Regular trips to the salon for bikini waxing can be time-consuming and expensive. But the alternative—DIYing it—can seem daunting. How do you even do it? Is it safe? And, most of all, what happens if you mess up? Here’s everything you need to know before you give it a shot:
There Are Three Different Kinds of Waxing Kits
First, there’s the hard wax kind. You melt the wax, apply it to your skin, let it cool, and then rip it off. “Typically, you’d warm the wax up in the microwave before using an applicator to apply to the skin,” says Joel Schlessinger, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf advisor.
Then, there are soft wax kits (also known as strip wax). You melt the wax, apply a thin layer, and then place a fabric over that area before rubbing and ripping it off. This type of wax is also heated in the microwave, says Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., a Beverly Hills-based dermatologist.
Lastly, there are pre-loaded strips. These involve pulling strips out of the box, smoothing them onto the areas of your skin, and then ripping them off. “Instead of using a microwave or stove, you heat the strips up between your hands and simply apply to the skin,” says Schlessinger. “These are usually more effective for areas that have thinner or finer hair.”
There Are Some Risks Involved
The most obvious danger is overheating the wax. Hot wax can burn your skin and leave lasting discoloration and scars. “It’s very important to always test the temperature of the wax with a thermometer—like one you’d use for cooking—before applying it to your skin,” says Schlessinger. “If it’s too hot, wait for it to cool down and test again.” Still, your bikini line is a super-sensitive area. Even if you test the wax on your wrist and you think it feels fine, it might be too hot for down below. So once you think you’ve gotten the temp right, apply a teeny bit of wax to your bikini area before going full steam ahead.
Meanwhile, removing the wax the wrong way can cause ingrown hairs, and even leave the skin bruised. You should also never wax an area twice in the same session. “This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make—it can cause irritation, bruising, burns, and torn skin,” says Schlessinger. If you missed some hairs the first time, use a sanitized pair of tweezers to pluck them instead.
There’s a Right—and a Wrong—Time to Do It
You should never wax yourself right before your period. That’s because your skin and nerve endings are much more sensitive to pain and irritation at this time, says David E. Bank, a board-certified dermatologist and author of Beautiful Skin: Every Woman’s Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age.
If you’re on prescription medication like Accutane or Retin-A, you’ll want to take some precautions. Stop use of these products for at least five days before and after your waxing session. “These formulas thin the skin, making it more susceptible to damage,” says Schlessinger, “so we advise all our waxing patients to avoid retinol products.”
Some People Should Just Leave Things to the Pros
Steer clear of waxing at home if you have a skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis. You could potentially pull off a layer of skin if you don’t know what you’re doing—yikes. (If you’re a smoker, are pregnant, on blood thinners, or have diabetes, check with your doc before doing an at-home wax.) And if you’re looking to go totally nude down there via a Brazilian wax, go to a professional. Putting hot wax on uber-sensitive and hard-to-reach areas isn’t something you want to take a chance with, capeesh?