How to Prepare Underarms for Waxing

Young woman.
Can proper preparation make waxing easier on underarm skin?
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If you don't want to sport thick growths of underarm hair, waxing is one option for removing it -- but it's not always the most comfortable choice. Ripping hair out by the root can sting; however, with proper preparation, you can reduce pain and irritation and get the most out of your underarm wax.

Waxing your underarms has the same benefits as waxing anywhere else. Because the hair is yanked out from the root, it takes longer for it to grow all the way back to the surface. You'll probably be hair-free for two or more weeks [source: MedicineNet]. Plus, pulling hair out at the root can damage the hair follicle. The result of that damage is hair that grows back thinner and finer, and in some cases, not at all. So repeated waxing often means you'll have fewer and fewer hairs to remove down the road.


But if you want bare underarms, it's going to take a little work. It might be fairly easy to wax your legs or other areas at home, but waxing your underarms could be more troublesome for one reason: It's very difficult to use both hands to get the job done well. You might have a close friend who can come over to help, but otherwise, it might be best head to a reputable salon and get the job done there.

Regardless of whether you wax at home or pay to have it done at a salon, it's important for you to properly prepare the skin under your arms. If you don't, you'll likely find yourself with underarms that are red and irritated. Read on to the next page for skin preparation tips that will help you minimize the discomfort of waxing while maximizing the results.


Preparing Underarms for Waxing

Before you break out the waxing kit or head to your appointment, get your underarms ready by following a few simple steps.

First of all, unblocked hair follicles release hair more easily, thus making the waxing process less painful. So if you've never spent a lot of time exfoliating your underarms, this would be the time to do it. Try exfoliating with a gentle scrub or washcloth a few days before the waxing. Also, smooth on a light lotion or cream to soften hair follicles and the skin underneath. And don't use deodorant on the day of your waxing because it could cause irritation.


Additionally, the adage "no pain, no gain" is true when it comes to waxing. To make the process as painless as possible, though, you might want to take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen about half an hour before your wax. You will get some pain relief, and it will also protect yourself from minor swelling. Another thing you can do is apply a numbing cream. An over-the-counter topical solution that contains lidocaine might be effective. Follow the directions carefully to apply it. Be aware that lidocaine can cause a serious allergic reaction in some people, so you might want to check with your doctor before using it [source: Goins].

You also need to consider the length of the hair you're trying to get rid of. If the hair is too short, the wax won't be able to grab it. If it is too long, the process will be more painful and the hair more likely to break off above the root. Getting the root is the whole point of waxing, so if it's been a long time since you've done anything with your underarm hair, trim it down before you wax. It should be about a quarter of an inch long (about 6 millimeters) [source: Carrillo].

If you're still not sure whether waxing is right for you, take a look at the next page for lots more information about getting smoother skin.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Carrillo, Sarah. "The Dos and Don'ts of At-Home Waxing." Total Beauty. (Accessed Aug. 16, 2009)
  • Goins, Liesa. "Fuzz Busters." Women's Health. Nov. 29, 2007. (Accessed Sept. 27, 2009)
  • Keratin. "Hair Follicle, Root, Sheath." (Accessed Sept. 27, 2009)
  • MedicineNet. "Hairy Today? Gone by Tomorrow." (Accessed Oct. 13, 2009)
  • Scirrotto, Julia. "Our Favorite Hair Removal Products." Marie Claire. (Accessed Sept. 27, 2009)
  • The Hairfacts. "About Waxing Hair Removal FAQs." (Accessed Sept. 27, 2009)