If you’re tired of having underarm hair or over shaving every other day, waxing might be the right alternative for you.
But — just like any other type of hair removal — waxing your underarms has its fair share of pros and cons to consider.
Curious about what it entails? Read on.
For the most part, yes. You’ll find that you can choose between two types of waxes.
The first is soft wax. It hardens and is removed with paper or cloth strips.
You can also choose hard wax. This one solidifies and is removed entirely without strips.
Because the underarms are a smaller area than the legs, arms, or torso, you might find that you prefer one type of wax to the other.
Given this, the appointment will likely be shorter and require fewer strips or less wax.
With both types, the wax substance is applied in the same direction as hair growth and removed against the direction of hair growth.
There sure are! Both hard and soft waxes lightly exfoliate the area to reveal smoother skin.
Some also say hair grows in slower and thinner when you stick to a consistent waxing schedule.
Just like when you wax other parts of the body, there are a few risks to consider.
For starters, there might be some temporary redness, bumps, or itching.
These side effects are usually temporary and fade within a few hours. In some cases, they may last 1 to 2 days.
On the other hand, there are a few more serious risks, such as burns, bleeding, or infection.
Minor bleeding is fairly common if it’s your first time waxing. Be sure to keep the area clean if you find any residual blood to prevent infection.
If your technician isn’t as experienced, or if you wax at home, there’s a chance you might end up with some burning. This happens if you accidentally wax off the top layer of your skin.
To take care of the burn, apply an ice pack for a few minutes and keep the area free from deodorant.
Infections are more rare, but if you think you might have one, see a doctor right away. Infections typically cause pus-filled blisters and painful, tender skin.
As with other types of hair removal, waxing might not be the best solution if:
You have a nick from previous shaving
Nicks and ingrown hairs often happen when shaving underarms. While they might not seem like a big deal, they can increase your skin’s sensitivity and risk for infection if you wax the area soon after.
You’re on your period
Your skin — yes, all of it! — might be more sensitive during menstruation. It may be best to reschedule your appointment for the following week if this is the case for you.
Pregnancy hormones may also make your skin more sensitive and prone to pain.
Talk to your doctor before waxing if you’re using:
- hormone replacements
- hormonal birth control
- oral acne medications, such as Accutane
- topical retinoids, such as Differin and Retin-A
These medications cause side effects that waxing may exacerbate.
Radiation and chemotherapy can also result in increased sensitivity and dryness, so waxing may be more painful.
It’s certainly not as painless as shaving. However, it ultimately depends on your individual pain tolerance and whether you’ve ever waxed before.
The hairs are pulled from the root, so waxing may feel similar to tweezing — just on a much larger and quicker scale.
You might find that waxing your underarms isn’t as painful as waxing other areas of the body because the surface is smaller and requires less wax.
On the other hand, your armpit hair might be more coarse. The sheer thickness might make it more painful to remove than finer leg hair.
Finding a reputable waxing salon is similar to finding a reputable hair salon: Trust internet reviews and recommendations from your closest friends.
When searching for a quality salon, keep your eyes out for places that are sanitary — i.e., they don’t reuse their applicators, they wear gloves — and ask you to fill out a client questionnaire before your appointment.
You’ll also want to find a place with experienced, trained technicians. Look for their accreditation, and ask for a technician who’s been practicing for a few years.
Leading up to your appointment, there are a few things you should do to ensure smooth waxing:
- Make sure your hair is around 1/4-inch long, about the size of a grain of rice. This level of growth typically takes 2 to 3 weeks from a previous wax, or about 2 weeks from the last time you shaved. The technician might trim hair that’s 1/2 inch or longer before applying wax.
- Lightly exfoliate the area with a buffing mitt or gentle scrub. This isn’t necessary, but it can help prevent stray hairs and ingrown hairs.
- Avoid tanning or swimming for at least 24 hours before your appointment.
- Try to avoid or minimize caffeine and alcohol intake on the day of your appointment. Both are diuretics and can cause your pores to tighten, making waxing more painful.
- Skip the deodorant — or at least apply less than usual — to avoid clogging your pores the day of your appointment.
- You can take an over-the-counter pain reliever about 30 minutes before your appointment to help lessen pain.
Get to your appointment early so you can check in, get settled, and fill out any necessary paperwork.
Your waxing technician will guide you through the process, making sure you’re as comfortable as possible.
Here’s what you can expect:
- Your technician will likely ask you to remove your top and get on the table. If you’re wearing a top with thin straps, you might not have to take off your shirt.
- Before waxing, the technician will gently cleanse the area to remove oil, sweat, or dirt.
- Next, they’ll apply a pre-wax treatment. This will usually look like an oil or powder. It helps the hairs stand up and appear more prominent.
- Then, they’ll apply the wax substance. If you choose a soft wax, they’ll remove the wax with strips of paper of cloth. If you choose a hard wax, they’ll wait for the wax to firm up before removing it. The area is small, so they may only wax two to three times on each side, moving from the left, to the middle, to the right of the pit.
- If any stray hairs are left behind, they might clean it up with tweezers. However, because this is a more sensitive area of the body, they’ll likely ask you before doing this.
- They’ll finish by applying a rejuvenating serum or lotion. This will help soothe irritation and prevent ingrown hairs.
Make sure you take care of the area so you can prevent irritation or infection.
Here’s what you should keep in mind:
- If the area’s particularly tender, apply a hydrocortisone cream or use a cool compress.
- The area will likely be slightly irritated afterward, so you might want to avoid deodorant for the first 24 hours.
- The area will be more susceptible to sun damage immediately afterward, so avoid tanning or prolonged sun exposure.
- To avoid irritation and ingrown hairs, try to not engage in strenuous activity (like going to the gym) or soaking in water for the first 24 hours.
Resist the urge to shave or tweeze any stubble or stray hairs. Removing them could increase your risk for ingrown hairs, and it could knock you off your waxing schedule, too.
Ingrown hairs and bumps can be a major pain (no pun intended), but there are a few things you can do to make sure you minimize your risk.
For starters, you can lightly exfoliate a few days before your appointment. This will help remove dead skin cells, dirt, and grime from the surface of your skin.
Then, 3 to 4 days after your appointment, you can resume light exfoliation to make sure the area stays clean and clear of anything that could get trapped in your pores.
Although you can use either a physical or chemical exfoliant, it’s better to go for something ultra gentle, like a mitt or washcloth.
If you happen to get an ingrown hair, don’t worry. There are plenty of oils and gels that can help soothe the area.
Your results should last around 3 weeks, depending on how fast your hair grows.
If you keep up with a regular waxing schedule, you might find that the pain decreases and hair grows back slower and thinner.
On the flip side, if you don’t keep up with your schedule, the growth cycle will get disrupted, and you’ll have to start from scratch.
This could mean that the wax will be more painful the next time you go.
Hair removal is a very personal journey. Do your research, and experiment with different methods to find what suits you best.
Not sure where to start? Ask a technician for their recommendations. They’ve been asked it all before!
Jen is a wellness contributor at Healthline. She writes and edits for various lifestyle and beauty publications, with bylines at Refinery29, Byrdie, MyDomaine, and bareMinerals. When not typing away, you can find Jen practicing yoga, diffusing essential oils, watching Food Network or guzzling a cup of coffee. You can follow her NYC adventures on Twitter and Instagram.