Of all the hair removal methods out there—and there are many—waxing probably takes the cake as the one that's not only the most intimidating, but also the most painful. When getting a wax, it's crucial that you get started on the best foot, especially if you're doing the job on your own and using an at-home wax kit.
“It's important to use the safest and gentlest wax kits available to avoid irritating, burning and potentially scarring your skin.” says Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, FAAD, dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center. “The most important thing to be aware of is that at-home waxing is not without risk and that you can damage your skin with home waxing kits.”
Scary as it sounds, at-home waxing has its perks, the most obvious being that it saves you major $$ when it’s a DIY job instead of seeing a pro. The stinky strips from back in the day are also now a thing of the past, with formulas that are much more advanced and gentle and include skin-loving ingredients. That doesn't mean you shouldn't still take a closer look at the ingredients list, though.
“Of course, avoid any ingredients you have a known allergy or sensitivity to,” advises Dr. Murphy-Rose. “Doing a small test spot and waiting at least a week before using the product on a large area is always a good idea.”
Another point for waxing: It lasts much longer than shaving. “The hair growth cycle varies among individuals and even on different parts of the body,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says. “Usually, waxing or sugaring will last at least three to four weeks and often longer (six to eight weeks).” But before getting started, keep reading to learn some basic skills and risks involved with waxing at home.
Waxing can cause major skin damage—if you're not careful.
Waxing removes hair by lifting it out at the root. With traditional waxing, hot wax is applied to skin and the hair is pulled off in the opposite direction of the way it's growing. The key word here and what can make at home waxing dangerous is that it's hot.
“Hot wax can burn the skin—and it is a particularly dangerous type of burn because the hot product adheres to the skin,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says. Always make sure you're following the heating directions closely and that you hold your hand over the wax after it's been heated to gauge the temperature before applying it to your skin.
If you have dark skin, hyperpigmentation could be an issue.
"Hot wax tends to adhere the strongest, so while it may remove hairs more efficiently, it can also stick to skin more and pull off those top layers of the skin as it's also pulling out your hair,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose.
It's this exfoliation of the uppermost layer of skin that leaves it more susceptible to post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (also referred to as dark spots), says Uchenna Okereke, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Brooklyn, NY. She says to think of the skin after waxing like a fresh, pink wound.
"Ultraviolet rays are attracted to wounds, making the freshly waxed skin more susceptible to darkening as melanin (the dark pigment in skin) floods the area to try and protect it." Luckily, there is a simple fix: Wear sunscreen! Better yet, keep that new skin out of the sun completely for at least a few days.
Prep your skin by avoiding retinol products, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion.
As mentioned above, waxing is already exfoliating the skin so you'll want to avoid any extra exfoliation a few days prior and a few days following your at home wax. A few other good to knows before getting started: Always wax on clean skin to avoid bacterial contamination in pores and make sure your hairs are long enough (at least 1/4 of an inch) to be grabbed by the wax.
Pull skin taut and away from the direction of your hair growth.
The key to preventing ingrown hairs (an all too common downside of waxing for many) is to get the full hair follicle. The best way to do this is by keeping your skin taut and pulling the wax strip in the opposite direction of the way that your hair grows.
Be sure to apply skincare to the waxed area.
Post waxing, minimize irritation immediately afterwards and prevent ingrown hairs from forming by applying cool aloe to soothe skin and sticking to loose clothes that won't create friction.
Consider sugaring if you have more sensitive skin.
Sugaring, aka sugared wax or sugar gel, is generally safer because it’s applied to skin at room temperature, (read: no risk of burning skin) and warms up with body heat. “Sugared ‘wax’ is not truly wax,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says. “The sticky product is made primarily of sugar, lemon juice and water and variations include glycerin, fragrance, essential oils and/or honey, so it is usually water soluble and any residue left on the skin can be more easily rinsed off after application compared to true hot wax.”
"Threading and sugaring are other hair removal options that, like waxing, remove the hair follicle from the root but with less exfoliating, offering a gentler process," says Dr. Okereke. Though she warns that she's also had patients with coily textured hair that still develop ingrowns and scarring from sugaring as well. The bottom line: "If you know you're prone to hyperpigmentation, ingrowns, or scarring, see a dermatologist to discuss the best hair removal practices for you," says Dr. Okereke.
With all those tips in mind, once you’re ready to ditch your razor, give one of these DIY waxing kits a try.
1. Best For Beginners: Nad's Natural Sugar Wax
The go-to pick for Dr. Murphy-Rose, she says, “Nad’s Natural Sugar Wax kit is a good option for at-home waxers.” Designed to be used on your face, arms, legs and bikini area, the formula uses your own body heat to warm up, minimizing the risk of burns, and leaves skin silky for as long as eight weeks. The kit includes Nad’s natural sugar wax, 100% cotton washable and reusable strips, wooden applicators and pre-wax soap with argan oil to prep skin.
2. Best Hard Wax Formula: Bliss Poetic Waxing Kit
This kit from Bliss lets you experience a spa waxing treatment right in your bathroom. Just heat up the wax in your microwave, and apply with one of the small or large spatulas (depending on size of the target area). There are no physical strips—just peel off when you’re done.
3. Best For Bikini: VidaSleek Extra Strength Hair Removal Waxing Kit
The ingredients are simple (two types of plant resin and avocado oil) but mighty and promise to grip onto hairs (particularly coarse, thick ones) tightly so that no stubble is left behind. The kit also comes with cleansing wipes infused with jojoba and chamomile oils to help wipe away any stickiness as well as moisturize and soothe the skin right after your wax.
4. Best-Seller: Lifestance Wax Warmer Hair Removal Kit
This is the best-selling home waxing kit on Amazon, and for good reason. The kit uses hard wax, which is supposed to grip just your hair, not your skin. That means smooth skin, with a little less pain than other kinds of waxing. Reviewers say it's super easy to use at home, too.
5. Best Organic Formula: Parissa Cane Sugar Organic Wax
If clean ingredients are more of your concern, this will be your best bet. Made with organic sugar, chamomile, citric acid, and water, this roll-on wax might inspire you to make your own DIY version at home.
6. Best Scent: Wakse Mini Cosmic Candy Hard Wax Beans
Aptly named, you will enjoy the cotton candy scent. Once you melt down the pink and blue iridescent beads—a microwave does the trick—it turns into a hard wax and gets the job done.
7. Best Roll-On Wax: Nair Ultimate Roll-On Wax
The screw-on roll-on applicator makes applying it a cinch, allowing you to reach tricky spots more precisely. You can easily wash the applicator after each use with soap and water. To nourish skin, the formula contains 100% organic virgin argan oil from Morocco.
8. Best For Last-Minute Touch-Ups: Nair Hair Remover Wax Ready-Strips for Face & Bikini
These Nair wax strips are about as easy as home hair removal gets. Just peel apart, apply, and pull off. No heating up—not even rubbing—is required, which makes them great for a last-minute beach day or stashing away in your suitcase on longer trips, too.
9. Best For Legs: Sally Hansen Hair Remover Wax Strip Kit for Body
These wax strips from Sally Hansen are infused with coconut and marula oils for a more nourishing, less irritating waxing experience. They’re large enough to cover a good amount of ground—like armpits and legs—and can leave you hair-free for up to eight weeks.
10. Best For Short Hairs: Parissa Strip Free Hot Wax
This wax kit from Parissa—recommended for short, stubborn hair that large strips can sometimes miss—includes wax, a metal pan, and three applicators. Just heat up, apply, and peel off against the direction your hair grows to get rid of that fuzz.
11. Best Natural Buy: Nad’s Natural Hair Removal Gel Kit
This gel from Nad’s is made with all-natural hair removal ingredients, like molasses, sugar, and honey. As if it couldn't get any more #eco, the kit also includes cotton strips that can be washed and reused.
12. Best For Sensitive Skin: Veet Ready-To-Use Sensitive Formula Wax Strip Kit
If your sensitive skin always turns red after waxing, try this option from Veet. The wax strip kit contains shea butter to help moisturize and soothe skin post-wax. Die-hard home waxers love this, with many reviewers calling this formula the gentlest and cleanest they’ve ever used.
13. Best Pro-Quality Kit: GiGi Mini Pro Waxing Kit
Last but not least, this waxing kit from Gigi contains everything you need to create your own mini waxing studio, including a warmer, crème wax, specialty prep, calming lotions, spatulas, and cloths. Def do a test-patch of the wax—it’s a bit sticky—before applying to larger areas.
14: Best Microwavable Wax: Sally Hansen Eyebrow, Face, & Lip Stripless Face Wax Kit
This kit comes with everything you need to give yourself a hairless base without the hassle: a brow guide to help you shape yours to perfection, a mini spatula for easy application, and even a post-treatment lotion for soothing irritation in the area thereafter. Just pop the wax in the microwave for two minutes and you're good to go.
15. Best Wax Strips: Flamingo Women's Body Wax Kit
If you're a first-time waxer, starting out with strips might be less intimidating than some of the aforementioned hard waxes. This kit comes with 12 double-sided gel wax strips that are big enough to be used on your arms, legs, and underarms. You can wipe away any stickiness and residue with the included post-wax cloths that are infused with almond oil.
16: Best For Nose Hairs: Nad's Nose Wax Kit for Men & Women
Ripping hair out of your nostrils sounds pretty intimidating, but it doesn't have to be with this kit. It comes with a special applicator that can only go so far into the nose so that you can only remove the hair at the edge of the nostril.
17: Best Under $10: Joy Glee Body Wax Kit
This kit features 32 wax strips, some are just big and small enough to fit on any part of the body. It's your best bet for getting something close to a professional wax without paying the steep price.