If your goal is to remove unwanted hair, you have many options. But that breadth of options can make determining which will meet your needs challenging.
If you've wondered whether epilating or waxing should be your go-to, we've got you covered. We reached out to board-certified dermatologists Vladyslava Doktor, DO, Adrienne O'Connell, DO, and Geeta Yadav, MD, to learn the ins and outs of both methods. Read on for the pros and cons of epilating and waxing, how they compare, and how to pick the technique for you.
Meet the Expert
- Vladyslava Doktor, DO, is a board-certified dermatologist and owner of Skin Center Boston.
- Adrienne O'Connell, DO, is the medical director and president of Laguna Beach Aesthetics.
- Geeta Yadav, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Facet Dermatology
What Is Epilating?
Epilating is a hair removal process that uses a handheld electronic device called an epilator which "grabs the hair at the root and plucks the hair while sending an electric current that zaps the hair," says O'Connell.
Pros and Cons of Epilating
- One perk of epilating is that the results are relatively long-lasting, usually around six weeks. "Epilating can grab shorter hairs than waxing," O'Connell says. "Therefore, you don't have to let the hair completely grow out in between treatments with epilating."
- O'Connell tells us that epilating allows you to do larger areas, such as the arms and legs.
- There's no sugarcoating that many forms of hair removal can be uncomfortable, including epilating. "Waxing offers a similar efficiency level but at least pulls many hairs out in one go, rather than the constant, ongoing plucking offered by an epilation device," says Yadav.
- Epilating can lead to redness and irritation. Ingrown hairs can occur if the epilator isn't used correctly.
What Is Waxing?
Waxing is a hair removal technique that uses wax and cloth or paper strips to remove hair at the root. "There is a soft wax that requires a strip to pull the hair out, or hard wax, where the wax hardens on the skin and then is removed, [pulling out] the hairs," O'Connell says.
Pros and Cons of Waxing
- Many people are drawn to waxing because you can wax nearly any body part, and the results last much longer than shaving. "Waxing pulls the hair out at the root, so the results of this form of hair removal can last up to six weeks," Yadav says.
- Another benefit is that waxing acts as a form of exfoliation and may decrease the likelihood of ingrown hairs. "When the wax is pulled from the skin, it takes the dead surface cells away with it," Yadav says.
Like epilating, waxing can be painful and may lead to redness, irritation, and discomfort. Many of waxing's other drawbacks are related to user error if you're waxing at home, Yadav says. Here are a few ways that waxing can go wrong:
- The wax can burn your skin if it's too hot.
- Waxing may be more painful and less effective if the hair is too long.
- If the wax is contaminated, it can cause infection.
But this doesn't mean waxing should be avoided. "When performed correctly and safely, waxing is one of the most effective and long-lasting forms of hair removal, aside from laser treatment," Yadav says.
How They Compare
Here are some of the nitty-gritty details on how waxing compares to epilating in terms of important factors like cost and frequency.
- Cost: You'll need to buy an epilating device. Typically, these can range in price between $25 and $150.
- Frequency: Epilating needs to be repeated somewhere between every three and six weeks, though the exact amount depends on how quickly your hair grows.
- Aftercare: Generally, no aftercare is required after epilating, but moisturizing afterward can be a good way to reduce or avoid skin irritation.
- Cost: The cost of waxing varies depending on a few factors, like the size of the area you're waxing, where you live, and whether you're waxing at home or paying someone to do it for you. "Generally, though, you can expect around $15 and up for a smaller area and $35 and up for a larger area," Yadav says.
- Frequency: You'll likely need to wax somewhere between every three and six weeks, depending on how quickly your hair grows.
- Aftercare: After waxing, your skin may feel very tender and sensitive. "Using an azulene oil can be very soothing," Yadav says. For the greatest benefits, apply this oil immediately after waxing.
How to Pick the Right One for You
Deciding whether waxing or epilating is right for you will depend on a few factors, including your budget, lifestyle, pain tolerance, and the area of your body where you want to remove hair. Both of these hair removal techniques come with perks and drawbacks. For example, some prefer waxing because it's quick, but regular waxing appointments add up in cost, Yadav points out.
Meanwhile, "epilator tools require one up-front investment rather than regular payments, and it can be done yourself, but it may be uncomfortable," Yadav says. "This discomfort can also take longer to complete your treatment." Another benefit of epilating is that hair regrowth is slower than other hair removal methods, explains Doktor.
Epilating and waxing can both leave you with uncomfortable or irritated skin. "If people have very sensitive skin and are allergic to many topical creams, waxing can cause allergic or irritant contact reactions, whereas epilation is more mechanical and less likely to cause the same rash or reaction," Doktor says. But epilating can also cause ingrown hairs if misused.
Finally, your medication regimen could influence your choice here. "If patients take certain antibiotics that increase photosensitivity—Accutane or Retin-A—I advise them to try epilation over waxing as waxing can cause too much irritation or even damage to the skin when taking [these] medications," O'Connell says.
The Final Takeaway
Waxing and epilating are both effective techniques to temporarily remove unwanted body hair. The best option depends on many factors, including your preferences, budget, and pain tolerance.