Smooth legs are a must to maintain that professional, well-groomed appearance at the office. But between morning meetings and late nights, who has the time to shave every day – or the money for salon waxing treatments? At-home waxing might be just the solution.
With the right tips and techniques, at-home waxing can become an easy, inexpensive alternative to pricey salon services. Learn about both hot and cold at-home kits, and what to expect when you open the box. Then, find out how to prepare your skin for waxing and avoid common pitfalls. Finally, learn how to nurture and soothe skin after your treatment.
How waxing works
Waxing is a hair removal method that involves lifting or removing hair from the follicle with either hot or cold wax. This method is effective for both small and large areas, such as the eyebrows, upper lips and legs. Physician Heather Brannon, M.D., of About notes that waxing works especially well on large areas to remove a lot of hair quickly and easily.
Waxing typically follows these three steps, whether it’s a salon or at-home treatment:
- Heat. First, wax is heated to a warm (but never hot) temperature, until it has a soft, spreadable consistency, similar to corn syrup.
- Spread. Next, a thin layer of wax is applied to the skin in the direction of hair growth. When wax touches the skin, sticky resins in the wax lock onto the hair. Then, a muslin or cloth strip is pressed firmly onto the wax.
- Remove. Finally, the muslin strip is quickly pulled off in the opposite direction of the hair growth, taking hair with it. The process is repeated until all hair is removed.
Keep in mind that waxing works best when hair is at least 1/4 inches long, which is about one to two weeks without shaving. Because waxing yanks hair directly from the follicle, you’ll enjoy smooth skin for weeks – great news to make getting ready for work each morning a little quicker.
Types of at-home kits
You’ll find a wide variety of products for at-home waxing. Some kits use warm wax for hair removal, while others are effective with cold wax. However, you’ll generally find removal products come in two categories:
- Muslin strip removal includes a muslin strip that removes wax from the skin. Essentially, this is similar to the process described above: You heat the wax to the appropriate temperature and consistency and apply a thin layer over the skin. Next, you apply the muslin or cloth strip over the wax, pulling skin taut. To complete the process, swiftly remove the strip from the skin in one motion. Try Parissa Studio Warm Wax, Coarse Hair, formulated with pine resin and aloe vera.
- Stripless removal doesn’t use a cloth strip to pull wax from the skin, but otherwise, it includes the same steps. Instead of gripping the strip, you directly touch a corner of the wax and pull it away from the skin in one firm motion. Bliss Poetic Waxing Kit is designed for use on any area and comes with a pre- and post-waxing lotion.
Be picky when choosing your kit. You might have to try a few kits before finding the right one for you. Remember that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort or quality with at-home waxing. You can also consult a salon for recommendations.
Whether you’re a waxing maven or a first-timer, it’s important to thoroughly prepare your skin. You might want to conduct a test run on a small patch of skin to ensure that the wax won’t cause irritation.
- Prepare skin. The key to waxing is to ensure that the skin is clean and free of dirt or oil. Before you heat the wax, take a few minutes to prep the skin by gently cleansing the area. Refrain from applying body lotion or cream, because this can prevent the wax from adhering to the hair. To remove any residue and completely cleanse the skin, try a toner. Soak a cotton ball with a deep-cleansing formula such as La Roche Posay Effaclar Toner Astringent Lotion, and gently apply to the target area.
- Prepare for some pain. Unfortunately, waxing can be painful, but remember that everyone has a different perception of pain (which could be good or bad!). Fortunately, many waxing aficionados report that with time, the pain recedes. Also, the first time an area is waxed is typically the most painful. You have several options for reducing discomfort:
- Over-the-counter medication. For the upper lip (or other small areas), apply Anbesol gel beforehand to numb the area. Ask your doctor if taking an over-the-counter pain treatment like Tylenol is okay for you, as well, and remember to take any medication a good hour or two before waxing.
- Prescription medication. If possible, consider getting a prescription from your doctor for EMLA cream, a topical numbing cream often used for stitches on children. It will numb the area and reduce pain.
An effective waxing experience doesn’t stop when all the hair is gone. Before savoring your smooth skin, be sure to heed the following final details:
- Remove wax. If some wax still remains on the skin, douse a cotton ball in baby oil or a mild cleanser, and gently wipe the area clean. Try Mustela PhysiObebe No Rinse Cleansing Fluid, a hypoallergenic product that contains aloe vera.
- Reduce redness. Then, to minimize swelling and redness, apply a cold compress to the area, such as a wet washcloth or an ice pack (wrapped in a towel). Or, try is ATOPALM Intensive Moisturizing Cream, a soothing product that helps reduce redness. For the face, calm redness on the upper lip or eyebrows with Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Masque, which contains aloe vera and other natural extracts.
- Prevent ingrown hairs. One of the biggest concerns after waxing is ingrown hairs. An effective way to minimize the risk of ingrown hairs is to use products with salicylic acid. Try Bliss Ingrown Hair Eliminating Peeling Pads. Make sure to wait at least one day before using salicylic acid products after waxing – applying to freshly waxed skin might burn or sting.
Complications and precautions
Done incorrectly, waxing can lead to negative side effects. However, with the proper precautions, you’ll get better results. Here’s how:
- Burns. If the wax is too hot, the potential for a burn is extremely high. When waxing at home, always follow directions carefully and check the temperature before applying wax to the skin. Also, use common sense: If the wax is steaming or the container seems extremely hot, wait and let the wax cool before proceeding.
- Hyperpigmentation. Some women will find areas of hyperpigmentation on the skin as a result of waxing, especially around the upper lip. For many women, this hyperpigmentation will fade with time. However, if you’re concerned, look into other hair removal methods for this area.
- Other precautions. And finally, although waxing is a safe and effective method of hair removal, it isn’t for everyone. If you’ve undergone these treatments or have the following conditions, consider an alternative method for hair removal:
- Skin treatments. Women who use topical retinoid treatments shouldn’t wax, because retinoids might increase the risk of burning. Also, if you’ve recently had a chemical peel, don’t wax until your skin has healed and is no longer flaking and dry. Finally, avoid waxing if you’ve recently had Botox or collagen injections.
- Sunburn. Don’t attempt to wax sunburned skin. Instead, wait until skin is completely healed and is no longer red or peeling.
- Pre-menstruation. Avoid waxing right before your period as the skin is extra sensitive, and waxing might be more painful at this time.
- Prescriptions. Many common prescription medications might increase your sensitivity to waxing. These include many types of birth control, hormone replacement therapies, acne medication and others. Be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist.
- Medical and skin conditions. Also, consult your doctor before waxing if you have diabetes, phlebitis, cancer or other medical conditions. Those with sensitive skin and skin conditions such as rosacea should also check with a physician.
In addition to these precautions, Naomi Torres, hair removal expert for About, advises against waxing over nipples, male genitalia, moles, blemishes, warts, cold sores or irritated, inflamed skin.
Waxing gets better with time
One of the greatest benefits of waxing is actually during the re-growth phase. Unlike shaving or other hair removal methods, hair tends to look finer and thinner with consistent waxing. This means that you’ll notice a reduction in hair growth, and, when hair does grow back, it’ll be less noticeable and easier to remove (which usually equals less pain). However, this takes time. In fact, after your first wax, hair might seem to grow back faster, but don’t lose faith. Like most skin care routines, waxing requires dedication and consistency to see the best results.
The best thing about waxing is that in no time at all, you can become a seasoned pro. Take your time finding the right kit and go slow as you adjust to the process, and shaving before work will be a thing of the past!
Learn everything you need to know about workplace beauty and skincare for a professional lifestyle in our Office Beauty Handbook.