Dermatology How Skin Works Skin Care Regimen

Waxing While Using a Retinoid or Retinol

I recently had my eyebrows waxed and the experience served as a reminder of the importance of educating everyone about how to handle waxing while you are using a retinoid or retinol cream on your skin.

Waxing has been used for years as a method of removing unwanted hair anywhere on the body. There are a few ways that waxing can be done.

With soft wax, also known as strip wax, hot melted wax is thinly applied to the area of unwanted hair; this hot wax then binds to the hairs and a cloth strip is then pressed over the area and used to firmly cover the heated wax. As the wax dries, the cloth strip is used to pull the hairs attached to the wax; these hairs are pulled out at the root, thereby eliminating those unwanted hairs.

Cold wax can also be used, but is thicker and more difficult to spread over the skin; it does not require the use of a cloth strip to pull the wax from the skin. Cold wax may be better suited for more sensitive skin types and is less traumatic to the skin. Pre-made wax strips may also be used and work by the same mechanism.

Remember that retinoids/retinols compact the outermost layer of your skin, the dead skin cells that have been shed, also known as the stratum corneum. Because of this, your skin becomes more sensitive and susceptible to injury from waxing in the areas where a retinoid or retinol has been applied. This injury can range from a superficial burn of your skin to an actual stripping of the top layer of your skin with wax removal. You can also get post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation as a consequence of the injury to your skin.

If you are taking an oral retinoid such as Accutane, also known as isotretinoin, or Soriatane, also knows as acitretin, you should avoid waxing altogether. You should also hold off on waxing if you are taking prednisone or other steroids.

Consult your treating provider after any laser treatment, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, chemical peel, cosmetic or reconstructive surgery, or vein surgery to determine when it is safe to undergo waxing.

Since I have used a retinoid (tretinoin) on my skin for almost 2 decades, and like most women, have dealt with unwanted upper lip hair and am always seeking perfectly-shaped and groomed eyebrows, I have had a wide range of waxing experiences over the years. Here are some tips for success that I have learned from trial and error:

  1. Be sure to notify the aesthetician performing your waxing that you are using a retinoid or retinol.
  2. Try to avoid using your retinoid/retinol on the areas that you are going to have waxed for a few days prior to waxing.
  3. Cold wax is best when using a retinoid or retinol on your skin.
  4. Threading is a wonderful and safe option to remove unwanted hair and is very safe while using a retinoid or retinol.
  5. Make sure to always be very diligent in sun protection prior to waxing as sunburned skin is more sensitive and susceptible to injury from waxing.
  6. If cold wax is not available, and you must have the waxing done, ask your aesthetician to apply a thin layer of oil such as baby oil or tea tree oil to your skin prior to applying the hot wax. The oil acts as a barrier and protects your sensitive skin from the hot wax.
  7. If oil is not available, talcum or baby powder can also be applied to the skin prior to wax application and this too acts as a protective barrier and helps prevent the wax from sticking too much to sensitive skin.

Hope that these tips, learned from real-life experience, are helpful!

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