The Hairy Truth: Waxing And Your Skin

I remember in my teenage years, all of my friend's "cool mams" were saying to put down the razor and just go for a wax, darling. Waxing was touted for years as the be all and end all of hair removal techniques, causing hair to begin to grow in thinner with time and without the blunt regrowth of shaving.

These were the days before the glory of that is laser hair removal, but waxing is still a favourite amongst the masses. If you've ever been sitting down having every bit of fluff violently pulled off you, wondering what the effect of this savagery could have on your skin, you're in luck with this article.

Waxing and your skin

Ingrown hairs

These pus-filled bumps are the fallout of waxing that everybody knows about. However, your waxing experience does not have to end in the sore lumpies. Ingrown hairs are usually the result of poor waxing technique that causes the hair shaft to break within the epidermis.

New skin cells develop where the hair would usually poke through, leaving the hair no place to go but downwards. Imagine a hamster that goes through a circular tunnel, day in, day out, and one day, someone puts a door at the bend of the tunnel - the poor creature has nowhere to go but back on itself.

A good waxing technique would remove the whole hair, bulb and all, thus for the most part, would prevent ingrown hairs. Personally, I would never recommend at home waxing as most people don't have a professional waxing technique and the angles that one can reach on one's own body don't lend themselves to it either - this nearly guarantees the development of ingrown hairs.

To prevent ingrown hairs, salons will prep your skin properly and provide you with sufficient aftercare advice. Waxperts, for example, have their own Waxperts Cleanser to cleanse and prep the area. They also use Waxperts Pre-Wax Oil to create a barrier between the skin and the wax.

Efficiently cleansing the skin pre-wax stops bacteria from entering the follicle and possibly contributing to ingrown hairs. Throughout the Waxperts waxing experience, they re-apply the cleanser to cool and soothe the skin.

After a wax, you'll need to exfoliate about 2 or 3 days after to prevent a build up of skin cells - waxing acts as a mild exfoliant in itself as it will pull away dead skin cells. Waxperts Wonder Pads (€9.99) are THE at-home after care solution, as they use salicylic acid (BHA, for you nerds) to unclog pores and neutralise bacteria.

Ingrown hairs are a particular danger with regard to the bikini line, whether it be a bikini, Brazilian or Californian you're getting. This area is more sensitive and is a common zone for rubbing (of clothes, you dirty gits). It's advisable to wear loose clothes and underwear after bikini waxes to avoid ingrown-hair-causing friction.

The salon's hygiene standards can be make or break in regards to ingrown hairs. Some salons are notorious for double-dipping AKA they dip the stick they use to apply the wax back into the wax pot. This technique spreads the bacteria from your armpits directly on to your legs - agghh!

There is only one way to ensure that the salon you're going to is against double-dipping and that's by enquiring with them before booking if they do it or not. If the salon looks dirty, then it is! Trust your instinct and keep an eye out for messy trolleys, sticky wax pots and dirty equipment.

Never be afraid to ask questions in a salon - after all, you're paying for the service and you should be getting your money's worth.

Sagging around the eyes

Eyebrow waxing is not always a yes from me. As wax is applied to a very general area (ie. not directly to hairs), it pulls all of the skin - when done on a regular basis over a long period of time, this can stretch out the collagen and elastin in the skin, making it slack.

The skin around your eyes is especially delicate compared to the rest of your facial skin, as crêpe paper is to paper, and the long-term effects of waxing can cause hooding of the eye lid and dropping of the eye itself. Imagine - a habit that will eventually change how your eyes look altogether?! No, thank you!

Once again, the difference between professional waxing and at-home waxing is phenomenal here. The Waxperts Pre-Wax oil mentioned earlier also serves the purpose of preventing these effects. Applying oil (not any old oil, specifically chosen oils) to the area can stop the skin from being pulled by creating a barrier between the wax and the skin whilst still allowing the wax to grip the hairs.

If the waxer is experienced and the skin is supported properly (usually by stretching the skin taut), you will be absolutely fine. Another option would be threading. Threading is fabulous as it uses no products and so there is no chance of reaction. Threading doesn't cause the dreaded skin sag that waxing can cause as it removes hairs one by one, barely touching the skin at all.

Redness and sensitivity

Experiencing redness and sensitivity is actually a very normal skin reaction post-wax. As you are physically pulling the skin, you cause the blood to rush upwards, causing redness and sometimes mild irritation. This is known as a histamine reaction and should go away within a day or two.

This is aided by aftercare such as applying aloe vera to the area and avoiding things like lotions and perfumes which could contain irritants - these irritants will cause more of a reaction as the skin is impaired. However, and this is a big however, if your skin is itchy, red and irritated for longer than 48 hours, you could be having an allergic reaction to the ingredients in the wax.

Many people are allergic to bees wax, for example. Make sure to call the salon if you think you could be having a reaction. Most salons will patch test before waxing to ensure that you won't have a reaction - this is the ONLY way to to be assured that you won't be allergic to anything.

My opinion on at-home waxing

Nerd Herd, I don't see the point of at-home waxing. First of all, how could a treatment performed by a non-professional have the same efficacy as one performed by a professional? The answer: it can't.

Professional waxers are trained in correct technique, have high quality products at their disposal and will carry out pre-wax preparation and send you home with aftercare advice. They know what temperature to heat each wax to so as not to scald the life out of the skin!

If you're heating your own wax at home, people often ignore heating times so as to soften the wax sufficiently, leading to them burning themselves and possibly leaving lifelong scars on their skin. If you opt for strips, you won't lift all the hairs that you want to lift.

Without proper preparation, sterilisation and aftercare advice, you can end up with skin problems that could lead to infection which would be more painful than the wax itself!

When not to wax

  • If you are using Roaccutane, you should not have waxes done or wax at home. This is because of what Roaccutane does - it exfoliates the skin from the inside out, meaning that when you wax, new skin cells will be removed. This will cause a skin reaction.
  • If you have had a peel done. This only really applies to facial waxing and it's for the exact same reason as the Roaccutane, in that it can cause reactions.
For a quick nerdy recap: I don't rate at-home waxing, eye area waxes can have longterm effects and preparation and aftercare are the keys to avoiding pesky post-wax skin concerns!