Pandemic hobbies took many forms: Some people took to baking elaborate sourdough breads, while others picked up jigsaw puzzles. Meanwhile, I took up at-home waxing. Yes. I spent my pandemic mastering the art of body hair removal.
If it seems odd that I would adopt personal grooming as a hobby during a time when absolutely no one would see me, well, sure. But also that was exactly the time to do it — if something went wrong, there would be no one around to see me looking hideous.
Angelo Landriscina, a board-certified dermatologist, told us that the choice of one type of hair removal product is generally a matter of personal preference, but that for people who are prone to ingrown hairs, which is more common with curlier hair textures, shaving may not be the best option; similarly, people who have sensitive skin may find depilatories too irritating.
“There is no one-size-fits-all hair removal method for any skin or hair type because of the complex interactions between each factor, which is why most people choose to use multiple methods,” Dr. Jessica Carless, a product researcher for hair removal brand Joy+Glee, says. “Also, there is no hair removal method that is absent of cons.”
For me personally, waxing has proven the best option out there.
Which wax to choose
Wax comes in two forms, hard and soft wax, both of which are applied to the skin and quickly removed, eliminating hair at the root. Hard wax is heated and applied to the skin, where it cools and hardens, allowing users to remove it from the skin along with unwanted hairs; waxing strips are not always used with hard wax, depending on the formula.
Bliss No-Strip Wax Hair Removal Kit ($22.99; amazon.com)
Soft wax can be heated, applied to the skin and removed with waxing strips, or it can be purchased in prepared strips. Having used both hard and soft waxes, as well as soft wax in both its forms, I would strongly recommend wax strips for most people. They are easy to use, and much more convenient — as well as much less messy — than wax that has to be applied to the skin separately of the strip.
As the pandemic dragged on, and on, and on, I tried almost every major brand of wax strip available and I have thoughts and favorites below.
Body waxing kits
Flamingo Women’s Body Wax Kit ($9.99; target.com)
I bought a Flamingo wax kit one day at Target on a whim because I’m a sucker for packaging. It sat around, unused, until the pandemic hit and I decided to embark on this experimental journey. Easy to use, nonintimidating and very, very good. I would recommend this kit to anyone.
Nair Hair Remover Ready-Wax Strips, 2-Pack ($18.29; amazon.com)
Just a great wax strip. Nair is an industry leader in hair removal products and for good reason: The brand makes reliably great, well-priced, readily available products. The Nair Ready-Wax Strips quickly became my go-to choice for waxing my legs and arms.
Bikini waxing kit
Joy + Glee Bikini Wax Hair Removal ($8.97; amazon.com)
Size, it turns out, matters — at least when it comes to waxing the delicate bikini line area. Using a wax strip that is too big will leave you with an ugly painful bruise (ask me how I know!), which is why Joy + Glee’s bikini wax strips are so good: They’re exactly the right size. The entire line of Joy + Glee waxes gets high marks from me for stickiness (a good thing in a wax strip!), attractive packing and a generous number of post-wax wipes. Scent-averse people may not like the fruity perfume of these strips, but otherwise they’re an A++ product.
Eyebrow and face waxing kit
Nad’s Facial Wax Strips ($8.98, originally $11.98; amazon.com)
Stickiness, as mentioned, is an important quality in a good wax strip, but when it comes to the face, balancing gentleness with stickiness can be tricky. Nad’s wax strips manage to do just that and are unscented, which is a bonus for people who are sensitive to smells.
At-home waxing for beginners
Once you have your at-home wax kit it’s time to use it — which can be intimidating! Dr. Mona Gohara, a dermatologist and Nair spokesperson, offered a five-step routine for at-home waxing using wax strips.
- Exfoliate: At least 24 hours before waxing, gently rub skin in a circular motion with a dry brush or washcloth to avoid ingrown hairs.
- Cleanse: Wash skin with a gentle non-soap cleanser and water, then dry thoroughly. Waxes work best when skin is free of oils, creams and perspiration.
- Powder: Lightly dust your skin with powder before waxing. If skin is moist, the wax will not adhere properly.
- Wax the same way all over: No matter what part of the body you’re waxing, be sure to pull the wax strips off in the opposite direction of hair growth. It’s not only more effective, but also less painful.
- Moisturize: Once you’re done waxing, use either a barrier repair cream or the post-waxing wipe included with Nair Wax Ready-Strips to soothe and moisturize skin.
If you have sensitive skin, using a barrier repair cream or ointment after waxing is essential to achieving the results you want, and we recommend these below.
Epionce Medical Barrier Cream ($39.28; amazon.com)
Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($13.74, originally $16.89; amazon.com)
When it comes to ease of application and effectiveness at keeping my very sensitive skin from turning red and rashy, I found that the Aquaphor spray became the barrier repair I most often reached for post-waxing. I’ve told everyone I know to buy a case of the stuff, it’s that good.
Aquaphor Ointment Body Spray ($9.97, originally $10.99; amazon.com)
Help for ingrown hair and other post-waxing issues
The experts we spoke to all stressed the importance of exfoliation, regardless of the hair removal method you choose.
“Exfoliate a few days after waxing or shaving to reduce ingrowns,” Carless advises. Using a dry brush, or exfoliating in the shower with a washcloth or pouf, will prepare skin for hair removal and leave you with better results.
Metene Shower Brush ($9.99; amazon.com)
“I recommend the use of salicylic acid cleansers for areas prone to ingrown hairs in the days before or after shaving,” Landriscina says. Salicylic acid is an exfoliating acid that enters pores and clears dead skin cells around the hair, helping to keep it on track during its regrowth. “This can also be helpful if you find you’re getting ingrown hairs after waxing or using depilatories,” he adds.
Salicylic cleansers come in a number of different formulas, from gentle foaming washes, to stronger scrubs, to easy-to-use pads.
Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Control 3-in-1 Foaming Face Wash ($12.55; amazon.com)
Alba Botanica Acnedote Maximum Strength Face & Body Scrub ($10.99; amazon.com)
Oxy Daily Defense Cleansing Pads ($7.89; amazon.com)
One last problem that can plague the at-home waxer is that you will almost assuredly miss a few spots along the way — or just end up with a few hairs that refuse to be waxed! That’s where the game-changing product comes in: Nair makes a “leg mask” that is actually a combination mask and depilatory cream.
Nair Charcoal Brighten & Smooth Leg Mask ($12.99; ulta.com)
I was skeptical, but now I am a convert: This stuff is incredible. It melted away stray hairs I’d missed during waxing and left my legs looking smooth and almost shiny. Be aware of two things before using, however.
Because of the charcoal formula it is quite messy — best to hop into the tub or shower, apply the product there and just hang around for the five to 10 minutes it takes to work before washing it off because really, it is so messy. And also, because it’s a depilatory cream-and-leg mask, it does have a chemical smell. Those two drawbacks, while not insignificant, are well worth dealing with because truly, this leg mask is the product that elevated my at-home hair removal routine to a salon-worthy experience.