Every so often I fall into a hole where I think some insanely expensive beauty device or gadget is going to change my life, turn me into a morning person, and do my taxes three months early. Normally, these binge purchases don’t wind up being that life-changing or cool (...like, I have to actually use the teeny, tiny, under-bed treadmill I got in order to get fit?), and I’m usually disappointed-neutral. So I never, in a lifetime of being hardwired like the consumer monster that I am, did I expect that the pricey beauty gizmo that would blow me away would be a freaking epilator—specifically, the Braun Silk-Epil 9 Flex.
I first read about an older version of the epilator on The Strategist, where a writer claimed it had saved her “thousands of dollars” on waxing. As someone too broke to have ever waxed a swath of skin as large as my legs, I couldn’t really relate. But the lazy gal in me LOVED the concept of not shaving for up to four weeks, and even with the new Epil 9 Flex costing more than $1oo, I was finally unable to resist any longer. Reader, my life has changed.
Wait, what is an epilator?
Epilators look like electric razors, but they work by rolling tons of teeny-tiny tweezers across your skin, plucking out hairs at the root without tugging or pinching. Not all epilators are the same, though—the Braun Silk-Epil 9 Flex is ~fancy~ and comes with a bunch of attachments, like a massage head and a shaver/trimmer combo, all aimed at making your skin smoother and the process less painful. Most epilators can be pretty basic, though—just a tweezing head and your hairy skin against the world.
Does epilating hurt?
I know pulling individual hairs from your body sounds like an ultra-painful, medieval waxing experience, but it was not nearly as bad as I was expecting. At worst, it feels like the beginning of a static shock (think the kind you get from futzing with your duvet), but one that you never really feel the end of, if that makes sense. But, again, every epilator (and pain tolerance) is different.
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I’m pretty sure the reason the Braun doesn’t hurt so much—and trust, I epilated e-v-e-r-y-where (more on that below)—is because (1) It’s got a built-in “you’re pushing way too f*cking hard” sensor to keep you gentle; and (2) The edges of the epilator are covered with a bunch of tiny rollers that help distract your skin from the mass tweezing that’s happening.
But for comparison’s sake, I also tried my friend’s Emjoi Epiliator that’s top-rated on Amazon and only $70 (I sanitized it with alcohol, don’t worry), and I wanted to cry after running it over one tiny patch of my arm hair. She also tried my Braun and said it was way better than her Emjoi, so, you know. Facts. Still, lemme break the pain down for you:
THE PAIN SCALE
Pain-wise, here’s a very TMI rundown of what it felt like to epilate each part of my body:
➰ My stick-straight, coarse leg hair:
At worst, feels like the little electric zap I mentioned before. It’s like your brain registers the pain, and then as soon as you brace for it to get worse, it’s already over. Definitely less painful than threading.
➰ My knees, thighs, belly button and arms:
This would be the finest, softest hair on my body because I don’t shave it ever. I couldn’t feel a thing, even pressing down super hard.
It’s a more sensitive part than your legs, but it still isn’t that bad.
➰ My pubes:
I have probably the densest pubic hair on earth (it’s stick straight, looks like mechanical pencil lead, etc). And yet I’ve managed to give myself a full Brazilian—including asshole hair—without dying. The mons pubis (I’m a sex editor, baby—that’s what we call it!) is by FAR the most painful (8/10), but actual labia (4/10) and butthole-adjacent hairs (2/10) surprisingly don’t hurt.
How to epilate (your pubes, mainly)
There’s no real trick to epilating something easy like your arm—just roll it down. But your pubes? That’s next-level, so take my pro tips: Trim all the hairs to be uniform and short (the Braun comes with a trimmer head), pop a pillow under your butt, grab a mirror, pull your skin taut, and take your time.
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Go side-to-side in small strokes, gradually increasing the width of each stroke, rather than running it over a new, thick patch of hair each time. Adrenaline is your friend here, so take breaks, but don’t stop. If you do the mons pubis first, the labia and everything else will feel like a breeze, and after a while, you become kinda numb to it. It took me two hours to do the whole Brazilian, which is a lot, but so is $60 for a wax.
How long does epilation last?
It’s been three weeks since I epilated, and I have no regrowth on my arm hairs, belly button, pits, or pubes. My legs were a little more stubbly, but these were the most ingrown-riddled areas I worked on (and my heavy exfoliation efforts as of late have also surfaced new tiny hairs), but all of the stubble is basically invisible. From a visual perspective, I would feel comfy going out in shorts—you still can’t see any hairs—so I’m pretty confident that the claims of “weeks” of smooth skin stand true.
Do you epilate on wet or dry skin?
Epilating wet is going to be a less painful than dry, as there’s water to coat and comfort the skin, according to dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, MD. However, “dry epilation is more efficient because the hairs are not flatted down by water,” she says, so the epilator can catch and pull each hair better.
For what it’s worth, my personal experience did not find epilating wet to be any more soothing, but contorting around in my iron maiden of a single shower stall may have impacted this.
How to deal with the ingrown hairs
My legs are covered in tiny baby ingrowns that I just never care enough about to fix, but the epilator kind of popped them open. Seeing the rest of my legs so smooth made me want to take better care and exfoliate better so that next go-around, I can have even smoother legs. Using either chemical or physical exfoliants are fine here, as long as they’re not irritating, says Susan Bard, MD, a dermatologist in NYC.
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I personally have been going ham with my Salux washcloth and my Nécessaire exfoliator, and following with generous cotton balls soaked in Tend Skin in an effort to decongest my ingrowns for a smoother future-epilation-sesh. Also generous finger-scoops of my fanciest lotion afterwards for good measure.
Should you try epilating?
I mean, you do you. I can’t vouch for every epilator, since I’m kinda convinced only the Braun Silk-Epil 9 Flex will be as painless as it was, but here’s my pro/con list to help you decide.
- It really did not hurt as badly as I was anticipating, especially on my finer hair.
- The built-in LED light is actually super useful (again, a Braun plus). I assumed it was like a bullshit marketing thing, but trying to epilate without that extra light on my legs was basically impossible.
- It’s SO nice that you can do it anywhere. You can basically just watch TV and run it up and down your legs mindlessly. Never again will I have to stick my leg in the shower just to shave my shins while I’m rushing out the door.
- My skin, which is by NO means sensitive, was covered in a buuuuunch of tiny red welts after my first epilation sesh. It was very jarring to see, but it went away after a few hours.
- The noise is the worst part at first. It sounds like a lawnmower eating up a stray twig when it catches a hair.
- It’s expensive. Everyone has different pain tolerances, and while I’d def classify myself as a pain weenie, who’s to say that the Braun Silk-Epil 9 will be just as painless for you? It’s definitely an investment to make and one that you might not be able to walk away from if you throw down so much cash for it.
And hey, if you don’t end up liking your epilator, can you do me a favor and send it to me? I want to give one to my mom but I’m broke. Cool, thanks.