Hard Wax vs. Soft Wax: When to Use Each Type

Even though waxing may not be known as the most comfortable hair removal method available today, it is still a very popular beauty treatment for many women. Not only does it serve as a great exfoliant for dead skin cells, but also it can get rid of fine or coarse hairs nearly anywhere on your body.

However, a quick walk down your drugstore’s beauty aisles or a trip to your local spa or salon will reveal just how many waxing options you have. Although there are a myriad of waxing brands with a variety of scents, application tools, and instructions, your main decision will be whether to use hard or soft wax.

If the jury is still out on what’s best for you, read on to discover where and when you should use each of the two main types of face and body wax.

What Is Hard Wax?

Hard wax is so named because it will completely harden on your skin. Then, when it is removed, it pulls off only your unwanted hairs without sticking to your skin. For this reason, you may find that it is the less painful option when compared to soft wax.

Although the name itself may initially scare you away, hard wax (AKA strip-less wax), is really not that hard to remove when you go with a professional application. In fact, it is an excellent option for smaller or more delicate areas. However, you may find that it is a more difficult option for at-home waxing because it can be initially hard to apply until you get the hang of it.

Hard wax is often sold as beads, which are then melted in a heater.

Wax beads before melting

What Is Soft Wax?

As the name suggests, soft wax (AKA strip wax or honey wax) will not harden completely on your skin. Instead, it stays fairly soft as it cools, and you’ll peel it off with a muslin strip.

Soft wax is probably the most frequently used type of body wax these days, but that does not mean that it is necessarily the best choice for you. Be sure to consider what your goals for waxing are, how sensitive your skin is, and what area you want to wax before deciding.

How Are Hard and Soft Waxes Applied?

Because hard and soft waxes have completely different consistencies, they must be applied differently. If you want a do-it-yourself method at home, a soft variety is probably the way to go because it is far easier for someone inexperienced to use.

After applying a special powder to protect your skin, you will smear a thin layer of wax across the area to be treated with a waxing spatula. Once it cools and begins to solidify, you will use a muslin strip or another type of flexible strip to pull the wax away from your skin quickly.

Before applying hard wax, you’ll probably apply a special oil to your skin to help the wax peel away easily once it hardens. In general, strip-less wax is most difficult to use because you must apply a thick layer evenly using a special tool. The good news is that you do not need any special strips to remove it as you can simply peel it away once it’s dry.

Watch the video below to see how both types of wax are applied:

What Are the Pros and Cons of Hard Wax?

Hard Wax Pros

  • Best on sensitive skin
  • Less painful to remove
  • Works well on very small areas
  • Works well on short hair
  • Can be applied twice in a row to remove errant hairs
  • Doesn’t leave a residue

Hard Wax Cons

  • Does not work well on large areas of the body
  • More difficult to apply
  • Can be more expensive

What Are the Pros and Cons of Soft Wax?

Soft Wax Pros

  • Best for large areas of the body
  • Exfoliates the skin while removing hair
  • Works well on longer hair
  • Easy to apply

Soft Wax Cons

  • May be more painful to remove
  • Difficult to use on smaller areas
  • Cannot be applied twice in a row to catch errant hairs
  • Leaves a sticky residue that has to be cleaned up

Which Type of Wax Is Better for the Face?

If you need to get rid of facial hairs, you’ll probably want to choose hard wax. The reasons for this are simple. This wax works well on smaller areas and on very fine hairs, such as you might have on your chin, around your eyebrows or above your upper lip.

Which Type of Wax Is Better for Larger Areas, Such as the Legs?

Hair removal with strip in a salon

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a hair removal option for your legs or arms that provides longer-lasting results than shaving does, soft wax is probably the way to go. While the hard option typically breaks apart on large areas, strip wax or honey wax is incredibly malleable. Plus, it can be removed quickly, which is perfect for those larger areas that you do not have all day to address.

Which Type Is Better for a Brazilian or Bikini Wax?

If you want to get rid of coarse hairs down there, you will definitely want to choose a wax that is as comfortable as possible. Obviously, this is never going to be a completely pain-free treatment, but using hard wax can make it so much better.

Hard wax grabs onto your coarsest hairs quite easily. Plus, its heat helps open your pores, making it easier to pull out unwanted hairs.

Another great benefit of using hard wax for a bikini wax or a Brazilian is that it does not stick to your skin, making removal far more pleasant.

Which Type Is Less Painful?

Basically, using the wrong type of wax for the wrong area of your body is going to result in more pain than you should have to experience for a simple beauty regimen.

In particular, hard wax is the least painful option for your face and bikini area because you don’t have to worry about it pulling on your skin.

Sadly, hard wax is usually more expensive for yourself or salons to purchase. If you do find yourself having to choose this wax, there are definitely some things you can do to make your experience more pleasant. Be sure to read and follow directions carefully because each type of wax must be applied in a specific direction for the best results.

With either type of wax, there are certain waxing mistakes that can make it more painful. To keep it as painless as possible, avoid waxing right before your period, and don’t drink alcohol beforehand!

Is One Type Better for People with Sensitive Skin?

Hard wax is hands-down the best option for you if you have sensitive skin. However, keep in mind that certain areas of your body are more sensitive than others. You might want to use this strip-less wax on those spots, such as your armpits, bikini zone, and face, and leave the soft wax for your less sensitive areas.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Whether you’re waxing at home or seeing a professional, you need to know how to care for your skin before and after your treatment. Between the heat and the stickiness of the wax, these treatments can leave your skin red, raw, and painful without the right techniques.

Be sure that you trim any hair to approximately a quarter of an inch and apply any recommended oils or powders to your skin before beginning.

Also, act with confidence. You want to apply the wax correctly, and an unsteady hand will not help you. When it comes time to remove the wax, quick, sure movements are the only way to go.

If you still aren’t sure which type of wax is best for your hair removal needs, head to a professional who can help you get smooth, hairless skin with a minimum of fuss, frustration or pain on your part. She may even be able to give you some pointers on how to decrease pain with cooling gels, special oils, and post-waxing tips. Once you know what works, you’ll feel more empowered to give it a go yourself at home.

No matter which wax you choose, remember that, as with nearly any beauty regimen, this is a personal preference, and you should choose the one that makes you feel the best.