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Prepping the Skin for Summer Waxing

Among the rituals that mark the start of summer, waxing away unwanted hair is not the most joyfully anticipated. But with the proper prepping, you can make it go more smoothly.


Before she has any waxing done, Shelley Bawiec, global director of spa sales and education for Aveda, starts trying to get her skin in “optimal condition.” The prep work can be done in a few days, but if her skin is damaged, she allows a couple of weeks.

“Waxing is a pretty deep exfoliation,” she says. “If your skin is … sensitized or dry because of tanning, sunburns or using harsh chemicals, then you really can’t be waxing over that.” Waxing can inflame or even tear at damaged skin.

Ms. Bawiec avoids using “aggressive treatments” such as harsh exfoliants, chemical peels and skin products with glycolic acid for at least a week before waxing. But she does gently exfoliate her skin to remove dead skin cells that can clog pores and grip hair follicles. While granular scrubs can be gentle enough for the body, she uses a lighter exfoliant, with ingredients like salicylic acid, for the bikini area.

Ms. Bawiec generally uses an exfoliating cleanser twice a week, and as summer approaches, she gets a professional full-body scrub at a spa. After that, she lets her skin rest for at least 48 hours before waxing. She also uses a gentle cleanser and moisturizer on her body, seeking out products with softening ingredients like jojoba oil.

Ms. Bawiec always goes to a spa to have her waxing done. At home, “managing the temperature of the wax is a difficult thing to do,” she says. “A lot of people burn themselves.”

Ideally, body hair that’s being waxed should be at least a quarter-inch long. “If it’s too short, it hurts a lot more, because [the hair] just won’t adhere to the wax,” says Ms. Bawiec.

If it’s too long, she adds, the wax may not come off cleanly. “If you don’t get a clean pull, you can get ingrown hairs,” she says.

Ms. Bawiec is willing to use either soft or hard wax—the two types generally available in salons—but she feels that hard wax “tends to be less painful.”

In the days after waxing, Ms. Bawiec uses non-exfoliating cleansers and moisturizers with tea tree oil or lavender oil. She waits 48 hours before prolonged sun exposure—and then uses sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

“You can be more prone to sun damage after waxing,” she says, adding that the freshly waxed skin may tan unevenly as well.

If Ms. Bawiec discovers any ingrown hairs—a potential waxing risk—she gently swabs an exfoliating pad over the area rather than picking at it. Forty-eight hours after waxing, she returns to her normal cleansing and exfoliating routine.

—Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Borrowed from The Wall Street Journal

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