In the 1960s, smoothness was rediscovered with the creation of the bikini. Both men and women began to expose more skin, making hair of the underarms, bikini line, thighs, and legs unattractive. This same smooth concept has gained great popularity with men due to the expansion of athlete exposure, adult entertainment, and the growing population of metrosexual men. Waxing is not a trend. It is a mainstay hair removal treatment that needs to be practiced and perfected to help gain maximum results for your practice and your clientele. The only route for success is through personal knowledge; the more you know about waxing and the skin, the greater your confidence will be in your treatments. Aestheticians are thoroughly trained on skin treatments and product knowledge in school and through continuing education. Why not the same with wax? Our modern conception of beauty associated with a smooth body and the ingredients we use are not too far from ancient cultures. However, changes in the industry, technology, and ingredients have improved, making waxing easier and safer with longer lasting results than ever before. Waxing is a viable hair removal treatment.
Synthetic vs. Natural Wax
In the aesthetic industry, there has been a growing trend for natural products with less preservatives and fillers. Many of the concerns we have in our skin care are not and should not be applicable to wax. There are two general categories for wax: synthetic and natural. Synthetic resins are derived from a Petro Chemical process and are generally known as microcrystalline wax or Hydrocarbon Resin. Due to their refinement, synthetic resins have finer crystals and are more elastic, making them pliable and easy to use. In addition to pliability, synthetic resins are hypoallergenic because they are not plant derived and have no natural smell or color.
Natural waxes are derived from tree sap or beeswax, but due to the refinement, these waxes are semi-natural. Tree sap, also called pine resin or colophonium, is a thick liquid that, when hardens, is commonly known as amber. Pine resin is naturally occurring and therefore is susceptible to environmental conditions that can contribute to fluctuations in resin quality and an abundance of natural acids in the resin. To refine the resin for use in hair removal waxes, it goes through a form of distillation then becomes rosin. Beeswax is derived from honeybees and is used with pine rosin to formulate wax in addition to many adhesives. Beeswax has a natural yellow color when it is harvested, but becomes a form of white wax (Cera Alba) after a natural bleaching process. Although natural and synthetic resins are independent of each other, they are used together to formulate the wax that is used in salons throughout the world.
Common Wax Ingredients
Waxing is one of the easiest, fastest, and least expensive ways men and women can clean up their look and have a smooth, youthful appearance. To further boost wax appeal, manufacturers add rich ingredients to promote skin nourishment and healing while protecting the skin from damage. These common ingredients include azulene, titanium dioxide, olive oil, or honey. Additional fatty acids that may be used can include flax seed oil, almond oil, or manmade vitamins.
- Titanium dioxide is common to aestheticians because it is an essential ingredient in sun block. It has gained popularity as a key ingredient in waxes because it helps protect the skin by preventing the wax from adhering to the skin. This prevents lifting of the skin and, in turn, reduces redness and irritation. Hard waxes that contain titanium dioxide generally do not need a prepping oil to protect the skin, but the wax is still effective enough to pull the hair from the root.
- Azulene is an organic compound that is derived mostly from chamomile. It also has a natural blue color, which is why most azulene waxes are characterized as blue wax. In skin care and hair removal waxes, azulene helps to soothe and heal the skin.
- Olive oil has been used historically for medicinal purposes, food consumption, and skin care. High in vitamin E and K and rich in fatty acids, olive oil is an effective ingredient, both orally and topically, for helping maintain moisture and nourishment for the skin, making it a viable ingredient for waxes.
- Honey contains antioxidants and is naturally acidic, giving it mild antiseptic properties. It is used in wax to help promote skin healing and prevent breakouts. Honey is widely used in folk medicine, both oral and topical, to help prevent infection and promote healing in skin wounds.
Vibrant colors and/or fragrances are added to many waxes to help make waxing fun and interesting. Clientele can easily distinguish colors and scents to recognize which wax they prefer, thus making the treatment more memorable. For some individuals, revealing his/her body can be discomforting. Colored and fragranced waxes can help distract them from their discomfort. As a wax artisan, having a variety of waxes to suit each client gives the impression of professionalism and shows the client that waxing is as serious as his/her skin care.
Strip vs. Hard Wax
Strip wax, also known as soft wax, can be applied with a wooden or stainless spatula and requires a fabric strip to remove the wax. A stainless steel spatula is a convenient tool for application of strip waxes that is widely used in European countries. This type of spatula easily retains heat from the warmer, allows for a thin consistent application, and due to its non-porous material, is easily disinfected. Strip waxes gained popularity as speed waxes because the wax can be applied over large areas and removed quickly with a strip. Manufacturers have specific protocols for application of the wax. These applications can be either thick or thin respectively, but if the application is not followed accordingly, too much wax can become “tacky”. Sticking to the skin and not adhering to the strip will result in possible skin damage. Using a wax that requires a thin application can be more economical because less wax is applied. The removal of strip wax can be done with muslin. However, specially manufactured strips that include non-woven materials (spun lace) or cotton made calico are stronger than muslin and do not allow the wax to seep through the strip. This makes them more durable and economical, saving money on supplies and reducing waste.
Hard wax gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s because of its efficiency and hygienic perception. Those of us who attended school or worked during these decades know that hard waxes were not discarded, but saved, filtered, and reused, a normal and sanitary practice for the time, but inconceivable today. Some wax artisans and clientele prefer hard wax for multiple reasons. First, it is a beneficial waxing medium for sensitive areas of the body and sensitive skin types. In addition, hard wax does not leave the sticky residue that is generally associated with strip wax and it is perceived to be clean in application and technique. Certain brands of hard wax require the use of a pre-wax oil to help protect the skin before applying and removing the wax. However, advancements in formulations and manufacturing methods have created hard waxes that do not require the pre-wax oil. Different formulations can also determine the texture of the wax. For example, a fast drying wax, if not pulled quickly, runs the risk of becoming brittle resulting in the breaking of hair as opposed to uprooting it, and an overall unpleasant service to the client. Longer drying waxes are generally more effective for removing the hair from the root because they remain pliable and are more forgiving because they retain their elasticity for easy removal. An effective wax artisan will offer both hard and strip wax to accommodate all forms of waxing.
Pre- and Post-depilatory Products
Whether shaving, waxing, or performing laser hair removal, preparing the skin is vital in the prevention of skin irritation that can be caused by the follicle or microorganisms. The skin is our largest organ and protects our bodies from infection. One of its protective mechanisms is the abundance of sebum and dead skin on the epidermis. When this protective layer is removed by wax, the skin is susceptible to infection or break out. Proper cleansing and disinfecting helps to prevent infection of the follicle. Cleansing of the skin can be achieved with products that contain isopropanol, ethanol, alpha hydroxy acids, and/or salicylic acid. These key ingredients help remove dirt, dead skin cells, and excess sebum while disinfecting against some bacteria resulting a clean palette for the wax artisan that allows the wax to grip the hair, giving better results for waxing wile preventing the spread of bacteria.
Immediately after waxing, the skin is stripped of hair, the residual dead skin and sebum that protect the skin. This needs to be addressed and treated for several reasons. First, the follicle is open and susceptible to bacterial infection. Using a product that has bactericidal properties, such as tea tree oil, can prevent bacteria from entering the follicle. Without the protective layer, the skin is more susceptible to ultraviolet rays, so the use of a sun block is highly recommended. Should the client be in the treatment room receiving a facial in addition to a brow, chin, and/or lip wax, the waxing can be performed. However, a peel cannot be applied over the freshly waxed regions. The skin can be protected from the peel with the use of a balm over the waxed regions.
One of the major benefits of waxing is the less frequent and finer hair growth. Unfortunately, with waxing the follicle can become distorted from trauma and/or the fine hair that grows back is weak and cannot penetrate through the build-up of dead skin and sebum, which creates an ingrown hair. Ingrown hairs are usually just minor irritations, but they can be painful and unsightly. Post-depilatory products are designed to prevent blockage of the follicle and ingrown hair while, in some cases slowing the growth of a new hair making results last longer. When choosing post-depilatory serums or lotions, a few ingredients to look for are alpha hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, plant extracts, essential oils, and/or vitamins. Serums are generally concentrated formulas that specifically treat and prevent ingrown hair, razor rash, and other skin irritations as a result of waxing, shaving, or laser. Lotions are cream-based and contain medicinal properties to actively protect and purify the skin with vital nutrients and inhibit the formation of ingrown hair and pustules.
Proper cleansing and treatment of the skin before and after waxing is only part of proper waxing protocol. Maintaining a clean treatment room is of the utmost importance for sanitation requirements. First and foremost, always practice hand washing before and after each treatment to prevent the spread of microorganisms. Clean any non-porous utensils and surfaces with a hospital grade sanitizer or bleach solution. In addition to disinfecting surfaces, hospital grade sanitizers have been developed for use on the skin. These are beneficial for aiding in the prevention of diseases that can be transmitted by direct contact such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and yeast infections. Utilizing disposable bedrolls will prevent contamination of linens that are used in the treatment room. In addition to these sanitary precautions, it is advisable to never wax over broken or irritated skin, and if wax and/or instruments are contaminated with blood or other body fluids they must be discarded or disinfected immediately.
The art of waxing is not a trend, but a mainstay hair removal treatment that has been perfected over the centuries. Ingredients have not changed, but evolved with advanced formulations that can cater to specific types of hair, prevent allergic reactions, and has developed products that can prevent damage and discomfort of the skin. Whether you are an aesthetician, facialist, or cosmetologist, understanding the tools of the trade allows the wax artisan to perfect his/her technique and provide clientele with the most efficient and clean service possible. Knowledge and experience breeds confidence in every service, thus encouraging appointments and referrals.
Tina Zillmann is a Paramedical Aesthetician and National Educator, the Vice President of Advanced Rejuvenating Concepts, and President of AIA. Lilliane Caron is the Owner of Caron Laboratories, an International Educator, and a practicing Wax Master. Advanced Rejuvenating Concepts is the Exclusive U.S. Distributor of Caron Laboratories, the leading Australian wax manufacturer that has over 20 years in the waxing industry, and a wealth of industry knowledge, research, and development of waxing.