Now that it's getting hot enough for skirts, shorts and maybe even swimsuits, you could be thinking about switching over to waxing instead of shaving.
After all, waxing not only helps hair to grow in thinner over time, but can also lead to it not growing back… like, ever. It sounds pretty sweet!
But getting it done at the salon is so expensive. And frankly, doing it at home—i.e. ripping your own hair out from the roots—is a bit terrifying.
Or is it? I recently got to chat with Rhonda Shupe, hair removal expert, professor of cosmetic techniques at Seneca College in Toronto, and Total Waxing Advocate. She’s been doing it for 20 years now! So you could say she's a fan—and she knows a thing or two about nailing the right technique.
Read on for the lowdown on exactly how to get great results at home, plus some insider tips for keeping your waxing goals on track. Because shaving is so yesterday....
1. Don't Wait Until You're Channelling Sasquatch
You might be hesitant about waxing because of the dreaded grow-out stage, waiting until your hair is long enough to be picked up by the wax.
But that's not the case anymore with the new, high-tech wax formulas, which can pick up hair as short as two to four millimetres. (That's less than 0.15 of an inch!)
“The technology with waxes nowadays has changed in that it enables people to remove their hair at this short length," says Rhonda. "Years ago, you had to have your hair at least a quarter of an inch, so you’d be walking around with hairy legs and underarms. Now, two millimetres is nothing.”
2. Prep Your Skin Properly
To get the best results, it’s important to exfoliate before you wax—but do it 24 to 48 hours beforehand, otherwise you risk increased irritation. Use a loofah or scrub to get rid of that layer of dead skin; it will help the wax to grip the hairs much better.
We like Consonant Skin Perfecting Body Scrub:
Worried about the pain or getting a reaction? If you're sensitive or allergy-prone, take an antihistamine or ibuprofen about 30 minutes before waxing. Do NOT ice the area to numb it beforehand. While it might sound like a great idea, icing the skin will constrict the follicle so that it's even harder to get the hair out because you’ve closed the pore, says Rhoda. Ouch! And don’t buy a numbing cream, either. Says Rhoda: "The nerve endings are below the skin, so when you’re pulling out the hair, you’re still going to feel that discomfort. It has nothing to do with the surface of the skin."
Once you're ready, wash the area with gentle soap and water, and let it dry thoroughly. Don't leave any body lotion or oil on your skin, as this will affect the wax's ability to adhere. But don’t use a toner or disinfectant, because that will close up the pores.
3. Wax at the Right Time
Make sure you’re in no rush. "Waxing is a process; it’s not something where you can say ‘Okay, good, I got 10 minutes, I’m going to wax!’" says Rhonda. "You have to set the right amount of time, say an hour, to wax properly."
Don’t wax when you’re stressed out, whether it's from a big deadline, job interview, exam—or even your period. "When you’re stressed, anxious, tense or having your menstrual period, the discomfort is magnified immensely, because the nerve endings are more acute," says Rhonda.
Always make sure that the environment you wax in is warm. "You want the follicles to relax," says Rhonda. "The more relaxed the follicles are, the easier the hair slides out."
4. Choose the Right Wax
For first-time waxers, Rhonda recommends wax strips, such as Nair Moroccan Argan Oil Easy to Use Wax Strips for Legs & Body:
"They already come pre-coated with wax," says Rhonda. "All you have to do is warm them up, separate them, and each strip will have right amount of wax that you need." This not only takes the guesswork out of how much wax to put on, but you also don't have to worry about overheated wax. The strips have this really cool heat-activated technology, where as soon as the logo fades, you’re good to go.
I tested these out on my legs and underarms, and they were a breeze to use. With argan and jojoba oils, they’re ideal for dry and sensitive skin, and they work on hairs as short as 1.5 millimetres. They couldn’t have made it a simpler process: rub the strip, pull it apart, apply, (take a deep breath) and rip. For a first time, DIY waxer, I was totally impressed by these bad boys.
If you're more confident, try a sugar-based wax like Nair Candy Apple Sugar Wax:
"Sugar waxes are water-soluble, so they rinse off with water and you don’t have to worry about your carpet or tiles or wherever you’re waxing," says Rhonda. "You can easily remove the wax with a warm cloth."
Be sure to follow package directions and don't over-heat the wax, as that can lead to skin peeling and tearing. We’re going for warm wax that doesn’t hurt or burn when applied. Since the wax just rinses off, the non-woven strips that it comes with are reusable (how cool is that?).
I tested this product on my legs before I used the strips. This wax smelled delicious, but as a first-time at-home waxer, I definitely preferred the pre-coated strips. I didn’t know exactly how much to apply, and when I pulled the strip off, the wax would be left on my leg and hardly any hair would come out. I’m sure this method takes a little getting used to in order to find the best technique, but as a beginner, nothing beats the pre-coated strips. They’re just so easy and convenient.
5. Wax the Right Way
Okay, ready to do this thing? First, read the instructions that come with the specific kit you’re using. They'll explain everything from how to properly heat the wax to how to pull the strips from your skin. You want to work on just one strip at a time. Here's the gist of it:
Apply the wax in the direction of the hair growth, and then place the strip on top. Press down firmly.
Now, hold the skin taut with one hand, and with the other, pull the strip in the opposite direction of the hair growth. Make sure that you pull across, close to the skin and not away from it. Don’t psyche yourself out right before you rip that strip, because it won't help. "You’re actually creating more pain that way," says Rhonda. "Just take a deep breath and go, ‘You know what, it’s just a process.’” So chill out!
After you remove the strip, apply pressure for a few moments to ease any discomfort.
If you're tackling a tricky spot like the underarms, ask a friend to help. "You need two hands accessible, one to support the skin as it's held taut, and one to pull the strips," says Rhonda. "Don’t wax an area that you can’t support."
Take it from me: she's right. I had no idea, and learned this the hard way. I waxed my underarms solo, and oh the pain! It was fine while I was waxing, but that night and the next few days... ouch. My underarms were so tender. Needless to say, next time I’m calling in help.
6. Give Your Skin Some Post-Waxing TLC
It’s super-important to apply something soothing to the skin post-waxing. "I always recommend azulene oil," says Rhonda. "It’s an oily base that has the ability to immediately calm the redness. The oily base will also be able to take away any residual wax that may have been left on the skin.” One to try: Parissa Azulene Oil After Care.
No azulene at home? No problem. Try a soothing aloe vera gel like Jason 98% Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel. It won’t dissolve any leftover wax, but that will slough off naturally (don't pick at it; there's no need to further irritate your skin).
If your skin is really red and crazy-tender (or even, ugh, has blood spots), then that’s not normal—it's the result of improper waxing with a lack of support (i.e. the skin wasn’t held taut). Another thing I learned the hard way. Take it easy and let your skin heal.
Always avoid tanning and steer clear of warm, moist environments like hot tubs and pools right after you wax, to minimize the chance of getting an infection.
7. Maintain Your Results
We’ve all heard of or experienced first-hand the dreaded ingrowns that come with hair removal. To avoid them, keep exfoliating and moisturizing regularly to prevent any build-up of dead skin. Tend Skin is a great exfoliating liquid to help keep ingrowns at bay.
Once you start waxing, stick to a consistent schedule. Typically, hair grows back within four to six weeks. If you waxed at six weeks this time, don’t wait until eight the next.
What do you do if you've got a last-minute getaway—and you're tempted to use another hair-removal method? Don't. The key to great results with waxing is to (drumroll please)... keep waxing. Don’t wax, then shave the next week, then wax again, and then use a depilatory cream after that. You have to stay consistent if you truly want to reap the benefits.
The Bottom Line
If you take some time to practice the right technique, waxing is a totally easy, convenient and inexpensive way to remove hair at home. Try it!
What's your hair removal method of choice?
Have you ever tried at-home waxing—and if so, how did it turn out?
Do you have any other tips to add to this list?