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To Wax or Not to Wax by Susmta Patel

Susmta Patel is a quadruple threat in the beauty industry: She is a licensed makeup artist, hair stylist, nail technician and professional waxer who has worked at the acclaimed Completely Bare Salon in Manhattan. While most women love that freshly waxed look and feel, the “ouch factor” plagues most. Susmta Patel offers the stripped down version on everything from preparation and pain to what kind of results to expect, so you can be well prepared when it comes time to take it all off.

Who Should Wax
Waxing is a great alternative to shaving if you have hair you’re uncomfortable with, says says Susmta. “Waxing is recommended for people of all ages and both genders.” Though she recommends that people start getting wax treatments at a young age, when the hair is fine and will be less painful to remove, anyone can get it done, regardless of age.

Who Should Not Wax?
Avoid waxing altogether if you have diabetes, varicose veins or poor circulation. If you have been using medication or lotions which cause thinning of the skin (the case with some acne preparations) you should not use waxing as a hair removal method until the skin has recovered. This will be some weeks after you have stopped using this medication. You should also avoid areas of broken or irritated skin or skin with warts, spots, moles or sunburn.

Waxing vs. Shaving
“Waxing is better because it removes hair from the root,” says Susmta. She adds that when you shave “you just cut the hair, so two hours later, you can see the hair there or the blue shadow (the hair follicle below the skin).” Waxing, on the other hand, not only can last up to a month, but it’s also much more permanent. Over time it thins the hair so less grows back. Bonus: It exfoliates the skin as well, leaving you feeling silky smooth.

Preparing for a Wax
If you’re worried about pain, take one or two Advil an hour before your appointment. She also recommends an exfoliating scrub the day before and advises not to apply body lotion the day of the wax. Also, for underarm waxing, she recommends you use deodorant without antiperspirant because it comes off easier.

Don’t apply astringent or toner before waxing
These tighten the pores and can make a firmer hold on the hair follicle. So hold off right before waxing.

Does It Matter What Time of the Month It Is?
According to Susmta, waxing hurts more the week before your period, so it’s best to go in the week after. And if you’re pregnant? “Just like always, some days we are a little more sensitive than others,” she says. “So if you’re pregnant, it’s fine. It doesn’t hurt more.” Otherwise, she says, it’s just about being comfortable.

Do reduce acidity
Smoking and regular caffeine and alcohol consumption create a lot of acid in the body’s system. You might benefit from taking something like Tums 20 minutes before your service to reduce acidity and therefore reduce skin’s sensitivity.

Don’t use ice for numbing
“You might think that ice would be great to numb skin and reduce waxing pain,” says Susmta, “but applying anything cold to the skin tightens pores. The goal is to have the pores nice and relaxed.

Don’t drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol
While having a couple glass of wine or beer before getting waxed sounds like a great idea, stimulants in the system can cause skin to be extra sensitive to waxing. Give yourself a couple hours after drinking coffee or alcohol before getting waxed. Instead, drink a lot of water to hydrate your body and skin.

Before Facial waxing:
Avoid any prescription topical face product that contains: Retinol, Alpha Hydroxy Acid, or skin lightener. The will make your skin more prone to redness and scabbing.

How Often to Wax
If you’ve shaven recently, wait five days. And though the time does vary between waxes, depending on how quickly or coarsely the hair grows back, Susmta says it’s best to wait around a month. “People should wait three to four weeks between waxing,” she says. “But in an emergency, if they have a new boyfriend or are about to go on vacation, they can come back in three weeks with no problem.”

What to Expect
First your waxer will clean and disinfect the area. After that, she’ll apply the wax and remove small areas of hair at a time. “There are two different types of wax,” Susmta says. “Soft wax is done with paper or muslin strips, and hard wax is removed without strips.” In general, hard wax is used to remove hair in the bikini, underarm and face area; soft wax is used on larger areas of the body such as the leg or armpit.

The Bikini Wax
There are special concerns when waxing the bikini area, but they’re very similar to those for the rest of the body.

Bikini vs. Brazilian
A Brazilian wax removes more hair than a bikini wax. Whereas a bikini focuses on the front and sides (what would be visible in a swimsuit), the Brazilian removes the front, sides, back and everything in between, often only leaving a strip of hair in the front, or none at all. Most of the time, you can leave your underwear on during a standard bikini wax, but for a Brazilian, you’ll have to be sans panties.

Why Brazilian?
Some reasons for having a Brazilian wax include cleanliness, convenience and, of course, sexiness.

Does It Hurt More?
“Some women can’t do the bikini, but they are OK with the eyebrow. Others can do the bikini, but they can’t stand to wax their legs,” Susmta says. “Everyone is different. But it does hurt less the longer you do it. Eventually the hair becomes weak, so it doesn’t hurt at all.” You will want to wear very soft, panties that won’t rub your bikini area the wrong way. Bikini waxes are painful and the more tender the cloth is on your skin, the more comfortable it will be for you. Old, well-worn underwear is highly-recommended when getting a bikini wax because they are often soft and tender. Additionally, there is a good chance that excess wax may be left on your skin after the treatment and it may ruin a good, expensive bikini.

The Pain Factor
Waxing is uncomfortable because the hair is being pulled all the way out. “If the roots are not pulled out, the discomfort is minimal but the results are also minimal,” Susmta says. She adds that “discomfort is only felt at the time of service and stops immediately after.” To be sure it’s done right, you may want to check the strips to ensure the roots were also removed (you should see a small dark bulb on the hair follicle).

Post-Wax Treatment
Although the pain does subside as soon as the wax is over, the area can remain sensitive, which is why Susmta says not to use any scrubs for the next 48 hours and not to expose the area to direct sun for at least 24 hours. To treat redness or swelling, apply a small amount of cortisone cream from the drugstore.

Maintenance
After the tenderness has subsided, Susmta says to exfoliate in the shower to remove dead skin so the pores don’t become clogged, causing ingrown hairs and bumps. If bumps do appear, “don’t squeeze or tweeze!” she urges.

Waxing Hygiene
First and foremost, make sure you go to a place with proper sterilization procedures. Susmta insists, “The technician should be licensed and she should not double-dip during the waxing session.” (Double dipping means that the technician used the same stick each time she dipped into the vat of hot wax. This practice contaminates the wax and allows bacteria to spread from one client to another. Plus, you wouldn’t want the wax used on your upper lip to have been mixed with a stick used on another woman’s bikini area!

Don’t think waxing at home will be easy
It’s hard to do on yourself, and will really hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing.
When choosing a salon to wax hair off, check references and get referrals from friends or family before you select one. If others you know had a good experience at the salon where they had waxing done, chances are you will too. Waxing is something that will last a long time and will enhance your appearance but it is also a very personal procedure. You should take care in choosing the right salon that will do the best job for you.

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