With beach season just around the corner, you might be thinking about waxing to achieve a hair-free body before summer. Unlike shaving, waxing can leave skin feeling smooth and soft for many weeks, but only if you do it properly, say dermatologists.


“At-home waxing can be an affordable method for hair removal, but it’s important to take precautions,” said board-certified dermatologist Jessica J. Krant, MD, FAAD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center. “Never wax sunburned or very sensitive skin, and don’t wax if you have taken isotretinoin in the last six months. Also, it may be a good idea to leave Brazilian waxes to the professionals, since the skin in that area is particularly delicate.”

For the best technique and results, Dr. Krant recommends the following tips:the professionals, since the skin in that area is particularly delicate.”

  1. Ensure optimal hair length: Before waxing, make sure your hair is about one-fourth to three-fourths of an inch long. If hair is longer, trim it to a shorter length using safety scissors so that waxing will be less messy and painful.
  2. Avoid retinoid creams before waxing: Avoid using over-the-counter skin care products containing retinol and prescription retinoids two to five days prior to waxing your face to avoid removing skin along with your hair.
  3. Reduce discomfort: Since waxing can be painful for some people, consider ways to reduce discomfort. Taking over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen, or applying cold packs to the skin about 30 minutes before waxing may help.
  4. Wash and dry the area: Before waxing, gently wash the area you’re about to wax to remove dirt, dead skin cells and skin care products. Afterwards, dry your skin thoroughly. Clean, dry skin allows the wax to adhere properly.
  5. Warm the wax: Follow the directions on the package, and always test the temperature of the wax by applying a small amount to the inside of your wrist. It should be warm, but not hurt or burn.
  6. Apply the wax: Apply the wax to a small section of your skin with unwanted hair. For the best results, always spread the wax in the direction of hair growth.
  7. Apply the cloth strip: Once the wax is applied, place the cloth strip over the wax and press down firmly. Leave the cloth on for two to three seconds.
  8. Remove the cloth strip: To remove, hold your skin taut with one hand and use your other hand to quickly pull off the cloth in the opposite direction of hair growth. If you’re waxing a tricky spot to reach, such as the underarms, consider asking a friend or relative to help you.
  9. Soothe your skin: After waxing, soothe your skin by applying cold packs if you have pain, avoiding hot baths and showers, wearing loose clothing and applying moisturizer that won’t clog your pores. Look for moisturizers labeled “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic.”

“If you follow the instructions, at-home waxing is a safe and effective way to remove unwanted body hair,” said Dr. Krant. “However, if you experience redness or swelling after waxing that lasts more than two days, see a board-certified dermatologist.”

These tips are demonstrated in “Hair Removal: How to Wax,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel.