Waxing and threading are two hair removal methods that are commonly lumped together into a single category. But, in actuality, they're totally different. Waxing involves, well, wax, that solidifies on the skin, thus trapping individual hairs before ripping them away.
Threading, on the other hand, involves pinching the hair between two cotton strings that pull each strand of hair up and out of the follicle. (If you've ever seen it IRL, you know that it's kind of mesmerizing to watch).
We were curious to know if they differ by more than technique, though. Specifically, we wanted to know if one is better than the other when it comes to hair re-growth rate and gentleness on the skin. That's why we reached out to two different experts, Tonya Crooks, creator and owner of Los Angeles-based The Brow Gal, and Sebastian Latiolais, creator and owner of NYC-based Brows by Sebastian.
Meet the Expert
- Tonya Crooks is the creator and owner of The Brow Gal in Los Angeles, CA. She is a celebrity brow expert who counts Julia Roberts, Megan Fox, and Halle Berry as clients.
- Sebastian Latiolais is a celebrity makeup artist and owner of Brows by Sebastian in New York, NY. Being in the beauty industry for over 15 years, Latiolais has been the go-to expert for brow sculpting and filling.
Waxing vs. Threading: What's the Difference?
Today, waxing seems to be the most widely known in-salon hair-removal technique. While lasers are becoming more common and effective as technology advances, they're not exactly sensible for all types of hair removal. Take eyebrow maintenance, for example. Trends come and go, and we recommend proceeding with true caution if you're planning on taking a permanent laser to your brows (imagine if people had done that in the '90s—stick-thin brows would still be everywhere today).
That's why people turn to waxing and threading. Neither offers a permanent hair-free solution, but they both work (albeit differently). Waxing pulls the hair out in a single direction. Threading, on the other hand, doesn't. "Threading removes the hair in numerous different directions," says Latiolais. Crooks agrees, saying, "It is very hard to get precision in the way thread moves." This, apparently, may have a negative effect on the follicle and the skin that surrounds it.
Can Waxing or Threading Damage Your Brows?
According to Crooks, "Threading is extremely damaging to the hair follicle. It tears the follicle if hair is removed—that is why it is so painful." To make matters worse, there is a chance that the hair won't actually be removed at all—just broken off at the skin's surface. "Threading breaks the hair, which could cause it to grow in different directions," says Latiolais. That's why he says the hair will "grow back in faster because hair is broken instead of fully removed."
If the hair is, in fact, fully removed and the follicle is damaged, it could be permanent. But that's not necessarily a good thing when it comes to your brows. "I look to threading much like a laser—only do it if you never want to see the hair again. I personally would never put thread to my brow," Crooks says.
The Benefits of Waxing vs. Threading
Crooks recommends waxing above threading. "Waxing, if performed correctly, such as using correct products and tools, is much more gentle on hair follicle[s] and skin," she says. But there's a catch. You should only wax if you take the proper preparations. She uses "a pre-wax treatment to lubricate [the] follicle and create a barrier between the wax and skin." This allows for easier, gentler removal that pulls the hair out by the root—which, in turn, means less chance of breaking or tearing (although it's always a possibility).
We would be remiss to say, though, that there aren't benefits to threading as well. It has little to no contact with the skin, so there's less of a chance of irritation or getting burnt. Because of this, if you use anti-aging products like retinol around your eyes, you may be more likely to suffer irritation from waxing than threading. And if you do get a little pink from threading, it usually goes away within the hour. Since threading uses a string to remove strays around your brows, you also won't suffer from any chemical or allergic reactions. If your skin is particularly sensitive, it might be your best option.
What About Tweezing?
Latiolais, unlike Crooks, believes in tweezers only. "Tweezing is more brow artistry," he says. "The difference is that waxing and threading, they come from behind. But would we ever allow a makeup artist to come from behind to do your makeup? Tweezing helps with symmetry because it is face to face." He also says that tweezing works in the direction of hair growth, making it more gentle on the skin.
So there you have it. According to these brow experts, stick to waxing, or at least understand threading carries more risk. Or alternatively, you could do as Latiolais does, and pick up a pair of tweezers.
Cleveland Clinic. 5 ways to get overplucked eyebrows to grow back. Updated January 23, 2020.
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