Bikini waxes can feel terrible, even downright masochistic at times, but I continue to get them. It’s a personal preference—I feel more confident, clean, and even more powerful after a good wax. I don’t choose to do it for any romantic partner, it’s simply a choice I make for myself. Three cheers for self-love (even if it can sting a bit), right?
If you’re like me and opt to sustain a bit of pain for your beauty treatments, I’ve whipped up a guide (with the help of experts Stacy Chimento, Nikki Babian, and Natalia Romanenko) on how to make waxing hurt less and maybe, just maybe, be more relaxing too. And while waxing is usually an effective and safe way to remove body hair—as long as appropriate sanitation and safety measures are in check—Chimento advises that if you see any signs of infection e.g. genital warts, scarring, burns, bacterial infection (purple patches on the skin, rapid heart rate, fever), or infected grown hairs, after waxing, see your doctor.
Meet the Expert
- Stacy Chimento, MD, is a Miami-based, board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology.
- Nikki Babian is an esthetician and lead trainer at Spruce & Bond.
- Natalia Romanenko is CEO at BriskNPosh, a professional laser and waxing hair removal service in NYC. She has over a decade of experience working as an esthetician.
Keep reading for expert tips to make your next bikini wax appointment free of anxiety.
Exfoliate with a Serum or Scrub
One to two days before your wax, gently exfoliate the skin on and around your bikini area. "Exfoliating helps wax grab the hairs and not your skin," explains Chimento. Babian recommends the all-natural Whish Exfoliator Bundle ($78) because it works gently on the skin while still being effective. As for Romanenko, Malin + Goetz Peppermint Body Scrub ($35) is all kinds of wonderful. She advises using it to exfoliate the waxed area once or twice a week between appointments for best results. However, if a physical exfoliator sounds too harsh for your skin, then we suggest going with the chemical route. You can't go wrong with Eminence Organics Mangosteen Daily Resurfacing Concentrate ($62).
Do not exfoliate the day of your appointment, as exfoliating can leave the skin more sensitive to pain. Also, if using a physical exfoliant, make sure not to scrub too hard, which can irritate the skin.
Wait Long Enough Between Waxes
Let your hair grow back to a quarter of an inch (about the length of a grain of rice) before coming in for your next appointment. If your hair is too short, the wax may not be as effective since it cannot properly pull the hair from the follicle, comments Chimento. If it's too long, you could wind up experiencing more pain and discomfort.
Use Hard Wax
Hard wax and strip waxes are less harsh on the skin. These methods are formulated to grip hair (not skin, ouch!) so even your most sensitive areas will see fewer ingrown hairs. “It’s created specifically for sensitive areas, as hair comes out easier, which reduces the pain and prolongs smooth, hairless results. Soft wax, with its stickier texture, is best used for less sensitive areas like legs,” says Romanenko. Not sure what kind of wax your specialist uses? Then just ask. This will tell you if it's hard or soft as well as if it's a bee wax (great to know if you are vegan).
Review Prescription Medication
Certain medications can make your skin more sensitive and are best avoided if you're planning on waxing. But you might prefer to seek out alternative hair removal methods rather than stop taking your medication. Chimento cites isotretinoin and tretinoin as two acne medications that cause skin sensitivity.
Plan Around Your Period
Everyone has different thresholds of pain (think about how you react to a splinter. Do you scream in pain or calmly walk to the bathroom for tweezers? We support both reactions). Your body is much more sensitive around your period, so it’s best to plan for a wax during a different time of the month.
“Try not to wax at least five days before or during your period. A sweet spot is three to four days after your period since a woman's pain tolerance is typically higher right after her menstrual cycle,” suggests Romanenko. Although not everyone needs it, Chimento suggests taking a pain reliever like Advil or Tylenol 30 to 60 minutes before your appointment. It will generally ease the pain—and your mind.
Speed and efficiency are key when it comes to keeping pain at a minimum. Think about removing a band-aid—you want to do it as swiftly as possible. It’s best to have a specialist who can focus on technique and tend to your particular needs, ensuring the process can be as quick and productive as possible. Holding skin taut when removing the wax strip is also a must in reducing discomfort.
I know it sounds strange, but try your best to relax your body while you’re on the table. If you release a bit on your inner control, the experience can actually be meditative (really). Romanenko adds: “Take deep breaths while you're being waxed, it will help clear your mind and reduce any tension before the next strip.”
In the same vein, it might be helpful for you to distract yourself from the pain or awkwardness by listening to music or flipping through a magazine. The more normal waxing becomes, the less you’ll freak out. Maybe we should all share a waxing playlist on Spotify? Just a thought.
Don't Workout Right After
It's not that I'm trying to avoid exercising (okay, maybe a little) but after getting waxed, I especially like to put my workout sesh on hold. Chimento recommends waiting at least 24 hours post-wax before hitting the gym since the skin will be a little inflamed and sensitive. She adds, "Sweat from working out can transfer bacteria into lesions that are left behind from waxing. If bacteria gets into these lesions, you are at risk for developing folliculitis and pimples."
And when it comes to your post-wax outfit, make sure to change into cotton underwear and avoid super-tight clothing for the rest of the day. “Cotton is the way to go after a wax. Even though lace may be prettier, it can trap sweat and bacteria from your body that will lead to infection or ingrown hairs,” explains Babian.
Moisturize the Area
Moisturizing after waxing will help to keep your skin hydrated, which helps with any discomfort. And just like moisturizing, exfoliating helps to keep your skin soft and glowing. We're partial to the Fur Stubble Cream ($38) for once the hair starts to grow back in.
While standing in a steamy shower might just be the best feeling in the world, don’t take hot showers or steam baths for 24 to 48 hours after your appointment. It’ll dry out and irritate your skin, causing irritation, ingrown hairs, breakouts, and hives, notes Chimento. "Waxing causes the pores to open and leaves the skin vulnerable. If you bathe the same day as your wax, the product and bacteria in the water could cause an infection." She advises waiting for at least four to seven hours for your skin to recover before taking a cool shower.
Although it's best to wait 24 to 48 hours post-wax before taking a hot shower, if you do decide to shower before that time, use lukewarm water and skip a steam bath or sauna.
Don't Skimp on Cost
Brace yourselves, because this is the most important tip I can offer you on your waxing journey: be very careful about cheap waxes and DIYs. There are certain techniques and products that work and can be performed at home, but I’ve never been skilled enough to use them. Romanenko advises, “To better the process, leave it to the experts who are strict about practicing safe wax etiquette to prevent any disturbing infections.”
What topical products can help to ease the pain of waxing?
Hydrocortisone cream (1%) and lidocaine spray can both be found at drugstores and are used to help alleviate pain experienced from waxing. Apply topically one hour prior to waxing.
Are there any foods and/or drinks I should avoid pre-wax?
Since both alcohol and caffeine increase blood flow, they might make you susceptible to bruising and sensitivity. You might want to consider avoiding both an hour or two before getting waxed.
Do waxes become less painful over time?
Once you start waxing, do it regularly (removing shaving from your beauty regimen) and your hair will grow much thinner—making for far less painful waxes thereafter.