The Complete Guide to Waxing for Beginners

Nothing beats waxing for smooth, hair-free skin all summer long. Because waxing removes hair at the root the results are more effective and last longer than shaving. If you're tired of shaving every day, waxing may be for you -- but it can be intimidating for beginners. No worries, we're here to guide you every step of the way!

Should I Wax at Home or Leave it to Professionals?
It is up to you to decide whether you're going to go to a professional or do it yourself. However, it is best to leave tricky jobs like bikini waxing to the pros -- especially if this is your first experience with wax.

Beauty expert Alexis Wolfer, founder of, recommends at-home waxers start with their legs: "You can see what you're doing best and the risk of screwing it up is minimal at most." Her best tip is to imitate the pros by brushing baby powder or cornstarch on your legs before starting; wax adheres best to hair when skin is dry and moisture-free.

Once your skin is clean and dry and your wax is at the right temperature Wolfer recommends you, "apply the wax in the direction of the hair growth and then pull it out in the opposite direction." Sounds easy, but don't try to do too large of an area at one time. Easy does it.

The Hair "Down There"
Maybe you don't mind shaving your legs every day, but the thought of maintaining a clean bikini line while on your beach vacation is enough to send you to waxing salon.

What is a bikini wax? Your salon may come up with its own names for the different types of bikini waxes, but there are essentially three levels of waxing. The most common names are the American, the French and the Brazilian. Here's what you get when you ask for these services:

Ask for an "American" wax and the esthetician will follow the line of your underwear or bathing suit bottom and remove any hair that spills out. If you're going away on vacation it's a smart idea to bring the skimpiest bathing suit you're planning to wear to your appointment.

A "French" wax removes a little more than the American, but does not include hair removal from your backside. Hair can be left in a "V" shape or "landing strip" and you do not need to bring your bathing suit to your appointment if this is the type of bikini wax you're planning on getting, because the technician will need you to remove your underwear in order to work. In other words, this is not for the shy.

When you ask for a "Brazilian" wax everything is removed -- including hair from your buttocks. You might not want to get a Brazilian on your first waxing appointment, but lots of women love it once they get used to it. Maybe you're one of those women?

How to Get a (Relatively) Painless Wax
Preparation is the key. It sounds counter intuitive, but trimming your hair to about the length of a grain of rice greatly reduces discomfort. But be careful! Don't trim it shorter than that or the wax won't grip the hair.

Try taking ibuprofen at least 30 minutes before your appointment to help with pain.

Ask for hard wax -- it's a lot less painful than strip wax because it only grips the hair and not the skin.

Relax. Breathe. Don't be nervous and don't be bashful: Your tech has seen it all before and will see it all again.

Here's a trick that works if you're very nervous: Coughing as the technician pulls the wax distracts you from what's going on. If coughing is a bit too weird for you, hold your breath as she pulls (but don't forget to breathe the rest of the time!)

What to Do After the Waxing Appointment
While waxing is almost maintenance free, you do need to take a few steps to prevent ingrown hair. Little red bumps show up when hair begins to grow and is trapped under the skin. Thorough cleansing to remove dead skin that might block hair follicles. Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, recommends using a brush or loofah to wash in the shower daily. "It helps to lift hair and exfoliate skin," says Dr. Jaliman. She also recommends lactic acid creams like AmLactin to help remove dead skin cells and using antibiotic cream after waxing to help prevent infection and red bumps.

If you find that one area on your body is particularly prone to bumps, Dr. David Bank, director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in New York, recommends using an old soft-bristle toothbrush and liquid cleanser and to brush in circular motions to dislodge the tips of hair. "This also eliminates dead skin cells and clears follicles to allow hair to break the surface of the skin," says Dr. Bank.

How Often Should You Wax?
Waxing for the first time can be very painful, but the good news is that since hair is pulled at the root it grows back softer and easier to pull. The more you do it, the easier it gets. In order to minimize pain, you should go back when your hair grows back to the length of a grain of rice -- and while that depends on how quickly your hair grows most women enjoy a few weeks between appointments. So book your appointment or gather your supplies, and enjoy your smooth skin this summer!


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