Pictorial Guide: How To Properly Epilate Legs

visual guide epilating legs

We asked one of our testers who has been epilating for awhile: What is the best way to properly epilate to get the smoothest results?

Hey guys I here to talk to you all about epilators. You have probably heard of one. It’s like an electric razor, but instead of cutting your hair it pulls them out of your skin simultaneously kind of like a bunch of tweezers all at once.

Sounds kind of painful? Not going to lie –It is– especially when you first start, but after a awhile it is sort of feels like waxing your eyebrows.

Let me just say it is totally up to you whether you want to epilate or not. You are beautiful either way. For anyone who wants to start, I’m here to walk you through all the steps.

When I first heard about it, it sounded too good to be true. For just the cost of a single complete body waxing, you could remove hair at the root for weeks in the privacy of your own home.

I still remember my first time. It was scary as heck. I had no idea where to start. I couldn’t really ask anyone because nobody I knew had even heard of epilators. I didn’t know what to expect. So if you are like me, I’m here to show you how it done.

Now before we get to actually showing you how to epilate, you should always epilate at night because it can cause redness and irritation for a short time. When you wake up you won’t be red anymore. If you have never epilated before or you know you have sensitive skin, always do a small test patch on the area you are epilating.

The first step is choosing a quality epilator. You want one that is going to leave you with the best results for your skin type.

What I recommend:
Here are the products I recommend: Quick list of products. You don’t need them all. You need to exfoliate, sanitize the skin, dry the skin, calm the skin, and use something for ingrown hair.

1. Prepare for the pain. 30 minutes before take a pain reliever

Motrin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aleve are you best friends. Doctors recommend Tylenol over ibuprofen (Advil), but either will help take the edge off. Be careful with Ibuprofen. Apparently ibuprofen does prolong bleeding.

2. Trim the lawn.

Epilators work better on shorter hair. Too long hairs and it doesn’t pick them up properly, too short and it doesn’t grip them properly. Grab your husband’s or boyfriend’s beard trimmer and trim the hair down to 3 to 5mm. Put it back and don’t tell him. If you don’t have a trimmer, shave the area and wait for 2 days of regrowth. Trimming the hair also lets you see the direction of your hair growth better.

3. Take a warm shower. Exfoliate.
Exfoliating in shower

Taking a warm shower helps soften the skin and allows the hair to slip out easier. Some people like to exfoliate right before epilating, but for some it can be too stimulating so it can be done the day before.

Those cheap scratchy spa gloves actually do wonders to remove dead skin cells. The gloves are nice because they give you more control to get into more delicate areas than a brush or cloth. I used one from Earth Therapeutics. Use them with an acne wash like Hibiclens or PanOxyl 10% to prevent the skin from breaking out after hair removal. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Move it to the other hand to get the places that you couldn’t reach with the first hand .

4. Sanitize the skin and epilator head.
Thayers Witch Hazel

Use a sanitizing product to wipe over the area to be treated. I like to clean the skin with Thayers Witch Hazel or 100% Tea Tree oil as it protect against infection. Make sure the skin is clear of any moisturizers, makeup, or lotion. Oils or other products left on the skin will cause the tweezers on the epilator to slip, resulting in poor hair removal and breakage. Also, clean the epilator head with a little rubbing alcohol.

5.Dust with baby powder against hair growth.

If epilating dry, dry your skin with a dry towel rubbing against the growth. Those darn pesky flat hairs that grow almost horizontally with the skin can be hard to pick up. Lightly dust the area with a thin layer of cornstarch or baby powder against the hair growth to lift the hairs off the skin. Very flat hairs can be brushed to lift them off the skin. Brush off any excess with your hand to avoid gunking up the epilator. This removes the moisture from the hair and makes the hair extra grippy. Since talc can be hazardous to your health, look for a baby powder without talc like Burt Bees.

6. Epilator virgins, try epilating wet. Pros skip this step.

The least painful way to epilate is wet. It’s really nice to be use it with a lather. You might want to do this a few times until your skin gets accustomed to plucking. It definitely takes a few more swipes to get all the hair since the hair is more slippery. However, I like using it for the super sensitive areas that are almost too painful to epilate dry. You aren’t going to get the best results but the first few times you don’t have to get every hair out. It helps condition the follicles and is less irritating to the skin.

Although you can submerge the epilator under water, I suggest wetting the skin and the epilator head. Squeeze a quarter sized blob of a great shaving cream like Coochy gel onto the epilator. Don’t use soap since the hair must stay suspended in the lather and not stick to the skin. Let it buzz up with foam. This creates a nice foamy lather which lets the skin slide over the skin while lifting the hairs off the skin. Don’t forget once you are done epilating rinse the foam away and check for any missed hair.

7. Stretch your skin
pull skin tight

Epilators work better on flat skin. Pull the skin with one hand as you as you softly glide against the grain with the epilator in the other hand. Stretch skin flat even if you have to pull off crazy yoga moves like a downward facing dog or reclining goddess. Stretching skin not only helps the epilator pick up hair better, it makes the whole process so much more comfortable.

8. Glide the epilator using extremely slow strokes

Glide the epilator in steady slow movements over a small area against the growth until the hair is clear, keeping the epilator perpendicular for good skin contact. Clear the hair in a methodical fashion. Most epilators have 2 speeds, low and high. The lower speed setting is for finer hair and the higher setting is for more coarse hair. Divide the area in small segments.

hair growth sections

Direction of hair growth on legs. Epilate in the opposite direction of hair growth.

Don’t use long strokes like shaving. Pay attention to the direction of hair growth as everyone is unique. Hair may grow in many different directions so vary the strokes accordingly. If the hair is growing in many directions use smaller and smaller strokes. Sometimes using circular movements can help, but moving too fast may result in hair breakage if the hair is pulled from the wrong angle.

Unlike shaving, you want to float the epilator on the skin. If you press down on the hair, the tweezers won’t be able to grab it. If you hear the motor stressing, you are pressing down too hard. Using the epilator incorrectly may cause the tweezers to pinch your skin. It won’t hurt but it surprises you.

You should feel small pinpricks as the hair is plucked out. Initially, it takes longer to epilate than to shave, but the long term results are worth it. Work from the bottom of the leg up. Clear each section before moving onto the next. It can get painful so sometimes I tend to go faster than other times but you should go slow as possible, getting all the hairs. The slower the better. Going too fast will break the hairs.

9. Epilate inner side of lower leg

epilating inner side lower legs
Sitting down, start on the inside of leg just slightly above the ankle. Work in small 5 inch sections against the growth moving the epilator slowly upward. After making a slow pass for about 5 inches, reposition the epilator at the start and make another pass. Keep repeating until all the hair is clear in the section. Once the small area is clear, the next area should be directly above the previous area until you reach the knee.

10. Epilate inner side of the shin

epilating shin hair
Then return to the bottom of the leg repeating the same process over again. The next area should be just to the inside of the shin bone. Remove hair in small sections until you reach the knee.

11. Epilate front of lower legs

epilating lower front leg hair
Now remove hair from the front of the lower legs in a similar manner stopping again at the knee.

12. Epilate outer side of lower leg

epilating outer lower leg hair
Rotate the foot slightly inward and repeat the same process on the outer portion of the lower leg up to the knee.

13. Epilate the calf

epilating calf
In general, hair on the calf grows across from the outside to the inside, but it can also grow downward. Go by feel. Start at the bottom of the leg moving the epilator from the inside of the calf to the outside across the leg. Continue up the calf until you reach the knee.

14. Epilate the knees

epilating knees
Epilating the knees is painful. To epilate the front of the knee, bend your leg resting it flat on the floor. There are lots of folds here so this position ensures that the skin is tight. Hair on the knee grows downward and out from the middle of the knee to the lower half. Epilate in the opposite direction.

Before doing the back of the knees, stretch your leg out as far as you can. There are a lot of skin folds behind the knee so you have to make sure the skin is pulled taut so that the epilator won’t pinch the skin. The back of the knee is one of the most painful areas to epilate. The hair growth at the back of the knee can vary. Remove hair in the opposite direction of the growth.

15. Epilate middle portion of upper thigh

epilating mid thighs
It’s up to you if you want stop at the knee or go higher. Some women have light hair growth on the upper leg. The upper leg is more painful to epilate. When epilating the upper leg, it is very important that the skin is held tight. The skin on the thigh is usually looser than the lower leg. There are a lot of folds on the back of the thigh. On the upper leg, the hair grows downward in the middle and outward on the sides.

Start by epilating the middle section of the thigh in small sections making several passes starting at the knee until you reach the point where there in no hair growth. Since hair grows downward, use upward strokes.

16. Epilate the outer thigh

epilating outer thigh
Next epilate the outer thigh starting at the knee. Move the epilator back towards the center against the growth. Continue up the thigh until you reach the point where there is no hair growth.

17. Epilate the inner thigh

epilating inner thigh
Now open the leg you are epilating outward while keeping your other leg straight so that you can epilate the inner thigh. Start again at the knee. Be careful to pull the skin in this area tight since it is very delicate. Work the epilator back towards the center against the growth. Complete sections up the inner thigh up until the bikini line.

18. Epilate the back of the thigh

epilating back of thigh
The back of the thigh is tricky since hair can grow in different directions. You have to go by feel. Hair usually crosses from the outside in for most of the thigh.

At the top it changes. Most of the time the top portion grows upwards toward the butt. Bring your knee to your chest, grabbing your leg behind the knee to tighten the skin on the back of the thigh. Then start epilating in sections from the butt down to the back of the knee.

19. Pluck any stragglers with a pair of tweezers.

For a smoother finish, use a pair of sterilized tweezers to pluck difficult hair.

20. Calm the skin.

Use witch hazel or an antiseptic epilation lotion to soothe the skin. I like Thayers witch hazel products since they don’t have alcohol. Don’t use any moisturizer. It has to be noncomedogenic or it will clog your pores. There are some lotions which supposedly reduce hair growth, but I am not convinced of this.

Any hair removal at the root can cause red bumps. It is called erythema. What happens is that the blood rushes to the site of hair removal and a reddening of the skin appears. The best thing to do is epilate at night before you go to bed.

You might even get hives which is a histamine reaction in which you may see red irritated skin and bumps for 24 hours or more. If you are new to epilation, this is very common and will subside. The next time hives can be avoided by taking Benadryl before epilating.

Red dots might be visible on epilated areas. These red dots are actually caused by blood at the base of the follicle. When removing very coarse hair like underarm and bikini hair at the root for the first time , it is normal to see blood spots because the hair is removed at the papilla. This is just blood that was nourishing the follicle. The blood spots will be reabsorbed into the skin.

The first time, my skin was red and bumpy and there were little red dots on my skin. The first time is the worst. If you have irritation or swelling, you can apply ice or pure aloe vera a few times a day to help the skin heal. After awhile my skin adjusted to it.

After Care

It is important for you to take extra care of the epilated area, especially during the first 24–48 hours. When a lot of hair is removed the area could be prone to infection if not cared for. Continue the use of the antiseptic epilating lotion like Finipil or witch hazel daily for 3–4 days after hair removal.
Avoid:

  • sunbathing
  • sunbed treatments
  • very hot baths
  • friction from tight clothing
  • perfumed body lotion or creams
  • deodorants and anti-perspirants
Pro Tips

Maintenance

Epilate everyday or other for 2 weeks. Touch up weekly. At first, it is unlikely that you will remain hair free for 6 weeks. The key is to prepare your skin well and keep epilating regularly. Your hair goes in cycles: growth, death, and rest. Not all hair grows out. Most of it is resting under the skin. On the legs, the typical growth cycle is 6 weeks. After 3 complete epilation sessions, you will have removed all the hair and less hair will grow back at the same time. Your skin will stay soft and smooth for longer.

For the first week or two, you want to epilate every day. After the initial 2 weeks, I recommend touching up weekly. If you wait too long, the hair roots will get stronger and you will have to start the whole process again.

Unlike waxing, you don’t have wait for hair to grow out in order to epilate again so you don’t have to be stuck in that awkward phase for hair to grow out. That’s great since the moment I put on shorts, my gorilla hair grows out. Here is the best part: Repeated epilating thins growth. Mary Lupo, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University Medical School, says the “hair grows in sparser and finer”.

Ingrown Hair

Once you remove hair, you have to worry about preventing ingrown hair, which is hair that gets trapped under the skin. Treatment includes manual plus chemical exfoliation to loosen skin cells so that hair can break through the skin’s surface. Once your skin is free from irritation, every day after hair removal use a spa glove or salux towel with an acne wash. I am also a big fan of dry brushing before showering with sonic exfoliating brush like the Clarisonic, Neutrogena, or Olay.

You also want to treat the area like you would want to treat acne with a glycolic, salicylic, or alpha hydroxy product. I like Tend Skin or PFB Vanish. If you don’t mind smelling like vinegar, Tend Skin works great. To me, Tend Skin smells pretty gross so I prefer PFB Vanish which actually smells pretty decent. The trick is to not stop using it. Wait a day after epilating and use it every day after you get out of the shower. If you stop, dead skin cells will accumulate, blocking the follicles.

Try to wear loose fitting clothes for a few days to give your skin room to breathe.

Have you epilated your legs? Do you have any tips to share? Comment below.

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