteries.
Compared to waxing?
Waxing is the process of applying a soft or hard wax directly to the skin in the direction of the hair growth, and then removing the hair from its roots by quickly pulling the wax off. A good quality wax clings to the hair and not the skin, taking the hairs with it when it is pulled off.
Which lasts longer?
Because both epilators and waxing removes the hair from the root, assuming the both are of good quality, the hair removal from either should last equally as long. This can be anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.
But, with an epilator you are able to remove hair a lot sooner after it has grown back. Waxing requires at least ½ cm worth of growth for the wax to be able to effectively grab the hair, but an epilator is able to grab the hair as soon as it breaks the surface of the skin, so you would be able to epilate sooner.
A down side to this is that because hair grows in cycles, epilating before the optimal time in the hair growth cycle might have you removing hair a lot more frequently as new hairs grow out in different stages.
That makes this point entirely dependant on your lifestyle. If you only have time to remove your hair once a month, waxing is the better option for you. However, if you are already shaving once a week is there any harm in switching out the razor for an epilator?
What are the costs?
For the purpose of this comparison, let’s look at home care for 2 years*. A mid-range epilator can cost around R500 with a 2 year guarantee. So if you take care of the device, this is a one-time purchase of R500.
Hand warming waxing stripes, or a pot of microwavable wax can cost anywhere between R75 and R90 and these are one time use products. If used correctly and sparingly, these products can last up to 3 months so for this comparison, lets average the cost of home care at R85 for 3 months. That will cost you R2040 for 2 years – R1540 more than an epilator.
*A professional wax can range anywhere from R150 – R500 per treatment. Assuming you follow the hair growth cycle rules, you will be waxing once a month. This comes to a whopping R3 600 – R12 000 for 2 years of hair removal.
Which is more painful?
Tough questions… both hurt more than shaving or depilatory creams which only remove the hair at the surface of the skin.
If you are waxing for the first time after only ever shaving, it is obviously going to be painful. But waxing sends more sensory information to the brain – the hot wax being applied, the strip of paper being pressed onto your skin, and then the pulling of the strip off the skin – that you don’t notice the full extent of pain.
If you are epilating for the first time after only ever shaving, it is going to be very painful. Shaving thickens the hair follicle and pulling hair from a thicker follicle increases the level of pain you are going to feel. If you are choosing to epilate for the first time after shaving, I would suggest having a full professional wax first and then start epilating the regrowth as the follicle will be slightly smaller. Also, there is no additional sensory information being sent to the brain here, only the pulling of hair from its follicle.
Over the past few weeks, I have realised that waxing is less painful but I have become used to the feeling of the epilator. Epilating in summer when the follicles are warm is less painful than epilating in the winter.
In this case, I would say waxing wins. Especially in the colder months because the wax warms up the skin.
How long does each take?
Epilators make removing hair easy. You plug it in, turn it on, and you’re good to go.
Waxing requires planning and pre-waxing setup – the wax obviously needs to be warmed up which can take up to 15 minutes.
Epilating wins this comparison.
What skills do you need?
If you are a beginner, you will probably remove hair faster with an epilator than you will with waxing. An epilator requires no skill. You simply plug it in, turn it only and slowly move it over your skin to pull the hair out – it does the job for you.
Waxing requires a certain level of skill before you can remove your hair (almost) as well as a professional, but this can come with practice.
Which one is more convenient?
Lay out a towel, plug in the device and you can epilate anywhere. Especially if you have a battery powered epilator it can easily be taken on holiday with you.
Before you can start waxing you will need to lay out a towel or disposable paper towel roll to catch any of the drip, and have a reliable heat source to warm up the wax like a microwave or wax warmer. Waxing kits don’t always travel easily so taking it on holiday may be cumbersome.
My overall winner?
Personally, the winner is the epilator. It might be that I am biased because I have a fun new device that still sparks joy in me, but the epilator is faster, cheaper, more convenient, and less messy than waxing. But that being said, you might favour one characteristic over another so only you can decide which you prefer. I hope that my breakdown has given you more insight and helped you determine which method you prefer.
Let me know in the comments which one you prefer and why?