It’s summer, and that means that hair removal is front and center on everyone’s minds. Between sugaring our legs and shaving our faces, we’re forever looking for ways to ensure smooth skin all over our bodies—but when it comes to our underarms, waxing is definitely where it’s at.
We’re here to tell you that underarm waxing is the answer to all of your summertime prayers. Sure, it hurts a little. But you really only have to have your armpits waxed once to become a total believer. We’re not kidding—it’s seriously going to change your life.
Not only are your armpits left totally smooth and hair-free for up to four weeks, you can say a permanent goodbye to the skin irritation, nicks and painful ingrown hairs that often come with shaving such a delicate area. And in the summer, when we practically live in bikinis and sundresses, not having to worry about stubble every damn day is a lifesaver. Plus, think of all the money you’ll save on razors!
Before you run out to your aesthetician, you should do your homework. You want your waxing to last as long as possible, right? So we’re breaking down literally everything you need to know about underarm waxing; prepare to get your smoothest skin yet.
Know before you go
Don’t just assume your usual waxing place will be able to do your underarms; call to check. You may have to make a separate appointment, or see another aesthetician. Pro tip: scheduling your bikini wax on the same day as your underarms? Not a good move; that’s way too much to deal with in a single sitting. Break your appointments up to minimize your discomfort.
Grow your hair out
We know it seems counter-intuitive to have to grow your armpit hair out only to have it removed, but nobody ever said that waxing was logical. You’ll want the hair to be about 1/4 inch long before your appointment. Anything shorter than that and the wax won’t grip the hair properly; anything longer will cause even more pain when pulled out.
Some salons will do this for you, but just in case, make sure you gently exfoliate your armpits before your appointment. This makes sure the area is clean and that the hair follicles are unblocked, making it easier for the wax to grip hair at the root. And did you catch the key word, “gently”? Using a soft cotton washcloth dampened with warm water, rub in small circles for about thirty seconds per armpit. Avoid any harsh scrubs or chemical exfoliators; these can irritate skin, which is exactly what we don’t want.
Keep it clean
It probably goes without saying, but underarms must be completely clean and dry before a wax. This means shower before your appointment and skip deodorant entirely, as it can interfere with the wax. If the thought of going bare is just too much for you, apply baby powder under your arms instead to absorb wetness and odor.
Skip the coffee
Did you know that caffeine heightens your skin’s sensitivity to pain? Crazy but true. Since waxing is, by its very nature, a little painful, avoid drinking coffee or taking any over-the-counter medicine that contains caffeine the day of your appointment.
At your appointment
Though what to expect at your waxing will vary depending on the salon, the basic shape of your appointment is the same: you can expect to have your underarms wiped down and dried before the wax is smoothed on in small sections. Once the wax has set, the skin will be pulled tight and the wax will be pulled away against the direction that the hair grows. Because underarm hair often grows in several directions, it may take a few passes to get the area completely clean—that’s why it’s best to see a professional, rather than trying to do this yourself.
Immediately following your wax you may experience some discomfort or irritation (and questioning why you listened to us in the first place), but trust us, the redness and swelling goes away quickly. To really speed up your recovery, avoid heat (this means everything from a hot shower to a sweaty workout) and skip deodorant for 24 hours after waxing. You can also apply a cold compress to your newly smooth underarms to soothe any stinging or irritation. Remember: skin gets less sensitive to waxing the more often you do it, so if it’s your first time, trust us: it won’t always be this uncomfortable.
The entire point of underarm waxing is that it lasts a really long time; taking proper care of that area will only prolong the life of your wax job. And no step is more important than exfoliation. Waxing pulls the entire hair from the follicle, allowing the skin to thicken and harden over the area. Removing this hardened skin is important in preventing ingrown hairs, so use a cotton washcloth to gently exfoliate once after the first 24 hours, then two to three times a week afterwards.
DO. NOT. SHAVE.
No matter how much you want to, do not pick up that razor. If you want the best results from waxing, all of your hair follicles need to be on the same growth cycle, and shaving in between will throw off this schedule.
Depending on your hair, you may not get the totally long-lasting results you want—and that’s OK. Your first wax may only keep your underarms smooth for a couple of weeks, rather than the desired four. But the more regularly you wax, the better your results will be and, paradoxically, the longer you will be able to go between waxes. You’ll be going six whole weeks between appointments before you know it!
Originally published July 2015. Updated June 2017.