I recently caught up with CEO + Founder of Wink Brow Bar NYC, Umbreen Sheikh because I wanted to learn how I could make my wax sessions less painful. For many years, I’ve heard conflicting tips from friends. “Drink a glass of wine before you go” vs “Drink tons of water, don’t drink alcohol or it’ll hurt more” or “Go before you get your period because your body is prepping to have a baby so your pain tolerance is higher” vs. “Go after your period because the hormones make you feel less pain’. I mean who else would be the best person to get waxing advice from?! I started waxing when I was 16 years old. First, were my eyebrows (threading wasn’t a thing yet), then after college I started getting Brazilians. Now at 31, I get Brazilians, upper lip & under arm waxes on the regular and I flinch when they pull the strip. (I’ve tried face waxing once to get rid of peach fuzz, and it was pretty painful but my makeup and skincare products did look a lot better post wax). Below are tips and tricks for a painless wax.
Who Should Wax?
Waxing is an excellent alternative to shaving if you have hair you’re uncomfortable with, says Umbreen. “Waxing is recommended for people of all ages and both genders.” Though she recommends that people start getting wax treatments at a young age, when the hair is fine and will be less painful to remove, anyone can get it done, regardless of age.
Who Should Not Wax?
Avoid waxing altogether if you have diabetes, varicose veins or poor circulation. If you have been using medication or lotions which cause thinning of the skin (the case with some acne preparations) you should not use waxing as a hair removal method until the skin has recovered. This will be some weeks after you have stopped using this medication. It would help if you also avoided areas of broken or irritated skin or skin with warts, spots, moles or sunburn. (Side note: when I was in high school, I was using a topical cream for acne, and got my eyebrows waxed at a nail salon near my college, and they legit waxed skin off. It was horrible! Not only did I have no eyebrows, the skin took weeks to grow back and I had these awful very painful burns on my eyelids).
Waxing vs. Shaving
“Waxing is better because it removes hair from the root,” says Umbreen. She adds that when you shave “you just cut the hair, so two hours later, you can see the hair there or the blue shadow (the hair follicle below the skin).” Waxing, on the other hand, not only can last up to a month, but it’s also much more permanent. Over time it thins the hair so less grows back. Bonus: It exfoliates the skin as well, leaving you feeling silky smooth.
Preparing for a Wax
If you’re worried about pain, take one or two Advil an hour before your appointment. She also recommends an exfoliating scrub the day before and advises not to apply body lotion the day of the wax. Also, for underarm waxing, she recommends you use deodorant without antiperspirant because it comes off easier.
Don’t apply astringent or toner before waxing
These tighten the pores and can make a firmer hold on the hair follicle. So hold off right before waxing.
Does It Matter What Time of the Month It Is?
According to Umbreen, waxing hurts more the week before your period, so it’s best to go in the week after. And if you’re pregnant? “Just like always, some days we are a little more sensitive than others,” she says. “So if you’re pregnant, it’s fine. It doesn’t hurt more.” Otherwise, she says, it’s just about being comfortable.
Do reduce acidity
Smoking and regular caffeine and alcohol consumption create a lot of acid in the body’s system. You might benefit from taking something like Tums 20 minutes before your service to reduce acidity and therefore reduce skin’s sensitivity.
Don’t use ice for numbing
“You might think that ice would be great to numb skin and reduce waxing pain,” says Umbreen, “but applying anything cold to the skin tightens pores. The goal is to have the pores nice and relaxed.
Don’t drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol
While having a few glasses of wine or beer before getting waxed sounds like a great idea, stimulants in the system can cause skin to be extra sensitive to waxing. Give yourself a few hours after drinking coffee or alcohol before getting waxed. Instead, drink a lot of water to hydrate your body and skin.
Before Facial waxing:
Avoid any prescription topical face product that contains: Retinol, Alpha Hydroxy Acid, or skin lightener. The will make your skin more prone to redness and scabbing.
How Often to Wax
If you’ve shaved recently, wait five days. And though the time does vary between waxes, depending on how quickly or coarsely the hair grows back, Umbreen says it’s best to wait around a month. “People should wait three to four weeks between waxing,” she says. “But in an emergency, if they have a new boyfriend or are about to go on vacation, they can come back in three weeks with no problem.”
What to Expect
First, your waxer will clean and disinfect the area. After that, she’ll apply the wax and remove small areas of hair at a time. “There are two different types of wax,” Umbreen says. “Soft wax is done with paper or muslin strips, and hard wax is removed without strips.” In general, hard wax is used to remove hair in the bikini, underarm and face area; soft wax is used on larger areas of the body such as the leg or armpit.
The Bikini Wax
There are particular concerns when waxing the bikini area, but they’re very similar to those for the rest of the body.
Bikini vs. Brazilian
A Brazilian wax removes more hair than a bikini wax. Whereas a bikini focuses on the front and sides (what would be visible in a swimsuit), the Brazilian removes the front, sides, back and everything in between, often only leaving a strip of hair in the front, or none at all. Most of the time, you can leave your underwear on during a standard bikini wax, but for a Brazilian, you’ll have to be sans panties. (Honestly the butt strip is life changing!)
Does It Hurt More?
“Some women can’t do the bikini, but they are OK with the eyebrow. Others can do the bikini, but they can’t stand to wax their legs,” Umbreen says. “Everyone is different. But it does hurt less the longer you do it. Eventually, the hair becomes weak, so it doesn’t hurt at all.” You will want to wear very soft, panties that won’t rub your bikini area the wrong way. Bikini waxes are painful and the more tender the cloth is on your skin, the more comfortable it will be for you. Old, well-worn underwear is highly-recommended when getting a bikini wax because they are often soft and tender. Additionally, there is a good chance that excess wax may be left on your skin after the treatment, and it may ruin a good, expensive bikini.
The Pain Factor
Waxing is uncomfortable because the hair is being pulled all the way out. “If the roots are not pulled out, the discomfort is minimal but the results are also minimal,” Umbreen says. She adds that “discomfort is only felt at the time of service and stops immediately after.” To be sure it’s done right, you may want to check the strips to ensure the roots were also removed (you should see a small dark bulb on the hair follicle).
Although the pain does subside as soon as the wax is over, the area can remain sensitive, which is why Umbreen says not to use any scrubs for the next 48 hours and not to expose the area to direct sun for at least 24 hours. To treat redness or swelling, apply a small amount of cortisone cream from the drugstore.
After the tenderness has subsided, Umbreen says to exfoliate in the shower to remove dead skin, so the pores don’t become clogged, causing ingrown hairs and bumps. If bumps do appear, “don’t squeeze or tweeze!” she urges.
First and foremost, make sure you go to a place with proper sterilization procedures. Umbreen insists, “The technician should be licensed and she should not double-dip during the waxing session.” (Double dipping means that the technician used the same stick each time she dipped into the vat of hot wax. This practice contaminates the wax and allows bacteria to spread from one client to another. Plus, you wouldn’t want the wax used on your upper lip to have been mixed with a stick used on another woman’s bikini area!
Don’t think waxing at home will be easy
It’s hard to do on yourself, and will hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing.
When choosing a salon to wax hair off, check references and get referrals from friends or family before you select one. If others you know had a good experience at the salon where they had waxing done, chances are you will too. Waxing is something that will last a long time and will enhance your appearance but it is also a very personal procedure. You should take care to choose the right salon that will do the best job for you.
So who is Umbreen?
Born in London, beauty was always in her blood. Her mother was a huge influence, having attended cosmetology school and owning London Salons that encompassed all areas of beauty in addition to eyebrow threading, which was quite rare at the time. Umbreen learned to “thread” brows at an early age. Umbreen jokes that her mother taught her, “The birds, the bees and the brows.” Growing up, Umbreen spent much of her time in her mother’s salons while also attending University at King’s College London and graduating with a degree in Biomedical Sciences. After marrying in 2003, Umbreen moved to New York where she became PR Director of a niche magazine. In 2005, Umbreen had a son, and in 2011 her daughter was born. After her children were in school, she decided to fulfill her lifelong passion for beauty, brows and product development.
While living in New York, she realized that there were no brow salons that catered to threading and focused on understanding face shapes and how to achieve the perfect brow shape in a way that did not damage the eye area. Although many salons offered waxing, this was not a method Umbreen wished to pursue. She was dismayed by existing salons that offered one size fits all, unhygienic, or painful brow/eyelash treatments.
As someone who learned the reigns of beauty and brows from an entrepreneurial mother, the concept of women’s “Embrowerment” was essential to Umbreen. In 2014, she developed the concept for Wink. Today, her empire includes three Wink Brows Bars in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn and one in London. For those who can’t make it to the salon, Wink has an eponymous line of brow, lash and facial products available for purchase online.
Philanthropic pursuits play a significant role in Umbreen’s life. She is a committee member of “Developments in Literacy” that educates 27,000 girls in Pakistan. She is also a Lotus Circle Advisor for The Asia Foundation a non -profit international organization that works across Asia advancing the rights and opportunities for women through their empowerment program.
Umbreen resides in New York with her financier husband and two children.
Source: Umbreen Sheikh CEO + Founder Wink Brow Bar NYC