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To Wax or To Laser? Help Clients Decide

Contact Author Maxie Frericks
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Hair removal dates all the way back to the Egyptians, when they would use things like pumice stones, seashell tweezers, sugar and beeswax for hair removal. You could really say that the art of waxing was indeed invented by the Egyptians because beeswax is one of the main ingredients used in body and facial waxes. Hair removal has come a long way since the Egyptians, and clients now have a number of hair removal options including: waxing, sugaring, laser hair removal, electrolysis and threading. This article will compare and contrast two popular forms of hair removal in the spa: waxing and laser hair removal.

Waxing

Two types of wax exist, soft and hard. Soft wax is heated at a higher temperature, has a thinner consistency and is removed with a pellon or muslin strip. Hard wax is heated at a lower temperature, has a much thicker consistency and does not need a strip to be removed. With both soft and hard wax, they are applied to the skin in the direction of the hair growth and removed the opposite direction. It is very important that the wax is applied to cleansed skin preferably with a bit of oil to create a barrier between the skin and the product.

Preparation. The length of hair should be approximately 1/4 inch or the length of a grain of rice. The skin should be cleansed before getting waxed, and a good exfoliation a few days before is recommended. Waxing is also a form of exfoliation, so only exfoliate the waxed areas twice a week at most and also make sure to moisturize well.

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Regrowth. It usually takes approximately four to six weeks for hair to grow back after a client waxes, depending on the stage of hair growth. There are three stages of hair growth: anagen, catagen and telogen. Anagen is when the hair is growing. At any given time during the anagen phase, 85% of the body’s hair can be in growth, making it the most ideal time to get waxed. The catagen stage is known as the “transitional phase.” This is where the hair grows upward and detaches from the bulb. It is essential for hair to stay attached to the bulb, which provides it with blood supply and contains nutrients for it to grow. Catagen is a good time for rest and renewal of the papilla and hair follicle. Under 5% of hair will be in this stage or phase at any given time. Telogen is the last stage of hair growth or the “resting phase.” During this time, the hair remains dormant for one to four months. Also, this is a time when a client will notice shedding because the hair is ready to fall out at this point so that the anagen cycle can begin all over again. About 10%–12% of hair growth to be at this stage.

Clients may even get frustrated after a wax when they still see or feel a few hairs that were too short to get. This is because the hair is still at different growth cycles. Once clients get waxed regularly, their hair will get on the same growth cycle, guaranteeing soft and smooth skin for longer.

Pain. Clients new to waxing probably associate it with pain. It does hurt the first few times you go, and this is sometimes enough to make a client choose laser hair removal. It is a quick pain. Once the hair is pulled, the pain should be over. A good technician will immediately apply pressure to the waxed area to lessen the pain. After the wax, the client shouldn’t experience any pain. Their skin may be a little red or sensitive to the touch for a bit, but they shouldn’t have pain.

Permanency. Hair will start to diminish or disappear altogether over time with waxing because waxing weakens the hair follicle as the hair is being pulled from the root. Weakened hair follicles produce finer, thinner hair. It may take a while, but waxing can kill the follicle as electrolysis does to make it a permanent form of hair removal. For hair to not come back it all depends on the person and their hair. I’ve seen people wax for years and it still comes back and I’ve seen people wax for months and it doesn’t. Unfortunately, there is no good way to tell. Finer, thinner hair will go quicker than people with coarser hair.

Side effects. Clients and estheticians alike often wonder about ingrown hairs, the biggest side effect of waxing. There are many ways to remedy ingrown hairs like incorporating an after treatment to your session such as a vajacial for a client getting a Brazilian to learn the proper cleansing and exfoliation techniques to prevent them. The number one reason people get ingrown hairs is because they don’t exfoliate properly. Think about it—every time you wax, you are weakening the hair follicle and producing finer, thinner hair. How will thinner hair grow through tough skin that hasn’t been exfoliated? Therefore, it grows under the skin becoming ingrown hair. A good exfoliation a couple of times a week would remedy that situation. However, it is important to remember that waxing itself is an exfoliation, so clients should wait a few days after waxing before they exfoliate again.

If using a scrub versus a chemical exfoliant, please make sure that the product is perfectly spherical in shape to avoid abrasion or damage to the skin. A glycolic cleanser would be good, as it is a natural AHA. Over-exfoliation can cause damage to the skin also, so make sure to remind sensitive skin clients to exfoliate less, whereas normal-to-oily skin types can exfoliate a bit more. In doing this, the hair can easily grow through skin.

Contraindications. The biggest risk with waxing is burning or lifting of the skin. Waxing is not recommended for those on prescription isotretinoin. Retinol is also not recommended for those using bleaching products, people who have been recently peeled, those who have used chemical depilatories or people with sensitive skin.

Cost. It is cheaper per treatment to get waxed, but keep in mind that clients will need more waxing treatments than laser treatments. The price of waxing usually starts at around $15 for facial waxing like brows, lip, chin, and upwards of $50 for the whole face. Arms start at $35 for a half arm. Legs usually start at $45 for a half-leg, which goes up to $100 for a full leg depending on the technician and place of business. The industry standard for Brazilian is $55–$75 with bikini being $25–$35.

Laser Hair Removal

A laser or an intense or highly concentrated, pulsating light is beamed into the hair follicle to damage it and inhibit hair growth. The pigment in the follicle absorbs the light to destroy the hair. Laser is best used on people that have light skin with medium to darker hair, so that the laser can easily detect each hair. Lasers are precise and on average send a pulse that takes a fraction of a second to deliver to the hair follicle. Treatments usually take about 15 minutes for smaller areas and up to an hour for larger areas. Lasers can treat an area about the size of a quarter, so the treatments are relatively fast.

Preparation. To prepare for a laser treatment, clients will often want to shave a day or two before the appointment so that hair is there but not grown out. If not, the technician often will want to trim the hairs down so that the treatment can be more effective. Before you get started you will get an area of your skin tested so you can see how you will react and if any adjustments will be made. The technician will then start and move along the area quickly.

Pain. Lasers can be somewhat painful. After the treatment is completed, the client will be a bit red and feel like the skin is sunburned. They are advised to use ice packs until the skin goes back to normal.

Permanency. As time goes on, the client will notice that their hair is falling out. After about three treatments, they will notice a huge reduction in the hair, with some having no hair come back at all. People who get laser usually prefer it to waxing because it does last longer. Not everyone likes to shave, wax or tweeze.

Side-effects. In addition to the redness mentioned above, some side effects that can occur are hyperpigmentation, swelling, scarring and burning. Both laser and waxing can cause hyperpigmentation. Injury to the skin triggers melanocytes that head to the injured area to fix it. Often times with waxing and laser, skin can send too much melanin to try to heal the injury which leads to hyperpigmentation. Scarring and burning would be the two main causes of it.

Contraindications. It is not advised for people with a higher melanin content to get laser, as it can lead to hyperpigmentation. People with light skin and light hair cannot get it because there is no melanin for the laser to pick up. Also, those who receive laser treatment will have to wear SPF for at least a month to reduce the risk of hyperpigmentation. However, it is advisable to always wear SPF to keep your skin young and healthy.

Cost. The average cost of a single laser treatment can be anywhere from $150–$250 depending on the size of the area and how long the treatment takes.

Client Research

Hopefully, this article will dispel some of the myths surrounding both waxing and laser hair removal. If clients decide to laser, make sure they are a good candidate and follow the after-care protocols. If they prefer waxing, there are many less side effects and the costs are cheaper. Plus, nearly everyone can get waxing done. If the client is unsure about what to do, they should consult a good esthetician that will guide them in the right direction so they can achieve the best result! Both treatments are effective at removing unwanted hair.

The anagen phase of hair growth is the best time for waxing.

Light skin with dark hair is best for laser hair removal.

Maxie+Frericks

Maxie Frericks is a licensed esthetician specializing in medical esthetics and waxing who currently operates at Velvet Day Spa in Greenwood Village, CO. She is a national esthetics educator, having taught for Heritage College and the European Wax Center.

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