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When you think of waxing off unwanted body hair, you probably picture a steaming vat of wax in a salon, but waxing can also be done with cold or room temperature wax.

“Cold waxing” typically involves wax applied to strips that do not need to be heated up, though you will likely need to rub the strip between your palms to warm it up. The strips are cut to fit various parts of the body like the underarms, bikini area, or shins.

Cold waxing can be done at home easily, so it works well for people who want to wax themselves, especially on areas where the hair is fine or for those who are sensitive to hot wax.

Wax is pre-applied to cold wax strips, which is convenient in that the portion is already measured, but it could be a drawback if the amount of wax on a strip is not enough for your body. In that case, you’ll just have to use more than one strip.

Hot wax is heated in a wax warmer or at home in the microwave, typically to around 130°F (54°C). It’s applied evenly in a thin layer over the area of the body where you want to remove hair.

If the hot wax is what’s known as a soft wax, the technician will put a strip down over the wax; if it’s hard wax, it will harden in place without a strip needed.

  • No burns: One benefit of cold wax over hot wax is that you do not run the risk of severe burns, which can happen with hot wax. Cold wax is applied at lukewarm or room temperature.
  • More user-friendly: Cold wax strips are also easier for beginners to use because the strips are pre-cut and shaped to fit. Just make sure the hair is between ¼ to ¾ inches long for optimal results.
  • Less time and money: They are great for touch-ups or for travel, and it’s typically less expensive than hot wax, especially if you’re getting hot wax professionally. It’s also less messy and less time-consuming.

Cold waxing works best on fine hair like that on the upper lip or other facial hair. On coarse, thick hair, it’s not as effective, and you may need to go over the area several times, which could result in skin irritation.

Hot wax is typically more precise because it can be spread to fit the contours of your specific body, and it’s better for shorter hairs. If you don’t pull hard enough, you may find that the wax sticks to your skin.

Cold wax can be done anywhere you’d do hot wax, although it works best on finer hair typically found in the armpits or on the face and chin. It can be used on the arms, legs, bikini area, or for a Brazilian wax.

  • Though you can’t technically burn yourself with cold wax since it isn’t hot, you can irritate the skin, and it will feel and look like a burn, especially if you wax the same area multiple times.
  • Avoid retinol, acid peels, and chemical treatments in the days before waxing of any kind. If you can’t get a few stubborn hairs with cold wax, it’s better to go to a professional.
  • Cold wax is about as painful as hot wax, and it can result in bumps, in-grown hairs or sun sensitivity, so be sure to wear SPF after waxing.
  • Cold wax may also cause folliculitis, which is inflammation of the hair follicle that results in bumps.

If you aren’t interested in waxing, there are other hair removal options. You can learn more below:

  • Shaving uses a razor blade to remove the hair above the skin. Unlike waxing, it doesn’t remove hair from the root, so you will need to shave more frequently.
  • Laser hair removal is a cosmetic procedure done in-office that uses laser technology to damage the hair follicles and prevent hair from growing. It’s a more permanent option than waxing.
  • Threading uses an actual piece of thread in a twisting motion to remove hair. Unlike tweezing, it can remove more than one hair at once, but it should only ever be done by a trained professional in a spa or a salon.
  • Sugaring is similar to waxing, but instead, it uses a mix of lemon, water, sugar, and sometimes honey to pull the hair out by the root.
  • Depilatory creams break the bonds in the hair, which turns it into a substance that can be easily wiped off, though depilatory creams can be irritating.

You can buy cold wax strips at most drugstores or beauty supply stores and do the procedure at home, or you can also go to a salon or a spa for cold wax. Not all salons or spas will offer cold wax, as hot wax is more commonly used in salons.

Cold waxing usually refers to a method of removing hair where lukewarm wax is pre-applied to a strip, then lightly warmed between the hands. The strips can be applied anywhere you’d like to remove hair, but they generally work best on areas where the hair is thinner and fine.

Unlike hot wax, cold wax won’t cause burns, but it can still cause skin irritation, redness, and sun sensitivity.