June 11th 2018
Everything you need to know about waxing, both in-salon and at-home
May 10th 2018 / 0 comment
Don’t book an appointment or pick up a wax strip without reading this first
I once ended up in the doctor’s waiting room due to a bikini wax going dramatically wrong (don’t ask, but one of my dad’s mates was the doc on call, so that was interesting). I more than anyone know the burning pain of a botched up wax, but I’ve also had smooth, virtually painless leg waxes that have resulted in pleasingly slow regrowth and silky limbs rather than a course of antibiotics. That’s the hope for us all, so here’s your guide to getting a bloody good wax - what to look for, what to avoid and whether you should even bother with a wax strip.
Why waxing over other hair removal methods?
Because, according to founder and CEO of Ministry of Waxing Cynthia Chua, you’re getting right to the root of the issue:
“When opting for a wax, you’re removing hair from the roots and the uppermost layer of dead skin cells. It's definitely the first choice for immediate hair removal for people who want to be hair-free and a wax can last up to an average of two weeks, and even when the hair does grow back in, it’ll be softer than it would if you shaved, for example, and it’s often less noticeable.”
Waxing specialists and founders of Waxperts Wax Ellen Kavanagh and Trish O'Brien think that the fact that it’s non-faffy and will keep skin smoother for longer are some of the draws:
“Waxing is quick, relatively pain-free when done correctly, long-lasting and pretty affordable, especially if you book appointments in bulk. Nearly all salons offer it and with regular waxing the hair will become finer and you don’t get a stubbly regrowth.”
Founders of Waxperts
When is the best time to book a wax?
Ellen and Trish propose the ‘rice test’ to assess if you’re ready to book in for your next wax:
“If you’ve been shaving try and leave around three weeks growth to get the very best results. Ideally hair should be as long as a grain of rice but don’t worry if it is longer than that. When people trim before an appointment, they often cut the hair too short, so it’s best to leave it to the professionals. You would need to get waxed roughly every 4-6 weeks so if you have a special occasion coming up such as a wedding or holiday, the best plan is to get a few waxes done in the run-up to achieve the best possible result and ensure it lasts as long as possible.”
As for those rumours that waxing hurts more when you’re on your period, Cynthia confirms that some clients find that it messes with their pain threshold:
“Of course it’s totally up to you when you book your wax, and it’s not case for everyone, but some women find that they’re more sensitive to pain just before and during their time of the month- the brain perceives pain differently throughout the menstrual cycle. Of course this isn’t just limited to your intimate area but all parts of the body, including the face.”
We’ll be avoiding period week to be on the safe side...
How should I prep beforehand and what should I wear?
No one loves scratchy knickers anyway, but now is definitely not the time for your finest lace according to Ellen and Trish:
“Come along wearing loose, comfortable clothing and smooth, breathable knickers if you’re getting a bikini wax. You want to keep the waxed area cool after your wax and avoid any friction.”
The less friction, the less your chances of an adverse reaction, as Cynthia explains:
“During hot or even cool days, it's best to wear loose clothing to allow the skin to calm down after the wax. This will prevent any irritation and reduce your chances of skin reactions.”
Pre-wax, you might also want to skip the body care routine:
“It's good to bear in mind that in order for the wax to adhere to the skin better and to avoid breaking the hairs (therefore produce the best results), it’s advisable to skip lotions or oily products before your waxing appointment. We do cleanse the area thoroughly before getting started, but you ideally want to give yourself the best chance of a smooth, “uneventful” wax.”
How long will my wax take?
That’s slightly a ‘how long is a piece of string’ query, but Cynthia gives us a rough estimate:
“Waxing sessions can vary from salon to salon but one area can vary from 20 to 40 minutes. Timing can also vary depending on how sensitive a client is and how much hair they have. When booking in for a wax, it's best to ensure that you allocate yourself more than enough time to avoid being hot and bothered during and after your treatment.”
How much is this going to hurt?
It’s a go hard or go home situation according to Ellen and Trish:
“Getting waxed regularly (every four to six weeks) can help to minimise any pain. The more you go, the finer the hairs will become and the less pain you will experience. Avoid caffeine and don’t take any painkillers beforehand (ironically they can make you more sensitive). Also, to lower your chances of a painful experience, ensure that you book a wax with an experienced therapist who knows what they're doing. Try not to trim or shave in between waxes, as this can make hair tougher and your next wax more painful.”
Meanwhile Cynthia and her team have an innovative way of releasing mid-wax tension:
“We give our clients a squishy toy for stress relief which can work wonders. Props aside, a lot of the pain associated with waxing has to do with a build-up of anxiety. Try deep breathing, ask for your favourite music to be put on (or get the speakers on if you’re waxing at home) and concentrate of relaxing as much as you can.”
What kind of wax will be used? Have there been any developments in waxing products or tech lately?
Cynthia points out that, like much of the beauty industry, waxes are going green:
“Organic waxes are the most gentle on your skin. New formulations and treatment add-ons include the application of a ‘pre-wax’ to soothe and cleanse the area. There are also brilliant wax formulas that adhere only to the hair and not the skin, ensuring clean removal of hair the first time around and a significant decrease in pain, skin sensitivity and redness.”
Ellen and Trish also big up the pre-wax step:
“For the face, underarm and bikini, you need to make sure that you are getting a hot (peel off) wax and ideally that a pre-wax oil is used. Don’t feel afraid to ask for this when you are booking as it will really help to protect your skin and remove the hair as painlessly as possible. Another big thing to ask before booking is whether or not the therapist ‘double dips’. A salon that does not double dip will be delivering a safer, more hygienic wax, as they are not redipping the spatula into wax during the treatment. Reusing the same spatula again and again during a wax and double dipping spreads germs and is highly unhygienic, especially if the wax has been used all day on other clients.”
It pays to be a clean freak in this regard.
Do I really need to fork out for a professional wax or can I do it at home?
Go pro seems to be the vibe. Cynthia declares that you just can’t beat it for a clean finish:
“Getting your waxing treatment done professionally ensures that the hairs are being removed the right way without any hairs snapping (snapped hair makes for a messy result). Therapists are trained to ensure that the hairs are removed in the correct way with minimal chances of breaking the hairs, and professional techniques normally minimize the chances of ingrown hairs developing. That said, if you can’t afford a trip to the salon and opt to wax at home, make sure that your wax strip is pressed firmly against the skin, stretched out and whipped off against the direction of hair growth.
Ellen and Trish also reckon that professional waxing produces unparalleled results vs home waxing:
“To be honest we’d just say to avoid at-home waxing, particularly for delicate areas like the face or bikini. Waxing is a skill that needs to be taught to be done effectively and you could end up doing more damage than it’s worth. For legs you could possibly get a decent result with at-home wax strips and it would be a better option than shaving in our view, but without proper training, it is often a messy and time consuming process.”
We’re hoping for that bulk-booking salon discount…
Can you still get a wax if you have sensitive skin?
Affirmative, say Ellen and Trish:
“You absolutely can- we developed our own wax with very sensitive skin in mind. One of the most important factors for those with delicate skin to be sure that you have received clear aftercare instructions, and to let your therapist know of any concerns that you may have so that they can give you the best advice to suit your skin.”
Cynthia stresses that sensitive skin gives even more cause to book in with an expert rather attempt to wax at home:
“If you know that your skin is quite delicate, it's best to get your waxing done professionally. For instance we ensure that after every hair removal session, the skin is cooled, soothed and protected with an antibacterial cleanser, with personalised aftercare advice to lessen your risk of reactions.”
Speaking of which...
“After your wax, the therapist should apply a soothing aftercare cream. Follow up at home by gently exfoliating the skin three days after the wax, and continue to do so two to three times times a week to maintain smooth skin and encourage hair to grow outwards rather than form into an ingrown hair. The main thing to remember is to apply a soothing cream or aloe vera gel if the area starts to become itchy, and do not scratch the area as this can cause the skin to break, which will irritate skin and increase your risk of infection.”
Ellen and Trish prescribe an acid-based liquid exfoliant for your waxed bits:
“A gentle exfoliant can keep skin clean, clear and smooth. Our Waxperts Wonder Pads, £7.95, contain salicylic acid, rosemary and panthenol which have anti-inflammatory qualities and work to exfoliate, moisturise, improve hydration, reduce inflammation, reduce itching and accelerate healing. In terms of practical advice, it’s best to avoid exercise (including swimming), saunas, steam rooms and sun exposure for 24 hours afterwards. If you’re getting a lip or eyebrow wax, avoid applying makeup onto the area afterwards or touching your face, as your pores will be open and it’s very easy to break out.”
Finally, how can I avoid a waxing disaster?
There’s no chilled skin guarantee, as the nature of the treatment can leave you vulnerable to adverse reactions. Ellen and Trish advise against booking a Brazilian off the cuff:
“Waxing is a high risk treatment so it’s definitely a ‘buyer beware’ situation! Do your research, find a salon with great reviews, chat to the salon before booking in and don’t be afraid to ask them lots of question, from hygiene standards to the type of wax used. A good salon with a proper training programme and impeccable hygiene standards won’t be afraid to boast about it! Word of mouth is still a great referral method for a waxer so always ask your friends if they have a great waxer too.”
If your friends can save you the red-faced out of hours medical appointment, they’re keepers in my book.