What are Electric Tweezers?

J.S. Metzker Erdemir

Electric tweezers are a tool used in depilation. They work like regular tweezers except that they are attached to an electrical current. The current is supposed to kill the hair follicle and permanently remove the hair, but unlike electrolysis, there is no direct contact between the follicle and electricity. Although sold widely for home and professional use, electric tweezers are not considered an effective method of permanent hair removal.

Electric tweezers utilize electrical current to kill hair follicles and remove hair.
Electric tweezers utilize electrical current to kill hair follicles and remove hair.

Electric tweezers were invented in 1959, and marketed as a method of painless and permanent hair removal. By the 1970s, they were widely sold to professional beauticians for use in salons. In 1985, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sanctioned companies selling electric tweezers because their claim that the tweezers permanently remove hair was unsubstantiated. Following the sanctions, manufacturers were required to include information on their labels stating that the product could only remove hair temporarily.

The tweezers sanctioned by the FTC ran on AC current, so a wave of products using DC current hit the market in the early 1990s. Most of these tools were sold directly to consumers through TV infomercials and advertisements. Amid claims from the scientific community that electricity cannot travel down a hair into the follicle, many of these companies sold a conductive gel along with their electric tweezer products. Some companies sold electric tweezers as "transdermal electrolysis" to avoid association with the negative media attention received by the product.

To remove hair with tweezers, the hair is pinched in the tweezers and pulled out by the root. As a method of temporary hair removal, electric tweezers are generally effective because the hair is still plucked out completely. They have the advantage of being less painful than regular tweezers. Although hair removal by tweezing is only temporary, hair that was pulled out by the root takes longer to grow back than hair that was cut.

Using electric tweezers can be a lot more time-consuming to use than regular tweezers because the hair must be held for up to three minutes to allow for the supposed action of the electrical current traveling down the hair to the root. This method of depilation is also considerably more expensive than regular tweezers.

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