Hard wax, also known as stripless wax, is a specific type of wax used to remove hair. It's applied and removed a bit differently from the more common soft waxes (also known as a type of strip wax). However, both ultimately have the same goal: to remove hair from the follicle.
How Hard Wax for Hair Removal Works
Hard wax is a bit different from soft wax. First of all, there are no strips involved. It doesn't require a muslin or pellon strip to be removed, so it saves money and waste. It's also applied thicker than soft wax. While it varies depending on the manufacturer, the rule of thumb is about the thickness of a nickel.
Heat is important when it comes to hard wax. In fact, it needs to be heated up in a warmer or the microwave, per the manufacturer's instructions. This is different from some soft versions, which can be found on already pre-made strips or scooped out with an applicator and applied at room temperature. The right amount of heat allows the hard wax to be warmed up at a lower temperature than soft wax.
Additionally, the wax must set first, as it needs to harden fully before being removed (otherwise it will crack or won't remove hair). Hard wax also has a cool reduction power, as it shrink-wraps the hair as it hardens. With soft wax, hair simply sticks to the product. In fact, because of its shrink wrapping abilities, it's known to be able to remove shorter hairs than soft wax can.
Prep skin for waxing by cleansing, then applying a pre-epilating oil (for hard wax) or powder (for soft wax). This creates a buffer between the skin and wax for more effective hair removal.
Where Hard Wax Is Used
Hard wax is normally used for bikini and Brazilian waxes, as it works well on coarse hair and smaller sections. Since it shrink-wraps the hair, it's often gentler to delicate facial skin and can remove the short noticeable hair. Thus, facial waxing is also common. Finally, hard wax on the nose is a typical usage. Soft wax can only be used on the outer portion, whereas hard wax is put on an applicator in a ball formation, allowed to cool a bit, then placed in the nose up to the ball portion. After about five minutes or so, it's pulled out.
Hard wax isn't the solution to everything, though. While it can be used on a lot of skin, it's quicker to use strips on large areas like the legs or chest, as it works best in smaller sections. Soft is also easier to use if you're new to waxing. Therefore, it's good to get the technique of using strips down before moving on to stripless wax. 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.
Buying Products and Kits
Microwavable kits are popular and easily heated up in the microwave. However, it's best for any wax to be kept at a consistent temperature because it spreads easily and removes the hair better. Otherwise, you'll have to keep re-heating as you go along, and keeping it at the right temperature becomes frustrating. If you have a small budget and will only be doing small areas, a microwavable kit may be the way to go. Rather than picking up a drugstore brand, you can get a professional one, like Gigi Brazilian Bikini Wax Microwave Formula ($12) as professional products tend to be of a higher quality.
Wax warmers are another option. If you plan on doing large areas frequently, it's best to invest in a kit that includes a warmer. You'll be able to keep wax with ongoing heat as you work on removing hair. The ones with an adjustable heat setting, as opposed to just an on and off switch, keep it an even temperature.
Satin Smooth Cherry Hard Wax ($16) is another great market buy made to work without applying a pre-epilation oil. However, it is recommended to use an oil anyway, especially in the bikini area. Otherwise, you can try using a European wax from Spain called Starpil. The stripless hard wax comes in small blocks, and you'll have to buy an empty tin to place in your warmer.