Our Best Tips To Help Mitigate Hair Waxing Pain

There's no way to fully avoid waxing pain; you are, after all, yanking hair out by the root. For first-time waxers, the anticipatory nerves can make things even harder, due to the clenching and tension around the appointment. But rest assured, there's good news because you can do plenty of things to make the experience less painful. It's never going to feel like nothing, but it won't always be so painful.

Part of the reason for this is that waxing becomes less painful over time. The hair starts to grow back thinner and you start to anticipate the pain a bit more. Another comforting fact is that waxing appointments are actually much shorter than you'd think. A full Brazilian wax, where you have all pubic hair removed, takes between 15-20 minutes typically; while it can feel like forever, that's a pretty speedy process.

Be choosy about where you go. You want to make sure that you're working with a reputable hair removal esthetician, who should be licensed and attached to a legitimate spa or salon. Word-of-mouth recommendations are also helpful in narrowing down your search for a good place to go. Once you have that settled and have your appointment booked, try out some helpful, actionable tips to make the experience as painless as it possibly can be. 

Leading up to the appointment: Exfoliate the area

There are things you can do in the days leading up to a wax that will care for the area and make your appointment less painful. For one, avoid shaving and simply let the regrowth from previous waxes grow out. You want to get your regrowth synced so that it starts to grow back in the same cycle; this can take some time, and shaving only impedes this effort. Your hair, no matter the body part, should be ¼ of an inch long; picture a grain of rice. It should be no longer than half an inch. Any longer and you'll experience added pain because the hairs could break in half rather than being effectively waxed.

Next, exfoliate a few days before. "Exfoliate prior to waxing to loosen dead skin around the hair follicle," hair-removal specialist Holly Green told Women's Health. Sloughing away dead skin makes for an easier wax and prevents ingrown hairs. Also, plan your appointment around your period. "When you are on your cycle — especially during your heavier days — you will be more sensitive than normal," Elizabeth Satterly, a Field Trainer at European Wax Center, told Byrdie. There is, as a matter of fact, an optimal time to book. "A sweet spot is three to four days after your period," Natalia Romanenko, CEO at BriskNPosh, a waxing center in New York City, told Byrdie. The rationale is that your threshold for pain is higher at this time of the month.

The day of: Stay away from alcohol and caffeine

There are a few practices to keep in mind the day of your wax, in order to mitigate pain. Since both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, it's best to stay away from both beverages prior to your waxing appointment. They're stimulants and can make skin extra sensitive. They also dehydrate skin, which makes waxing more painful. "Hydrated skin will always make for a less painful wax," Satterly told Byrdie. "The skin is more moisturized and plump, which makes for easy hair removal."

Another rather novel idea is to go for a workout before your appointment. This idea was approved by Dr. Zakia Rahman, a clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford University. "Endorphins are actually quite strong pain relievers," Dr. Rahman told Shape. "They bind to the same receptors as morphine does, so they can absolutely reduce the pain of waxing," she explained." If you choose to work out before your appointment, take a quick shower before showing up. "This can help open up the pores the hairs are coming out of, which will make waxing easier," Dr. Rahman added, noting that it's also courteous to the waxer.

Right before your wax: Use pain relief

Make the most of painkillers and anti-inflammatory products right before your appointment. Dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, told Byrdie that it's a good idea to use 1% hydrocortisone cream. Lidocaine is another effective product. "Topical lidocaine spray can numb your skin before waxing if you're especially sensitive to waxing pain," licensed esthetician Ali Tobia told Byrdie. Some estheticians have lidocaine on location, but it's never a bad idea to grab your own. Also, feel free to take Tylenol 30 minutes before your appointment. "You can take acetaminophen beforehand since it will help the pain but not cause bruising like other pain pills can," Ciraldo noted.

A few words of caution, however, about numbing creams. Dermatologist Shari Sperling, MD, told PopSugar that it's important to know if the wax is too hot for your skin, and numbing creams can make it harder to feel the heat. Speak to your esthetician about this concern if you plan to use it. Dr. Sperling also recommended rinsing off the numbing cream right after your wax with lukewarm water.

During the session: Practice deep breathing

While it sounds easier said than done, being as relaxed as possible before and during your waxing appointment will help with pain. The more tense you feel, the more difficult the procedure. Arrive a few minutes early and meditate in the waiting room; practice deep breathing before and during your session. The best trick is to take a deep breath as the esthetician applies the wax to your body, and exhale deeply as your esthetician pulls the wax off.

Your esthetician will likely guide you through the process, but the kind of wax you choose also impacts the pain level. There are typically the options of hard wax or soft wax. Natalia Romanenko, CEO at BriskNPosh, told Byrdie that hard wax is a better choice for Brazilian and bikini waxes. "It's created specifically for sensitive areas, as hair comes out easier, which reduces the pain and prolongs smooth, hairless results," Romanenko explained. "Soft wax, with its stickier texture, is best used for less sensitive areas like legs." Also, your esthetician will likely ask you to hold your skin taught, so that they can tug the wax off quickly and effectively. Lending a helping hand in this way is to your advantage, since it'll make the procedure less painful.

Post-waxing care: Use ice packs

There are a few things to do after your appointment that can help with post-waxing care. For one, make sure you have clean, loose clothing to put on after your wax. Packing a fresh pair of roomy underwear isn't a bad idea. "Skip the leggings and jeans when going in for your wax, as friction will irritate," Elizabeth Satterly of European Wax Center told Byrdie. "Your skin may be sensitive after, so loose, breathable fabrics will avoid any extra irritation post-wax."

The skin may be sore and sensitive after a wax, so you can use some of those topical agents post-wax as well. "If you are uncomfortable afterward, apply [1%] hydrocortisone two to three times a day for the first 48 hours," Ciraldo told Byrdie. You can also use an ice pack on the area or take some Tylenol after. Also, if you've had a Brazilian or bikini wax, you want to avoid sex for at least 24 hours after to avoid any bacteria getting into the open pores. Let the hair follicles close first. After a few days, you'll want to start gently exfoliating the area too, to prevent ingrown hairs. Apply moisturizer as well, as everything grows back, to keep the area hydrated.