Whether you're a routine waxer, or you're thinking about getting your first bikini wax ahead of your summer vacation, you probably already know that few consider waxing to be an enjoyable experience. However, for a lot of people, the anxious anticipation, followed by a few seconds of pain, is worth a satisfyingly smooth result — and the fuzz-free skin that lasts weeks longer than shaving. Unfortunately, waxing is not a one-size-fits-all process, because we all have different hair types, pain thresholds, and susceptibility to pesky ingrowns.
To make the whole thing a little easier, we sat down with two experts — Michelle Lee Baker, lead aesthetician at Bliss Hollywood, and Melanie Coba, national brand ambassador of the European Wax Center — to walk us through everything you need to know to make your next (or first) experience the best it can be. Keep scrolling for the ins and outs of body waxing.
Types Of Wax
Waxing salons will typically stock two different types of wax: hard and soft. Hard wax is typically used very hot, whereas soft wax is more often used in strip form, but it's important to understand the difference between the two, because requesting the wrong type of wax could end in ingrown hair and a whole lot of pain.
Let's start with the former."Hard wax is best for sensitive, smaller areas, such as the face, under arms, and bikini area," says Baker. "It has a lower melting point so it's more comfortable to use in sensitive areas and it can grip hair as short as 2mm." At Bliss specifically, Baker says that a layer of oil is spread on the skin before the hard wax is applied, which protects the skin from being irritated when the wax is pulled away. "Usually hard wax is strip-less, meaning once the wax hardens, we are able to remove it without a strip," says Baker.
Soft wax, on the other hand, is great for larger areas, like the legs, arms, chest, and back. "It can be applied in long, thin applications and removed quickly with a strip. I don’t recommend using soft wax on sensitive areas, such as the bikini area, because you are limited to how many times you can go over the same area with wax," Baker continues, adding that using a soft wax strip on sensitive skin areas can severely irritate the skin. "The strip wax is used directly on the skin and exfoliates the skin more than hard wax and repeated applications can lead to over-exfoliation," she explains.
What To Know Before You Go
Before you schedule any kind of waxing appointment, there are a few simple pre-waxing steps rules to ensure the pain is manageable and you get the result you want. First, keep your appointments calendarized. "Waxing on a schedule really helps because when you wax too early or too late, the hair is more susceptible to breaking under the surface of the skin," explains Coba. "When hair breaks, it can more easily become ingrown. We recommend scheduling facial services every 2-3 weeks, underarm services every 2 weeks, bikini services every 3-4 weeks, and any other body services about every 3-4 weeks."
Make sure you're not tweezing ingrowns or trimming hair between appointments. "Though tweezing a supposed ingrown can be tempting, it usually does more harm than good, as most people tear their skin up trying to get the hair out, creating scarring and hyperpigmentation," explains Coba. "Trimming is also not a good idea, because if the hair is too short, we can’t remove the it properly. It's not anything you should fuss with, if the hair needs to be trimmed, the wax specialist will do it."
If you're planning a wax ahead of a big event, Coba recommends holding off on getting a spray tan or using a gradual self-tanner until after your wax. " Freshly waxed areas absorb pigment better than skin with normal hair growth, so if you're going to go for a tan and wax combo, your skin will look smoother and color will last longer if you don't faux tan before your wax," says Coba.
Another important planning step is to consider your period cycle when scheduling a bikini wax. "Waxing is speedy and virtually painless but it depends on the area, and where a woman is in her cycle," says Baker. "The closer she is to the end of her cycle, the more sensitive she is. It's best to schedule a bikini or Brazilian wax after you have completed your cycle."
Speaking of pain sensitivity, the best way to deal with waxing discomfort is to come prepared and not to tense up on the table. “We encourage guests to relax, first and foremost, because our wax specialists are licensed professionals," says Coba, adding that European Wax Center has a streamline process to make waxing as painless as possible. "We have a tried and true four-step process that includes cleansing, protection with soothing pre-wax oil, waxing, then rejuvenation with the application of our Smooth Me Ingrown Hair Serum formulated with our a comfort blend of antioxidants to help prevent ingrown hairs and breakouts as well as calm and nourish the skin," she continues.
Unfortunately, even with a professional and a few deep breathes, waxing is not a fully pain-free experience (wouldn't that be nice?), so you have to understand and appreciate your tolerance levels. "While every person reacts differently, pain during waxing generally depends on your mindset and general tolerance for discomfort," Coba says. "As you continue waxing on a regular schedule, your skin will get used to it and your hair will become thinner, lessening the chance of pain or irritation.”
Post-Wax Care & Maintentence Plan
Possibly more important than diligent waxing pre-care, is careful post-care. "To protect against bumps and ingrowns, your post-care is essential," says Baker. "Use an antibacterial wash, like something with tea tree oil, that will help keep the area balanced and clear of bacteria," she continues, adding that regular exfoliation is important. "Begin using something like Bump Attendant Ingrown Eliminating Pads 24 hours after your wax and then every day until your next wax. They'll keep the area exfoliated and smooth and help prevent ingrowns from appearing," Baker suggests. "For weekly care, we recommend full body exfoliation 2-3 times a week. Use something like the Bliss Hot Salt Scrub or Lemon & Sage Satin Skin Body Polish all over to keep your entire body (even the bikini area) soft and smooth. The coarser the hair, the more painful the next wax will be, so softening the follicle is key."
Coba also echos the importance of post-wax exfoliation, recommending the The Reveal Me Body Exfoliating Gel as a gentle exfoliate and the Strut Lavishly Body Lotion to hydrate the skin and help slow hair growth. She also says there are a few don'ts to be mindful of. "Wait a few hours before hopping into a hot shower to avoid any reaction," she says. "After you’ve been waxing a while your skin will be used to it and much less sensitive to this sort of thing, but if you're new to waxing, definitely give your skin some extra TLC."
It's also advised that freshly-waxed skin should stay away from the sun, and that super tight clothing and sweating be avoided to prevent against irritation. "Your skin is so fresh after a wax, so your sensitive to the sun, and the pores are still open and susceptible to bacteria. Just take it easy the rest of the day after the first time trying a service," Coba says. Translation: Consider your post-wax Netflix binge totally validated.