The first time I tried to wax my legs at home was a train wreck. How hard could it be, right? Well, let’s just say those gals at the salon make it look like a walk in the park. Ripping hair off your body isn’t for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the unprepared (which I surely was).
But after plenty of trial and error, I can officially say that, if you do it right, it might even be a little enjoyable in a masochistic self-care sort of way. But, hey, it beats shaving any day, so I’ll take it.
Here’s how to wax at home like a pro.
How to Wax at Home
1. Gather your supplies.
All you really need to wax at home is a popsicle stick, depilatory wax, and cotton waxing strips. Everything else, like a wax warmer, post-wax soothing spray, or wax remover, are nice to have but not necessary.
If those things will help you get the job done more easily, go ahead and purchase those too. But I prefer to Marie Kondo my waxing supplies and keep only the necessities on hand.
2. Choose the right wax.
For sensitive skin, I like to make my own natural sugar wax. It’s less expensive than purchasing wax at the store, and since it’s made with just 3 ingredients (brown sugar, lemon, and water), it’s better for you, too.
Some sugar wax recipes don’t require you to use strips—just apply and rip off. But getting the right consistency can take a lot of trial and error (and wasted batches of wax).
Instead, I whip up this simple wax recipe and use cotton wax strips to ensure clean removal:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 lemon, juiced
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat. Stir constantly until you get a thick, honey-like consistency (it will darken as it cooks, and that’s okay). This may take between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on the size of your saucepan and how hot your stove gets.
Remove from the heat and let sit for 20 minutes to thicken up. If it’s too thick, add a tablespoon of water at a time until you get back to the right consistency.
If you’d prefer not to make your own wax, you can always buy depilatory wax online or at a local drugstore.
3. Make sure your hair is the right length.
If the hair is too short, the wax won’t be able to get a good grip, and you’ll be left with a spotty wax job. Hair that’s too long can create an equally unpleasant scenario. To be safe, aim for around ¼ inch of growth.
4. Prep your skin.
Making sure the skin is clean helps the wax adhere to the hair follicles. Wash with a bar of soap and water or pick up a pre-wax cleanser that will evaporate cleanly without you having to rinse it off.
5. Heat and test the wax.
If you don’t have a wax warmer, pop your sugar wax in the microwave for 30 seconds to warm it up slightly (if using store-bought wax, follow the instructions on the package).
Grab a popsicle stick and dab a bit of wax on the inside of your wrist to make sure it’s not too hot. If it’s not hot enough, continue heating the wax in 15-second intervals until it’s soft and spreadable but not hot enough to burn you.
6. Applying the wax.
For sugar wax: Working in 2-inch sections, apply wax against the direction of hair growth. Let sit for 5–10 seconds before placing a wax strip on top and smoothing it down gently.
(For traditional depilatory wax: apply in the direction of hair growth and remove against the grain.)
You can experiment with both methods and see what works best for you!
7. Pull off in the direction of growth.
Hold the skin really tight, and quickly (like you’re flicking your wrist) pull the strip off in the same direction as the hair growth. Holding the skin helps make hair removal easier and less painful.
8. Apply a soothing balm.
While not required, feel free to apply an after-wax soothing balm or spray to calm inflammation, seal the follicles, and remove wax residue.
How to Care for Your Skin After Waxing
Hooray! You survived your first at-home wax session. Post-wax care is just as important as the care before waxing, so here are a few things you can do to keep inflammation and irritation at bay:
Let your skin breathe. Waxing can be somewhat traumatic to your skin and hair follicles, especially if you’re just getting the hang of things, so you’ll need to let your skin recover for a few days. That means no tight-fitting clothes, heavily perfumed body products, lotions, or deodorant (if you waxed your underarms).
Avoid hot water. Since your hair follicles are exposed, skip hot showers, baths, the sauna—all of it—for 24 hours to prevent irritation and potential infection.
Exfoliate. After the first 24 hours have passed, gently exfoliate skin to help prevent ingrown hairs.
Don’t forget to moisturize! Not required, but after 24 hours, apply a light moisturizer to keep skin soft and healthy.
Waxing at Home FAQ
Will waxing make me break out?
It’s possible that waxing may lead to breakouts, especially if you wax more acne-prone areas, such as the face, upper lip, back, and chest.
Either avoid waxing those areas, try a different wax (you may be sensitive to one or more of the ingredients in your wax), or simply use proper after-wax care (see above) to keep breakouts to a minimum.
I can’t get homemade wax to work. What am I doing wrong?
There are all sorts of reasons your homemade wax might not work out. This post covers a lot of the issues you may run into when making sugar wax at home. But at the end of the day, you might be better off simply purchasing commercial sugar wax, rather than spinning your wheels.
How can I make waxing less painful?
Luckily, there are a few things you can do:
Stay hydrated. Being dehydrated tightens your skin and makes it harder to remove hair follicles. Skip coffee and alcohol the day before, and drink plenty of water leading up to your wax session.
Don’t go too long between waxings. The longer you wait, the more hair you’ll have, and the thicker it will be, thus upping the pain factor.
Don’t wax the week before your period. Your body’s sensitivity to pain is heightened right before your period.
Pop a couple of ibuprofen 1–2 hours beforehand. This over-the-counter pain reliever may help lessen pain and keep inflammation under control.
How long will my waxing session last?
According to the pros, 3–6 weeks (or about 4 weeks on average) is about how long a typical waxing treatment may last—but everyone’s hair grows at different rates. Just remember, even if you start to notice stubble, you’ll want to wait until the hair is approximately 1/4″ long before waxing again.
Will waxing make my hair grow back thicker?
No, waxing (or shaving, for that matter) does not make hair grow back thicker, darker, or coarser than before.
Why do my legs not feel completely smooth after waxing?
That’s because hair grows in three phases, and even after waxing, there are still new hairs beneath the skin’s surface waiting to break through. While some waxing pros claim that it takes three waxing sessions (about 4 weeks apart) to get completely smooth legs, depending on your skin and hair type, your skin still may not be completely smooth post-waxing.