The art of getting unwanted hair ripped off your body—a.k.a. waxing— isn't something any of us love. Well, at least I don't. However, we do know that it boasts several benefits, like forgoing daily shaving and avoiding ingrown hairs. And because I have coarse hair, waxing is essential for me if I want to remove unwanted hair without getting tons of bumps as a result.
While there isn't much you can do to minimize the discomfort of a wax appointment, you can, in fact, prep your skin, so you aren't dealing with irritation afterwards. There are a few different approaches on how to prep skin for waxing, and these tried-and-true tips are easy to remember. To get the details, we chatted with two waxing experts, celebrity esthetician Ildi Pekar and Dana Pellegrino, esthetician, educator, and co-owner of The Haven Wax Lounge. Keep reading for all their best tips, so you can have your smoothest experience with waxing yet.
Avoid Certain Beverages
We all love our morning cup of joe or a carefully crafted cocktail, but if you have a standing wax appointment within two to three hours of a caffeine boost or happy hour, you'll want to skip it. "Avoid stimulants like coffee or alcohol, as this increases your skin's sensitivity to pain," celebrity esthetician Ildi Pekar tells Byrdie. Sticking to water to keep yourself hydrated is the best plan in this case.
Exfoliate Two to Three Days Before
Exfoliating is a do when it comes to pre- and post-waxing. However, there is a caveat. "The one thing everyone should do before their waxing appointment is exfoliate," Dana Pellegrino, co-owner of The Haven and educator, emphasizes. But she recommends exfoliation two to three days before your appointment. "[A] gentle exfoliant removes the dead skin cells and debris in the way of getting to the hairs."
Both experts recommend gentle exfoliants, and Pellegrino suggests looking for formulas with jojoba beads. "They are perfectly round, unlike some other scrubs that can be too jagged or sharp, which is very rough on the skin. Jojoba beads gently roll across the skin, removing any dead skin cells, restoring skin and the overall appearance." Pekar says a DIY option made with oil, granulated sugar, and honey can also be an excellent option.
For coarse hair types, Pellegrino recommends a product that includes salicylic acid. "[Salicylic acid] can treat existing ingrown hairs while preventing new ones from forming," she explains. "This ingredient can penetrate deep into the skin while clearing out any buildup that is blocking the hairs from coming to the surface." We like Kate Somerville's ExfoliKate Resurfacing Body Scrub ($56), which resurfaces and polishes skin with pumice, lactic and salicylic acids, and enzymes from papaya, pumpkin, and pineapple. To really work it in, you can try using a body brush like this one ($129) from Gilded Body.
Avoid Tight-Fitting Clothing
You may not think of your clothing choice as part of your pre-waxing skin prep routine, but it should be as those pesky ingrown hairs can crop up unannounced, especially if the skin isn't properly cared for after waxing. For starters to avoid ingrown hairs or irritation, wear a breathable pair of cotton undies (we like the Skims Cotton Rib Boxers, $32) and your favorite maxi dress or pair of loose pants to your appointment (such as Reformation's Carrington Two Piece, $178). "It is always best to ditch the tight-fit clothing post wax to avoid any irritation," Pellegrino tells us. "The wax area should not be enclosed, as it can cause ingrown hairs and breakouts."
Hair Length Matters
Waxing your unwanted hair at the correct length is essential for a smooth finish, and especially important for coarse or coily hair. "For coarse or coiled hair, I'd recommend that the hair length should be about a half-inch for the first few waxing sessions," Pellegrino shares. "This will ensure that your waxing technician is getting a tight grip on the root, which will then result in thinning of the hair." She also recommends waxing at the exact three-and-a-half to four-week mark as this, she says, "will eventually lead to finer, softer hair, which will make your waxes less painful."