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Let's face it: removing unwanted hair does not rank high on the fun meter. In fact, depending on the area of your body, various hair removal techniques can be downright excruciating. But if you leave your waxing session with more than just tenderness, redness, and irritant folliculitis (an inflamed hair follicle), it might be time to book an appointment with your dermatologist. According to Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, redness and swelling that persists longer than two days or bruising and scabbing in general are unusual reactions and should be checked out by your doctor. To avoid running into these issues, follow the below advice on making your wax experience as painless as possible. With a few precautions and a little practice, even those trying an at-home kit can emerge both hair- and bruise-free.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, is a Manhattan-based, board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Entière Dermatology, specializing in bespoke medical and cosmetic skin solutions.
Consider Your Medications and Timing
If you regularly take blood-thinning medication or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as Advil or Motrin, this can affect your blood's ability to clot and cause you to bruise more easily. In this instance, opt for another hair removal option. Levin also advises patients to stop using prescriptions with retinoids or over-the-counter skincare products with retinol two to five days before a wax to prevent scabbing from the top layer of skin being pulled with the hair.
Although bruising is not a common response in this scenario, your skin can be more sensitive during your period due to increased inflammation. When scheduling your wax appointment, choose a time that doesn’t conflict with your period to save yourself from a little extra sting.
Prep the Area Before Waxing
The key to a good wax job is proper skin preparation. Think of your waxing area as an artist's canvas and pay as much attention to the prepping the surface as you do to the actual waxing. First, wash the area to be waxed with soap and water. For the bikini line and inner leg, it's best to do this in the shower, then wax right after. Next, gently exfoliate the area to prevent folliculitis or ingrown hairs. Levin suggests using a chemical exfoliator (such as an AHA or BHA) rather than a physical exfoliator, which can be much too aggressive at removing skin. A clean, oil-free surface allows good adhesion of the wax for an easier and less painful removal. Conversely, a poorly prepped surface can cause too much or too little stick, resulting in a painful removal process that may further irritate skin.
See a Professional Waxer
Bikini wax bruises or bruises in other hard-to-reach areas could be the result of poor waxing technique. This can be prevented by seeing a professional or seeking help from another set of hands. Waxing large, easily accessible areas like the arms and legs are much easier to attempt by yourself than your under arms or pubic area. Leave those in the hands of a professional or someone you trust.
If you are attempting an at-home wax, keep these three things in mind: work efficiently, pull from the right angle, and hold the skin taut. First, make sure your formula is the perfect temperature for application. If it’s not warm enough, it’ll glob onto the skin and require more force to get it off. If it’s too hot, you risk the chance of burning your skin. Then, apply the wax in the direction of the hair growth. Once the wax has firmly gripped the hair, pull it in the opposite direction of the way the hair is growing. Pulling the wax straight up or not holding your skin taut can cause broken capillaries or bruising, so devote the necessary time to perfecting your technique.
Aftercare for a Wax Treatment
Whether you attempted your wax at home or went to a professional at a salon or spa, you’ll likely need to ice the area to calm down the swelling and reduce the redness. Any pain should only last during the treatment and the sensitivity should subside after a day or so. Levin suggests taking an Ibuprofen 30 minutes before waxing to suppress any pain you might feel following the treatment and moisturizing the area to help repair your skin’s protective barrier back to normal.
Up next: What you need to know about sugaring vs. waxing.