A PSA About Adverse Waxing Reactions: That’s All of Them.


Photo of german waxing

I found this picture on an Austrian spa site. And no, I can't figure out what she's waxing, either.


Over the past few weeks, I have concluded that there are two types of people in this world: People who blister and burn at the merest suggestion of hair removal via waxing (that would be me) and people who can have all parts of their bodies waxed with vigor and barely flinch or turn pink.

If you’re a No Wax person, you hopefully already know that about yourself (because you burn after five minutes in the sun, or get irritated every time you switch moisturizers) or you’ll learn the hard way (getting waxed) once, and never go back. If you’re a good waxing candidate, well then, go to town. Us No Wax folks are envious of the valuable shower minutes you save by not shaving.

I had more or less decided this was good news, because in theory, it would make an esthetician’s job so much easier. Clients who get red and shriek with pain should not be anywhere near your waxing station, so you don’t have to worry about scarring someone for life and/or risking a lawsuit. The rest of your clients will be happy as clams about waxing. This makes for more pleasant work because waxing customers are much chattier than facial clients and easier to please because the results are so much more dramatic.

Tonight puts a big giant hole in my theory.

Because last night, I waxed Tammy’s armpits. Tammy is a great waxing candidate. She doesn’t ever seem to grow much body hair to begin with, and she claims to actually like how waxing feels. (She also likes microdermabrasion. Tammy and I are not from the same planet when it comes to pain thresholds.) So, I waxed, and we chatted, and she didn’t flinch or turn even the slightest shade of pink.

But tonight, Tammy comes in and reveals that her armpits have turned so pink they are almost purple. And mottled until they resemble one of those port wine stain birthmarks, or maybe really old cheese pizza. She’s in crazy amounts of pain and slathering on the Neosporin every chance she gets.

You guys, I feel so bad.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been getting a little impressed with myself and my waxing abilities. Plus, I really thought I did everything right; applied the pre-waxing treatment gel and baby powder, tested the wax on the inside of my wrist, to make sure it wasn’t too hot, ripped parallel to her skin.

Miss Stacy says that I probably didn’t hold the skin tight enough as I was pulling. This is tricky when it comes to armpits, because they aren’t a nice flat surface like eyebrows or legs. She says it’s also actually pretty normal for burns and irritation to take a few hours to show up — so you can have a client leave happy as a clam, and then wake up in the middle of the night in itchy, burning agony. That is rather nerve-wracking information.

And what really freaks me out is that nobody seems to think this puts Tammy on the No Wax List. In fact, nobody pays much attention to my concept of a No Wax List once we get past the part where the customer signs a waiver saying that they don’t have “adverse waxing reactions.” (And they all sign it.) Miss Stacy swells up like a puffer fish after waxing, but she still persists in regularly waxing her bikini line, arms and legs. “Oh, you just get red for a day or two, then you’re fine,” she says.

Yes, you just get red. (Or purple, in Tammy’s case.) And no, it’s not permanent. But it seems so odd to downplay this pain the way we’re taught to do around here. Every hair removal wax on the market claims that its formulation will cause less pain and redness than competitors. Every esthetician who does a lot of waxing claims that she’s found the Holy Grail of waxes that really does all of this, plus she knows how to wax correctly, so it doesn’t hurt as much. And people who love the results of waxing find a way to endure the pain, which usually involves downplaying how much it really hurts. (No fronting. This is like me with shoes, so I’m on to you.)

Is it maybe time to admit we’re all in on the same conspiracy here? Maybe then we could get around to developing hair removal techniques that work as well as wax but really don’t hurt this much and cause crazy rashes?

Because right now, as much as the manufacturers claim they’re working on it, I have to wonder if they have R&D meetings where they say things like, “It gave those lab bunnies a blistering rash? Whatevs. Our customers are down with that.”

[Photo from over here.]



Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Waxing

8 responses to “A PSA About Adverse Waxing Reactions: That’s All of Them.

  1. Elizabeth


    You wrote,
    Maybe then we could get around to developing hair removal techniques that work as well as wax but really don’t hurt this much and cause crazy rashes?

    Call me crazy, but I’d still rather dream of a world where even painless hair removal wasn’t the norm.

  2. Melissa

    Haha, yeah.

    Personally, I don’t know how anyone can shave “down there” instead of wax (and I’m red and swollen for days after my waxes). It’s virtually impossible to get every single hair with shaving unless you go over the same spot more than once…but then I go over the same spot twice, I break out in nasty blisters and sores. (So nasty and so numerous that the ingrown hairs that come with waxing seem almost appealing by comparison.) So…shaving’s not an option for me. Is it easier for people with less sensitive skin?

  3. Lyndsay

    When I have gotten waxed in the past, my skin looks fine and I think I’m in the clear–then, after a few days I break out into tons of little pimples over the area waxed. So I end up with a mustache of zits. Awesome. I think this definitely puts me on the no wax list, but it’s deceiving that it takes a few days to show up.

  4. I’ve never tried waxing, but I suspect my skin would betray me. Who are all these women who can have perfectly smooth skin?

  5. Lee

    I wax face quiet often (myself) and have never had any problems with that. I actually get some satisfaction at looking at all the hair I managed to pull out from my upper lip and eyebrows.

    However, at some point, because of this regular routine of mine I decided to get my legs and bikini area waxed (not Brazilian). I was in so much pain for two days and didn’t just turn “red” I was bleeding from where my hairs used to be. I don’t know if that is a common thing or if the person who did it was bad (it was at an upscale salon) but it definitely turned me off waxing anything below my neck.

  6. I wouldn’t give up my every three week facial waxing for anything. Yes, you are on to me – I say it doesn’t hurt to my waxer as I dig my fingernails into my hands! I also breakout around the waxing site but not so bad that it has changed my mind about it. Do I hate that I have been taught to believe that I can’t leave the house with a little facial hair? Absolutely. But I’m pretty good at rationalizing away any ethics when it comes to sporting a mustache.
    Had my first leg wax for my wedding last week. Love it!! Then again I didn’t have to buy the 6 razors it would have taken to get rid of the neglected body hair (shave my legs around once every 6 months). Did it hurt? You betcha!

  7. I love this

    because I JUST bought a jar of Nads and proceeded to quite desparately wax away at my hair neck line. I have wanted it done for EVER and my sister in law’s sister does waxing and she always promises to do it for me (I’d pay her) but never seems to have a sec.

    I did myself once a long time ago and really made a mess of things

    you’d think I’d learn.

    it hurts. but I do love the results.

    will I learn? probably not until I use up my $20.00 jar of Nads.

    I love your beauty insights! Really.

  8. Pingback: Reclaiming the Leg Wax? « Beauty Schooled

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