Shavers and razors cut hair off at skin level, but epilators use motorized tweezers to pluck it out at the root. No two ways about it, epilating is a painful experience. A survey published in Australia's Choice magazine reports that 40 percent of epilator users find them to be "very" or "moderately" painful to use and that 43 percent experience irritation like itching or redness.
Epilating also takes a long time. Lying on a towel and watching television while epilating -- or listening to music with headphones -- is pretty common; some women find it takes so long that they simply refuse to epilate their legs.
Still, epilators have quite a few things going for them. Over time, epilated hair comes back finer and stays away longer; after the first few epilations, some women can go a couple of weeks between touch-ups. Experienced epilators also say that as your skin adapts, the whole process becomes less painful -- more of a tingling or prickling sensation than real pain. If you're used to waxing, they say, making the switch to epilation is a cinch. Your hair type seems to have a lot to do with the pain level; the coarser and more deeply rooted the hair, the more it's going to hurt when it comes out. Epilators can also save you money because you don't have to pay for shaving cream or replacement blades.
A word to the wise: If you use medication that leaves your skin particularly delicate, you might want to consult a physician about using an epilator; we found a few user comments that Retin-A and similar medications result in epilators tweezing skin off instead of hair.
Noise is another constant with epilators -- we have yet to see a whisper-quiet model. The Remington Smooth & Silky Epilator EP6025C (Est. $60) seems to get the worst noise reviews. One Walmart.com reviewer describes it as a "lawnmower," but says it also gives the best results. After the first few uses, reviewers say, the EP6025C creates silky-smooth legs or underarms that last for a week or more. Depending on your hair type, you might even get by with epilating once a month or so.
This epilator has two speeds to accommodate various hair types. Users also like the extra, smaller epilating head that's included with the Remington EP6025C. They say it's good for clearing smaller, curvier areas like an armpit or your face without pinching.
The Emjoi OptiMax (Est. $50 and up) catches a little flak for noisiness too, but nobody compares it to gas-powered machinery. It does, however, draw more than the usual criticism for being slow and requiring lots of passes to pluck all the hairs in a small area. This could be a plus for those who've never epilated before and are concerned about the pain.
Experienced epilators, posting to Amazon.com, say that pain from the Emjoi OptiMax is "middling, not too bad," although it still hurts. We also found a few complaints about ingrown hairs; they're scattered but still more prevalent than for the Remington EP6025C, which has many more reviews.
Both epilators are easy to hold and easy to use. They're also easy to clean -- the Emjoi OptiMax's tweezing head pops off entirely, so you don't have to brush it out, and the Remington EP6025C's tweezing head is washable. You cannot, however, use either epilator in the shower or bath. Replacement heads start at $15 for the Emjoi OptiMax, and Remington does not list a price -- or item number -- for replacement heads.
Though the Remington EP6025C is noisy, it's effective, and its smooth, long-lasting results make it our best reviewed pick for this report.