What is Epilation?

Marco Sumayao

Epilation is a body hair removal method that rids whole groups of hair from the skin. Although its effect is temporary, it takes days or weeks for the hair to grow back, making it among the most popular methods of hair removal. Epilation services like threading and waxing are performed by professional aestheticians at salons. It can also be done at home using tools like tweezers, waxing kits, or a mechanical epilator.

A woman with hairless legs.
A woman with hairless legs.

Unlike depilation, a procedure that only removes hair from the surface, epilation pulls out the whole hair from the follicle, including the root. Since the hair will have to grow back from scratch, the effects of epilating last longer compared to other temporary types of hair removal. It is also believed that the frequent, long-term use of epilating devices will damage the hair follicle, making some hair loss permanent.

Threading is one of the oldest forms of epilation.
Threading is one of the oldest forms of epilation.

The earliest form of epilation is threading, a procedure that originates from the ancient Middle East. This procedure, called fatlah, uses a long strand of cotton thread to grasp and pull out unwanted hair. This is done by twisting the thread and rolling it along the skin’s surface; any hair that is caught in its coils gets pulled right out. Today, threading is offered at Western salons to shape eyebrows, get rid of female upper lip though, and eliminate unwanted facial hair.

Another type of epilation offered by salons is called waxing. This form of hair removal uses hot or cold sticky wax to get rid of hair in large areas, such as the legs or the pubic area. A thin layer of wax is applied to the skin, and a strip of cotton is placed on top. After a few seconds, the strip is pulled in one quick motion, against the direction of the hair growth. A similar method called “sugaring” uses a mixture of melted sugar, lemon juice, and water, as this is gentler on the skin than wax.

Epliation can also be performed at home, without the assistance of a professional aesthetician. Hand-held tweezers are commonly used to eliminate tiny groups of hair, such as those on the eyebrows, nipples, or chin. Do-it-yourself wax kits can be purchased at drug stores, and a mechanical device called an epilator automates the hair removal process. An epilator has a rotating row of tweezers that gets activated when plugged into a socket. Groups of hair get instantly removed as the device is rolled along the skin’s surface.

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