1. What's the difference between waxing and sugaring?
With all the different kinds of hair removal on the menu, it can get confusing to navigate what is what and which one is right for you. Here's a quick rundown.
"Waxing when you use a warm resin base that is applied to an area and then removed either with a strip or let dry and removed on its own, taking hairs out by the root," explains esthetician Marta Grochowska of New York City's Haven Spa. On the other hand, "sugaring is a warm sugar and lemon mix that's applied to the skin and rolled across, thereby removing the hairs," she adds.
2. Will waxing hurt my skin?
"If you're very prone to breakouts, especially if you have acne mechanica, you should consider other options like electrolysis or laser," advises Grochowska. (See no. 4 on this list for why your acne treatments are always necessary to disclose.)
More serious medical conditions, too, can play a part in whether waxing negatively affects you. "If you have an autoimmune disease like lupus, your skin is way more sensitive to getting burned or irritated," warns Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, board certified dermatologist and consultant for HydroPeptide. If you're not sure whether your skin could be at risk, especially if you plan on doing a wax at home without an esthetician's expertise, consult with a dermatologist first.
3. Will the hair grow back thicker?
"The hair generally grows back the same—though everyone seems to have their own theory or old wives' tale about it," says Grochowska, who adds that generally, most people find that long-term waxing results in less regrowth. That said, the hair "will seem thicker if it's broken than if it's removed at the root" because it won't have a tapered end.
4. Can my skin-care routine affect how the wax works?
Listen up! "Topical treatments like Retin-A and Differin thin the skin, making it much more sensitive and prone to tears and peeling," warns Grochowska. But these aren't the only meds you should be mindful of before getting a wax, oral medications can put you at risk too: "Accutane and many antibiotics will make your skin hypersensitive."
5. What's "double dipping" and why should I avoid it?
Double dipping is when the practitioner dips the stick into the wax, applies the wax to the skin, then dips the stick into the wax again for the next application, explains Grochowska. Basically, a big no-no. Why? Bacteria and pathogens form one person's skin can get introduced back into the pot, passing onto the next person.
6. Will I be red afterward?
When you tear out hair and pull at your skin with wax, there's a chance you will wind up with a little irritation. "Some people are red for a few minutes, some are red for 12 hours," says Grochowska. "If you've never been waxed before or you're trying a new place or wax, it's best to err on the side of caution and give yourself plenty of time to recuperate." If you've got a big event to go to and want to prep your brows or lip, schedule your wax a few days beforehand to ensure any redness goes down.
7. OK, so how do I make the irritation go away?
Most of the time, you just have to wait it out, but there are ways to help speed up the process. "Most people respond well to aloe gel," says Grochowska. Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip also advises using a little over-the-counter hydrocortisone to soothe the skin.
8. How long will it take to grow back?
The annoying thing about shaving is that if you're particularly hairy, stubble will probably start cropping up within a day or two, which isn't so much of a problem with waxing. "The great thing about waxing is that it's semi-permanent — it lasts two to eight weeks," says Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip.
9. How can I tell if I'm having a bad reaction?
A little redness and irritation is normal, but there are some signs that you may be having more than the average reaction. If you're noticing little pimples or pus-filled bumps around the waxed area, you could be experiencing folliculitis, which is an inflammation of the hair follicles, explains Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip. While folliculitis can occur simply from the trauma of waxing, it can also be caused by exposure to bacteria in the wax and result in an infection. If this is the case, Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip advises heading straight to the dermatologist.
Another big red flag: significant redness, swelling, and pain, which could indicate an allergy to the wax. "Wax contains a lot of additives like colors, fragrances, and essential oils that people may be allergic to, which we call contact dermatitis," explains Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip. "That won't go away on its own—you may need topical medications or even oral meds," so see a doctor as quickly as you can.
10. Is it safe to wax at home?
If you take all precautions and follow all the directions properly, like doing a patch test to check for an allergy, waxing at home can be safe. "A common mistake I see in at-home waxing procedures is not having a good gauge on the temperature of wax," says Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip. While burns can happen anywhere, even at a reputable spa, she warns that they're more likely when waxing at home. "People think if they leave it on a little longer, it will be more effective, but you can get a temperature burn." If your skin gets torn off along with the wax, you could put yourself at risk for scarring or an infection.
Another bad habit to avoid: Waxing on a day you're doing lots of other treatments. "People do their waxing in the context of a 'spa day,' so they do it along with peels, face scrubs, and face masks, which make you more susceptible to negative reactions from the wax," says Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip. "For my patients who use retinoids or peels, I recommend they opt for other forms of hair removal like threading, which just grabs the hair instead of the skin and the hair."
This article originally appeared on GoodHousekeeping.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.