Many women have a love-hate relationship with shaving. When you need to make your legs look smooth and beautiful in a pinch, razors can be your best friend. But the results are short-lived. So if your goal is to stay stubble-free, shaving can seem like a never-ending ritual that leaves you perpetually unsatisfied. Plus, there's always the risk that you'll nick yourself with a razor blade and end up sporting a bandage all day.
If this frustrating hair removal cycle sounds all too familiar, rest assured that you are not alone. According to one women's magazine, 73 percent of females try to get rid of leg hair around three times every week [source: Goins]. That adds up to a lot of hours spent shaving. But there are other methods of hair removal that don't require a razor every few days to get your legs looking smooth. One such method is waxing, an approach that's similar to tweezing in that it pulls hair out from the root.
Women have practiced waxing in some form for centuries. Ancient Egyptian women were the first to use wax to remove hair [sources: Capel]. But women in the Middle East have also used a similar process called "sugaring" for centuries, and they still use it today. Sugaring involves taking sugar, lemon and warm water and combining it into a mixture. You spread a thin layer on your skin; once the mixture hardens, pull it off, and the hair comes with it [source: Szuchman]
Similarly, waxing is accomplished by putting either warm or cold wax on the skin and then pulling the wax off with the individual hairs stuck to it [source: Barba]. Read on to find out what you need to know if you want to want to replace shaving with waxing as your preferred method of leg hair removal -- including how to prep your legs for waxing, why you shouldn't wax your legs close to menstruation time and how your body is similar to a gorilla's body.
Prepping Your Legs for Waxing
One major advantage of waxing is that it provides better and longer-lasting results than shaving does. But once you've bidden your razor a not-so-fond farewell, you need to do some prep work before you can officially say hello to waxing -- and make it a positive experience.
Several pre-waxing steps involve a little additional planning to ward off any unnecessary discomfort to your skin. For example, try to avoid scheduling your wax in the two to three days before or after your period. Skin is more sensitive during this time. It also helps to take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen about an hour before waxing [source: Cosmopolitan].
Making sure your leg hair is the right length before you begin is important, too. If your hair isn't at least a quarter inch (about 6 millimeters) long, the wax will not be able to grip it. On the other hand, hair that's much longer than a quarter of an inch can be more painful to remove [source: TeensHealth]. It can be difficult to wait around for hair to grow long enough so you can wax it, but the payoff is that you will have about three weeks of smoothness before it grows back.
Exfoliating your skin a few days before waxing can also make hair removal easier, and getting rid of dead skin cells makes ingrown hairs less likely, too [source: Shankar]. Additionally, some use an antiseptic or antibacterial soap prior to and after waxing their legs. This is because waxing leaves your hair follicles open, and that makes it easier for bacteria to get in there and cause an infection [source: Kozolchyk]. If you're worried about the pain you might experience during a leg wax, you can also use a topical ointment containing lidocaine -- which will help numb the skin -- before you get started [source: Goins].
Once you decide to take the plunge and give waxing a try, you have a choice to make: professional job or home kit? If you choose to conduct your waxing at home, you should know what comes in a home kit and how much they may cost. Read on to find out.
Choosing a Waxing Kit
Some women may feel more comfortable having their legs waxed by an expert. That's an easy option, since many spas and salons across the United States offer this service. But with all the home waxing kits that are available these days, a professional wax may be more of a luxury than a necessity. A variety of over-the-counter kits are available at your local drug store or beauty store for a fraction of the cost that you'd pay for a salon wax. These waxing kits can range from $5 to $100, but most usually cost around $10 [source: Costhelper.com].
The first thing you need to know about waxing kits is that they come in different varieties: hot/warm and cold are two major classifications. Hot wax kits come, obviously, with wax, as well as separate fabric strips. Most follow the same general concept, but make sure to follow the directions provided by the manufacturer. With this type of waxing, you heat the wax and wait for it to reach a warm, soft consistency. Then, apply the wax to your skin with a small spatula. Next, press the fabric strip against the wax, leaving it on for a few moments to allow the wax to stick. Finally, pull the fabric off in the opposite direction of hair growth. The hair should come off with it. For large surface areas of hair, warm wax is preferable because it gives plenty of coverage and thus more bang for your buck [source: DermNet, Goins].
Cold wax kits often come with the wax already on the strips. The strips do not require heating, and you just apply them by pressing the pre-waxed strips onto the desired area for hair removal. Some people think that cold wax doesn't work as well as warm wax does, but many find that using cold wax is less messy [source: DermNet, Goins].
Many waxing kits boast that by using their product, you can have smooth skin for up to six to eight weeks. Of course, the results you actually get depend on the amount of hair you have and how frequently you use the product. To get long-lasting results, you also have to practice proper waxing techniques. As with most products, following the manufacturer's instructions will lead to better results. And better results will help your legs look their best. Read on to learn more about the benefits of waxing.
Benefits of Waxing Your Legs
If you can tolerate a little discomfort, the benefits of waxing may be well worth the effort. Sure, the process could take you about two hours the first time. And the stinging sensation after ripping wax off your legs may make you ask yourself why you're doing it. But for those who stick with waxing, this method of hair removal can leave your legs looking much better than a razor will.
For some women, just avoiding that daily risk of nicks, cuts and razor burn that comes with using razors may be enough reason to make the switch from shaving to waxing. In that sense, waxing is safer than shaving. In addition, wax products are usually made from natural ingredients. This is one benefit of waxing over using topical hair removal creams, called depilatories, which contain chemicals that could irritate the skin.
One of the major benefits of waxing regularly is the amount of time it ultimately saves. After waxing, hair removal results usually last about three weeks, which means you can take shaving out of your morning routine and put that time to some other use. Not having to deal with hair removal on a daily basis is a relief for many women.
Besides saving time, waxing also reduces the embarrassment factor caused by stubble. Not only do results last up to three weeks, but some suggest that regular waxing can cause your hair to grow back finer and sparser over time [source: Goins].
But like any beauty procedure, there are some drawbacks to consider along with the benefits. Continue reading to learn about some of the problems associated with waxing.
Problems with Waxing Your Legs
For some people, waxing is a great tool that can provide you with a much-needed break from the razor or other methods of routine hair removal. But as with most other beauty maintenance techniques, it isn't perfect.
One potential drawback to waxing is that it requires a lot of patience and persistence. Since waxing cannot be done on hair that is less than one quarter inch (6 millimeter) long, it means you have to wait for your hair to grow before you can remove it. For some women, allowing their hair to grow that long may require not shaving for a couple weeks, which can be annoying and inconvenient, especially if you want to wear an outfit that reveals your legs. Waxing also requires persistence -- it's easy to give up after the first time if you experience discomfort. The process itself also takes longer than shaving, which some people find unappealing. And if you opt for do-it-yourself warm waxing kits, waxing can also be quite messy.
Compared to shaving and using depilatories, waxing can also be painful. Numbing creams and anti-inflammatories can help reduce some of the discomfort, but the first few times will be unpleasant since your skin is not used to the ripping sensation that occurs when you pull the wax off.
Unfortunately, waxing isn't for everyone. For anyone using prescription medication for acne, waxing is off limits. Those medications make skin sensitive, and waxing could cause bruising, burning or excessive skin irritation. People who have been on these types of medications are generally advised to wait a full six months before attempting to wax [source: Barba]. People with sensitive skin or other skin conditions should also avoid waxing. Such conditions include moles, warts or cuts. And waxing should never be done on sunburned skin [source: TeensHealth].
If you decide waxing is right for you, the way you treat your skin immediately after waxing, and during the weeks between waxing sessions, is just as important as the actual process of waxing. Read on to learn more about how to take care of your legs post-wax.
If you've managed to get past the discomfort of first-time waxing, you'll need to know what to do next with those newly hair-free legs. Post-waxing care is important, but also easy -- and if you do it right, you'll be rewarded with longer-lasting benefits.
Cleaning the skin after waxing is a must. Since the hair follicles are left open and vulnerable post-waxing, it's important to remove all residues left over from the wax. This can be done with an antibacterial cream or soap, which will help prevent any skin irritations and bacterial infections.
If your skin does become irritated during the waxing process, soothing the skin afterward may be necessary. A lotion or gel with vitamin E or aloe in it is a good way to help calm the redness down [source: Se Benge ]. It's also a good idea to steer clear of hot baths and direct sunlight for a few days after waxing [source: Ripley].
With the help of a good salon or the patience to try do-it-yourself kits, you can get great results from waxing. If done right, it may be the perfect answer to your daily frustrations with hair growth.
To learn more about hair removal and your skin, visit the links on the following page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
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- Barker, Olivia. "The Male Resistance to Waxing is Melting Away." USA Today. Aug 23, 2005. (Accessed 8/15/09)http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/2005-08-23-waxing_x.htm/
- Capel, Anne et al. "Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven" Google Books. (Accessed 8/24/2009) http://books.google.com/books?id=1pkH3QP390gC&pg=PA75&dq=hair+removal,+egypt#v=onepage&q=hair%20removal%2C%20egypt&f=false
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