Temporary hair removal was first noted historically in the Far East, where it has long been a part of traditional culture. Hair removal was performed on brides so that their skin would be pure, soft and smooth on their wedding night. Sugar was prepared according to the family tradition, with ingredients including sugar, honey, and lemon.
Just as the ingredients and formula differed by region, so did the method of hair removal. Some used the sugar itself while others used a string or piece of cloth that adhered to the hair.
Today, the removal of excess or unwanted body and facial hair is a growing area for spas and salons. Depilatory waxing has now developed as a fast, efficient, and economical method of professional temporary hair removal. Waxing clients usually return for regular treatments so it is an easy way to build stable clientele. Profits from waxing average 200 – 400 percent and often, waxing can even reach 50 percent of a salon's gross sales on beauty services. For such an important, core service, waxing is remarkably easy and affordable to any skin care treatment center. Comprehensive hands-on training for aestheticians in technique and safety can be accomplished in just a few days, and the service requires only a very small investment in materials. Of course, progressing from a novice to an expert waxing technician takes experience, but in no time at all you will find your income and customer satisfaction increase by adopting this traditional menu item.
Good lighting, cleanliness, and a comfortable facial chair/bed are essential to setting up a facility for waxing. Unless your salon is very small, you should also aim to put aside a more private area so that you can offer full body waxing.
Some salons only do facial waxing in their facial chairs. Body waxing can be performed either in a facial chair which can be adjusted to a completely horizontal position, or a massage table could be used. Depending on the size, layout, and clientele volume of your salon, your best choice might be anything from a single facial chair in a private area to a whole array of facial chairs and massage tables in different parts of your salon.
Soft Waxes (Using Strips)
Depilatory waxes fall into two major categories – soft and hard. Soft waxes are semi-solid and melt to a honey-like or creamy consistency. They are usually packaged in tin or glass containers and must be warmed in a full range thermostat. A full range thermostat is extremely important as all waxes must first be melted at a moderately high temperature, (the dial on the thermostat will usually read 7 or 8) until all the ingredients are well blended. The wax should then be cooled to about 4 to 6 until it lowers to body temperature.
A good full-range melter, which will cost $80 or more, will maintain the wax at a constant application temperature, keeping it ready at all times. However, because air currents and air conditioning can cool the wax, the aesthetician must always closely monitor the temperature to ensure that it is neither too hot nor too cold. Remember – no wax can burn a client, only a careless operator can. It is important to always pre-test wax on your own wrist before application. And you should then test on the client's wrist or ankle, also.
Soft waxes are applied to the skin in a very thin layer in the direction of the hair growth. The wax is then immediately covered with a muslin strip or a non-woven (pellon) strip, according to the type of wax chosen. The strip is then pulled off in the opposite direction of the hair growth in one quick motion as close to the skins surface as possible. Do not lift upwards from the area as bruising will occur. Soft waxes are best for large areas like the legs and arms, as the strip allows for quick removal and faster, economical waxing.
When choosing a soft wax look for the following features:
- - A natural product
- - Quick and easy to use
- - Spreads easily in a thin layer (less is used)
- - Wax bonds to hair only, not skin
- - Wax comes off entirely on strip
- - Does not leave a sticky residue
- - Gentle and comfortable to the client
- - Leaves little redness or irritation
- - Cleans up easily off melter, spatula, and floor
Hard (Hot) Waxes (uses no strip)
Hard wax usually comes in solid pellets, circles, or tins. Like soft wax, hard wax must also be melted down in a full range thermostat (at a setting of 7 to 8) and then cooled to about 4 to 6 until it lowers to body temperature. At body temperature, hard wax should have the consistency of molasses. NEVER boil hard or soft wax, as it will lose its gripping power!
Hard wax is administered via disposable wooden spatulas (tongue depressors). The wax is applied firmly with a downward stroke against the growth that embeds all hairs, leaving a lip at opposite ends and borders all around using a figure 8 motion to spread and build up the wax. In contrast to soft wax, hard wax is applied at about one-quarter-inch thickness. The band of wax is allowed to dry slightly and then is removed while the wax is still warm and pliable. For this reason, it is important to find a wax that remains pliable. The removal is done by pulling the lip back in the opposite direction of the hair growth. Unlike soft wax, no strips are necessary.
The heat of the wax facilitates the easy removal of the entire hair shaft out of the follicle. Because of the warmth and the fact that no strips are used, the pulling action is less harsh than that of a strip wax and the stinging sensation is minimized. It is also better for skin that has been chemically exfoliated with the application of substances such as AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids), BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) and Retinoids. Some hard waxes contain ingredients to soothe the skin while depilating. Generally, hard wax is considered to be much gentler to the skin than soft waxes and is therefore recommended for the upper lip, chin, brow, and breast as well as for sensitive skin on the bikini, arm and underarm. In addition, while most soft waxes require hair growth of about a quarter inch, hard wax can easily be used to depilate areas of much shorter hair – again, emphasizing its utility in sensitive areas such as the face, underarm, and bikini.
When choosing a hard wax look for the following:
- - Made of high quality, natural ingredients
- - Should contain soothing, anti-inflammatory components
- - Should have excellent gripping power yet remain gentle
- - Leave little redness or irritation
- - Hair shaft should not break at the surface
- - Easy to apply with spatulas
- - Wax should remain pliable and not break or become brittle
- - Should leave the skin silky smooth
- - Will not thicken or crystallize with heat time
Some people wonder why the industry makes such a fuss about waxing, especially in light of the fact that there are a number of other techniques available for home use, including over-the-counter cold waxes, depilatories, and old fashioned (and painful) tweezing. The answer is only too obvious when one realizes that too many nail and full service salons use technicians who are unqualified and not licensed to perform the procedure. Clients are left vulnerable to infection, abrasion, and burns. There is no quicker route to lawsuits and potential loss of licenses and insurance coverage for salon owners and aestheticians.
Before even one drop of wax is laid on a client, certain questions must be asked and answered; a waxing consultation form must be filled out; and the client must be informed of certain other pre and post-waxing precautions. Aestheticians, cosmetologists, or waxing specialists have an obligation to inform clients, and the public has a right to be informed.
These questions include:
- Are you on any medication?
- Have you recently used glycolic, retinoids, AHAs, BHAs, or other topical medication? If so, how recently?
- Have you ever had any previous reactions to waxing?
- Do you have any known allergies?
The waxing consultation form (see sample on page x) must be filled out, signed and dated by the client every time they visit your salon or spa. In conjunction with this form, technicians should verbally confirm that clients understand at least all of the following points:
- The contraindications for waxing
- Saunas, steam rooms, Jacuzzis, other heat sources, as well as AHAs, BHAs, and loofahs should be avoided for at least 48 hours after waxing.
- Certain rules of hygiene and sanitation are mandatory – waxing must be done with disposable gloves, etc.
- That redness and irritation is the "norm" to be expected with waxing.
- That when done by a properly trained technician, waxing is relatively painless.
Anyone who has heard my lectures, read my articles, or who are students at the Atelier Esthétique Institute of Esthetics know that I am obsessed with maintaining a hygienic environment in the salon. Because unsanitary environments endanger clients and can cost hard-working salon owners their businesses, my students at the Institute must maintain sterilized implements, use disposable gloves over scrubbed hands, and wear clean lab coats and pulled-back hair—even to theory classes.
Doctors have attributed many cases of severe folliculitis to waxing performed in unsanitary environments. One doctor reported a case that lead to severe permanent keloid scars even after extensive treatment. Waxing in these conditions has invited cutaneous diseases caused by mycobacterium. The result has been the creation of lesions that leave patients with permanent scarring of their legs. Some dermatologists note that leg waxing should be avoided by persons with diabetes and by persons with severe varicosities.
As nail salons have proliferated, so to have the number of shops that offer waxing. Unfortunately, some of these shops use untrained people to perform procedures.
The following checklist will provide you with the essentials for a respectable, professional waxing environment:
- Appropriate licenses must be prominently displayed on the wall.
- The technician should be appropriately attired, have their hair pulled back, wear disposable gloves and a clean lab coat or smock.
- A new disposable spatula must be used for each client.
- Waxing tables must have a clean sheet or disposable covering.
- The client's head must lie on a pillow covered with a clean towel or disposable head sheet.
- Waxing should be performed in a well-lit area.
- A modicum of privacy must be followed—the client should be covered appropriately and kept warm at all times.
- All scissors and tweezers used should be new or should have been sterilized before each use. The procedure itself should be a relatively painless experience.
- In areas where pinpoints of blood may be drawn, such as underarms and the bikini area, a new spatula must be used each time the technician dips into the container of wax so as to not contaminate it. For the legs and arms, where blood is seldom drawn, you can use one disposable spatula per customer. However, if the technician sees blood at any time, the spatula must be discarded.
- No client should leave following a wax without an application of sunblock (with an SPF of at least 30).
Ingrown Hairs – Why they may occur:
Many times the papilla of the hair is stronger than the shaft. If the wax does not adhere well enough or if the shaft is too weak, the hair will snap at mid-shaft. Because the hair has been stretched at the breaking point, many times it is too weak to push through the top of the epidermal cells. This is the beginning of the problem. The bikini/groin area is more prone to infection due to the lack of circulation and moisture collection. This becomes intensified when the client wears pantyhose or tight sportswear. Since bacteria thrive in this atmosphere, it is imperative that a disinfectant be applied before any other waxing procedures.
- Instruct the client to use a loofah on the waxed area whenever bathing.
- Schedule a peeling treatment one week before or after waxing appointment. This should consist of a deep pore cleansing including vegetable peeling, antibacterial serum, and mask.
- Apply a glycolic acid product to area twice daily.
Glycolic acid is ideal for loosening the build-up of dead skin cells on the skin's surface; allowing the skin to be constantly renewed. This exfoliation process results in softer, smoother skin, which allows the even application of wax which pulls out hairs only, not skin. This will be less painful to the client and less irritating to the skin.
Glycolic Acid in combination with regular waxing treatments helps prevent ingrown hair.
Sometimes even the most educated of us just don't pay enough attention to the lack of proper certification. While it may be the first thing you look for in a doctor's or dentist's office, many of us never think to check for licenses or certificates in nail and skin care treatment centers. We can't afford to not check. Not only should we increase our awareness of spa and salon certification, but we should report those salons that do not conform to the laws of our home states. As long as we frequent unhygienic salons, unprofessional salons using unlicensed workers, the salons will continue to remain in business.
We can't let a few bad apples destroy portions of our industry and we can't let our attention to proper procedure slip. Because of the risks of letting disreputable practices flourish, we must all put pressure on shops whose practices endanger the health and safety of the public.
Waxing, Aesthetics, or Cosmetology licenses with photo must be displayed.
A waxing consultation form should be provided for client to fill out.
- The technician must be wearing disposable gloves (preferably vinyl)
Tweezers or scissors must be sterilized after each use.
Protective paper covering for waxing table must be new for each client.
- A new disposable spatula must be used for each client—
*Bikini and underarms require a fresh spatula for each dip into wax.
Taking the Step Forward
There is much more to learn about waxing, and of course, no aesthetician or salon should offer this service without first receiving hands-on training from a licensed aesthetics school. Take advantage of Speed Waxing Classes, American Bikini Waxing and Brazilian waxing. Offered as an adjunct to other services, or offered as a specialty, you will find waxing to be profitable while also bringing considerable new and repeat business to your salon. Keep in mind the four "C's" – client comfort, technical competency, salon cleanliness and the therapist's confidence.
Practice makes perfect.
Annette Hanson is the founder of Atelier Esthétique Institute, (www.AEInstitute.net), a New York State licensing aesthetics school, postgraduate facility, and the first licensed, internationally recognized U.S. member of the International Therapy Examination Council (www.ITECWorld.co.uk). Her professional experience in skin care spans more than 20 years as an aesthetician, body therapist, salon manager, educator, and spa consultant for some of the most prestigious spas and salons in the United States Annette created two new treatment lines—Simple Solutions® with GHK Copper Peptide Technology and AquaSanté® Spa Products from France. She is currently a Consultant to ProCyte Corporation, a medical skin care company in Washington.