The dos and don'ts of at-home hair removal — the pros have spoken
Here's how to do it safely, and how not to 'disrupt all the hard work you’ve put into waxing over the years.'
Like any sort of body hair removal, you never really have to. It's something we do because we want to and it's not the first thing many of us were thinking of as we adjusted to staying at home. But as the weeks go by, the hair some of us so diligently had removed in professional waxing, threading and laser appointments… is back!
When you wax regularly, the hair growth cycle is four to six weeks, so those of us who rely on hair removal services are getting mighty fuzzy right now. You might think at-home waxing is easy. Just rub, stick and peel, right? Wrong. "Waxing isn't like doing your nails or dying your hair at home, those risks of injury are minor to none," says Sina Zere, Founder of Buff Wax Spot in Edmonton. "But with waxing, there is a significant potential for injury." Waxing, even when done by a professional, isn't a beauty service that's known for being a painless one, and when combined with inexperience, you could be asking for a whole host of mishaps.
"We know it's a trying time and people want to continue with their routines, but with at-home waxing, the chances of bruising or burning yourself are so great," Amy Finnegan Burns, VP of operations and training at WAXON Laser + Waxbar, a Canadian hair removal chain. To avoid the painful pitfalls of at-home hair removal, we asked the experts to share their preferred removal options for everybody — and body part.
For the face
While Zere is not a fan of drugstore waxes, when it comes to women and removing hair from the upper lip and chin, she'll make an exception. The caveat is that the wax must be small wax ready strips and not traditional strip wax — which is the hot runny wax that most people think of when you mention waxing. Before you apply, she says it's important to make sure you haven't used any skincare ingredients in the last few days that might have made the skin sensitive like any chemical exfoliants, like retinol or AHAs, should be avoided for a full week beforehand.
When using any kind of wax, the technique is imperative. "The three rules of waxing are to apply wax in the direction of hair growth, pull skin taut and remove against the direction of hair growth," says Zere. She suggests watching a YouTube video to help demonstrate the proper technique.
"Shaving will change the coarseness of the hair and it's going to change the hair growth cycle," says Finnegan Burns, so for women instead she recommends using a bleaching or depilatory cream. "Bleaching is great for people that are not too concerned about the hair itself but just how dark it is," she says. Depilatory creams on the other hand are highly alkaline solutions that break down the protein bonds in the hair, causing it to dissolve. Finnegan Burns recommends doing a test swatch on your wrist 24 hours before to make sure you don't have a sensitivity to the product. To prevent irritation, steer clear of heat after using a depilatory cream. You'll also want to avoid using any cream or oil on the area as it could seep into pores and cause infection.
Nair Wax Ready-Strips for Face, $11.49, Amazon
Veet Silky Fresh Hair Removal Kit for Sensitive Skin, $8, Jean Coutu
For below the belt
If you're looking to take matters into your own hands here, our experts say to avoid DIY waxing this area altogether. Instead, focus on grooming rather than removal. "Don't shave this region because it will disrupt all the hard work you've put into waxing over the years," says Finnegan Burns. Waxing stunts hair growth, so when it grows back in four to six weeks it's light, finer and sparser. Shaving has the reverse effect. Plus, it can cause ingrown hairs.
Of all the options, Finnegan Burns and Zere both agree that trimming is your best bet because it's not interrupting your growth cycle. "You can trim a little longer than a grain of rice — or a length that you're happy with, you're in control without it having any effect on your hair growth cycle whatsoever," says Finnegan Burns. She suggests the electrical Lycon Trimmer whereas Zere recommends using a small sharp pair of stainless-steel scissors.
Lycon Hand Held Hair Trimmer, $48, WAXON
Buff Express Scissors, $20, Buff Wax Spot
For legs and underarms
Underarms and legs can be shaved with minimal risk. "It's an area of the body where the hair doesn't ever change that much from waxing, it doesn't get coarser and the hair growth cycle is much quicker than the bikini [area]," says Finnegan Burns. Before you pick up the razor make sure it's a sharp blade. "There's nothing more irritating to the skin than scraping a dull blade across it. Plus, it can break hairs and you'll have ingrowns," says Zere
Another important part of the equation is the medium; use something nourishing and never dry shave. Without providing an adequate barrier to your skin. the chances of nicks skyrocket, plus it's incredibly dehydrating to the skin. "I really don't care for shaving foams because I don't think they provide enough of a barrier; I actually use my deep conditioner mask," says Zere.
Joy Starter Kit, $13, Joy
For the chest, back and shoulders
When it comes to grooming body hair for men, the most popular areas are chest, shoulders and back. Waxing, sugaring and laser are popular professional methods of hair removal in these areas, but if you're doing it at home the experts suggest trimming or shaving.
"The back and chest have deep sebaceous glands making it a very sensitive area on men," says Amy Finnegan. For best results, she recommends shaving post-shower with a sharp blade and shaving cream or oil to help minimize the risk of irritation. You could also get a body-friendly trimmer that can handle wading through thick hair. When it comes to shaving or trimming the back and shoulders, it's necessary to call in reinforcements if possible, like a partner or a roommate.
The Lawn Mower 2.0 Waterproof Electrical Trimmer, $75, Manscape