If you’ve ever been waxed, you understand the convenience of going weeks at a time without needing to think about body hair. Not to mention, no nicks or cuts from a haphazard swipe with a razor, and for most, less (or even no) ingrown hairs. Now, with so many at-home wax kits out there, it’s easier than ever to get the same results of a professional wax at home—for a mere fraction of the cost.
We realize at-home waxing can be a bit daunting—it’s not like you really know what you’re doing, after all. So we talked to Jessica Johnson, a licensed aesthetician and brand ambassador for hair removal brand Completely Bare, and got the complete how-to for executing the perfect at-home wax. We’re talking bikini, legs, arms, or any other body part you want to be hair free.Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned waxer looking for handy at-home options to touch up your salon wax, follow these steps for silky smooth results.
At-Home Waxing FAQs
How long should my hair be? You only need about 1/8 inch even for at-home kits, Johnson says, but if it’s longer that’s OK too. If you wax regularly, you’ll probably end up needing it about once a month.
Who shouldn’t wax? If you’re on Accutane, you shouldn’t be waxing any part of your body. Not even your bikini (sorry!). If you have a rash or dermatitis, such as rosacea or psoriasis, never wax over it. If you use Retin-A or any other aggressive acids on your face, waxing there is a no-no but fine on other parts of your body. And never ever wax over a sunburn.
Can I give myself a Brazilian? Johnson doesn’t recommend it (she won’t even do them for herself), especially if you’ve never had one done before. You’re better off sticking to what she calls an “aggressive bikini” wax. “It’s just hard to get to that angle if you want to take everything off,” she says. Plus—ouch? If you’re set on doing them yourself, get one done first by a professional. Talk with them about the technique and watch how it’s done. The more you wax, the finer and thinner your hair will grow back, so as time goes on, it might be easier and less painful for you to try it yourself.
Properly Prep Your Skin
Clean and disinfect: Before waxing, it’s crucial that skin is completely clean. Wash well with a mild soap and water and rinse well. Some at-home kits even come with a pre-wax cleanser. “You can even disinfect the skin with a little bit of rubbing alcohol,” Johnson notes. Make sure to completely dry the area. “There shouldn’t be any natural oil from your body or any lotion, otherwise the wax will just slide off the hair.” If you’re a little nervous and sweaty, apply some baby powder to absorb the moisture.
Minimize the pain: A lot of waxing companies make topical anesthetics with lidocaine, a common numbing ingredient. Johnson suggests applying the ointment or gel and then placing saran wrap on top for optimal penetration. Some brands also make benzocaine-based numbing products, but Johnson has found that lidocaine works better. You could also pop a Tylenol 30 minutes before, or keep it simple and apply an ice pack for a couple of minutes right before waxing to numb it. Try to avoid alcohol or caffeine at least three hours beforehand—they can heighten sensitivity.
Choose Your Formula
Cold wax strips: Ready-to-use strips are the easiest and most convenient way to wax at home—and great for on-the-go situations. Rub the strip in your hands to warm it up, and then peel apart. “You can control it better because it’s on a strip vs dipping something in wax and spreading it on your body—that takes technique,” says Johnson. We like the Completely Bare Hypo-Allergenic Wax Strips For Face, Bikini, & Body, because the formula functions like a creamy, professional wax that doesn’t get too sticky. Sweet Ease also has similar waxing strips for bikini and legs, conveniently sized for each area.
Hot strip wax home kit: This wax is normally a honey-based wax, or some other creamy one, that you also heat in the microwave. You then spread it over the area, apply a fabric strip over and rip. “These take the most amount of skill, and have a tendency to heat up really hot,” Johnson notes, so only experienced at-home waxers should use these. If the wax is too hot, you can literally burn your skin, or even lift it off, causing scabbing and scarring.
Hard wax home kit: This is hard wax that you heat up in the microwave. Completely Bare’s uses the same wax they use in their salon, Johnson says, as does the Bliss Poetic Waxing Microwavable Waxing Kit. You can control that heat a little bit better than the honey-based waxes, and it has a rubbery consistency that’s easy to apply.
Roll-on waxing kit: The newest waxing method, Johnson admits she has yet to try the at-home versions herself. You heat it up in the microwave, apply with the attached roller and then apply the fabric strip and rip off. Nair’s Moroccan Argan Oil Ultimate Roll-On Wax Max works even on very short hair, and contains skin-hydrating ingredients like argan oil and orange blossom.
Do a test run: Always quickly test a new wax on your wrist before applying to any other body part. “If you’re brand new to waxing you might want to do a little patch test and go 24 hours to see how you react first,” Johnson suggests. Fragrances and colorants can be triggers for allergic reactions.
How to apply: Lay the strip down (whether a cold wax strip or a strip you’re placing over hot wax) and press in the direction of hair growth. When you’re ready, pull quickly in the opposite direction of hair growth.
Pain relief: Right after you rip the strip off, press your hand down firmly on the skin. The physical pressure on the nerve makes a big difference in pain, Johnson notes.
Stray-hair care: If you have a few spares that you missed with the wax, tweezing is the easiest way to get them out. We like these Tweezerman Art of Elysium Mini Slant Tweezers. However, Johnson says you shouldn’t get into the habit of tweezing too much between waxing because you’ll throw off the hair cycles. Each time you tweeze, you’re resetting the cycle of those individual hairs. “What you want is for all these cycles to grow out and you wax them all at once,” says Johnson.
Disinfect: This step is just as important post wax. “You pulled the hair out and that hair follicle is now open and exposed,” Johnson says, giving bacteria easier entry. Again, just using a gentle skin cleanser or a bit of rubbing alcohol will do the trick.
Prevent Ingrown Hairs: Look for a product that combines alcohol (to disinfect), glycolic acid (to exfoliate) and salicylic acid (to soothe inflammation). Completely Bare’s Bikini Bump Blaster comes with pads presoaked in this magic concoction, as do Bliss’s Ingrown Eliminating Pads. Let the skin calm down for a few minutes after waxing, and then use immediately to prevent painful ingrowns.
Oil up: Using a post-wax oil not only soothes and moisturizes the skin, but will also get rid of excess wax that’s been left behind. We like this Dry Oil Spray from Uni K Wax Centers, because it doesn’t make skin greasy.
Looking a little red? Reactions run the full gamut, Johnson says, so don’t freak out if your skin gets red after. After a few hours, it will calm down. If you’re sore though, she suggests icing the area for a few minutes. Applying lidocaine again here will help numb any pain, and applying an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream will help soothe the redness. Johnson suggests cocktailing hydrocortisone cream with Neosporin to soothe redness and help keep the area disinfected.
Got an ingrown? Never pick at it or try to remove it yourself! “Picking could create a bad infection that can spread,” Johnson warns. Instead, keep using the anti-ingrown wipes—the hair should eventually surface with enough exfoliation. Try also exfoliating in the shower with a loofah, exfoliation glove or a body scrub. If the hair doesn’t eventually come out, or if it gets too painful, see a derm. They can safely lance it and drain it before it opens on its own and potentially spreads infection.