How To Prevent Those Annoying Breakouts After An Eyebrow Wax

Maintaining perfect brows takes time and effort, so it can feel incredibly frustrating if waxing leads to habitual breakouts. Rest assured, however, that bumps and redness are common post-wax symptoms. "Waxing removes hair follicles from the root," board-certified adult and pediatric dermatologist Dr. Karan Lal explains to Byrdie. "This not only allows bacteria to enter the hair follicle, but the trauma of waxing can cause inflammation."

To reduce the likelihood of breaking out, "[s]tart off with making sure that the skin is nice and clean, just so you have more contact surface. Make sure that the skin is exfoliated, as well, to help with erecting the hair follicles so that the hair is a bit easier to rip off," explains award-winning aesthetician Dr. Ahmed El Muntasar to Marie Claire. It's also a good move to stick to a "very stripped-back, simple skin routine for 2-3 days after to avoid any further irritation," aesthetic doctor and face surgeon Dr. Paris Acharya recommends to Marie Claire. Follow these other skin-saving tips to put a stop to post-wax bumps and breakouts.

Keep it clean

Touching your face after a wax is a surefire way to increase the chance of breakouts, so keep your hands away from your face. "Bacteria can enter the open follicles post-wax in many ways, including dirty hands ...," Hannah Mutze, Benefit's National Brow Artist tells Mamamia. And when introduced to freshly waxed skin, that bacteria may cause further aggravation.

Sweat also increases the risk of post-wax bumps. Taking part in any activity that causes sweating immediately after a wax will clog your pores, and this can be a recipe for disaster if you're already prone to acne. "If you have had your brows waxed, avoid any extreme heat such as hot showers, baths, and saunas for 48 hours as sweating can worsen the breakout. This is because the bacteria can get into your open pores after waxing," celebrity brow expert Sarah Amelia Fogg reveals to Marie Claire. The same applies to makeup products: Wait at least a day before wearing makeup on the skin around your eyebrows, per Medical News Today.

Prep your skin before waxing

Before waxing your brows, get into the habit of prepping your skin by cleansing and exfoliating. Use a gentle, non-stripping cleanser to remove makeup residue, sweat, or oil build-up that can collect in the pores surrounding your eyebrows.

"Regularly gently exfoliating the areas after waxing will [also] help to buff away dead skin cells and avoid clogged pores and ingrown hairs," New York-based dermatologist Hadley King tells Byrdie. "The last exfoliation should be at least a day before the wax. And wait for a few days after waxing to restart to allow the skin to recover," she adds. Look for products that contain salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), as it thoroughly exfoliates the skin to help prevent breakouts (via Healthline). Similarly, avoid using other skincare actives, particularly retinol or retinoid creams, two to five days before waxing to prevent skin damage, per the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

"Next, we protect the skin with a pre-wax oil so that the wax adheres to the hair and not your skin," Deidra Green, wax specialist and field training manager at European Wax Center, tells Byrdie. However, skip this step if oil-containing products break you out. Instead, apply a talc-free baby powder or cornstarch (via Healthline).

Identify your bumps

Waxing pulls at the skin, which creates redness or irritation, so some individuals experience breakouts after an eyebrow wax due to a histamine reaction, according to Starpil Wax. Histamine reactions cause allergy-related symptoms, so if your skin tends to erupt in red, itchy bumps after a wax, histamine is the likely culprit, per the Cleveland Clinic. It's possible to notice this type of allergic reaction due to surface-level trauma to the skin following hair removal or even to the ingredients in your wax. 

An allergic reaction should not be confused with folliculitis, another common post-wax symptom. Folliculitis looks similar to an allergic reaction, but it only occurs if your hair follicles have been damaged during your wax session (via Medical News Today). If you don't remove your hair correctly, you risk damaging the follicles, leaving them vulnerable to bacteria and infection. Therefore, if you struggle to wax your brows at home, seek out a brow specialist.

Use breakout-friendly products post-wax

In addition to exfoliating in between wax sessions, you should also adjust your skincare routine to accommodate any irritation and active breakouts. Watch out for comedogenic (pore-clogging) ingredients in your skincare products. If you wax your own brows, look for a cooling gel with aloe vera or other soothing properties to calm your irritated skin (via Healthline). For those who prefer to leave waxing to the professionals, don't be afraid to ask your brow technician or esthetician about the ingredients in their wax and lotions to see if the products used in the salon are behind your post-wax bumps.

If your skin doesn't tolerate oils, don't forget to double-check the ingredients in your favorite serums and moisturizers. "Oils can be wonderful after waxing, as long as the person being waxed does not have any adverse reactions to waxing and the oil is non-mineral based. Waxing does remove a layer of dead skin cells, and along with that, any natural oil barrier that protects and hydrates the skin," explains Heidi Stark, owner of Shine On Beauty Bar in Los Angeles, to Byrdie. So, be careful about using synthetic or irritating oils after waxing. Instead, "...apply soothing lotion or gel with vitamin E or aloe vera over the area. This will effectively help calm irritated skin," San Diego-based esthetician Anastasia Feklova recommends to Byrdie.

Treat active breakouts

Regardless of the kind of bumps you are dealing with, a general rule of thumb is to keep your skincare routine simple to allow the irritated skin to breathe. If your skin still feels inflamed and bumpy a day later, apply another thin layer of cooling gel with aloe vera.

"For skin that tends to break out after waxing, I have seen the most success with a low-percentage benzoyl peroxide solution," Heidi Stark reveals to Byrdie. Benzoyl peroxide targets pimple-causing bacteria and controls excess oil, per Healthline, so this will also reduce the appearance of active spots.

On the other hand, stay away from harsh ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide if you've experienced a histamine or allergic reaction. "For those prone to little post-waxing bumps, a great solution is to apply topical Benadryl cream immediately after treatment," New York-based esthetician Rhea Souhleris Grous shares with Byrdie as an alternative. "This quiets the histamines and keeps the skin calm post-treatment." While post-wax bumps happen to most people at one point or another, don't hesitate to consider another hair removal option, such as threading or electrolysis, if you continue to break out after waxing your eyebrows.