How to Wax Short Hair (And When to Wait)

Hard wax dripping out of a tub, on a pale pink background.

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We'll be the first to admit that we don't like stubble, yet waxing short hair is no easy feat. Still, we've heard that it is possible. That's why we turned to experts Jodi Shays and Ali Tobia to let us in on everything there is to know about waxing short hair—from what even qualifies as "short" hair to begin with to tips and techniques for maintaining silky-smooth skin—bikini line included.

Meet the Expert

Keep scrolling to learn how to safely wax short hair.

How Long Does Hair Have to Be to Wax?

Waxing short hair can be a challenge (to say the least). Hair needs to be about 1/4-inch long for the wax to effectively grab onto it. If it's shorter, it may or may not be successfully removed. And depending on what type of wax the professional uses and how skilled they are, you might even be turned away if your hair isn't long enough.

When making a waxing appointment, ask the salon if they use hard wax and can remove somewhat short hair. If not, call other salons and spas that specialize in waxing or (this is the best option) wait until the hair gets longer. Usually, salons won't take an appointment they don't think they can execute.

If you're waxing at home and you're unsure of whether your hair is long enough, Tobia offers some advice: "A good rule of thumb, if you want to eyeball it, is that hair should be as long as an eyelash to make the waxing most effective. To be more precise, a quarter of an inch is the length that will yield the best waxing results. When the hair is shorter it will be harder for the wax to grab." Shays adds that how successful you or your technician is at waxing short hair will also depend on the thickness of the hair. She tells us that she can wax hair from the root that is the size of a grain of rice—if it's thin and fine, that is. On the other hand, short, thick, coarse hair is much more difficult to get a hold of, she admits. "I am not sure that waxing hair shorter than a grain of rice is going to come up unless you aggressively go over an area more than once, which is a 'no-no,' although I do see people doing this with hard wax." 

How to Wax Short Hair

Waxing yourself can be difficult, and trying to remove shorter hair will make it extra tricky. Remember: Not all waxes are created equal. This is not the time to use cold wax or pre-made wax strips, as these products don't pick up all of the hair—especially if it's thick. But, if you must do it, you have to use hot professional wax. While the wax is typically applied in the direction of hair growth and removed in the opposite direction, you can remove more hair if you first apply wax (strip or stripless) against the direction of hair growth, and then with the direction of hair growth, without stopping or picking up the applicator, working quickly. Shays agrees: "When I train waxologists I insist that shorter hairs be removed in smaller and more deliberate techniques." Why? Wax will fully surround the hair on all sides, so there's a better chance the shorter hairs will be removed.

Before waxing your desired area, practice the technique on your arm or another place where you don't care if the hair is fully removed. After waxing, use slanted tweezers to pick out stragglers and keep pointed tweezers on hand for particularly short hairs.

Can Sugaring Remove Short Hair?

A gentler and natural alternative to waxing, sugaring removes hair from the follicle using a gel or paste made from sugar, water, and lemon. Although gel is typically easier to use than paste, it requires hair to be about 1/4-inch to remove while paste may only need 1/16-inch of growth. Still, it's worth noting that paste can be trickier to use and is best executed by a skilled technician. Shays explains, "Sugaring is different from waxing in that you apply the product in the opposite direction of the hair growth, and as you can imagine, this would be hard to do with very coarse, short hairs." "People claim [sugaring can remove short hair] but I would say that this short hair be the size of a grain of rice and the texture of the hair be fine," she continues.  However, Tobia adds that the efficacy of sugaring in removing short hair lies in the technique. "When prepared correctly, the consistency and removal technique is more likely to be able to grab onto shorter hairs," she explains.

When to Wait 

So how much time should you give between waxing appointments, anyway? Well, according to Shays, "At Queen Bee we have always suggested four to six weeks but everybody is different. Some people like to wax underarm hair every two weeks, and this hair once waxed several times can start to grow back very finely so it’s easier and safer to remove. Other people have slow growth and can wait six weeks and up. If you have been shaving for some years you need to be on a regular schedule (every four weeks) so that you can allow the shaved hairs to start growing back at the same cycle." 

As for when you should wait to wax, Tobia advises: "If your hair is too short, or if you have a sunburn or any sort of rash or open wound, it’s a good idea to wait a few days for waxing. Also, you should avoid retinol for at least two to three days after waxing so that your skin can restore itself, and you may want to skip retinol for two to three days prior to waxing as well because waxing can be more painful without the surface layer of skin that retinol removes—and honestly, isn't waxing already painful enough? "Similarly, if you use prescription topicals or salicylic or glycolic acid, you may choose to take a few days off from that treatment in advance of your wax to allow your surface layer to restore itself ahead of time, but you should always check with your doctor, especially for prescription treatments," she adds.

The Final Takeaway

While you may be tempted to wax short hair, ultimately, allowing your hair to grow out until it is 1/4-inch is the best thing you can do. Not only will it be easier to get waxed or wax yourself with longer hair but the results will be better and you'll experience less irritation, too. However, if you do decide to wax stubble, make sure to use a gentle moisturizing cream (L'Occitane's Almond Milk Concentrate, $54, is great for this) afterward in order to keep your waxed areas feeling comfortable.

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