how to prevent ingrown hairs after waxing

Does Waxing Cause Ingrown Hairs? (And How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs After Waxing)

Sometimes it feels like there's no place to run, no place to hide...from ingrown hairs. Sure, shaving causes them, but unfortunately so do other hair removal methods, including waxing.

You're not going to get ingrown hairs every time you wax, of course, but on the other hand, it's a fairly common occurrence. And it's easy to understand why once you get to know the relationship between waxing and ingrown hairs.

How does waxing cause ingrown hairs?

The first ingrown hair feels like a random, unfortunate happening. But by the time you get to the umpteenth one, they begin to feel like a curse and you begin to wonder why these despicable ingrown hairs keep happening to you.

Here's why, starting with an explanation of how hair grows: The hair follicle is like a tiny tube attached to a tiny bulb. Inside the tube, there is a lining, and it's that lining that keeps the hair straight as it grows from the bulb to the surface of the skin and out into the world.

Waxing essentially rips the hair out of the follicle and that sometimes damages the lining. When the next hair starts up the lining, it doesn't have a nice smooth lining to travel, and it may be sideways when it reaches the surface and, therefore, unable to exit. Voila, ingrown hair.

But that's not the only way waxing can cause ingrown hairs. When waxing, the hair may break off above or below the skin's surface, which leaves the tip of the hair sharp and more easily able to pierce the skin and grow back in. The hair is in particular danger of breaking when it is not long enough for the wax to grip it and pull it completely out of the follicle. Which is why, despite popular protest, it's recommended you wait around 4 weeks between waxing sessions.

How to prevent ingrown hairs after waxing

Now that you know how waxing can lead to ingrown hairs, you know that we are not going to just leave you hanging there with that discouraging information. There are things you can do to lessen (or possibly completely eliminate) your chances of being tormented by ingrown hairs after waxing!


Dead cells on the surface of your skin can create a wall that prohibits the hair from exiting the follicle. Dead cells in the follicles impede the hair's trip up that tube. If the hair is sideways when it reaches the surface, the wax is not going to able to pull it out of the follicle cleanly.

Easy fix? Exfoliate regularly! Clear those dead cells off of your skin and out of your follicles. Of course, exfoliation is something you want to do regularly...but also moderately. You will need to stop exfoliating two days before the waxing and do not resume for two or three days after. Otherwise, it may be too much and your skin will get irritated. And you know what a pain it can be when it's irritated right before a wax session.

There are excellent scrubs available that not only exfoliate but also nourish your skin. For the best results, keep in mind that “scrub” means it's going to do most of the work for you. Use it gently. If you scrub too hard, you'll scrub off more than dead cells. And then you'll see some really irritated skin!

Here are our top picks for silky smooth exfoliation...


how to prevent ingrown hairs after waxing

The Oleavine Exfoliating Scrub exfoliates gently and is filled with natural oils and botanicals that soothe and soften the skin.

Micro volcanic pumice and willow bark clear away the dead skin cells.

Activated charcoal draws debris and toxins off the skin surface and out of the pores.

Tea tree oil combats bacteria, reduces inflammation and heals. It also lightens scars, even old ones - just as a side job. Mint essential oil cools, refreshes and leaves behind a mild, fresh scent.

Squeeze the scrub into your hand and rub onto your skin while showering or bathing and rinse. Use once or twice a week to keep your skin free of dead cells.


how to prevent ingrown hairs after waxing

So-A-Glow Scrub is an exceptional exfoliator and detoxifier.

Raw sugar exfoliates gently, and it's backed up by another exfoliant and cleanser, Himalayan Sea Salt, that leaves your skin polished.

Organic coconut oil and grape seed oil contribute vitamins and minerals to keep your skin moisturized and soft.

Apply to warm, moist skin and massage in a circular motion. You can leave it on the skin as long as you like, then rinse thoroughly and pat dry.


does waxing cause ingrown hairs

Homemade scrubs are easy to make and have the added bonus of being very, very inexpensive.

Plus, you most likely have all the ingredients you need sitting around in your kitchen. And the time it takes to make one? Like 5 minutes. 

Sugar is a natural exfoliator, and there are many things you can combine it with for an instant DIY sugar scrub: olive oil, honey, yogurt, for example. If you want something a little fancier, try the recipe below by whisking together:

  • ½ cup white or brown sugar
  • ½ cup ground oatmeal
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1-3 drops essential oil (e.g., lavender, almond, citrus)

The scoop the mixture into an airtight container and store in a dry place, and it will last a few weeks. Use about the size of a quarter to exfoliate.

Don't have sugar or think it's too rough for your delicate skin? Baking soda is another great, cheap exfoliator. So are ground oatmeal, rice bran powder, and even coffee grounds. Feel free to get creative!


does waxing cause ingrown hairs

So far, we've just covered manual exfoliators - you know, the sort of grainy substances you have to rub on yourself to exfoliate off the dead skin cells.

But the best types of exfoliators, in our humble opinion, are the chemical kind.

These chemical exfoliants use alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) that penetrate deeply into your skin to "unglue" the bonds holding dead skin together.

The result? A deep, thorough de-gunking of skin trash - all without you having to do the work.

Our favorite product that delivers this chemical exfoliation are Bliss Ingrown Eliminating Pads - they're easy to use and effective, with both alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids to exfoliate as well as oat extract, lavender oil and witch hazel to soothe.

All you need to do is open an individually packaged pad and swipe it across the skin where you've had trouble with ingrown hairs in the past. Do it once a day and you'll be prepared for your next waxing.


how to prevent ingrown hairs after waxing

Here's the thing: we love ingrown hair formulas.

Why? They provide a great combination of chemical exfoliants as well as soothing, anti-inflammatory goodies to prevent the dreaded ingrown hair.

The problem is that many of these ingrown hair treatments also contain alcohol, which has a drying effect that can aggravate your pores and ultimately worsen the ingrown hair situation.

This is why we're so fond of Kerah Lane's Razor Bump & Ingrown Hair Formula - it's alcohol free and uses gentle yet effective ingredients to provide an irritation-free exfoliation. This multi-tasker exfoliates to help the hair come out of the follicle more smoothly, hydrates so that the hair can glide through, and cleans so your hair follicles are less prone to infection.

Apply it before waxing to cut down on the chance of ingrown hairs as well as after waxing to reduce the resultant redness and avoid those post-wax bumps. About two weeks after the waxing, use it once a day, and you'll be free of any future ingrown hairs.

Hydrate Your Skin

Dry skin certainly contributes to hair breaking off during the process of waxing. It, like dead skin cells, creates a barrier that makes it difficult for the hair to exit the follicle. If your skin is too dry, your hair is also more likely to break at the root when it's removed, also increasing your chance of ingrown hairs.

To keep your skin hydrated and healthy, make sure you regularly drink plenty of water to hydrate your skin from the inside out and of course, moisturize your skin with a great moisturizer. You may even want to use a richer, more nourishing moisturizer for the parts of your body that will be waxed for at least a few days before your wax appointment.

Oh, on this note: Don't drink alcohol before a wax session. It may seem like it can help numb the pain but it'll also dehydrate your skin and tighten the pores, making hair more difficult to remove.

Wax at the Perfect Intervals

It's so lovely after a wax session when all evidence of hair is removed and your skin feels silky smooth. So when the first few hairs start poking there way back through your pores, the first thing you want to do is rush back to the wax salon and get rid of them.

But resist the urge.

To make sure that a wax session goes well - as in, cleanly pulls out all your hairs from their roots - you must have enough hair for the wax to latch onto. How much hair is enough? At least a quarter of an inch, approximately the length of a grain of rice. If you wax before the hair has grown out enough, the wax cannot grip the hair properly and the hair can break off as the wax is stripped off.

The ideal length of time is every three to four weeks, depending on how fast your hair grows. Oh, and be regular about it - with regular waxing, your hair follicle becomes weaker which makes it easier to remove hair.

Wear Loose Clothing

After you wax, wear loose clothing made of light, natural fabrics, such as cotton or linen, for at least the first day. Tight clothing - as cute as it can be - also ups your risk for ingrown hairs since it compresses your hair against your body, making it easier for the hair to curl right back into the follicle.

You also want to let the skin breathe so that it “recovers” from the waxing and does not become irritated. Irritated skin is more prone to ingrown hairs.

Pursue Other Options

If you have tried everything and remain tormented with ingrown hairs after waxing, well, you're just going to have to change your MO of hair removal.

The easiest switch is to insist on hard wax instead of soft wax. Hard wax, often called blue wax, is the kind that hardens after a few seconds and it removed without paper. It has the lovely benefit of not sticking to your skin (only the hairs) and is less likely to cause ingrown hairs and delivers more even results than soft wax.

Another option - if your city has salons that offer it - is sugaring, which is most like hard wax in that it will not stick to the skin either. It's all natural - made from a paste of sugar - and it also lifts the dead cells and debris from the skin and provides a clearer follicle opening for the hair to exit. Also, because the paste adheres only to the hair, and not the skin as wax does, there is less of a strain to the hair being pulled out and it is less likely to break off.

And of course, there's always the option to ditch waxing altogether and replace it with something more...permanent. At home laser hair removal, which uses heat to destroy the hair follicles resulting in significantly reduced hair, is a great option and can be done right at home. It won't get rid of the hair completely but it does make it grow back much slower and much weaker.

Or if you want to be done with hair removal for good, electrolysis is an expensive, yet permanent hair removal option that nips the problem at its root by zapping the hair's growth center. If there is no hair growing, there are no ingrown hairs. Hmm - I think Confucius said that first.

However you decide to go, just know that if you decide that you want to make waxing and ingrown hairs a thing of the past - there are plenty of hair removal options to choose from!

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