In general, hair removal can be a touchy subject. As important as it is for many of us to look and feel our best, often times visits to our estheticians for essential grooming days are hard to come by on account of busy schedules, which leaves us on the hunt for backups: hair-zapping gadgets, razors and—for some—at-home waxing kits (the trickiest of them all).
Though the options for hair removal have expanded quite a bit in recent years, waxing is holding it’s ground in terms of popularity. In fact, Yelp’s 2024 Beauty and Lifestyle report revealed that searches for waxing have surged a whopping 700 percent in the last year, which is likely due to the resurgence of trends like the 90s “skinny brow” across social media.
Waxing in your own bathroom isn’t exactly a glamorous thought, but for some it’s the best option. Will yanking out our own hairs hurt? How do we prep the skin? What should we even use? Hannah Naranjo, aesthetician at Haven Spa NYC, and Gina Petak, European Wax Center education manager, tell us the honest truth: It can be a risky process and it’s best to stick with the professionals. But, they supply the essential tips for those of us that absolutely can’t wait for a visit to the salon.
At-Home Waxing 101: Skin Prep Is Essential
Firstly, “the skin should be clean and free of lotions and potions,” says Naranjo. Having a buildup of products on the skin can coat the hair and therefore interfere with the grip of the wax. She also adds, “you can put a light dusting of cornstarch over the area to be waxed before you begin.” The benefit? Cornstarch removes excess oil from the skin in order to ensure a smooth, salon-worthy result.
Petak notes that “the hair should be at least the size of a sprinkle before you wax, so it’s a good idea to stop shaving at least five days prior to your wax.” She also adds, “if you are going to exfoliate your skin, please use a film-free—meaning it rinses clean off the skin not leaving it coated in oil—exfoliant 24 to 48 hours before your wax.”
The Perfect Products for A Safe, Effective At-Home Wax
In terms of wax strips, Naranjo notes that using pre-loaded strips is the best and easiest option for the face. Our favorites for a quick and pain-free removal? Nair Ready Strips ($7). Plus, they require no heating, rubbing, or any of the steps we’re too lazy to remember.
Sugar waxing has also become a huge trend in the world of hair-removal techniques, and clients love it for it’s slightly less painful approach and more natural ingredients. One great thing about sugar wax is that it’s not hot, so you don’t have to worry about burning or irritating the skin. There are plenty of sugar wax kits for at-home waxing nowadays, too, like the Sugardoh Big Doh Sugar Wax ($40).
Making Sure Your Wax Is Fool Proof
“Use the pre-loaded strips, apply to a small area, smooth down to embed the hair in the wax and tear quickly in the opposite direction of your hair growth. If you miss hairs, pluck what’s left. This technique can work on all body parts,” Naranjo explains. Although you might want to dive into the brows, she recommends thinking twice. “We discourage waxing your own eyebrows as it’s too easy to rip off more than you want— just tweeze. Also, most hot wax—either hard or with a strip—makes it very easy to burn the skin around the brows. If you can just tweeze what has grown in, that will be your safest option (even though it’s time consuming).”
Calming the Skin Post-Wax
You’ll most likely already own the products you need to soothe your skin post-wax. “If you have a soothing serum at home, use that. Or a cool compress of chamomile tea works well, too,” notes Naranjo. If you’re in need of a soothing agent, Petak’s favorites live in EWC’s Strut Smoothly and Strut Lavishly collections. “Most of the ingredients found in those products help soothe skin after waxing.”
When it comes to moisturizing the skin post-wax, oils tend to be your best bet, and the Sugared + Bronzed Hocoba Oil ($26) is a great option for nourishing the skin after waxing without the risk of irritation.
Note the Waxing No-Nos
Although you’ll feel like a new person post-wax, Naranjo lays down some rules to keep in mind once all is said and done. Her number-one tip? “Avoid the sun for at least 24 hours!” Recently waxed areas are prone to hyperpigmentation, but if you wear SPF, you’ll have a better chance of preserving an even skin tone.
There are also things to note before you invest in an at-home wax kit: “Do NOT wax if you’re on retinol, Differin, Accutane, or anything else that makes your skin more sensitive and fragile,” Naranjo warns.
If you’re still uncomfortable taking the at-home waxing plunge, you’re not alone. There are some ways you can preserve your salon waxes while you wait for your next appointment. Petak recommends tweezing and trimming as her top preservation techniques. “You should absolutely tweeze stray hairs in-between waxes, especially if you want to preserve your eyebrow shape. You can also trim the hair if it’s getting too long, but don’t cut it shorter than a grain of rice so you can be ready for a wax whenever.”
In terms of shaving, Petak doesn’t recommend utilizing a razor for hair removal. “If you absolutely must shave, only shave the sides of your bikini line. This way, you still feel groomed but you’re not starting your waxing results from scratch. We recommend changing razors out every two to four weeks.” Also, don’t forget to keep exfoliating and using ingrown hair products like one of our favorites: Fur’s Ingrown Concentrate ($28) or EWC’s Ingrown Hair Serum ($32).