“The things we do for beauty!” – Probably the most common phrase professional waxers hear on a daily besides “Ahhhh! Kelly Clarkson!” If I had a nickel for every time, I heard a 40-year-old Virgin reference, I wouldn’t have to work another day in my life!
The bikini wax is perhaps the most feared of all. As much as smooth skin is high on our list of priorities, especially for an important event or vacation you’ve been waiting for all year, it doesn’t change the fact that waxing hurts. The unfortunate truth is that pain is all part of the process. Fortunately, there are vital steps you can take both before and after a wax service to curb the pain and suffering and make the process a bit smoother in more ways than one!
When it comes to waxing, the biggest misconception is that your hair is always going to get picked up, no matter what condition it’s in. There is so much more to waxing than the application and removal – it’s a treatment that requires a consistent lifestyle!
Here are a few pro tips that will make your experience more tolerable and less insidious.
Exfoliate & Moisturize
The first thing you want to do is make sure you are taking care of your skin REGULARLY. The healthier your skin is, the better the results, the easier and less painful the process. Plus, it will maximize your results and keep those stubborn hairs at bay for a longer period. The best way to keep your skin happy and healthy is to exfoliate and moisturize.
The skin on your body is a lot thicker than the fragile skin on your face. Which also means it builds up a lot more dead skin cells quicker therefore it needs to be exfoliated more often. A gentle scrub about 2-3x a week is a good general rule to follow especially a couple days before a waxing appointment. I usually recommend my clients to exfoliate the night before their appointment – never the same day. Exfoliating the night before your service will remove any dead skin cell build up, as well as push any last few hairs through the skin — dead skin cells can clog hair follicles and cause irritation and even ingrown hairs. Of course, it’s okay to shower before your appointment. We waxers really appreciate when clients come to their appointment with clean skin! I mean, you brush your teeth before seeing dentist, right? However, doing an exfoliating treatment right before your appointment will strip your skin of its natural oils used to protect it, leaving it much more vulnerable. It can make your hair weak and brittle, may cause more breakage and even discomfort. Exfoliating the night before will not only remove the dead cells but it will allow your skin more time to produce enough oil to create its own natural protective barrier. Unless you have especially sensitive skin, exfoliate a few days in advance to reduce the risk of irritation
Exfoliating will create a more effective waxing process (and less trouble) overall. I would also toss out that old worn out loofah that’s been hanging in your shower for the past year. Loofahs are disgusting. They just sit in your shower collecting the same bacteria, mold and mildew living on your shower tiles. If you use a loofah, you’re basically washing yourself with your own germs. Even worse, you’ll contaminate your skin if you share the same shower with multiple people.
I prefer a pair of exfoliating gloves over a loofah. The reason is because gloves are machine washable! Every night I alternate using my wash with just my hands, and then with a pair of gloves every other night. I own two pairs so that once a pair is used, I’ll throw it in the wash then line dry, and I’ll always have a clean back up ready to go! Plus, gloves allow you to get inside all the nooks and crannies.
It’s also very important to moisturize regularly with a fragrance-free lotion. As natural as you can possibly get! Moisturizing your skin will provide important nutrients to your cells so that they operate properly and protect the natural barrier function. It’s important to make sure you aren’t using any products with fragrance because it can be very drying and irritating. It can compromise the overall integrity of your skin, so I would skip those multicolored products you layer on to smell like “paradise” and invest in something that will actually give your skin what it needs.
Waxing not only removes hair but can also remove dead skin cells. If you don’t exfoliate or moisturize, your waxer will basically spend your service time waxing away layers upon layers of dead skin before even reaching the base of your hair. You can expect a lot of touch ups, tweezing and even hair trapped under the skin to be left behind. Even if all the hair is removed, your skin will still feel rough instead of silky smooth.
Not only should you exfoliate prior to an appointment, but you must continue to make it part of your routine after your treatment as well. The process of waxing involves wearing out the root in order to thin out your hair. Waxing thin hair is less painful than waxing thick hairs. Eventually, with consistency, the hair won’t want to grow back, and the process will become less painful. You can’t have hairs without roots! If you skip exfoliating, your fine, weak hairs will become trapped underneath all those dead skin cells forcing it to grow under the skin, better known as ingrown hairs. It’s vitally important to buff away those dead cells to allow your weakened hairs to breach the skin the way it should. So, if you’re trying to have silky smooth hair free skin, be sure to do your homework and take special care of it. Make the most of your well-earned money! Exfoliate and moisturize.
“You must be x tall to ride”. In order for your hair to be considered “waxable” you must allow your hair to grow about a quarter inch long. For my fellow visual people out there, I would say about half the length of your pinky nail. Whatever you do, do not, I repeat, DO NOT SHAVE. The molecule size of hard wax is much smaller, so the hair needs enough length for the wax to be able to “grip” it, so be sure to allow the proper amount of time to grow it out. This is the hardest thing for most clients to do, but you must have patience. As tempting as it may be when you’re feeling a little hairy, resist the urge to shave—it’ll only start the process all over again, the root will thicken, and you will also need to wait additional time to wax.
Besides it being physically impossible, attempting to wax over hair that is too short is painful. This is because it creates a pull on your skin. That little tug is your root resisting the wax because the surface hair is not long enough to grip. Not only will it not work, it will hurt more than it needs to for absolutely nothing.
Same thing goes for those who let it go for too long. The more time passes, the stronger your root will become. You want the wax to make contact with the surface of your skin in order to avoid “the tug” and grip the hair properly. So, if you’ve been rocking a bush for a few months, don’t be embarrassed if your waxer needs to trim it down, they are just looking out for you in order to make it less painful.
It’s kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears, not too short, not too long but just right! Just remember that waxing, as magical as it makes us feel afterwards, doesn’t contain magical powers that miraculously pull your hair out from under the skin. It doesn’t work like that. You need to allow enough time for it to grow long enough to give your waxer something to work with. Usually about 2-3 weeks depending on how fast or slow your hair naturally grows, especially if it’s your first time. So, if you shaved two days prior to your appointment, don’t expect any miracles. Be realistic!
Yes, it hurts. You are going to feel something. Everyone has different tolerance to pain. The truth of the matter is, the more relaxed your mind is, the more relaxed your body will become, the less pain you will feel. Of course, it’s a stressful situation to be in. Being half naked in front of a stranger can be daunting especially if it’s your first time getting a bikini wax or if you tend to have a low pain tolerance. It’s a tense situation to be in when there’s a million things going through your mind. Don’t allow yourself to get too inside your head. To put it bluntly, you’re just going to have to get over it! It’s important to clear your mind and just breathe. If it becomes too much, remember to focus on your breathing. Sometimes clients tend to hold their breathe during the pull, but you shouldn’t. If you hold your breath, it will raise your heart rate. If your heart rate is high, your body will become tense. If your body is tense, you will feel it. I cannot stress enough how important it is to breathe. You will notice a huge difference. Remember that your waxer is a trained professional and should be able to help you cope. Follow their lead and trust that they will do everything in their power to make the process as comfortable as possible. Also, don’t close your legs. It’s not going to help at all and your waxer doesn’t want to force you to keep them open!
You can also take a low dose of an over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol or Aleve to take the edge off. Whatever you do, don’t drink alcohol to “numb the pain”. Getting drunk before a wax is the very last thing you want to do! Tenderness of the skin is to be expected but know that the pain won’t last forever, and you will be able to walk out of your appointment and not in a wheelchair. As soon as it’s over, the pain is gone.
Avoid doing it on or near your period. Yes, technically you can wax while on your period. Life happens unexpectedly and sometimes it just must be done. Just keep in mind your skin is considerably more sensitive in the week before and during your period than any other time of the month, so your pain will be maximized around that time frame. Wait a week or two, and you’ll have a much more pleasant experience overall (and so will your waxer). But things happen! If you’re at the end of your cycle and need to get your wax done, please apply a fresh tampon immediately before your service. This is a common courtesy used to protect yourself, your waxer and the clients after you from exposure.
Treat your skin
Use products like witch hazel, aloe or Aquaphor to soothe any irritation. Post-wax irritation and redness happens, especially if you have sensitive skin, and it’s totally normal, no need to freak if you see irritation or bumps on the area for a day or so afterward. That’s a natural reaction your hair follicles have after the hair has been pulled out at the root. Avoid steaming hot showers immediately after and use a soothing product like Aquaphor or an aloe vera gel to calm the area and reduce irritation and prevent ingrown hairs. Think of hot water as the color “red” if you apply it to skin that’s already red, it will make it worse. Think of cool water as “blue” that will help neutralize the redness.
Yes, exfoliating is important, but you should wait 48 hours for you skin to calm down before continuing your routine. Even if you aren’t sensitive to waxing, it’s best to avoid exfoliating the area, swimming, or sunbathing for at least 48 hours. Your skin is still compromised, because it had hot wax applied to it and then removed.
Avoid sweat & tight clothing.
Sweat and tight clothing are the perfect storm when it comes to waxing. The last thing you want is to create and trap germs when your skin has been subject to waxing and therefore is more susceptible to bacteria and infection. Keep your clothing loose for the rest of the day and avoid excessive sweating as much as you can. It’s a perfect excuse to take the rest of your day to relax.
If you work out after a wax, expect lots of irritation and bumps afterwards! Your sweat contains salt, and that salt will irritate your freshly waxed skin. You don’t want to do anything else to make the aftermath worse. Even if it doesn’t appear irritated, the area is still raw so exercise, swimming and sunbathing should be avoided.
Also, speaking on behalf of all waxers of the world, please don’t even think about working out before a wax appointment without showering. May sound like common sense but trust me, it needs to be known. If you work out before a wax appointment, please shower immediately afterward. Like I said, you’d brush your teeth before visiting the dentist, wouldn’t you? Please be mindful of your hygiene, your waxer will greatly appreciate it. Carry personal wipes or ask your waxer. They will happily provide one for you!
Keep it up.
One word: CONSISTENCY. The absolute best advice I can ever give to anyone to make waxing as pain-free as possible is to do it on a regular basis. Let’s be real. Waxing is always going to be annoying; no one ever really looks forward to actually getting it done. It’s the results that make it worth it! But it really does get easier over time— there isn’t a straight answer I can give to anyone on how many sessions that will take. Some get used to it faster than others! However, YOU WILL get used to it and your hair will eventually come out easier and grow less thick and coarse. Set up a regular monthly appointment with your wax specialist and stick to it, and you’ll be much happier with the results!
So, there you have it! My no-nonsense approach on how to survive a wax! Follow the guidelines, and you will live a much happier hair free life.