Going to get your eyebrows waxed is a fairly mindless experience. All you’ve gotta do is tell your waxer what you want, then sit back, relax, and muscle through the pain for like, six minutes, before the entire thing is over and you’re on your merry way. There’s literally nothing to think about except whether you want to opt for an additional lip wax, and what kind of snack you’re going to treat yourself to after the appointment…right? Well, not exactly. There is actually one thing that should be top of mind that you probably haven’t considered, and that’s your skin-care routine.
“Many people make the mistake of not thinking about how their skin type and skin-care regimen can affect their brow shaping experience,” says celebrity eyebrow artist Robin Evans. Some ingredients that raise a red flag? Retinoids and alpha hydroxy acids, which can make skin more sensitive and change the way it reacts to the wax. “I do a verbal consultation with my new clients, to see if they’re using Retin-A or Differin (both are retinoids), AHAs, or have recently had peels, so I can decide if I need to be more careful with the waxing—or not wax at all,” says Evans.
These products make skin more sensitive, which means that, in addition to ripping out your brow hair, the wax could also take off some skin. “Retinoids decrease the thickness of the stratum corneum which is the outermost layer of the skin,” explains board-certified dermatologist Tiffany L. Clay, MD. “If you are missing some of this protective layer, your skin may be damaged by the waxing process. You may get a burn or the wax may tear some of the skin off, which can lead to scarring.”
She says that stopping retinoids before having facial hair waxed is “mandatory,” and suggests doing so seven days before your appointment. “There is a chance that you may be safe if you stop using the retinoid two to five days prior but I don’t think it’s worth taking that risk,” she adds. She also recommends laying off of glycolic acid and lactic acid two to five days before waxing, too.
That being said, any potential reaction you might have depends on the strength of the actives you’re using and how sensitive your skin is, so always make sure to discuss your routine with your waxer—or better yet, ask them for a patch test—before they go all in with their wares. If all looks good after the fact, you should be fine to go back to using your full skin care regimen, until seven days before your next appointment, that is.