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Everything you ever wanted to know about hair removal - how to prep, what to expect, and advice from the pros
It's always swimsuit season somewhere, and when it comes to getting bathing suit-ready, hair removal is typically our clients' #1 concern. With so many methods available, there's no shortage of ways to shed unwanted body hair – what's missing is the knowledge surrounding them! Here's our complete guide to hair removal and everything you need to know before you book your first trip to the treatment room.
Your depilatory vocabulary.
Waxing:One of the most popular hair removal methods, waxing involves the use of heated wax to remove hair at the root. Warmed wax is first applied to an area of hair growth followed by a wax or paper strip. The strip is then pulled off to remove hair at the root.
Soft Wax:This is the wax most people think of when it comes to hair removal. Applied after it's warmed, it's then removed with paper or cloth strips. Because it clings to dead skin cells and removes them along with hair, it's best if this wax is only applies to an area once. This is a great wax to use for larger areas such as the legs or back.
Hard Wax: This wax hardens to lift the hair off the skin as it cools so less dead skin cells are removed. Rather than using a cloth or paper strip for removal, your esthetician will lift a small "tab" of the wax covering the area of hair removal and pull the rest of the strip off using it. Hard wax is best for removing hair from smaller sections as it becomes brittle once it hardens and can break if applied in larger sections – great for more sensitive skin found in the bikini area, upper lip, or other sensitive skin on the face.
Electrolysis:A method of hair removal that can use either the production of heat (Thermolysis), a chemical reaction (Galvanic electrolysis), or a blend of both through low-level electrical energy to destroy hair growth cells. Because ultra-fine needles are inserted directly into individual hair follicles where the current is applied, this method of hair removal can be more time consuming depending on the size of the area you are targeting.*
Laser: A concentrated, pulsating light beam targets hair follicles to damage them and inhibit future growth. While it can take several sessions to see long-term results, Facebook fan Alyssa says after 6 sessions, "I literally don't have to shave – it's amazing."
Sugaring: Similar to waxing, a sugar-based paste that's just above body temperature is applied against the hair growth, clings to follicles, and is pulled off in the same direction of growth to remove hair at the root. Esthetician and Facebook fan Bev Moore loves sugaring for hair removal because of its exfoliating benefits without the risk of a burn.
Threading: A thin thread is doubled and twisted so it can be rolled over the area of hair that needs to be removed. Hairs are removed at the root individually with each pass of the twisted strand.
We asked Bioelements Facebook fans which method they prefer for getting bathing suit-ready skin, and in-spa waxing was the #1 choice! To make sure you're ready for your next (or first) waxing appointment, and beyond, we turned not only to the pros that follow Bioelements Facebook page, but also Jeanette and Elaine, owners and estheticians at Bioelements World Class Spa Sisters Skin Care & Waxing. Over 30 years of practicing the art of waxing has given these women immense insight into the world of hair removal, so we asked them to share some of their expertise to help first-timers and frequent waxers alike.
Your pre-wax to-do list
Seek out a pro.Sure, there are plenty of at-home waxing kits that promise to remove hair, but estheticians have been trained to make your waxing experience as safe, quick, and painless as possible. Just like any DIY beauty procedure, an untrained hand waxing at home can mean taking risks, whether it's irritation, a burn, or even an eyebrow that you meant to keep! See if your current salon offers waxing services and, if they don't, get a trusted recommendation.
Let your hair grow.So many are tempted to tidy up in between wax sessions, but allowing your hair to get on a similar growth cycle is what the pros recommend. Jeanette comments, "As long as you don't shave or trim in between, the waxes will get easier and less painful. Your hair will get finer, thinner, and more sparse." If you must shave in between sessions, she recommends allowing for at least 2 weeks of growth. "You want the hair to be at least a quarter inch to a half inch long to get it waxed."
Check your ingredient labels.Avoid exfoliants 48 hours before and after your wax, and stop using retinol products 3-5 days beforehand. Both remove dead skin cells, promote the turnover of new cells, and retinol in particular can thin the top layer of skin, making it more sensitive. Waxing is already an exfoliant as it clings to both hair and dead skin cells, so applying it to a skin with a diminished layer of dead surface cells can mean it clings to those that are living – ouch!
Prepare for a little pain.Although your esthetician will make you as comfortable as possible, ultimately they are pulling out your hair. Expect some discomfort in more sensitive areas. Jeanette recommends taking a pain reliever or applying a topical anesthetic prior to your appointment.
Avoid an irritation situation.Esthetician and Facebook fan Rebekah Catherine Rudolph suggests wearing loose-fitting clothing and waxing later in the day to avoid letting skin to come in contact with potential irritants. It's also best to steer clear of caffeine and alcohol before a wax as both can further sensitize skin, increasing the potential for pain and irritation.
Inside the treatment room
So, now you've booked your appointment – what can a first-timer expect once they step in the treatment room? To begin, your esthetician might ask what products you are using on your skin – particularly exfoliants and retinols. It's important that you're honest and disclose everything so that they can better identify any contraindications that might prevent her from being able to perform a wax. Depending on the kind of wax you are receiving, you might also need to shed a layer or two of clothing. Remember: there's very little your esthetician hasn't seen, so don't be shy. If you're getting a Brazilian and she asks you to reposition your legs, or even get on all fours to get the job done, there's no need to be embarrassed! Esthetician and Facebook fan Rita Holland said it best, "What happens in the treatment room stays in the treatment room. I don't talk about your business. Quite honestly I have probably forgotten it the minute I walk out the door (that's why we keep forms)."
While protocols may differ between salons, 3 things you should look for in every treatment room are:
Clean, gloved hands
Fresh linens on the waxing bed
New dipping utensils
These clues will help ensure clean, sanitary conditions and a safe, comfortable and effective experience.
Once your wax is done, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Not-so-smooth sailing.Esthetician and Facebook fan Summer Ambroz from Sassy Face Esthetics reminds clients "that you are not going to be 100% smooth after your first wax." Sisters Salon & Spa expert Evonne confirms that it can take anywhere between 3 and 5 waxes to get hair on the same growth cycle – especially if the client is transitioning from shaving to waxing.
Say "no" to sun.Avoiding a sunburn goes without saying, but if you happen to have gotten too much sun before a wax, you should reschedule. You should also avoiding exposing freshly-waxed (and extra-sensitized) skin to damaging UV rays for at least 24 hours after waxing and be extra diligent with your broad spectrum sunscreen when you do (but you already are, right?).
Exfoliation is key.While you should avoid using exfoliating alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) for at least 48 hours after a wax because they make you more sensitive to the sun, the key to dodging ingrown hairs is in keeping pores clear of any dead skin cells. Evonne recommends a leave-on gel exfoliant like Bioelements Quick Refiner for the bikini line and underarms. A face brush is effective, but gentle enough for the delicate skin above your lip, or around your brows.
Get on a schedule.With regular waxing, your hair will become thinner and more sparse, making future waxes less painful. Schedule another wax for 3-4 weeks out before you even leave the salon.