Whether you're a die-hard fan or a novice, waxing is one of the most popular methods of hair removal, and for good reason. Minimal pain aside (depending who you ask), waxing offers ultra-smooth, long-lasting results. But as with most beauty treatments, you've got options when it comes to ridding unwanted hair with wax. There's hard wax and soft wax—both of which have the same goal of removing hair from the follicle—but they vary slightly in their method. Unlike soft wax, which requires strips for removal, hard wax hardens on its own and doesn't require strips (re: automatic bonus points for being less messy). We know that pros and at-home waxers alike laud hard wax vs. soft wax for hair removal, but we're eager to wrack our brain on why.
We decided to delve deeper into hard wax and learn exactly what the benefits are, as well as how and when to use it. Below, European Wax Center's Gina Petak and board-certified dermatologist Shari Sperling give us the intel on how to get the most comfortable wax.
Meet the Expert
Read on to learn all there is to know about using hard wax for hair removal, from how it works to the best at-home kits.
What Is Hard Wax?
Hard wax is a type of wax that adheres to the hair follicle (versus the skin) and hardens and removes on its own, eliminating the need for paper strips. According to Petak, because the wax sticks to the hair, this allows certain areas to be waxed multiple times to ensure all hair is removed without damaging or irritating the skin. "[Old-school honey waxes remove] the first layer of skin along with the hair, which means you can’t go over the area multiple times and can leave stray hair behind," explains Petak. "If you notice your skin being more red after a wax using paper strips, it’s because of the removal of the first layer of skin. It’s often said that hard wax is a much less painful experience than soft wax for all parts of the body." That said, there are soft waxes that contain glyceryl rosinate, which is meant to act as a buffer to adhere to the hair only.
The Benefits of Hard Wax
Hard wax has a multitude of benefits. For one, it's gentler on the skin: "Hard wax is good for people with sensitive skin, as it is applied as a thicker layer and is removed without a strip," says Sperling. "It tends to be a little less painful and better for smaller, delicate areas of the body." It also removes hair cleanly from the root, and doesn't leave a sticky mess behind. Petak says that when it comes to soft wax, you run the risk of having wax residue left on the skin, but since hard wax dries on its own, it's much easier to remove and therefore much cleaner. Then, there's the results. "Waxing removes hair from the root so results last about 3-4 weeks," says Petak.
There aren't many drawbacks to hard wax, other than a possible skin allergy. "You should always patch test new products to ensure you don’t have an allergy," advises Sperling, adding that at-home treatments can cause injury like burns or extensive exfoliation and tearing of the skin if not done correctly. Also, for larger areas like the (legs and back), soft wax is recommended, as hard wax can break off easily.
How to Use Hard Wax to Remove Hair
Here's how to get rid of unwanted body or facial hair using hard wax.
- Cleanse the area to remove any dirt, makeup, oil, and lotions.
- Apply a pre-wax oil to protect the skin and create a barrier between the skin and the wax.
- Heat the hard wax in a wax warmer or microwave, stirring it slightly to cool it down.
- Using a stick and pressure, apply the wax in the same direction of hair growth to try to avoid breakage. Make sure to create a lip at the end (using light pressure) to have something to hold on to while removing.
- Wait for the wax to harden (this usually takes about five minutes).
- Pull the wax off in the opposite direction of hair growth. Repeat on all desired areas.
- Apply an ingrown serum once hair is removed.
Hard wax needs to be warm and pliable (but not hot) to work. If using a wax warmer, the ideal temperature is 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and it should be a similar consistency to honey.
When to Use Hard Wax vs. Soft Wax
Hard wax is typically used for bikini and Brazilian waxes, as it works well on coarse hair and smaller sections. Also, since it shrink-wraps the hair, it's often gentler on delicate facial skin—nose included—and can remove any short noticeable hair.
Hard wax isn't the solution to everything, though. While it can be used on smaller areas, many find it more efficient to use strips on larger areas like the legs or chest. Soft wax is also preferred for a do-it-yourself full pubic hair removal, as it's great for cleaning up your own bikini line (the hair outside a normal panty line). For anything more, like a Brazilian, let the pros do the work with hard wax.
Shop the Best At-Home Wax Kits
Below, find our top picks for at-home waxing kits.
Infused with chocolate-scented essential oils, this calming stripless wax is as Instagram-worthy as it is effective at delivering smooth skin.
Plant-based chlorophyll—which promises to target inflammation and breakouts—is the hero ingredient in this hard wax formula, which comes in a kit ideal for small areas like the bikini, face, and underarms.
If you're looking for a do-it-all kit, you've found it in this one by GiGi—it features a wax warmer, pre-wax oil, post-wax cooling gel, applicators, and a vitamin-rich Brazilian hard wax formula.