What is an epilator?

An epilator is a handheld device that removes body hair by pulling it out at the root. Any hair removal method can cause ingrown hairs, including epilation.
An epilator is a handheld device that removes body hair by pulling it out at the root. Any hair removal method can cause ingrown hairs, including epilation.

If you have body hair in places that you don't want to, you may have tried a lot of different methods of removing it. Shaving, waxing, and dilatory creams are all effective methods for home hair removal. Another method that has gained popularity in recent years is using an epilator to remove hair at home.

Epilators work like waxing and keep unwanted hair away for several weeks. They're safe and effective for most people. 

One downside, though, is that they may cause ingrown hairs after use. 

An epilator is a handheld device that removes body hair by pulling it out at the root. One famous product called the Epilady uses a tightly coiled rotating spring to grasp and pull the hairs. 

Most epilators today have a rotating wheel covered in tiny tweezer-like heads. The tweezers grip the hair and pull it out as you roll the wheel across your skin. These devices are available over-the-counter, so you don’t need to visit a doctor to get one. You should read the manufacturer's instructions and any safety warnings before using an epilator, though.

The effect is similar to waxing, threading, or tweezing individual hairs. Since the epilator pulls the entire hair out of your skin, each strand of hair is completely removed. It may take several weeks for hair to grow back.

If you use a hair removal method like epilation or waxing regularly over a long period, the hair grows back thinner and becomes easier to remove.

Before using an epilator or any home hair removal method, read the instructions that come with the device. You should only use epilators on areas of the body that the manufacturer recommends. Some experts recommend against using an epilator near your genitals or in sensitive areas like your underarms. If you would like to, ask your doctor: Is it safe to epilate pubic hair?

After any type of hair removal, the hair grows back from the root, which is under the surface of the skin. It travels up through an opening called the follicle, which allows the hair to protrude outside your skin. If, however, a hair curls or bends before making it all the way out of the follicle, it can cause ingrown hairs.

What is an ingrown hair?

Ingrown hairs are hairs that curl around and grow under the skin instead of coming out through the surface of the follicle. The hair gets trapped and causes red bumps and skin irritation. The surrounding area sometimes gets infected and leads to pain and inflammation.

An ingrown hair may look like a pimple. Some are just red bumps, but others have a whitish head due to an infection under the skin. They may feel itchy or sore.

If you have an ingrown hair, you can take care of it by keeping the area clean. Avoid picking at the ingrown hair. Warm compresses may reduce swelling and help clear up infections. The ingrown hair may be resolved on its own.

If it doesn't get better over time, call your doctor. They can safely free the trapped hair using a sterile needle or small blade. It's not wise to try and remove the hair by yourself. That can cause injury or worsen the infection.

In some cases, infected ingrown hairs lead to scarring or lingering hyperpigmentation.

Rest assured, though: Many people get ingrown hairs. They're particularly common for people who have curly hair. You may experience them on your face after shaving your beard or around your groin after removing pubic hair.

Can epilators cause ingrown hairs?

Any hair removal method can cause ingrown hairs, including epilation. People with curly hair or very coarse hair may be more susceptible to ingrown hairs. Removing hair below the follicle can lead to pseudofolliculitis, more commonly known as razor bumps.

Every person’s hair and skin respond differently to hair removal. Some people never have problems with ingrown hairs, while other people get them frequently. You may find that some hair removal methods cause ingrown hairs, while others do not. If you have gotten razor bumps in the past, you might consider avoiding hair removal methods that are more likely to cause ingrown hair.

Dead skin cells or other debris may also clog the follicle. That might trap hairs so they are more prone to curling back and getting trapped under the skin.

How can you prevent ingrown hairs after epilator use?

Careful skin care after epilating or other hair removal methods may help reduce the risk of ingrown hairs. Many experts suggest washing the skin with warm water before any kind of hair removal. You may want to exfoliate your skin before epilating by scrubbing gently with a textured cloth or using an exfoliating scrub.

After epilating or using another hair removal method, gentle exfoliation may release any hairs that could get trapped. Using a cool cloth to soothe inflammation or irritation may also help reduce the risk of ingrown hairs.

In between hair removal sessions,  focus on regular exfoliation. Removing dead skin cells prevents them from building up and clogging the opening of hair follicles. You can exfoliate your skin with a textured washcloth or sponge.

You may also want to use a chemical exfoliant to prevent ingrown hairs. Mild exfoliants like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and lactic acid strip away dead skin cells without irritating your skin. You can find these ingredients in many over-the-counter skincare products.


An average adult has about ________ square feet of skin. See Answer

Other hair removal options

If pulling hair out by epilating leads to frequent ingrown hairs, you may want to consider a different hair removal method. Shaving or applying depilatory creams removes hair that protrudes above the skin but leaves the root intact. These methods are effective, though you will need to use them more frequently.

Waxing is another popular way to remove unwanted hair. You can go to a salon for professional waxing or use a do-it-yourself waxing kit at home. Waxing also pulls hair out at the root, though, so you may get ingrown hairs from that method of removing hair as well.

There are methods of permanent hair removal. Laser treatments and electrolysis can destroy the follicle so that it no longer produces hair. You will need to speak with a dermatologist about these treatments, though. Not all skin and hair types respond well to lasers or electrolysis. Your doctor can tell you if you are a good candidate for this type of hair removal.

If you have questions about using an epilator, caring for ingrown hairs, or any type of hair removal, call your doctor. They can help you care for your skin and manage your body hair. 

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Medically Reviewed on 5/11/2022


Consumer Reports: "Best Hair Removal Buying Guide."

HealthDirect: "Ingrown hair."

National Health Service: "Ingrown hairs."