What's the best way to prepare skin for waxing?

Beautiful Skin Image Gallery With a little preparation, removing that wax strip won’t be painful. See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
Beautiful Skin Image Gallery With a little preparation, removing that wax strip won’t be painful. See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
Adam Gault/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Rrrrip! The sound of waxing can certainly be cringe-worthy. Face it; getting smooth, stubble-free skin isn't always pleasant. But if you take time to ready yourself prior to waxing, the experience doesn't have to leave you wincing in pain. In fact, a little preparation, can even improve the results.

First, take a good look at your skin. Are there any breakouts or irritation in the area to be waxed? If so, you might want to postpone. Also, don't wax over moles or warts [source: Barba]. You should avoid sunbathing or tanning beds for at least 24 hours prior to waxing, which can further irritate sunburned skin. And avoid waxing the week before your period, which is when your nerve cells are most sensitive [sources: Goins and George]. When scheduling your waxing appointment, keep in mind that earlier in the day is better than later when oil and sweat has built up on your skin. You'll want to consider your skin care regimen, too -- if you use skin care products that contain AHAs, stop using them about four or five days prior to waxing [source: Dermatology Times]. And if you're taking (or have been taking) a retinoid-based acne medication, such as Accutane, skip the waxing all together, as you can cause serious injury to your skin [source: Barba].


Next, take a close look at the hair you want to wax. If the hair is too short, the wax won't be able to grab it. If it's too long, the hair is more likely to break off above the root and the process will be more painful. The optimum length is between one-half and three-quarter inches (13 to 19 mm) [source: Irons].

Softer hair follicles release hair more easily; to make your waxing experience both pleasant and productive try exfoliating and then moisturizing prior to the event. First, exfoliate the area you want to remove hair from, then smooth on some type of non-comedogenic (non-clogging) moisturizer to soften hair follicles and the surrounding skin. Exfoliating removes dead skin cells and helps unclog pores, sometimes releasing ingrown hairs as well as debris. And, by ridding your skin of excess flakes, you can be sure the wax will be removing hair only, and not your skin along with it.

About a half hour before waxing, you might want to take an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. This can help in two ways: it will provide some pain relief and protect you from minor swelling. And if you're really concerned about pain, you can try using an over-the-counter topical numbing cream. Read the product info first, though, to be sure that you're not allergic to any of the numbing cream's ingredients [source: Goins].

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  • "AHA lotions can be used with other body treatments." Dermatology Times. April 1997. Accessed online via Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition, EBSCOhost (Accessed 10/02/09).
  • Barba, Alicia. "Nonlaser Hair Removal Techniques." Medscape 5/27/08 (Accessed 9/6/09)http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1067139-overview
  • George, Rebekah. "Hair today, bare tomorrow." Natural Health. July 2005. Accessed online via Health Source - Consumer Edition, EBSCOhost (Accessed 10/02/09).
  • Goins, Liesa. "Fuzz Busters: To Win the War Against Wayward Hair, You Need to Know Your Enemy." Women's Health (Accessed 9/6/09)http://www.womenshealthmag.com/beauty-and-style/shaving-and-waxing-tips?page=2
  • Irons, Diane. Teen Beauty Secrets. Google Books. 2002. (Accessed 9/15/09)http://books.google.com/books?id=45iJ6REvxY8C&pg=PA45&dq=wax+hair+length&lr=#v=onepage&q=&f=false