After your bikini wax comes to an end, you'll hopefully find that the worst part is over and you can enjoy your smooth bikini zone in peace. But if you want to keep up that hair-free aesthetic, you'll need to know what to do after to keep your skin soft, smooth, and healthy (Read: No irritation, ingrown hairs, pimples, or bumps).
What bothers the skin post-wax varies somewhat from person to person. Some people may be more prone to ingrown hairs because of the thickness or curliness of their body hair. Other people have sensitive skin that can become inflamed after waxing, with even small amounts of heat or friction causing irritation or redness. Whatever your case may be, here are some valuable steps that you should take after (and before) a body-waxing treatment to keep flare-ups at bay.
Meet the Expert
- Dendy Engelman, MD is a board-certified dermatologic surgeon with a focus on cosmetic enhancement procedures for both the face and body as well as skin cancer treatment.
- Rhea Souhleris Grous is the founder of La Suite Skincare at Union Square Dermatology and an aesthetics specialist with more than two decades of experience.
- Jodi Shays is a California-based licensed esthetician. She is the owner of Queen Bee Salon & Spa.
Exfoliate Before Your Waxing Treatment
It might seem like a paradox, but one of the most important pieces of waxing aftercare actually starts prior to the service. The bikini area is notorious for getting ingrown hairs after waxing; by exfoliating before your wax, you may prevent dead skin from clogging pores and causing ingrown hairs. Exfoliating helps keep the skin looking healthy, and it might also encourage hair to grow back in the correct direction, making future waxing treatments easier.
Engelman urges waxing clients to "exfoliate before hair removal, [using] a multi-tasking treatment that cleanses, exfoliates, and soothes to banish bumps and reduce flaky skin."
Engelman recommends First Aid Beauty's KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub for use before a waxing treatment; this product includes both glycolic and lactic acids, meant to help make the skin as smooth as possible (thus promising to reduce the likelihood of ingrown hairs and post-waxing irritation).
Stay Away from Direct Sunlight
We know that many people opt for bikini waxes so that they can rock a bikini and lounge in the sun… but for at least 48 hours—or until the post-waxing redness has gone away—it's crucial to stay in the shade. Waxing is an exfoliating process in and of itself, and it removes skin cells that offer protection from the sun. Your skin is at higher risk of burning because of the exfoliation combined with the removal of the hair, which can provide somewhat of a physical block. Also, heightened sun sensitivity can result in dark skin spots (also called hyperpigmentation), especially if you're taking certain medications.
Let Your Skin Breathe
Sohleris Grous advises waxing clients to "avoid wearing tight clothes that occlude the waxed areas for the first 48 hours [after waxing], as they will encourage breakouts and ingrown hairs."
On a similar note, she also suggests skipping fitness classes and activities that encourage "friction, irritation, sweat, and bacteria" for at least 48 hours following a waxing treatment. A prime example of a workout to save for later? "Your typical spin class," she says.
Avoid Soaking and Steam Treatments
When hair is removed through waxing, the empty follicle is more prone to invasion by bacteria. Feel free to shower after your wax treatment, but don't take a bath or get in any type of a pool for the rest of day after the service, as any bacteria or chlorine in the pool water can cause irritation. Also, the extreme heat of saunas and steam rooms can disturb skin and should be avoided right after waxing.
Try a Bikini Facial
"If you are at a spa and they have LED light treatments, ask them to put the infrared healing light on you for 10 minutes," says licensed esthetician Jodi Shays. "It's very healing."
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
According to Engelman, the best defense against ingrown hairs is soft skin. "Moisturized skin will be more pliable and hair will grow out easily," she explains.
She recommends a 20-minute shower after a wax treatment, and while you're in the shower, use an in-shower oil. "Immediately follow with lotion," she says, "Applying oil and lotion on wet skin will allow the product to lock moisture in by trapping some of the water on the skin."
Don't Exfoliate Too Soon After Waxing
As beneficial as exfoliation can be prior to a waxing treatment, it can prove too abrasive immediately afterward. That's why Engelman tells patients to wait a week before exfoliating waxed skin. "Be careful not to over-exfoliate, since this can weaken the skin barrier and break down the stratum corneum, whose job is to be a barrier against pathogens."
Shop Our Favorite Post-Waxing Products
Bump-fighting products like Relax & Wax's Get the Bump Outta Here are effective tools for keeping skin clear and smooth after waxing treatments.
Cooling roll-on gels like GiGi's No Bump promise to soothe and fortify the skin after a wax without the added risk of post-waxing exfoliation that our experts warn against.
Redness is a sign of irritation. If you have a problem with overly red or stinging skin, try a lotion specifically designed to soothe skin post-waxing, like Relax and Wax No-Trauma Momma.
If you'd like to use a more multi-purpose lotion for post-waxing care, follow Engelman's advice and seek out a gentle moisturizer with glycerin like Bio-Oil. "Glycerin in the lotion helps to bind to water molecules, which not only gives a supple feeling, but [also] softens the skin barrier," explains Engelman.
Like Bio-Oil, Cetaphil also contains glycerin, and Engelman regularly recommends it to her clients who wax. The price and wide availability also make it a great pick for regular use.
Duarte I, Silveira JEPS, Hafner MFS, Toyota R, Pedroso DMM. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. An Bras Dermatol. 2017;92(4):521-525. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.201756111
Public Health Ontario. At a glance: personal services and infection risks.
Cleveland Clinic. Pigmentation: abnormal pigmentation. Updated March 29, 2016.
Khanna N, Chandramohan K, Khaitan BK, Singh MK. Post waxing folliculitis: a clinicopathological evaluation. Int J Dermatol. 2014;53(7):849-854. doi:10.1111/ijd.12056
American Academy of Dermatology Association. Hair removal: how to wax.