There’s a Clear Winner in Hard Wax vs. Soft Wax for Hair Removal, According to Licensed Estheticians

Photo: Stocksy/Liliya Rodnikova
If you like to remove your body hair, you’ve likely heard of waxing (and the sometimes painful stories that come with it). But did you know that there are different types of hair removal waxes? Namely, hard and soft waxes. While the descriptor alone might make you want to book an appointment for one over the other, it’s helpful to know the pros and cons when it comes to hard wax vs. soft wax. As always, we’re here to help you navigate the beauty topic with the help of a few experts in the field. Keep reading to find out which wax is best for you.

Hard Wax vs. Soft Wax for Hair Removal: What’s the Difference?

Body hair removal waxes come in a variety of formulas. According to licensed esthetician Diedra Green, field training manager at European Wax Center, waxes can be made from several different ingredients and can even include components to address specific skin types. That said, she reveals that most waxes are made from rosins, beeswax, paraffin, or honey.

Experts In This Article

While both hard wax and soft wax are made of these ingredients, their consistencies are what differ. “Soft wax is applied in a thin layer and requires paper or cloth—usually muslin or pellon—applied on top to remove it,” explained Green. “Hard wax, or stripless wax, has a thicker consistency. Once applied, it dries quickly and can be removed without any paper or cloth being applied to the skin.” Instead, hard wax is removed by simply pulling it off.

Everything You Need To Know About Hard Wax

Despite sounding more aggressive, hard wax is a great hair removal option. Learn why in the breakdown below.

1. Application and Removal

Logistically, Darya Rzaca, a master esthetician and co-owner of Brooklyn's Atelier Beauté, says that hard wax is applied with a disposable spatula and is removed by pulling it off once dry. “It is thicker in consistency in comparison to soft wax, and a thicker layer is applied onto the skin,” she adds, pointing out that high-quality hard wax won’t leave skin sticky after it’s removed.

2. The Main Benefit of Hard Wax

The best part about hard wax is that it’s designed to adhere to the hair, not the hair and skin, Rzaca says. “That makes hard wax less painful and less irritating than soft wax,” she explains. And since it doesn’t adhere to the skin, you don’t have to worry about hard wax potentially irritating the skin from multiple applications. “The great benefit of using hard wax is that it can be applied in both directions to the hair growth,” Rzaca says.

3. The Downside of Hard Wax

According to Green, the only wax that hard wax will negatively affect someone is if the technique is not applied correctly (which is why it’s important to go to a reputable wax specialist, like those at EWC), or if the person is taking a medication or has a skin condition that is contraindicated for waxing.

4. Who Hard Wax Is Best For

Anyone and everyone looking to remove their body hair with wax—even those with sensitive skin. “Hard wax is strong enough to remove the coarsest hair in the most sensitive areas,” Green says.

Given how gentle it is, Rzaca adds that it’s particularly beneficial on the face and in Brazilian areas, as it will cause less pain and irritation than its softer counterpart.

Everything You Need To Know About Soft Wax

Soft wax is used in waxing salons across the country, however, unlike hard wax, it has a number of downsides. Learn more, below.

1. Application and Removal

While the application is the same as hard wax, the removal varies. “Some people still prefer soft wax over hard wax,” says master esthetician Aneta Zuraw, co-owner of Atelier Beauté. “A thin layer of soft wax is applied with a disposable spatula and is removed with a muslin strip.

2. The Main Benefit of Soft Wax

Soft wax might be a common hair removal product, however, according to Green, the main benefit is to the esthetician—not the person getting waxed. “It can be prepared faster than hard wax and requires less product usage for the same service,” she says.

3. The Downsides of Soft Wax

There are a few. For starters, Green says that soft wax can be irritating to the skin “because soft wax adheres to the skin and hair while hard wax only adheres to the hair.”

Additionally, Zuraw says that with soft wax, you can’t go over the same area more than once because it’s possible to accidentally remove the top layer of skin in the process, making skin susceptible to irritation and infection.

Lastly, Zuraw says that soft wax can permanently alter hair follicles if applied and removed incorrectly. “With soft wax you need to be careful how you apply it, especially with the direction to the hair, as the wrong way can distort the hair follicle,” she warns.

4. Who Soft Wax Is Best For

TL;DR: No one—or those who aren’t concerned with pain, irritation, or potentially damaging their top layer of skin.

Hard Wax vs. Soft Wax for Hair Removal: The Top Contender

Given the gentle nature of hard wax, Green, Rzaca, and Zuraw all agree that hard wax is the better option. “The preference of hard wax vs. soft wax is more about the preference of the technique of the esthetician rather than being focused on the guest,” Green says. “Wax products vary greatly. However, hard wax is better for guests with sensitive skin types because the wax adheres only to the hair and not the skin.”

Zuraw tacks onto this, noting that hard wax tends to be a more comfortable experience for clients, as well. “We prefer hard wax over soft wax simply due to less pain, less irritation after the service, and no sticky feeling is left on the client’s skin,” she says. “ Most of the time it is the client’s preference, but we see in our practice that hard wax services are winning that hard wax vs. soft wax debate.”

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