The very first time I got a Brazilian wax — after being advised by a friend that it didn’t hurt at all — I called her immediately and yelled into the phone that she was a liar. I was a sore, sweaty mess and went crawling back to the comfort of my razor to get the job done once the hairs started growing back. Like recovering from a bad breakup, it was years before I was open to the idea of trying again. My second time waxing was far less traumatic, but that lingering fear was still there. Waxing is normal, damnit! This is self-care, I’d tell myself. You should not be this terrified of a totally normal thing that people can realistically do on their lunch break.
European Wax Center's Education Manager Gina Petak says this reaction is typical after a less-than-ideal first experience. “That anxiety is definitely something that happens, especially if your only experience was with strip wax or behind a tiny curtain in a center,” she tells me.
Determined to overcome my fear once and for all, I tapped Petak for tried-and-true tips to help me calm my nerves and prepare me for my third ever wax. This time would be different, she assured me. And it was evident immediately upon entering European Wax Center’s location in downtown Manhattan. Rather than the frenzied mood of my previous waxing experiences, the center was calm — zen-like, even. The way my wax specialist Dominique and I talked, it was like we were old friends, putting me at ease — finally! — and halting the horror stories that once played in my head. If you, dear reader, want to kick your waxing fear, rest assured that this is possible, because if I, a high-strung individual who relied on her razor for decades, can do it, then so can you. Here’s how.
Grow It Out
The rookie mistake I made the very first time I got waxed: I didn’t let the hair grow out nearly as long as I should have. This resulted in my technician having to go over the same area numerous times, and when some hairs were too short to grab, she suggested threading them off. (I am not kidding!) I politely declined, considering the emotions that an eyebrow threading triggers in me, and vowed never to get waxed at that specific center ever again.
Per Petak's advice, in preparation of my upcoming wax, I let my hair grow out for two and a half weeks. “Everyone’s hair grows at different speeds, so we’d recommend anywhere from five days to two weeks,” she explains. “It needs to be at least 1/4 inch in order for the wax to grab onto it, and if that isn’t the case, we’ll have our guests come back a few days later when it is long enough.”
For reference, 1/4 inch is roughly as long as a grain of rice. But any excess hair can be trimmed, if necessary. At European Wax Center, your esthetician will cleanse the area and apply European Wax Center’s pre-wax oil to help the hair slide out more easily.
Wear Loose Cotton Clothing
Perhaps because I was in the midst of the growth period, I had already shifted to wearing cotton underwear prior to this wax for the sake of comfort, but I'm told wearing anything loose and comfortable is especially important after your wax — you want to let the area breathe. On the day of my reservation, I rolled into European Wax Center wearing a pair of wide-leg pants I bought on a whim and they did the trick. They were so baggy, there was zero pressure on the treated area, and my cotton underwear prevented any post-wax irritation.
Drink Water Beforehand
As tempting as it is to down a glass of wine to calm your nerves, resist the urge and reach for water, instead. When you consume alcohol or caffeine, your body becomes more acidic, which can increase your skin's sensitivity. Caffeine, too, will up your heart rate, and combined with adrenaline, it becomes that much harder to relax, which Petak says can cause your muscles to tense up, making the process more painful.
But if you, like myself, can't function without drinking coffee in the mornings, drink water prior to your reservation to dilute the caffeine and acidity, not to mention, boost general hydration levels. “The more water you drink, the healthier your skin is and the easier the experience will be,” Petak adds. “When your skin and hair are hydrated, the hair comes out more easily and runs less of a risk of breaking.”
Build A Rapport
Never doubt the power of a quick, friendly conversation to ease your nerves. (See also: me on an airplane when we hit turbulence; it never has to be long or drawn out, just friendly enough to temporarily make me forget my fear of flying.) Luckily, my wax specialist Dominique and I clicked as soon as we got into the suite, so the mood was lighter right away. Our conversation flowed easily, she explained the process, and she answered all of my questions as we went along.
If you’re feeling nervous, striking up small talk with your esthetician can help you calm down. You’ll find that the entire process (which took about 15 to 20 minutes max, including prep time) is far less scary than being trapped in the middle seat during ascent.
Listen To Music
Petak says it isn’t uncommon for someone to distract themselves during a wax by listening to music. Or if the voices of your favorite true-crime podcasters are what you need in the moment, go for it. Just give your esthetician a heads-up before popping in your earphones and queueing up the latest episode.
Ask For A Countdown
You know those drop rides at a theme park that crane you into the air and then make you wait for that unexpected plummet back to Earth? They're the worst because you're given absolutely no warning. If you know what’s about to happen, you can brace yourself for impact. A full New Year’s countdown isn’t necessary, but that's why having your esthetician do a simple “3, 2, 1” before pulling the wax off more sensitive areas (hello, outer lip area) can help eliminate the element of surprise.
Breathe & Think Happy Thoughts
In theory, this shouldn’t be hard, but it’s easy to forget to do something as simple as breathing when placed in potentially nerve-wracking situations. My therapist (who knows everything, as far as I’m concerned) says concentrating on slow, deep breaths can calm you down and allow your mind to switch from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system (in plain speak: from a super-active state to a more relaxed one).
We’re not talking exaggerated, “I’m ready to push” breaths, but simply inhaling for five seconds, holding it for five more seconds, then releasing your breath slowly. “You can breathe when they pull the strip; that helps with areas that are a little more delicate,” Petak adds.
Invest In After-Care
Getting ingrown hairs was one of my biggest post-wax fears, but with the proper after-care steps, they can easily be prevented. “Ingrown hairs happen when the hair gets trapped in the skin as it’s growing back, caused either by dead skin cells or a product clogging your pores,” Petak explains. “To avoid that, use a product like European Wax Center's Smooth MeⓇ Ingrown Hair Serum to prevent ingrown hairs without drying out your skin."
The serum's alcohol-free formula is gentle enough for everyday use, while the Reveal MeⓇ Body Exfoliating Gel can be used a few times a week to provide further exfoliation. Do your due diligence to maintain the area, and the chance of ingrown hairs will be slim to none.
After following all the above tips (and thanks to Dominique’s warm, encouraging personality), I can confidently say I no longer have a fear of waxing, and I know that every time I get a wax in the future, the process will continue to get easier. “That first time can be more painful, for sure, but after that, you start to get used to it,” Petak says. “When you wax, your hair is removed at the root; it grows back weaker, making it finer, softer, and less painful to remove.”
Chalk it up to an increased tolerance and the fact that it’s much more low-maintenance than the acrobatics I’d perform in the shower with my razor, but I’m officially a wax-convert. I'm a late bloomer, but the third time’s the charm, as they always say.
I bought a package of 12 waxes — a Wax Pass with two services for free — on my way out. See you in a month, Dominique.
As a waxing industry leader, European Wax Center takes hygiene and safety seriously, and in light of the COVID-19 situation we are and will continue to evaluate and implement policies and practices when open based on new information and guidance. We will continue to follow applicable occupational health and safety regulations, as well as boost sanitation procedures by placing extra precautions in place to ensure the health and safety of guests and associates upon reopening. Read more about EWC's sanitation and cleaning measures here.