woman with smooth legs after epilating for the first time

What you need to know before epilating for the first time

You’re officially ready to give up waxing for a more affordable option. Your bank account will thank you. During your research you discovered a more sustainable option, called epilators, and you bought the model with the best reviews. Now you’re ready to try epilating for the first time. But before you hit the power button on your new toy, there are some things you should know. Some I just wish I knew before I tried the hair removal system, others will help you get smoother legs.

I’ve broken everything down into two sections: what to know and what to do before epilating for the first time. There are steps you can take to ensure your first experience gets you smoother legs. But there are also things I wish I knew before I started that, while they might not get you a better result, are good to know going in.

What to know before epilating for the first time

Or, things I wish someone had told me before I started epilating. Everyone I know either shaves or gets routine waxes. Some of these I learned the hard way, but at least you can benefit from them now.

Yes, it’s probably going to hurt

Waxing hurts, right, so why wouldn’t epilating? Although I’ve read accounts from people claiming it doesn’t hurt at all, I think it’s because they’re used to it. Just like plucking your eyebrows was painful when you first started out, epilating can hurt at the beginning. Some areas of your legs you’ll find are more tender than others. (For me that was around the ankle bone and the entire area around the knee.) You’ll quickly learn where to take it slowly.

Granted, I have very sensitive skin. For those of you whose skin doesn’t react to anything, you might be fine. But if you’re worried about it, I’ve included some tips below on how to cut down on the tenderness. Rest assured even if you have sensitive skin that you get used to the feeling. The pain really does diminish each time, and the result you get is well worth the discomfort.

There are consequences if you do this wrong

Just like getting a bad wax or using an old razor, there are ways to mess up that will have consequences. Your skin is going to let you know if you did something wrong while epilating for the first time. Despite following the directions included with my epilator, I managed to mess it up. But at least you can learn from me. I’ve added notes below on how I could have avoided the skin issues, but it’s helpful to know what happened.

A couple days after epilating for the first time, my legs broke out in tiny red bumps that itched like crazy, We worried that the apartment had bed bugs before realizing that only I had the semi-rash. My poor legs were dotted with tiny ingrown hairs that took about a week to go away. Some research uncovered where I went wrong, and I’ve included it as a tip below.

Your hair will grow back quickly, at first

You might know this if you’re an avid waxer, but our hair grows in waves. The hair that you’re going to pluck away while epilating for the first time isn’t the same hair that will grow back. That’s why it seems like your hair comes back quickly. Those hairs causing your frustration were already growing under your skin when you epilated. The hairs you just plucked will take longer to come back because they were removed from the root. But we have three or so of these waves. So you have to work through each round of these hairs before you see the long-term benefits of plucking with an epilator. Your hair will appear to come back quickly at first, but the rate will diminish. Just stick with it.

epilating for the first time on legs

Sharon McCutcheon

What to do before epilating for the first time

So what can you do to ensure it goes smoothly when you’re epilating for the first time? Here are some must-try tricks for getting that silky smooth finish that you know and love from waxing.

Exfoliate before you epilate

If there’s only one thing you take away from this article about epilating for the first time, make it this one. Nothing in my instructions said to exfoliate before I started, and that’s why I ended up with ingrown hairs all over my legs. Take the extra time now so that you don’t spend a week recovering with itchy, bumpy legs. Believe me, it’s not fun. I’ve previously broken down my favorite exfoliators, which are also nourishing and hydrating, both of which I cannot recommend highly enough for working into your pre-epilation routine.

Try to avoid caffeine

Caffeine is a vasodilator, which in layman’s terms means it gets the blood flowing. It opens up, or widens, your blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow through and reach any given region of your body. More blood flow closer to the surface of your skin could mean more sensitivity before and after epilating, as well as redness. If you can’t go without that morning cup of Joe, just skip the afternoon caffeine. The best time to epilate is at night, and the caffeine from your morning cup should be out of your system by then.

Make sure the hair is the right length

You know from plucking your eyebrows that you can get hairs at a wide variety of lengths with the right tool. But that doesn’t mean you’re getting it out at the root. To pluck hairs from the root, that’s what keeps you feeling smoother for longer, you need to make sure the hairs are long enough. Let your leg hair get to about ¼ to ½-inch long before epilating for the first time.

Work at night, and have lotion at the ready

You’re not going to want to try epilating for the first time in the morning. First, because it’s going to take longer than you think to get all the hair the first time. I had to make three or four passes on my legs the first time I tried. Second, and most importantly, your skin is going to turn a little red, even if you don’t have sensitive skin. The easy way around this is working at night and slathering your legs with lotion before you go to bed. Any redness and inflammation will disappear by morning. I have sensitive skin and time, plus some lotion with aloe in it, did the trick on the flush I had on my legs.

The dirt on epilating for the first time

You might want to quit because it hurts, but give it a couple tries before you throw in the towel. Plucking your eyebrows was painful once, too. If you only remember one other thing, please please please make it exfoliating before you epilate. Even if you didn’t read the section about this. Just trust me on this one, it’s not worth the time saved.

Allef Vinicius