From eyebrows and the upper lip to legs, back, underarms, and the bikini area, waxing and hair removal is an especially sought-after service in the beauty and spa industry. Despite its popularity, there are still many people who shy away from waxing or dread the service due to the fear of experiencing one or more negative side effects. “When it comes to waxing, no two people are alike, and furthermore, just because someone was okay with a service previously doesn’t mean they can’t have a reaction at anytime to the very same products,” says Nadia Fathallah, category manager at American International Industries. According to her, body chemistry and external factors can dramatically change the way a client’s skin may react to a waxing service. For example, stress can cause a reaction, and some skincare products, especially those that contain anti-aging or acne-fighting ingredients, can make skin sensitive to waxing.
Krissa Gordon, senior educator at Satin Smooth, believes that while skin type and lifestyle can cause side effects, some of the most common associated with waxing are due to the skill and experience level of the waxing professional. “A skilled professional will have more than just the basic knowledge of skin science,” she says. “He or she will fully understand what happens to the skin during a waxing service from beginning to end and can customize each service to fully address the client’s individual hair and skin type and condition.” In order to do that effectively, she recommends that waxing professionals consult with clients prior to the service to learn about their daily skincare regimens, sun exposure habits, medications, medical treatments, allergies, and past waxing experiences. Waxing professionals should also be able to correctly analyze skin type and condition to determine which products are appropriate for each individual client; have a variety of high-quality wax products available, including at least two types of wax along with a pre-cleanser, residue remover, and a soothing post-waxing product; have high standards for safety and hygiene; and provide appropriate aftercare instructions. “As therapists, it is our job to do all we can to make a client’s waxing experience, both the treatment and the results afterwards, as pleasant as possible,” says Lilliane Caron, owner and director of Caronlab Australia and Waxxxpress. “After all, if they suffer from severe side effects because we aren’t using the right products or technique, they definitely won’t be back. With a combination of the proper technique, the correct products, and the appropriate aftercare advice, we can minimize our clients’ side effects.” Here are some of the most common, including their causes, solutions, and effective ingredients that can help treat the issue:
Redness and Inflammation
Causes: According to Lydia Jordane, founder of Lycon Cosmetics, redness and inflammation due to waxing can occur for several reasons. “Usually, it’s because the type of wax used on the area could be wrong,” she says. Also, wax that is either too hot or too hard and brittle can irritate the skin, and if wax grips the skin, it can strip a fine layer off.
Solution: It is important to use wax that is set at a low temperature and is also soft and pliable when it is set, so it cannot irritate the skin. Annet King, director of global education for Dermalogica and the International Dermal Institute, suggests placing a hand immediately over the area that has been waxed to help soothe the pain, and Jordane recommends using pre- and post-waxing lotions to protect the client’s skin.
Effective Ingredients: Aloe leaf juice, bisabolol, chamomile, oat kernel extract, red hogweed, and tea tree oil can quickly alleviate sensitivity and calm redness and irritation.
Causes: The skin’s sensory defense mechanism immediately responds to trauma by producing sebum as a protective measure to the follicle, according to Lynn Maestro, national sales and communication director at Cirépil by Perron Rigot Paris, who adds that this primarily occurs on clients who are new to waxing. Pimples can pop up when an area is not properly sanitized before waxing or because of poor hygiene post waxing, says King. She notes that sometimes small blisters can occur due to the hair no longer being present to wick out the oil and sebum.
Solution: Maestro recommends using a hypo-allergenic wax to help lessen the likelihood of pimples, as well as a mineral-based wax instead of a rosin wax. “If the area becomes inflamed, recommend a topical antibiotic ointment, and if it doesn’t subside within a few days, the client should seek professional medical attention,” she says. “And, always, prior to each treatment, have your clients sign a medical release form.”
Effective Ingredients: Antimicrobials, such as tea tree oil and witch hazel, and anti-inflammatories, like aloe vera, azulene, and bisabolol, can help prevent and treat pimples.
Causes: Ingrown hairs, which are most common in the bikini area, are caused from hair breakage and clogged pores. According to Normajean Fusco, owner and president of Nufree Finipil, shaving and waxing can cause ingrown hairs if the hair is not removed completely. “The hair then curls under the skin as it grows, causing pain and redness,” she says.
Solution: Exfoliate the area pre- and post-waxing. Also, removing the entire hair shaft and root helps prevent ingrown hairs, because a clean, empty follicle allows the hair to reform and grow out correctly, says Fusco. Maestro recommends applying the wax with pressure to ensure it encapsulates the hair down to the skin’s surface, and when removing it, stay low, close, and parallel to the skin and do so in a swift manner. “Over time, waxing reduces the strength of the hair making it finer, softer, and less powerful to rise above the skin,” she says.
Effective Ingredients: Salicylic acid and skin conditioners like almond oil, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and sunflower oil can help prevent and soothe ingrown hairs.
Causes: According to Gordon, bumps can occur because of an allergy to wax or waxing products, if the skin was not adequately prepped or soothed, and if the client did not receive or follow good aftercare instructions. King also says that bumps can occur after waxing due to sudden trauma or from potential ingrown hairs that are trying to surface through the follicle opening.
Solution: To prevent bumps, exfoliate the skin to remove dead skin cells and treat with an antibacterial product containing salicylic acid. For ingrown hairs that are causing the bumps, Fathallah recommends a combination of salicylic acid and glycolic acid to gently exfoliate the skin and kill bacteria. “Removing the dead skin from the pores will allow hairs to emerge from the follicle rather than being trapped inside and causing unsightly red bumps,” she says. Also, King suggests advising clients to avoid heavy oils and creams, as well as steam and hot showers, for at least 24 hours after waxing.
Effective Ingredients: Anti-inflammatories, such as aloe vera, azulene, and bisabolol can prevent bumps. Also, salicylic acid, tea tree extract, and zinc can help to rid the skin of excess oils, which can prevent further bumps.
Causes: Using an incorrect waxing technique, such as applying the wax too thick and pulling the wax strip up instead of parallel, can cause damage to a client’s skin including unnecessary pain and bruising.
Solution: “Invest in a good heater, and get to know the perfect consistency of your chosen wax,” says Caron. Also, be aware that older clients’ skin can tear and bruise more easily, so be especially gentle and use a hard wax, as it is much easier on the skin. “This also goes for women who are going through menopause,” she adds. “Women’s hormones are constantly changing, and especially as they get older, the skin can become much more sensitive.”
Effective Ingredients: A cold compress and products containing alpha hydroxy acids can help with bruising.
Causes: Everyone has a different definition and threshold for pain. Individual nerve sensors and even some hereditary factors can contribute to how a person reacts to pain, according to Fathallah. Also, poor technique, sensitive skin, and inadequately prepped and soothed skin can cause pain.
Solution: There are several ways to decrease the pain associated with waxing. If a client is known to be very sensitive, they can take ibuprofen before the appointment. Also, there are topical numbing creams available that can be used to dull pain. Apply the lotion or spray about 10 to 15 minutes prior to the client’s service, and advise them to wear loose-fitting clothing if they are receiving a body wax, says Fathallah.
Effective Ingredients: The main ingredients in over-the-counter topical pain killers—lidocaine and benzocaine—can reduce pain.
Causes: Hyperpigmentation in all skintones, especially darker skin, can be caused by inflammation and ultraviolet (UV) exposure. Also, clients with pre-existing skin conditions like melasma can experience hyperpigmentation.
Solution: King recommends applying an SPF of 30 or higher after waxing. Also, because hyperpigmentation primarily happens on the face, she suggests patch testing a client and questioning them about past issues with hyperpigmentation.
Effective Ingredients: Skin brighteners, such as alpha hydroxy acids, licorice root, and red and brown algae, can help treat hyperpigmentation.
To help prevent a bad reaction to a waxing service, it is important for waxing professionals to consult with the client beforehand to learn more about how the client’s skin and lifestyle might have an effect on the waxing result. “It is an opportunity to find out about new skincare regimens, medications, and other factors that may affect the outcome of the service,” says Fathallah. “It also shows that you care about your client’s wellbeing and that you want to provide the best experience possible. This type of open communication helps to build lasting relationships with clients. Even with all the best intentions, there will be clients who react to a service with redness, irritation, and inflammation. Being informed and prepared to either treat or advise your clients about how to manage these side effects will instill trust in your staff’s professionalism and knowledge.”
Lilliane Caron, owner and director at Caronlab Australia and Waxxxpress, shares tips on operating a successful wax business:
Waxing clients deserve to be pampered a little. Cleansing an area before waxing can be relaxing, and using an after-wax oil or lotion can be soothing. It’s the little things that stick in clients’ minds.
Teach your staff how to save money through correct waxing techniques and to reduce the overuse of utensils like strips and hard wax.
Use a buddy system. If two therapists can work on the one client simultaneously and minimize the service time, this will mean more appointment availability. Also, when therapists work together, they become motivated and more team focused.
Retail sales can come from waxing services, not just facial or spa treatments, and it’s a lot easier to sell a $20 ingrown hair treatment to six clients in a day than a $120 product to one client after a facial.
Quality products made from quality ingredients will result in better outcomes for your clients, especially with reduced irritation, redness, and ingrown hairs.
Maintain a clean environment. A wax pot should always be shining and clean before the next client arrives, and ensure that no wax residue remains anywhere.
Never think you or your staff know it all, especially with waxing. There are so many wonderful techniques, hints, and tips you can gain from each other in a spa.
Stick to products packed with calming ingredients to help prevent and treat waxing issues.—Jessica Morrobel
1. Amber Products Bee Calm Waxing Serum: This formula contains bee pollen, bee propolis, and a bark extract to heal skin after waxing. www.amberproducts.com
2. Brilliance by Caronlab The Original XXX White Wax: Suitable for sensitive skin, this creamy wax contains titanium dioxide to reduce redness and soothe skin while removing unwanted hair. www.caronlab.com.au
3. Cirépil by Perron Rigot Paris Pre-Cooling Gel: This gel sanitizes and refreshes skin and decreases sensitivity prior to waxing for painless hair removal. www.cirepil.com
4. Clean + Easy Calm: Containing azulene oil, chamomile, and vitamin E, this conditioner reduces redness and inflammation, removes sticky residue, and soothes skin after waxing. www.cleanandeasyspa.com
5. GiGi No Bump Body Scrub: This treatment removes dead skin cells for optimal hair removal. It also polishes skin and helps prevent ingrown hairs and bumps post-waxing. www.gigispa.com
6. Jurlique Calendula Cream: This moisturizing cream with calendula extract and plant oils hydrates and comforts irritated skin after waxing while protecting against environmental aggressors. www.jurlique.com
7. Lycon Tea-Tree Soothe: This light, moisturizing, and calming post-waxing lotion contains chamomile, rose, and tea tree oil. www.lyconusa.com
8. Nufree Finipil Antiseptic Cream: This treatment lotion can be applied after hair removal to keep the follicles clear and protected from germs, helping to prevent ingrown hairs. www.nufree.com
9. PFB Vanish: This roll-on gel aids in the relief of ingrown hairs, razor burn, and dark spots resulting from shaving, waxing, and tweezing. www.pfbvanish.com
10. Repêchage SeaSmooth Artisan Seaweed Wax: Infused with minerals, sea plants, and vitamins, this hand-poured wax removes unwanted hair while reducing redness and irritation. www.repechage.com
11. Satin Smooth Res-Q Analgesic Numbing Spray: This soothing spray gently desensitizes and temporarily numbs the surface of the skin prior to waxing for comfort. www.satinsmooth.com
12. Skinprint Liquid Solace Calming Serum: Featuring a proprietary blend of BioJuv Calm Complex, which reduces redness, rosacea, and irritation, this serum soothes and heals sensitive skin. www.skinprint.com