If you just searched for “how to wax at home,” hopefully you don’t already have a stick smeared with hot wax in one hand and your phone in the other. If you want the process to go, uh, smoothly, there’s a bit of skin-safety prep involved before you get to ripping.
While dermatologists say that it’s smartest (and probably easiest) to visit a professional for waxing—especially for a Brazilian wax—it’s possible to safely do any type of wax at home if you take the proper precautions and care for your skin afterward. You might find it more comfortable if you want to control how much pain you can take at once and/or be uneasy about having someone touch certain parts of your body.
Below, we’ll walk you through expert recommendations for the smoothest, healthiest skin—and for cutting back on pain (because no matter who’s doing the waxing, you’re gonna feel it). Here’s how to wax at home to make the process as effective and painless as possible.
Waxing vs. sugaring vs. shaving… what’s the difference?
Hot wax is the most common type of wax. “Hot wax is beneficial because it causes ‘follicular dilation’—the heat from the hot wax actually causes the hair follicle (the tunnel underneath the skin that a hair comes out from) to dilate and get bigger,” Hysem Eldik, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Marmur MedicalAssistant professor of dermatology Mount Sinai HospitalSELF is based in New York City. This method allows you to remove the entire root hair more quickly.
Cold pre-waxed strips (which you warm slightly with your hands before applying) and sugaring (an ancient method of hair removal that uses a room-temperature “sugar wax” and no strips or cloths) both work slightly differently because these methods trap the hairs. “Cold wax strips compensate for the lack of heat by having a resin in them. This allows the wax to anchor to the hair follicle so the hair is pulled out at the root,” Dr. Eldik says. Sugar wax, which is typically made from sugar, water, lemon juice, and lemon zest, is applied directly on the skin and grabs the hair at its root. He also said that you can reduce your risk of getting burns by using cold wax strips or sugar wax at room temperature.
However, sugaring and cold waxing may not be as effective as hot waxing. They may not be able pull out coarser hairs as well without heat. This could lead to irritation or ingrown hairs. Gina PetakLicensed esthetician, education manager European Wax CenterSELF, you tell.
Shaving is a much more comfortable and convenient option for many people. “Shaving differs from waxing because it only removes hair down to just below the skin,” Dr. Eldik says, which is why you’ll typically only stay smooth for one to three days after shaving versus three to four weeks after waxing.
But waxing isn’t necessarilyDepending on how fast your hair grows, shaving may be superior to regular shave. “Everyone’s hair cycle differs. Both waxing and shaving are effective methods—it’s largely a personal preference,” Mona Gohara, MDProfessor of dermatology at the University of Michigan and board-certified dermatologist. Yale School of MedicineSELF, you tell.
What are the potential risks of waxing at your home?
While you’ll likely face fewer risks if you get waxed by a pro, doing it yourself has some obvious perks: namely that it’s private, cheaper, and more convenient. Before we get into the details of how to do it, let’s not forget about the potential downsides.
It’s possible that you may not apply the correct amount of wax, for one. “You may apply too much wax—causing the wax strip to catch larger amounts of hair—and more hair could be removed than intended, which is more painful,” Petak explains. “Or if too little hair is removed, this can also be painful since the process will be more time-consuming.” You may also end up going over the area too many times if you don’t get all the hair at once, which can cause more pain and irritation.