If you’ve got an epilator, I am going to go ahead and assume you’ve got a love/hate relationship with it.
I honestly can’t begin to count the amount of times I have dramatically fallen out with mine and threatened to put an end to its miserable little life by throwing it out the window of my 15th floor apartment (or if I was feeling particularly creative — pretending to take it out for a nice quiet day at the beach, hiring a jetski and, once out far far from shore, dropping it out in the middle of the ocean).
Yeah, epilation can give the most smoothy, sexy, silky skinned results and bring you one step closer to achieving your dream of being a naked mole rat…
...but honestly one could not be blamed for wanting to give it all up thanks to the pain it causes *sob*.
Despair you shall not! I’ve gone and done an epic scouring of the interwebs to find an answer to your calls for a pain-free solution, and in the process I’ve unearthed a handful of top-notch expert beauty blogs that offer a huge range of pain-free epilation tips that actually work.
Whether it’s basic best practice techniques or more exotic ideas for what to rub on your skin ‘post-epi’, the tips you’re about to read are sure to have you on your way to a (practically) pain free experience.
1. Scrub the absolute cr*p out of your skin first
It’s pretty much unanimous, exfoliating is of the absolute utmost importance if you’re going to epilate your hair away.
It prevents dead skin cells from building up and potentially causing irritating ingrown hairs and unsightly red bumps. As Felicia points out on the ever-stylish The Beauty & The Geek blog, exfoliating will also free up any ingrown hairs you already have and bring them to the surface of your skin to be epilated.
One more expert tip (from the experts!): do the exfoliating the day before to avoid making your skin overly sensitive.
2. Fast and Furious: The “Ripping off the Band-aid” Technique
So, this kid named Sammy falls over. Sammy’s crying, he’s inexplicably covered in blueberry jam, and most disastrous of all, he’s got a scrape on his wickle knee. Daddy to the rescue whisks Sammy up into his tanned, toned arms (because why not) and proceeds to gently place an Angry Birds band-aid on the scrape — all better.
But the trauma is not over for wee Sammy. It’s now come time to take the band-aid off.
Dad promises to peel it off slowly on the count of three, then on the count of two he rips it the hell off. Sneaky ol’ Pa. Yet, lo and behold, the anticipated pain is over before Sammy’s even had time to process what happened. Same same epilating!
If you’ve ever plucked your eyebrows, you know what I’m talking about. Using the tweezer to pull a hair out slowly is way more painful than just yanking it out as fast as possible, amirite?
Jen, the author of From Head to Toe testifies: although it might seem counter-intuitive, the faster and more furiously you go at it the less pain overall you’ll be in. You’ll also get the job done quicker and minimize the chance of needing to go over the same area multiple times.
3. Get wet (not that kind of wet! Focus!)
Haven’t you heard the phrase wetter is better? Me neither — but anyway, same goes for epilation; taking a warm shower or bath will open up your pores and therefore make pulling out the hairs easier and less painful. If you use a wet/dry epilator you can actually use it in the shower or bath, just...yeah, make sure the manual says you can use it wet.
Now, we should point out that this trick doesn’t work so well for everyone. Josie over at Fashion Mumblr wrote a really insightful article about this, making an excellent point that if you’re a person with naturally soft hairs, then getting them wet first may result in the epilator snapping the hairs off instead of pulling them out. Now, she hadn’t experienced it personally and nor have I, but it is something to watch out for if you try this technique and aren’t achieving the desired effect.
4. Keep your skin tighter than the corset Angelina Jolie wore in Mr & Mrs Smith
...yes that one.
By using one hand to hold your skin tight or “taut” and continuing to epilate with the other, you’ll be able to significantly reduce the amount of pain you’re experiencing. The crew over at Beautiful Hamesha do a great job of explaining the reasoning behind this: tightening the skin exposes the roots of the hairs which makes it easier for the epilator to do its job with little resistance. Like they explain, it’ll be a little tricky in the beginning but once you get the hang of it you’ll be reaping the benefits.
5. Chill… Chill hard.
I’m sure you will have heard about the benefits of using some sort of soothing after care product already, and it’s true. Using a cooling lotion can definitely help with the after epilation ouchies; keep an eye out for products with ingredients like aloe, coconut, tea tree, or shea. The more natural the product, the better — so try to avoid anything with alcohol derived ingredients or parabens.
You can even try using ice to numb the area before you start epilating, as suggested by Andrea over at Hair Facts.
The best combo I found was aloe and ice — genius! Aloe is an absolute lifesaver in so many ways.
I’m lucky that I live in a hot climate where I can grow my own in the garden, so I always have a fresh aloe supply that I keep in the fridge for situations just like this. For more info on the benefits of aloe vera for sensitive skinned gals who are braving the epilator, check out the blog on the topic from Natalie at The Only Ones.
Pro tip: try putting whatever product you are going to use in the fridge the night before to make it extra cool.
6. Have a trim first
Generally speaking, if you’re going to start removing hair by pulling it out from the roots (i.e. waxing, sugaring or epilating) you’re going to want to hop off the shaving train.
Shaving causes hairs to be cut off, generally at the thickest point — which is why the regrowth is so prickly and stubbly (as is pointed out in the super comprehensive post on the subject from Lily Pebbles). Removing hair from the follicle itself means that when it regrows, it will be much finer.
Basically, shaving every once in awhile in between epilations can actually serve to undo a lot of your hard work.
However, the razor-epilator relationship is not so black and white.
We learned a tonne (and had a serious laugh) reading the honest and super informative blog from Daniella Argento, who talks about what her experience as a trans woman was like to use an epilator for the first time. Her top tip (after learning the hard way, I might add) was to shave a couple days beforehand, this way the epilator will really pluck the hairs as opposed to pulling.
She also points out that because your hair grows back in cycles, by shaving first you’ll be able to tackle smaller amounts of hair at each time, thereby reducing the pain factor.
7. Be aware of the direction of your hair growth
Between all of the different forms of hair removal torture out there, it can be confusing to know whether to remove hair in the direction of the growth or not. Waxing goes against the growth for example, but sugaring with it. When it comes to epilation though, the jury is unanimous: you really must move the epilator in the opposite direction to the hair growth.
I was really chuffed when I found this expert tip from Kathryn Rossiter at Becoming You, which honestly makes all the difference; rub the hair in the opposite direction to the hair growth with your hand first to make all of the hairs stand up. This will make it easier for the tweezers to grip onto your hairs! While this doesn’t exactly help to reduce pain directly, it does make the epilator work more effectively and minimise the chances of you needing to go over the same area twice.
8. Save sensitive parts for last
Diving straight in the deep end and trying to tackle your most sensitive parts first to “get them out of the way” may actually end up being your downfall. As the hair removal guru Andrea over at above-mentioned Hair Facts says, removing hair from your sensitive areas can leave you feeling stressed out and tense, which may end up discouraging you from finishing the job.
We highly recommend checking out her full blog on the subject of managing hair removal pain, where you will find tonnes of great ideas — from turning up your favorite tunes, to practicing special breathing techniques.
9. If you really, REALLY can’t handle it still: numbing cream/pain killers
This is probably the most extreme (albeit effective) pain relief. Applying a numbing cream before you epilate will surely reduce the pain you’re experiencing, but let me warn you these creams can also make your skin and hairs quite slippery and therefore harder to remove. Best off patch testing it first to see if it will still work with the epilator.
If you’re going down the numbing cream route, it’s super important to make sure the product you are using will not irritate those with sensitive skin. We recommend thoroughly checking the active ingredients first, and even seeking the advice of a dermatologist if you’re unsure.
The crew member over at hilarious Vagina Pagina blog recommends using Orajel (also sometimes known as Benzocaine), for her it made the difference from unbearable pain to totally tolerable.
In terms of oral painkillers like Ibuprofen or aspirin, I’ve heard mixed reviews. The most comprehensive answer I have come across is from the knowledgeable blog Waxing with Judy, who says that although these medications do hold value in terms of reducing inflammation, they do little in terms of actually reducing pain. Check out her blog post on the matter to find out the science behind it!
So to wrap it all up…
- Use your epilator at full speed
- Take a shower
- Keep your skin tight
- If you’ve got very long hairs, trim them down or shave first
- Epilate in the opposite direction to your hair growth for maximum effect
- Save the sensitive parts for last
- Using a cooling after care product
- Last resort: numbing cream.
Just practice the tips we talked about in this article, and you’ll be smooth as a gravy train in no time!