12 Things You NEED To Know Before Your Next Wax

We're always sad to see summer leave, except for one tiny detail: waxing. For those of us who choose to remove hair with this less-than-pleasant method, the fall and winter months are typically a welcome break from that monthly riiiiiiiiiiiip.
Yet, Melanie Gilliland, European Waxing Center’s education director, says adhering to your waxing schedule is one of the more important summer habits you can stick to when the seasons change. “Getting waxed religiously every three to four weeks — throughout the entire year, not just during the bare-all summer months — is the secret to both less pain and better results,” says Gilliland.
So, while a waxing sesh may not be our favorite of fall activities, the 12 little-known waxing truths ahead promise to not only lessen the pain but also help remove some of the fear and anxiety that come with a stranger ripping off our hair follicles. And, we’ll take any help we can get.
1 of 14
Before we dive in, first, a brief history of why we wax.
2 of 14
Numbing creams are a waste of money.
There’s been a sharp rise in the number of pre-wax numbing creams that have hit the market, but Gilliland says you’re better off spending that money elsewhere. If you use an effective cream that does work, it can prevent you from noticing that the wax is too hot — something you should definitely speak up about, since all of us have different heat sensitivities, says Gilliland. But, that’s only if the cream actually works; Gilliland says more EWC guests have found that numbing creams are totally ineffective than those who’ve raved about them.
3 of 14
Waxing your lip won’t give you lip wrinkles.
There are only a few topics that stir up heated exchanges among beauty professionals, like how often should you really exfoliate or whether lemon water solves everything. But, for today, we just want to know once and for all: Does waxing your upper lip create more wrinkles?

Gilliland says, “Waxing is essentially an exfoliating treatment, which has been shown to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” she says. If you’re threading or plucking your lip area for fear of future fine lines, Gilliland says you’re putting yourself through unnecessary pain. “This area is one of the most sensitive on the body to wax,” she says. “Waxing pulls out all of the hair at once, making any discomfort as quick and short-lived as possible.”
4 of 14
Run if the room isn’t clean.
Everyone is concerned with double-dipping these days (using the same stick on more than one application of wax). But, Gilliland says there’s something else that’s just as important to clue in to before you hop onto your waxer’s table: How clean is the room?

“You should walk into the room and feel like it’s pristine,” says Gilliland. That means the wax pot shouldn’t have drips of wax running down the sides, the sanitary paper you lay on should be brand new, the sticks (multiple sticks!) your esthetician will use if it’s a soft wax treatment should be neatly contained, and the room should make you feel safe. When your esthetician walks in, she should also look tidy and insist on wearing gloves. “If your esthetician isn’t concerned enough about her own cleanliness and safety, she’s definitely not concerned about yours,” says Gilliland.
5 of 14
Razors are your worst enemy.
If you want baby-soft skin, a razor is pretty much the worst beauty tool you can use, says Gilliland. “You have to remove hair from the root for lasting hair removal, and a razor just gets rid of the hair on the surface.” The proof is in the next-day stubble. If you must remove a few strays between waxes, using a tweezer is okay, but Gilliland still urges to put away the magnifying mirror and stop the late-night tweezing.

“You compromise long-lasting smoothness if you tweeze hair,” she says, “because the goal is to get all of your hair growing at the same time.” Think about it this way: If all of your hair gets waxed at the same time, it should all grow back around the same time as well. If you start tweezing the fastest growers, they won’t be there for your waxer’s taking at your next reservation — but, they will pop back up a week or so after, continuing the vicious cycle of tweezing at home.
6 of 14
There is something more painful than getting waxed before your period.
Women around the world have heard this waxing advice loud and clear: Never, ever, ever get a wax the week before your period. But, Gilliland is here to say there’s something even worse. “While it’s true you’re more sensitive the week before your period, if you’re going for the least amount of pain, it’s more important to get waxed every three to four weeks,” she says.

In fact, she’s on the record saying it’s even better to stay on your three-week waxing cycle than to forgo it in sake of your period. What will cause more pain than pre-period discomfort is removing hair that’s too long. The bottom line, says Gilliland? “You probably don’t want to get your first Brazilian the week before your cycle starts, but if you’re a waxing regular and don’t want your wax to hurt, get waxed on time.”
7 of 14
Hard wax is better than soft.
There are two types of wax used at most salons. Soft wax (also known as honey wax) is the kind that gets ripped off using strips of meslin paper. Hard wax (often called blue wax thanks to its hue) goes on, hardens after a few seconds, and is then removed without paper. And, Gilliland says hard wax beats the soft variety hands down.

“In my experience, soft wax can lead to hair breakage, which is more likely to cause ingrown hairs at worst and uneven results at best,” she says. “At EWC, we use a type of hard wax called Comfort Wax™, which essentially shrink-wraps each hair (not the skin) and peels off gently — kind of like you’d unwrap a fruit roll-up.”
8 of 14
Brows should be waxed every two to three weeks.
With the bushy-brow trend seemingly here to stay, a lot of women are putting off their brow reservations and waiting until they have “enough” hair to shape. Bad idea, says Gilliland. “Given how transformational brows are, it’s even more important to see your brow specialist on a very regular basis — I say every two weeks is ideal, and three weeks should be max.” Doing this ensures you’ll have a defined shape and will also prevent you from taking off too much yourself. “Tweezing the same eyebrow hairs over and over will get rid of them for good,” says Gilliland, “which isn’t what you want to do if your goal is thicker, bolder brows.”
9 of 14
The ingrown-hair product you’re using is all wrong.
An ingrown hair here and there is, sadly, a fact of life when you wax. That’s because one of the benefits of waxing — thinned-out, softer hair — also makes it harder for that hair to break through the surface of your skin. When that happens, the result is that telltale little white bump that looks like a zit but is really a baby-fine hair trying desperately to pop out of a pore.

So, the goal with an ingrown-hair product is to try to open that pore to allow the hair to glide out. The problem is that most products aimed at treating ingrown hairs contain alcohol, which Gilliland says have a drying effect that will only aggravate pores more and perpetuate the ingrown-hair problem. Instead, she says to look for a cream that exfoliates (after all, a layer of dead skin can also prevent hairs from easily growing through the skin’s surface), hydrates (so the hair is more likely to glide through), and cleans (because ingrown hairs are prone to infection), like EWC's Ingrown Hair Serum. And, whatever you do, don’t perform surgery on yourself by picking and popping. “That’s a surefire way to bruise your skin and scar yourself for good,” says Gilliland.
10 of 14
Waxing your underarms is not as bad as you'd think.
Your underarm is a sensitive area, and one that most women have been shaving on a very regular basis for years. “Think about how many times you skip shaving your legs but do shave your underarms because you want to wear a tank top,” says Gilliland. “If you stick with regular waxing, the hair in the underarm area actually thins out faster than anywhere else. Plus, it’s such a small area that any discomfort you experience during the treatment is short-lived.”
11 of 14
You’ve got to show up religiously.
Going to see your waxer is a little like those bi-weekly check-ins with your boss or the monthly calls you force yourself to have with your Dad: The regularity keeps everyone happy. From your esthetician’s perspective, you’ll make her job faster and easier if you’re showing up at the optimal time for a wax. “Even more importantly, the experience will be far less painful for you and give you the best shot at amazing results if you come every three to four weeks,” says Gilliland. Why? Because somewhere between three to four weeks, your hair reaches about 1/4 inch in length — or the length of a grain of rice — which is just enough for wax to grip but not so long that it’ll be painful when it comes out.

“People typically come in every six weeks for their wax treatments, but that is way too long unless your hair grows abnormally slow,” says Gilliland. “In fact, you should get waxed every three to four weeks, while underarms and facial services should be done more frequently.”
12 of 14
Exfoliating will transform your experience — and results.
Why is it that the things that are so good for us are often so hard to remember to do? Like flossing. Or exfoliating. But, just like your esthetician will urge you to scrub those dead skin cells off your face two to three times a week, exfoliating down there is just as important. “A build-up of dead skin cells in your bikini area can lead to ingrown hairs, as well as make it harder to remove all of your hair the next time you come in for a wax,” says Gilliland. Removing that layer of dead skin cells goes a long way toward helping the hair pop above the skin’s surface when it’s ready, making it a cinch to get rid of at your next wax. Just keep in mind there is such a thing as over-exfoliating, says Gilliland. “If you remove healthy skin along with the dead skin cells, the area will actually start to callus on a small scale and get rough over time,” she says.

So, choose a couple days spread out in the week as your “exfoliating” days, suggests Gilliland. “I like to watch the The Real Housewives, which airs on Mondays and Thursdays, so I use that as my reminder to exfoliate,” she says. Also, keep in mind that waxing counts as an exfoliation, so you don’t want to exfoliate the day you come in and ideally, not the day before, too.
13 of 14
Speak up!
While there are definitely going to be some areas that are a bit more uncomfortable than others to get waxed, your monthly waxing reservation shouldn’t be something you totally dread. “It’s important to speak up and ask questions if something is feeling especially painful,” she says. “If the wax feels too hot, say something! If you’re fighting back tears, maybe there’s a breathing technique we can teach you that will help.”

On a similar note, be forthcoming with info about just how hairless you want to be — and if they missed a spot. “Our job as estheticians is to make it so that you leave completely hairless — even if that means going over an area a few times, which can lead to a bit more discomfort,” says Gilliland. So, say something if you’re okay with a few strays. “I love it when I’m doing a Brazilian and the woman says something like, ‘Hey, no one is looking that closely! I feel done.’ This way, I can save her from any unnecessary waxing and still feel like I’m giving her results she’s 100% psyched about.”
14 of 14
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!

More from Skin Care


R29 Original Series