* I’m not saying you HAVE to do this in a walk-in closet—that’s just the approximate size of my bedroom. (No. Really.) Obviously, it doesn’t matter where you wax, but it may be encouraging to know that you can do it even in the tightest of spaces; to be clear, I’m talking about rooms here.
So you’ve decided to self-wax. Good for you! Waxing is a quick, long-lasting way to rid yourself of any body hair that you would personally like to obliterate. And self-waxing (or as I call it, productive masochism) can save you time and a lot of money.
And before you ask: I’m not going to get into the feminist/anti-feminist/aesthetic/societal reasons for wanting to remove some or all of your body hair. If you prefer to let yourself grow wild, more power to you. You can spend this article kicking back and thinking about how long you’d outlast most women in the Siberian tundra.
First, a list for getting started. You’ll need:
Hair. Hair that is at least ¼” in length, and no longer than ½”.
Wax. I prefer the kind of wax that requires strips (see below for why). Microwaveable wax is the easiest to find in stores, but you’ll be making trips to the microwave every 15 minutes or so to reheat it, so if like me, you have male roommates who come home at inopportune times and that’s not a realistic option, then I would recommend cold wax. Cold wax, which is harder to find (I got mine at Whole Body at Whole Foods Market), only requires one or two zaps in the microwave over the whole process, and it’s also usually made from sugar, so you can rinse the wax off the strips and reuse them afterwards (holla).
Strips! Muslin strips come with most jars of wax, but you’ll probably eventually find that you have more wax than you do strips. So if you spot a roll of muslin at some beauty supply store, do yourself a favor and buy it before the day comes when your underarms are covered in wax and you’re scrambling to determine your most expendable t-shirt. Because it’s sad, and yes, you are going to miss that Guster tee.
Baby oil. This is the best way to remove wax from any surface, especially skin. (The first time I waxed my legs, it took about 40 minutes for me to look this up with only the side of my left pinkie to type with. The more you know.)
Old newspaper or magazines. Use these to cover any surface, including the floor, within a 4’ radius of you, so as not to drip any wax that may go undiscovered until you step on it and tread it all over your apartment.
About 30 minutes before you start, take an ibuprofen—this is optional, but it helps, especially if the idea of (minimal!) pain has you nervous. Make sure your skin is clean and, if you’re planning on doing your underarms, deodorant-free. Next, put on some crappy reality TV show or an episode of a sitcom you’ve already seen (I recommend 30 Rock reruns) to put your mind at ease. I’ll also note that I’m currently eating jerky from the Malaysian jerky stand while I wax, which is of course optional. Last, if you have long hair and no intentions to wax it off, you should put it up.
Put on a robe (or not) and scurry over to the microwave with your jar of wax, following heating instructions from the package. You’ll find that you almost always have to nuke it for longer than they suggest. Does the wax look like honey when you stir it with its accompanying Popsicle stick? Then it’s ready!
Return to your quarters, then set the wax down somewhere very close to you, so as to minimize dripping. You can use a chair both to hold the wax jar and to prop up your foot if you’re doing your bikini area or leg. Try and position yourself in front of a mirror in order to better see what you’re doing. If you’re looking for a “starter” body part to wax, I recommend the legs, which are easy to see (except maybe behind your knees) and least sensitive.
Coat the Popsicle stick—not too thickly— with the warm wax (touch it first with your finger to make sure you’re not about to sear your skin); then, with a strip handy, administer a thin layer onto your skin in the direction of hair growth. Take a look if you’re not sure about this: leg hair grows in a downward direction, for example; underarm hair, the opposite. The administered wax can be as wide as 2” and as long as 6-8”. No turning back now!
Pull the skin taut, preferably in the same direction as you schmeared the wax, and quickly cover the area with a strip, smoothing it down. It’s fine—preferable, even—if the strip covers a wider area than the wax you put down. Now here’s the best part: before you have time to even process the phrase “Worth it?”, yank that strip in the opposite direction of hair growth, and take a look! It should be coated with wax, as well as (hopefully) most of the hair that was once attached to your skin. Gross/Awesome!
A quick stripless wax tangent: Stripless wax (Surgi-Wax being the most popular example) doesn’t require muslin strips, because the wax dries on its own, after which point you can flick up the end of the strip and yank it all off. As I said before, I prefer wax with separate strips; let me lay out from experience the process of using stripless wax for you:
You’ve got one leg up on the chair. You glide the wax smoothly down your leg before pulling the skin taut. Then, tightening your jaw, you brace yourself for the pain… and keep bracing… and keep bracing… for thirty seconds. Which may seem like a short amount of time, but it translates to basically an eternity when you know that that half-minute countdown ends with you tearing a dried piece of hair-plastered wax from your leg (or else it’ll just stay there forever). Trust me, nothing good will be accomplished in that thirty seconds—it’s like trying to read a Jane Austen novel, up a tree, with an enraged bear underneath you. Now, repeat a million times.
Carefully make your way around your chosen appendage, overlapping by a couple centimeters over the previous patch of waxed skin to avoid missing any spots. Because some follicles are just tougher than others, you may have some stray hairs remaining when you’re done. You can just leave those, or you can remove them individually with a tweezers like me, because control issues.
Practice makes perfect with this ancient art—you may find that you’re not picking up most of the hair your first time waxing, which may be a heat issue or a thickness issue with the wax. But the more you do it, the more precise it’ll be, not to mention the hair will grow back less thickly each time. When you’re done, dab your freshly waxed parts with some baby oil, reminding them that you’re doing this because you love them. Then shut off 30 Rock, put on some clothes, and go enjoy your new, balder self!
Photo by Sara Slattery