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At-Home Wax Reactions

By Amalah

I used an at-home wax (NADS) for the fist time a couple months back. I waxed my whole leg and armpits. After a couple days I broke out in little bumps (no color) all over my thighs and upper arms. This lasted for about three weeks before it finally went away, the whole time getting worse. My doctor had no idea what it could be and didn’t help. I thought it was all a fluke so I tested an area of my skin and nothing happen after 24 hours. So I decided I would try NADS again just on my lower leg (mind you this is not using the cooling wipes or any lotion after, all by the book) I broke out in little spots, not where I waxed, but all over my thighs and upper arms. I am not allergic to any of the ingredients, I’ve checked. Have you heard of anyone else having that problem?

~ M

Yes, yes, this is a very common reaction to waxing. Waxing, period, and probably nothing to do with the specific brand of wax or ingredients. I assume this was the first time you waxed anything, at home or at a spa/salon? This sort of reaction is even more common among first-timers, as your hair can be very coarse and deep-rooted, so forcibly yanking it out essentially tells your skin that you’ve been injured, and it reacts accordingly by releasing histamines. Result: a stubborn, bothersome rash that can spread to places that weren’t even waxed, particularly if you touch or scratch or poke at the bumps. Niiiiiice.

A lot of people report that the rashes stop after time, or at least get more manageable with proper aftercare. You might want to consider getting a professional wax next, just to rule out a problem with NADS or your own technique. (NADS uses natural “active ingredients” but also contains pesky “inactive” stuff like parabens and artificial fragrance, both of which are likely suspects for irritation.) If you do get the bumps again (either at-home or salon), the most important thing is to NOT POKE AT THEM. No scratching or squeezing — they aren’t pimples or whiteheads, but just your skin’s weird way of defending itself. Spend as much time naked as you can (BOOM CHICKA BOOM), as even your clothes can rub the rash and spread it.

And you do need some post-wax products, oh yes you do. Tea tree oil is highly recommended since it’s a nice combo of soothing plus antifungal/antibacterial qualities that will speed healing. If you can’t find pure tea tree oil (check vitamin/nutrition places or health food stores), many beauty supply stores will have post-wax creams that contain it, though I prefer the real thing since those formulas also have the same undesired “extras” like fragrance and such. In a pinch, regular ol’ antibacterial cream will do, like Neosporin. Also worth trying: diaper rash creams, topical antihistamines (like for hives or bug bits), and Aveeno oatmeal baths, particularly if the bumps are itchy. If you have an acne face wash, use that (again, for the antibacterial qualities) but go easy and stop if the rash spreads or doesn’t seem to improve after a couple days.

If, no matter what you do or try, this keeps happening, you’ll probably want to go back to shaving, or using something topical like Nair. Some women have a bad combination of sensitive skin and really coarse, hard-to-remove hair that just doesn’t work with waxing, especially the at-home kind.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Kailee

    December 30, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    My skin HATES, I mean HATES NADS. I got similar bumps to what you describe, and my dermatologist said they were similar to an allergic reaction.
    My skin is super, super sensitive. I get my waxing done at the Red Door Salon in my area now and even though it pains me to pay 30 bucks JUST for eyebrows, I haven’t had had an outbreak of post-waxing bumps again.

  • Jen.

    December 31, 2009 at 8:34 am

    The other consideration is keratosis pilaris, where people have chronically clogged hair follicles. They will plug and have newly (even temporarily) ingrown hairs that will eventually emerge.

  • Betty

    January 2, 2010 at 5:57 am

    FYI Neosporin has neomycin in it, which is a fairly common cause of contact dermatitis. So if you are having trouble with rashes, stay away from combination antibiotic creams or ointments that contain it. See
    Plain bacitracin is less sensitizing.

  • jessica fantastica

    January 4, 2010 at 1:13 am

    I don’t use tea tree oil, but was shopping with a friend and happened to find some in the “ethnic products” aisle. My friend said it was considerably cheaper than where she normally found it in the same store.

  • Jess

    January 4, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I have the worst time with waxing…yet for some reason occasionally still try it. (because I really want to be hair free for 3 weeks!!!!) I break out in major bumps as well as ingrown hairs. Something I would suggest- Go professional. To a highly recommended place that specializes in waxing and have them use baby powder before waxing….it keeps the wax from sticking to your skin.
    Something I’ve also learned even with razor burn and waxing bumps: the proactive repairing lotion with benzoyl peroxide works wonders….and i’m convinced Tea Tree Oil can cure anything.

  • Jill

    February 25, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I’ve sensitive skin as well and have used Nad’s. I haven’t had any problems with it, in fact I think it’s actually been better for my skin than the other wax I was using.