Waxing and threading are two hair removal methods that are commonly lumped together into a single category. But, in fact, 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. Keep reading to see which technique they prefer, threading or waxing.
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 hair removal. Take eyebrow maintenance, for example. Trends come and go, and we recommend proceeding with caution if you're planning on taking a permanent laser to your brows (imagine if people did that in the '90s—stick-thin brows would still be everywhere today).
That's why people turn to waxing and threading. They don't offer a permanent hair-free solution, but they 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 has a negative effect on the hair follicle and the skin that surrounds it.
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 but 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, it could be permanent. But that's not necessarily a good thing when it comes to your brows. "I look to threading much like laser—only do it if you never want to see the hair again. I personally would never put thread to my brow," Crooks says.
Instead, Crooks recommends waxing. "Waxing, if performed correctly, such as using correct products and tools, is much more gentle on hair follicle and skin," she says. But there's a catch. Only wax if you take the proper preparations. She uses "a pre-wax treatment to lubricate follicle and create a barrier between the wax and skin." This allows for easier, gentler removal that pulls the hair out by the root—this means less chance of breaking or tearing, although it's always a possibility.
We would be remiss to say 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, and if you do get a little pink from threading, it usually goes away within the hour. Also, if you use anti-aging products like retinols around your eyes, you're more likely to suffer irritation from waxing. 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.
Laitolais, 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 come from behind to do your makeup? Tweezing helps with symmetry because it is face to face." He also notes that tweezing works in the direction of hair growth, making it a gentle on the skin. "Waxing causes breakdown of collagen, which causes saggy lids and crow’s feet," he says.
So there you have it. According to these brow experts, stick to waxing, or at least understand threading carries more risk. Alternatively, do as Laitolais does and pick up a pair of tweezers.