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In 2011, I gave up on shaving forever! From my first underarm wax and Brazilian, my life was changed. But a year into my waxing journey, my favorite esthetician moved and I was faced with a dilemma. I was to either find a new esthetician or learn to do the waxing myself. Guess which option I picked!
Wax and I have a beautiful relationship built on appreciation and mutual respect! After years of battling ingrowns that result from shaving, I found that routine waxing and exfoliation keep my skin soft for days on end! Not only that, the thickness and density of hair has drastically decreased. Of course it can be painful (and in some cases risky), but following these steps will enable you to avoid any painful mistakes! If you are brave enough to chance it, I hope this waxing guide helps!
The ultimate goal of waxing products are to reduce the amount of stress on your skin during and after a waxing session. Since waxing can be a stressful process for your skin, it’s vital that you ensure all of your products are on hand before you start.
Prep the skin!
The success of a waxing session is made or broken during the preparation stage. Beware using a numbing spray until you establish a consistent routine. Numbing sprays can prevent you from feeling important indications that you’ve made a mistake. Numbing spray isn’t necessary in the least, I waxed for years before using it! While I use it now to ease the sting, I find waxing according to my hormonal cycle has a far greater impact on my comfort! Waxing the week of menstruation is the worst. Zero percent recommend that! It’s much better to wax during the days immediately surrounding ovulation when pain tolerance is naturally higher.
While numbing spray and waxing during ovulation are certainly effective, by no means should you expect waxing to be a super comfortable experience. You’re ripping hair out of your body! But I’ll share another secret that makes a huge difference in the waxing experience. An even bigger difference than the two already mentioned! The best way to prevent pain is ensuring that the wax adheres to the hair only, rather than the skin. Think about it! You tweeze your eyebrows, a stray hair here and there. It stings, and so does removing many hairs in one fell swoop when you wax. But what really hurts is not only removing many hairs all at once, but yanking on all the skin in the process. It’s HORRIBLE. But oh so easy to prevent! Apply epilation oil to your skin before waxing. GiGi Pre Epilation Oil is my holy grail waxing product. It makes a huge difference in the entire process. It smells nice, moisturizes a bit, and most importantly keeps wax from adhering to the skin. Note that if applied too liberally, it does prevent the wax from gripping the hair. You don’t want the oil applied so thickly it runs down the skin. Apply just enough so that there’s a slight sheen to the skin where it is applied. If you apply too much (you’ll know when the wax doesn’t adhere whatsoever) just gently pat the skin with a paper towel.
You’ll want to avoid chemical exfoliation for at least three days prior to your waxing session. Estheticians require disclosure of skin thinning products leading up to waxing appointments, as these products make the skin vulnerable to depilation-related injuries.
I’ve tried many different waxing products, from sugar waxes to strip waxes. Each have their benefits and detriments but my all time favorite wax is Cirepil Blue Wax. Hard waxes like this one can be used without strips, which makes for a more efficient and less wasteful session! Because they are firm enough to grip hair despite the skin being oiled, they are also an ideal wax product for beginners. Though not water soluble, Cirepil is easy to remove with oil (which is why you don’t want to be too oiled up before waxing!). It is easily removed both from your body and any hard surfaces the wax might drip on as long as you’ve got oil on hand.
Wax is easy enough to use with Popsicle sticks, but I’m a much bigger fan of using rubber spatulas for the job! It enables an even coating of wax on surfaces like elbows, ankles, and around the armpit muscles. The only issue here is contamination of your wax, which isn’t much of a problem if you are only filling your wax warmer with enough wax for the session you’re doing.
As wax heats, cools, heats, cools and heats again, I find it doesn’t work quite as well. This is especially true for hard waxes which become brittle and less effective to rip off after numerous heating/cooling phases. In a particularly horrible scenario, early in my DIY waxing journey, I tried a likely expired hard honey wax made by a very popular brand. After numerous failed attempts to rip the wax and hair from my body, I eventually had to use an Exacto blade to carefully cut the wax AND hair away from an anatomical area of my body that I very much do not want sharp objects near. It was horrifying. But I survived! I’ve never had this issue with the Cirepil wax, even if I’ve been lax with heating it or ensuring it’s not expired.
Wax burners are all created rather equally. I recommend a wax warmer equipped with an adjustable temperature dial to ensure viability and longevity of the wax. I also recommend purchasing a reusable silicone wax pot that can be removed and sanitized. It comes in handy if you plan to uses multiple types of wax, and also prevents the need to recycle empty wax tins!
Having oil based products on hand is necessary to dissolve any remnants of wax. Simply use whatever liquid oil product you have on hand for this purpose!
If I’m in a hurry to soothe my skin after waxing, I reach for an antibiotic wound ointment like Neosporain. Typically, Lush Charity Pot two or three times a day does the trick just fine if I’m very concerned about soothing my skin. Usually applying lotion once a day combined with an oil bath does the job just fine! Nourishing the skin is important always, especially after stressful processes like hair removal.
Remember to treat the skin with chemical exfoliants and/or astringents for at least two days after waxing, if you aren’t regularly applying them to your skin. This is to ensure that skin doesn’t scale and allow the hairs to become ingrowns! Carefully reintroduce physical exfoliation (only in two directions, with and against the grain) three days or longer after your waxing session.
After waxing, I’m careful to wear clothing that won’t constrict or aggravate the area. Typically this means I forgo undergarments and pants of any kind, reaching instead for maxi skirts and long dresses.
Pro tip: put a pair of silk underwear inside a sealed plastic bag. Store this in your freezer to wear immediately after waxing. It’s helpful in the event of swelling and can be quite soothing!
So How Do I Wax Myself?
Here are the things that can go wrong!
Applying super hot wax to your tender areas is a major no-no. Typically, you want the wax consistency to be like slightly warmed honey. This ensures the wax is still warm and liquidy enough to spread. If the consistency is more like syrup, or straight liquid, the wax is too hot. If you’re undeterred by the promise of burning yourself, keep in mind this super heated wax will be too thin to remove enough hair and will also take longer to cool down.
Bruising can happen. Anywhere that my hair is very coarse, and anytime I do not pull the skin taught, and anytime the hair is too long, I will likely bruise. Sometimes the bruises are limited to the pores themselves, and sometimes a whole area will bruise. This has become very, very rare as I’ve improved my waxing technique!
I’m sure the potential exists to rip off actual layers of skin and cause bleeding and longer term damage. Aside from the exacto blade incident, and a few times when the pore will bleed just the tiniest bit, I’ve never drawn blood waxing. If you’re on any medications or topicals that cause the skin to thin, consult someone with more medical prowess than me before you jump into DIY waxing!
Waxing yourself can be very messy, especially at the beginning. I recommend laying down newspaper or trash-bags to catch any wax drips that may hit the ground. Even with this “splash zone” established, please don’t ever wax on carpet of any form. That’s just begging for trouble!
We discussed wax adhering to the skin being a major cause of discomfort, but there’s another step you can take to minimize pain. Wax the absolute minimum length of hair possible! Depending on how long you’ve let your hair go native, you might elect to trim the hair down to a more easily waxable length with a pair of clippers. Rule of thumb: waxing with hair that is less than 1/8 inch is usually ineffective while waxing hair that is longer than 3/4 inch is usually quite painful. For me, about 3 weeks of growth is optimal for my underarms, arms, legs and Brazilian area. I take Biotin supplements daily, and will sometimes increase my exposure to cool air if I need to increase the growth rate to line up with my desired DIY spa date.
After prepping my products and waxing location, and turning on the wax warmer, I’ll take an anti-inflammatory medicine. I tie my hair up and cover my whole body in oil just in case the wax lands somewhere I wasn’t intending to wax. I’m sure to have as much lighting as possible (be it natural lighting, overhead or up-lighting with the help of a lamp or book-light) and a pair of tweezers handy to ensure not a single hair is missed!
Whichever area I start with, I study the growth pattern of the hair I’m removing. I apply the wax against the grain, and remove the wax with the grain to remove as much hair as painlessly as possible. It’s necessary to tug the skin taught when applying, drying, and removing the wax. This minimizes the surface area of the skin coming into contact with the wax, while increasing its ability to coat each individual hair. Typically it’s better to err on the side of caution by laying wax down too thin. If it’s too thick it increases chances that only part of the wax will come up which may result in pulling the skin. Or it could yield a nasty exacto blade scenario!
You can wax as large or small an area as you are comfortable with. It might seem counterintuitive, but if I’m feeling tender or the hair is longer, I will wax bigger sections at once. I’ve found it matters more how many times I rip out hair than it does how much hair is ripped out at once. For example, I’ll wax my entire underarm, shin, or pubic area in one go. I’ll then repeat that area, but in smaller sections in a different direction if necessary. I’ll sometimes bounce around to different areas of the body to let my pain receptors rest up a bit! I also use a fan to encourage the wax to dry faster.
Doing my own waxing definitely requires more effort than laying on the table in the capable, trained hands of a professional. It also presents far more risks. However, I’ve decided the savings in expense and logistical effort to be quite worth it. It also makes me feel like an absolute pain conquering sorceress, which has perks all its own!