Both epilation and depilation relate to the removal of unwanted hair. Depilatories are preparations or processes that are used to remove hair through a chemical degradation process. The most common form of depilation is shaving. Another popular option is the use of chemical depilatories, which work by breaking the disulfide bonds that link the protein chains and give hair its strength, making the hair disintegrate.
Depilatories neatly remove hair just at the surface and without the pain associated with epilation. Chemical irritation is always a potential side effect of depilatories when the product is improperly rubbed onto skin instead of just spread across the hair.
Epilation is removal of the entire hair, including the part below the skin, and lasts longer than depilation. Methods include waxing, sugaring, epilation devices, lasers, threading, intense pulsed light or electrical means. Hair is also sometimes removed by plucking with tweezers.
The major advantage of epilation is the potential removal of the total hair follicle when the products are used properly. These procedures not only remove the unwanted hair but also delay re-growth until the hair bulb is reformed. Epilation is painful for the first-time user, but with proper technique and practice, this pain can be drastically minimized. Infection and ingrown hairs are potential side effects of epilation. Proper cleaning of the skin and hair prior to use can minimize infection.