Fashionista Beauty Helpline: How Should I Be Dealing With Hair Removal Right Now — and Should I Attempt a DIY Bikini Wax?

Some expert advice on what to do, and what to avoid.
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Beauty editors and writers are used to getting late-night (or early-morning, or literally 24-hours-a-day) texts with zero context and burning questions. No, we don't mean of the "U up?" variety. These inquiries are about skin freak-outs, product recommendations and makeup mishaps... and we've seen 'em all. With that in mind, we welcome you to our series, "Fashionista Beauty Helpline," where we address the beauty questions we get asked most frequently — and run them by experts who really know their stuff.

Our recurring series "Fashionista Beauty Helpline" first came about a few years ago as a means of directly addressing the beauty questions I encounter most often from friends, family, social media buddies and random, distant acquaintances. I saw it as a way to clear up common beauty- and grooming-related gripes, frustrations and confusions, offering trustworthy and straightforward assistance to anyone who might not have access to an expert on their own.

Fast forward to 2020, and in a time of coronavirus, social distancing and self-quarantining, it seems more practical than ever. Now I'm using this series to enable all of us to take a little piece of our self-care into our own hands. During this inherently stressful and uncertain time, piling on extra stress and self-imposed pressure about unruly, grown-out brows or rapidly greying roots simply doesn't serve. What does serve, I believe, is arming ourselves with knowledge and skills that will enable us to have a little more autonomy over our beauty routines.

It's ok to take a little time off from the news to pamper, self-soothe and indulge in a bit of escapism. It's also ok to want to find some semblance of normalcy in an abnormal time or a sense of control amid chaos, and it's ok if beauty is your way of finding it. So consider this your guide to how-to-DIY-all-things-beauty-in-the-time-of-coronavirus. If you have specific questions you'd like to see answered here, feel free to drop us a note at tips@fashionista.com with "Fashionista Beauty Helpline" in the subject. We'd love to hear from you! I'll also be using this opportunity to highlight beauty industry professionals whose ability to work has been impacted by the pandemic, and share what we can all be doing to help show them compassion and support.

In our last installment, we focused on facials and skin care. Next up? At-home hair removal — including bikini waxing! To get some expert advice on techniques, products and what not to do, I turned to Allie Melnick, GM at Flamingo. Read on for her guidance on how to get DIY hair removal right.

The beauty editor's "U up?"

The beauty editor's "U up?"

What do you think are some of the most common fears and misconceptions people have when it comes to at-home hair removal?

That it will grow back thicker. That's not true! Also that waxing will hurt. That's partially true, but it shouldn't hurt any more at home than it does at a salon. If it's your first time waxing, start with your legs. Bikini (and armpits and face) are trickier to navigate, so it'll help to get used to the process before you move into those areas.

What are some general hair removal and maintenance tips people can be following right now on a regular basis?

Hair removal is as much about skin as it is about hair. Dry skin can lead to ingrowns, and some product ingredients — like retinoids and vitamin C — can make your skin more sensitive. You want your skin barrier to be strong and healthy, especially before waxing, so avoid these ingredients for a few days beforehand and try a past test before going all in.

I've finally decided I am going to attempt an at-home bikini wax for the first time. Walk me through it: What should I have on hand, what kind of prep should I do, what should I definitely not do and what are the steps?

You've got this! Your skin is clean and dry to start, with your hair between two and six mm long. [Flamingo] has a measurement tool in our instructions, but it's about the width of your pinkie nail. Make sure you have a thick towel or mat to sit on, some good lighting, a handheld mirror, a friend on speed dial — whatever is going to make you feel comfortable.

Smooth the wax on in the direction your hair grows, and pull it off in the opposite. Pubic hair grows toward the center of your body, for the most part. So you'll be pulling up towards your face in the front, and out towards your hips on the sides.

Our pubic wax kit has three different shaped strips so you can choose your style: a wide rectangle for larger, less dense areas like your thighs, a narrow rectangle to trim in the sides and a square for the bushiest areas.

What about some tips for removal of unwanted facial hair: How do I tackle it and what do I need to know?

It's the same principle: Smooth the strip on in the direction hair grows, and pull it off in the opposite. The skin on your face is sensitive, so if you're pulling and hair isn't coming out, stop and reassess in a few days — maybe hair wasn't long enough; maybe you had product on your skin.

What tips do you have for dealing with irritation that might happen after waxing?

Flamingo's wax kits come with post-wax cloths to clean and soothe your skin, with sweet almond oil and aloe vera to calm irritation. Coconut oil can work in a pinch, too, and applying ice and pressure to the area will help calm things down. I also like waxing at night because it gives my skin more time to recover.

What can I expect in terms of pain? Is it going to be worse than getting a professional wax? I'm having visions of that famous leg waxing scene in "Friends" — "they should call it "Pain-zene!"

Waxing is going to hurt a bit, there's no way around that, but it'll be the same as going to a salon — and you're in control. Stop if at any point you're in pain you can't breathe through. Normal pain could look like a wince, a single tear or squeak.

What about for people who just won't be convinced to try an at-home wax? Any tips for the perfect shaving technique that won't yield cuts, nicks, irritation or ingrowns?

Again, skin care is just as important as hair care. Exfoliating and moisturizing regularly will help remove dry, dead skin which can build up and create ingrowns. And a shave gel will help cushion the blades and protect your skin. Dull blades are what causes nicks, so replace your blades every few shaves.

Pay attention to the direction your hair grows when you shave, too. You might want to shave both up and down on your armpits because your hair grows in different directions, or front and back on your bikini line. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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