Understanding what's going on when you're getting waxed is hard enough, it's normal to want to know what's being used on you. This could be for plenty of reasons, like allergies or just caution. But not all wax is created equal. All wax used for hair removal can be fit into two categories: soft and hard. They way they are heated up (or not), packaged, applied and removed varies. Waxing is one of the most popular and efficacious forms of hair removal as its goal is to uplift hair from the root, providing weeks of hairless skin.
But just how that's done remains a mystery to some. Wax contains resins and it’s not water soluble—which means that you'll need a wax remover or use an oil to get all traces off of skin. But those aren't the only important things to know.
Soft wax is also known as strip wax, because it will always require a strip to remove it. The wax is applied in a thin layer in the direction of hair growth and then taken off quickly in the opposite direction. When we say quickly, we mean the action through which it’s removed, not how long it’s on the skin. Generally, it requires ¼” of hair growth for the product to successfully lift the hair out of its root. After the skin is cleansed, a little bit of powder helps soak up extra moisture and provide a barrier between the wax and skin before the actual waxing.
Many companies make soft wax, and the quality greatly varies. Fortunately, even those who don’t have a license can buy the same professional products that plenty of salons and spas have in their skincare rooms, like the ones from brands GiGi and Satin Smooth. You'll find some use honey, and others use a creamy base. Also, they're often based on a certain ingredient—like chocolate, lavender, tea tree, cherry and so forth. However, there are different forms of soft wax.
Heated: You will find this type in a pot. It’s either softened to a good temperature via the microwave or a warmer, although a warmer is preferred. I suggest this over any other kind of soft wax because the heat makes it easy to spread, and seems to soften the skin and hair somewhat, lessening waxing pain. And to go a step further, using a warmer with an adjustable temperature is ideal because it will help wax stay at a consistent heat over it being microwaved. This is important because we want it warm, not really hot, to spread easily and remove the hair.
Cold: Cold wax is taken right out of the pot and applied directly to the skin. Although it’s convenient, it’s firmer, and it can be tricky to get a thin layer on evenly. Many find cold wax more painful to remove than wax that's heated, and it often leaves hair behind.
Pre Made Strips: These strips have the wax already attached. Not only are they easy to use ,but there’s no chance of putting on too much product. And depending on how much hair you’re removing, a strip can often be used more than once per area. It’s always recommended that wax strips be slightly ‘heated’ up a bit by rubbing them between your palms, which allows them to stick more to the hair. And because it’s not swiped along the skin, you're going to just want to place the strip on the hair, and smoothe over in the direction of hair growth.
Hard wax is also known sometimes as stripless wax, because it doesn’t need a strip to be removed. This wax is always warmed up (usually slightly less than soft) and can never be used cold or at room temperature. A small amount of pre-epilation oil typically goes on the skin after it’s cleansed to protect it from the wax.
Hard wax is applied in a thicker layer than soft wax, but also in the direction of hair growth. As it hardens, it 'shrink wraps' the hair, and then becomes a strip in itself. The end it's going to be removed from is flicked up creating a tab. It's then pulled off in the direction opposite the growth. Like with soft wax, it’s recommended hair be at least ¼”, but it may remove hair slightly shorter. It works great for areas with thick hair.