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Ingrown Hairs And Waxing: What You Can & Cannot Control

by Allegra Garcia May 23, 2023 9 min read


Ingrown Hairs and Waxing

We all know how satisfying freshly-smooth skin is. Feelin’ flawless and hair free, your mood is instantly lifted - but nothing puts a damper on that mood quicker than ingrown hairs. 

Ingrown hairs are common with the hair removal process. Waxing significantly reduces the chance of ingrowns due to hair being removed from the root instead of chopped at the surface, as it is with shaving. Still, these pesky little guys can make a very much unwanted appearance with waxing.

Table of Contents

As a waxer, it can be incredibly frustrating to be completely confident in the smooth results you deliver, only to get a call in a few days from your clients complaining about ingrown hairs. Not only are we going to talk about the basics - why ingrown hair occurs and how to prevent ingrown hairs before AND after waxing - we are also going to talk about what is in your control, and what isn’t. 

You are already taking a step in the right direction when you choose to wax with Nova Wax hard wax. Our formula is gentle on the skin, yet powerful enough to work on every hair type.

Coarse or fine, Nova Wax can tackle any hair type on any body part. Nova Wax effectively adheres to hair to remove it directly from the root, so the chance of ingrown hairs are minimal. The high-quality ingredients in Nova Wax also prevent redness and irritation, so the skin doesn’t totally *hate* the waxing process either.  

What are Ingrown Hairs?

Ingrown hairs are born when hair is in the regrowth process and instead of poking through the skin, as it should, it says curls back into the skin. As a result of this, the hair continues to grow in the opposite direction underneath the skin.

This inverted growth causes the red bumps we all know (and hate!) that are reddish and resemble a pimple. How these feel depends on the skin, and how bad the ingrown actually is, but usually they are red, swollen, itchy, and painful at times. Aside from the physical annoyance of them, they completely ruin the aesthetics of the freshly-waxed skin that is supposed to look smooth and perfect.

How to Prevent Ingrown Hairs 

First and foremost, choosing a quality wax is incredibly important. Waxing with a formula that doesn’t set properly, doesn’t spread evenly, or has harsh ingredients can damage the skin and break the hair.

Nova Wax hard wax is made with quality ingredients that are non-irritating to the skin, and the flexible polymers ensure the wax application and removal process are seamless. 

You can be using a perfect wax formula, like Nova Wax, and still encounter issues with ingrowns due to your technique. You want to ensure you are laying the wax evenly, with the right amount of pressure so the wax can fully envelop the hairs.

Also Read: Why is My Hard Wax Breaking?

Applying too much or too little wax can also affect how it adheres to the hair. Same with application, the removal of wax is equally important to removing the hair from the root. Pull with consistent force throughout the entire removal, not just the beginning, and ensure you are pulling parallel to the skin.

If you do not apply or remove the wax properly, the hair will break at the surface instead of being removed from the follicle - and this will definitely lead to ingrown hairs. Take a look at your technique and make tweaks to see if maybe the way you are performing the wax is leading to ingrowns on your clients.

Also Read: How to Get the Perfect Hard Wax Consistency

Educating Clients about Ingrown Hairs

Educating yourself AND your clients is the only way to truly combat ingrown hairs. Do your research and ensure you are disseminating the information to your clients so they know what to do.

Communicate with them before, during and after the appointment to ensure all steps are being followed so you can be proactive instead of reactive. Ask them the appropriate questions so you can be properly informed!

Manage Expectations:

First-time waxers are very susceptible to ingrown hairs, especially if they were shaving before. With shaving, the hair growth is inconsistent and will be in different stages of growth.

When hair growth is inconsistent, a majority the hair could be long enough to wax but there most likely will be a few hairs that are just too short and have a chance of breaking at the surface - since the wax can’t properly adhere to the hair due to the length.

Inform them of this so they can be aware of the fact that they may encounter some ingrown hairs on their first few sessions. It may take 4 or 5 sessions before the hair growth is even and the chances of ingrowns will be much slimmer. 

Ask Questions:

Ask your clients about their skin type, skin care routines and what products they are using. Knowing what kind of skin you’re dealing with beforehand will help immensely.

Dry skin is more vulnerable to ingrowns, so if you know that in advance you can advise them to exfoliate in the days leading up to the appointment (and NOT the day of). You can also prepare to maybe lay a light oil on their skin before you lay your strips, so that the wax doesn’t dry and crack on their skin. 

Explain the proper post-care steps:

Exfoliation and moisturizing are two KEY steps to maintaining a wax. Dead skin on the surface is one of the leading causes of ingrowns because it prevents hair from poking through the skin.

By exfoliating, you help clear out the skin on the surface so the hair has a clear path of growth. Moisturizing the skin also prevents the buildup of dry skin that prevents the hair from growing properly. Provide them with the proper information so they are set up for success! 

Use Pre and Post Wax Care

As we noted above, exfoliation and moisturizing are the foundation of maintaining that smooth skin. Communicating with your clients that these steps are ESSENTIAL and not optional will help them understand that they have a part in their results.

Let them know that ingrowns can happen and that what you’re suggesting is the best way to avoid ingrown hairs after waxing. Mild bumps and irritation are common immediately after a wax and this will usually subside in a few days. It truly depends on the skin type!

Our skin naturally sheds, and exfoliation helps speed up this natural process while also preventing excess buildup on the surface of the skin. Exfoliation can be both physical and chemical. One of the best ways to maintain a wax with physical exfoliation is through dry brushing.

Dry brushing is a gentle way to remove the dead skin cells on the surface. Chemical exfoliation with products that contain powerful ingredients such as glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acid can also be incredibly beneficial in skin regeneration.


Exfoliation is not recommended immediately after a wax due to how sensitive the skin is. 24-48 hours post wax is usually the sweet spot, and how often to exfoliate will depend on the skin of the client.

For sensitive skin, they may need to exfoliate every other day so they do not over-exfoliate and irritate the skin. Other people may be able to exfoliate every day with no issue at all! It is important to listen to the skin and discover what it can and cannot handle. 

Moisturizing also helps loosen the dead skin on the surface. Keeping the skin nourished and hydrated will prevent dead skin buildup. It is important to note that moisturizers should be light, and not full of harsh chemicals or fragrances. Moisturizing should also be used in areas that need it, such as the legs.

Using moisturizer in areas that are already naturally moist, such as the intimate areas and underarms, will just lead to clogged pores. It is also important to note that the ingredients in moisturizers can affect the skin. Ensure that the products going on the skin are non-comedogenic, which means they are not likely to clog pores. Comedogenic ingredients like coconut oil have the potential to clog pores which will lead to ingrown hairs.

To learn more about the comedogenic scale, click here . 

Before your clients even visit you, inform them of what you need from them for a successful visit. They should not be exfoliating the day of the appointment, and should come with completely clean skin so nothing interferes with the wax application.

It is also important to ensure they have waited the proper amount of time between waxes and that they’re not trying to rush in, or worse, take matters into their own hands by tweezing or shaving in between appointments! Patience is key and letting them know this is what is best for their results should put their mind at ease. 

The 24-48 hours immediately after a wax are important, and communication with your clients about what they can and cannot do during this time is imperative for preventing ingrown hairs. Tight clothing is a no-no, because the skin needs to breathe! Letting the skin breathe also ensures there is less sweat happening, as sweat will just irritate the freshly-opened pores and potentially clog them.

The skin is extra sensitive to heat during this time as well, so no working out, hot showers, or sunbathing either! For services like underarm waxing, it is important to avoid deodorant for at least 24 hours and that the deodorant used has the proper ingredients.

For services like bikini and brazilian, a great suggestion is to stick to cotton underwear. If irritation occurs along the bikini line, suggesting other cuts of underwear like boyshorts can help reduce the friction in that area that may cause irritation. 

What You Can't Control with Ingrown Hairs

If you have provided your clients with the proper tools and steps for post-care, then it is completely left in their hands the minute they step out of your salon. Waxing is a routine and requires proper maintenance to keep that skin looking as flawless as possible.

Some people will be reluctant to follow the proper pre and post care steps, and you may need to suggest other options for them. There is only so much you can do and if individuals are not willing to listen to your advice, then waxing may not be the best for them.

It may be uncomfortable to address the situation, however, it will save you so many headaches in the long run! Continually waxing people that will not follow the proper post care and complain about their results afterwards will never be satisfied no matter what you do - save yourself the frustration and kindly suggest other options for them. 

Hair type and skin type are other things that are completely out of your control. People with coarse and curly hair are naturally more susceptible to ingrowns simply because of their hair type. Additionally, some of the hair on our bodies is inconsistent and grows differently.

Some people may be able to wax their legs because the hair is finer and straighter, and not the bikini or brazilian area because the hair is too coarse and curly - and that is completely fine! Same with the skin, some areas are more sensitive than others and just do not react well to waxing.

Waxing can be a trial and error process, and it may take some time to figure out if it works. If it is not the solution, again save yourself the frustration and suggest another option! Ingrowns are very common, so do not freak out if your client has them! If you’re sure your technique is correct, then it may require a deeper understanding of the client’s skincare routine and products they are using to properly troubleshoot.

If the suggestions are not working, they may need to seek additional help from a dermatologist to determine if there are underlying issues that may be causing these problems. It is completely normal and in your best interest to suggest additional help if you feel the situation is beyond your knowledge. Your client will 100% appreciate the honesty! 

Preventing Ingrowns when Waxing at Home

The Nova Fam is full of self-waxers, our esthies included!

If you are experiencing ingrown hairs at home, it may be time to seek out some assistance. Some areas, especially underarms and the bikini area, are extremely difficult to wax on your own. The angles are weird, and sometimes you cannot properly hold the skin taut for a solid removal.

Due to the sometimes uncomfortable angles you may be breaking the hair instead of thoroughly removing it from the root, which of course leads to ingrown hairs.

Check your strips - if you do not see many bulbs at the end of the hairs then you aren’t removing the hair fully. You may be able to wax your legs perfectly fine at home, but for your underarms or brazilian it may be best to have another professional handle it.

Allegra Garcia
Allegra Garcia