If you just searched for “how to wax at home,” hopefully you don’t already have a stick smeared with hot wax in one hand and your phone in the other. If you want the process to go, uh, smoothly, there’s a bit of skin-safety prep involved before you get to ripping.
While dermatologists say that it’s smartest (and probably easiest) to visit a professional for waxing—especially for a Brazilian wax—it’s possible to safely do any type of wax at home if you take the proper precautions and care for your skin afterward. It might be more comfortable for you, too, if you want to be in control of how much pain you can tolerate at once and/or feel uneasy about someone else touching certain areas of your body.
Below, we’ll walk you through expert recommendations for the smoothest, healthiest skin—and for cutting back on pain (because no matter who’s doing the waxing, you’re gonna feel it). Here’s how to wax at home to make the process as effective and painless as possible.
Waxing vs. sugaring vs. shaving | Risks of waxing at home | How to wax at home safely | How to minimize pain with waxing
Waxing vs. sugaring vs. shaving… what’s the difference?
When you think of waxing, you might first think of hot wax. “Hot wax is beneficial because it causes ‘follicular dilation’—the heat from the hot wax actually causes the hair follicle (the tunnel underneath the skin that a hair comes out from) to dilate and get bigger,” Hysem Eldik, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical and assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells SELF. You can more easily remove the entire hair at the root this way.
Cold pre-waxed strips (which you warm slightly with your hands before applying) and sugaring (an ancient method of hair removal that uses a room-temperature “sugar wax” and no strips or cloths) both work slightly differently because these methods trap the hairs. “Cold wax strips compensate for the lack of heat by having a resin in them. This allows the wax to anchor to the hair follicle so the hair is pulled out at the root,” Dr. Eldik says. Sugar wax (typically made of just sugar, water, and lemon juice) is applied directly to the skin and also grabs onto the hair at the root. The fact that cold wax strips and sugar wax are used at room temperature means you also lower your risk of burns, he adds.
However, cold waxing and sugaring might not be as effective as hot waxing, as they may not be able to pull out coarser hair as well, without help from heat, which could lead to irritation and ingrown hairs, Gina Petak, a licensed esthetician and education manager at European Wax Center, tells SELF.
For many people, shaving is simply an easier, more comfortable option. “Shaving differs from waxing because it only removes hair down to just below the skin,” Dr. Eldik says, which is why you’ll typically only stay smooth for one to three days after shaving versus three to four weeks after waxing.
But waxing isn’t necessarily superior to shaving, depending on the technique you use and how quickly your body hair grows. “Everyone’s hair cycle differs. Both waxing and shaving are effective methods—it’s largely a personal preference,” Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist and professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, tells SELF.
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What are the possible risks of waxing at home?
While you’ll likely face fewer risks if you get waxed by a pro, doing it yourself has some obvious perks: namely that it’s private, cheaper, and more convenient. But before we get into exactly how to do it, there are some potential downsides to be aware of, too.
It’s possible that you may not apply the correct amount of wax, for one. “You may apply too much wax—causing the wax strip to catch larger amounts of hair—and more hair could be removed than intended, which is more painful,” Petak explains. “Or if too little hair is removed, this can also be painful since the process will be more time-consuming.” You may also end up going over the area too many times if you don’t get all the hair at once, which can cause more pain and irritation.