Ah, bikini waxes. For some, it’s just another part of their regular grooming. For others, it’s a source of dread and anxiety (especially if you’re new to the whole experience). Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, we could all use a little refresher on some proper waxing etiquette ahead of our next appointments. How long is too long between waxes? What are the recommended rates are for tipping your waxer?
Gina Petak, Education Manger for European Wax Center, and Angelica Sele, a waxing expert and founder of Angelica B Beauty in San Diego, share their top tips, so all parties involved can have the smoothest experience possible.
What should I look for in a waxing salon? Are there any good signs or red flags to watch for?
1. Do your homework and find a place that specializes in waxing,” advises Sele. “It is a very specialized skill set and you want to make sure you're going to an establishment that specializes in it to avoid any potential complications (like an infection) or subpar results.”
Petak agrees, adding that you really want to see a trained and licensed waxing expert, as opposed to say, a licensed manicurist or a facialist who also happens to offer waxing services on the side. “Licensed waxing experts are used to working with all hair and skin types and are specifically trained to give you the best and least painful waxing experience,” she explains.
“Also, make sure that you are choosing a place that appears clean and well-kept and check to see that they keep up with the state board standards of sanitation,” says Sele.
Hygiene has always been important, but after the year we’ve had, they are even more critical than ever. That said, a big red flag to look out for during your appointment is double-dipping. “If you find a place that double dips their waxing stick, RUN,” warns Petak. “At European Wax Center we use a new stick every single time we take a scoop of wax. Double-dipping is highly unsanitary and can cause the spreading of bacteria and infections between guests,” she cautions.
Do you have any tips for first-time waxers?
2. “For my first timers, I always recommend that you come in with hair that’s had at two weeks to grow,” says Sele. For a visual cue, you’re aiming for about one-fourth of an inch—roughly the length of a grain of rice. Or a cake sprinkle.
If your hairs are too short, the wax won’t be able to grip them properly which can lead to an uneven removal and a higher chance of ingrowns afterwards. It’s better to come in with longer hair than shorter hair. “Don’t worry, your hair can never be too long to come see us,” assures Petak. “All of our wax specialists are trained to work with all hair lengths, textures and different skin types,” she adds.
The takeaway: If you usually shave, put your razor down for the two or more weeks leading up to your appointment and let things grow in.
What are some things to do before your appointment?
3. “Before your appointment, make sure to gently exfoliate the area that will be waxed to ensure that no hair is trapped beneath the skin,” advises Sele. (She likes a konjac sponge for this.)
4. If you’re feeling a bit antsy on the day of, Petak recommends taking an Advil an hour prior to your waxing appointment to lessen any potential pain. “And remember to breathe,” she adds, since many of us tend to hold our breath in anticipation of discomfort. Speaking of comfort, on the day of your wax, opt for “loose, airy clothing made with natural fibers like cotton or silk that will promote airflow and won’t stick to your skin and irritate it,” says Petak.
What are some things to avoid before your appointment?
5. “Avoid alcohol and caffeine on the day of your reservation,” says Petak. “It may seem like a good idea to have a drink to calm the nerves, but alcohol thins the blood, which actually causes a more painful experience, and caffeine leads to more skin sensitivity, which can also increase the pain.”
On that note: “The first appointment may be a little more uncomfortable for you, but since waxing removes the hair from the root, it will get easier and less painful as your hair grows in thinner and softer with subsequent waxing. By the third appointment, most people say they barely feel it,” shares Petak.
Any tips for when I get home from my appointment?
Don’t be alarmed if the area looks a little, well, angry right after your wax. “It’s completely normal for there to be a bit of redness and for some, a heat-type rash can appear,” assures Sele. “This should disappear on its own after a few hours.”
6. If you want to take a shower when you get home from your appointment (or later that evening), Petak advises that you keep your water at a lukewarm or cool temperature. “Hot water can dehydrate your skin. Also remember that your skin is freshly exfoliated from your wax, so don’t use any harsh soaps or products that contain too many oils or leave a film on your skin. This can clog your follicles.”
And on the topic of water, both experts agree that it’s in your best interest to skip out on going to the pool, spa or sauna for at least 24 to 48 hours after you get waxed to avoid irritation. Ditto for any physical activities (like running or spinning) that could cause friction in the area.
After that 24-hour window has passed, you can resume activities and apply topical treatments (like a hydrating oil or an exfoliation serum) as needed to keep the area soft and free of ingrown hairs as things grow back.
What is the appropriate etiquette when talking to your waxer?
We know it can be a bit awkward to make small talk when you’re stripped bare in front of a stranger but remember that you’re both people who are trying to get a job done.
7. And while there is certainly no pressure to have sparkling conversation during your appointment, both experts assure us that you can go ahead and ask any questions while being waxed (which could be a welcome distraction for you). “We always want to make sure to create a very comfortable environment for all our clients,” adds Sele.
Some good questions to ask, in case you need a few in your back pocket are “what do you recommend for aftercare?” and “is there anything additional you would recommend I do before our next appointment?”
This is also a good time to run through the different products you typically use on your skin to make sure they don’t cause any unintended reactions after waxing.
Should I tip my waxer? If so, how much is appropriate?
“Gratuity is completely up to the guest based on the service they were provided,” shares Petak. “Most guests typically tip between 18 to 22 percent of the total cost of the service,” she adds.
When should I schedule my next appointment?
“Usually, your wax will last between three to four weeks, but everyone’s rate of regrowth is different, so results will vary between guests,” says Petak. You should also consider what your personal preferences are and how much you have budgeted for upkeep. (Sele sees some clients who prefer to come in every four weeks for a touchup, whereas others can stretch their appointments to six weeks.)
8. Whatever you decide, resist the temptation to shave in between. As mentioned before, your hair grows in thinner and softer with each subsequent wax, so you’re thwarting those efforts when you shave incoming hairs.
“When you shave, you are cutting your hair, so when it grows in, it has a blunt end instead of a fine point, which is what would naturally happen if you left it as is. This can give the appearance and feel of the hair being darker or thicker,” explains Petak.
9. Still, if you’re in a pinch and have a last-minute pool party or beach trip planned and don’t have time to squeeze in a visit to your waxer, Petak recommends only shaving the sides of your bikini line (so the area that might be visible from your bikini bottoms). “This way you still feel groomed but you’re not starting your waxing results from scratch.”
Ready to book your appointment? Toss on your breeziest sundress or shorts, pack your Advil (if you really need it) and remember to breathe. With the right prep and care, each wax should get easier and less uncomfortable.