Why Retin A and Waxing Don't Mix

Male waxing
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Retin-A (also known as Altinac, Avita, Renova and Retin-A Micro) is a topical form of vitamin A (tretinoin) available by prescription. It works by rapidly exfoliating skin and keeping pores clear of oil and debris. It's commonly used to soften a rough complexion, fight acne, and reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles and skin discolorations. 

Why It Doesn't Mix With Waxing

This is very important to know: Waxing removes skin cells even when performed properly. It exfoliates if you will.

Retin-A can also thin the skin as it sloughs off the dead skin cells from the areas being treated and peeling is very common. What would happen to skin that has been treated with Retin-A and then waxed? It could be left with a red, glossy looking wound that will probably turn into a pigmented area. Pigmentation is the brown spots most of us try to avoid like the plague. It can also result in bleeding and scabbing.

With this being said, waxing and Retin-A should never go hand in hand. Although some people still get waxed and have done so without severe side effects, it's highly dangerous. Just don't do it.

How Can I Remove My Hair?

You might be scratching your head wondering, 'Which would be better, the hairy lip or the shiny wound with a scar of pigmentation?' You don't have to choose one or the other. You need to be careful or turn to other options.

First, discontinue topical use for about six weeks and then try waxing on a small area. If there are no adverse side effects after 24 hours, then continue to have the full area waxed. Do not use the Retin-A for about six weeks after being waxed.

If skin became very inflamed or red then wait another six weeks (12 weeks total) before trying wax again. Everyone is different in the time they need to wait between discontinuing using Retin-A and getting waxed.

Try Sugaring

Another option is sugaring, which is made up of natural ingredients. It still exfoliates the skin so you would need to stop using the prescription also for about six weeks before and after the hair removal service. Both sugaring paste and gel tend to be gentler as they don't adhere to the skin like waxing does. So there's less chance of irritation. Weeks of being hair-free are yours as this method removes hair from the root. Read more: Sugaring 101.

If you don't want to take any breaks from your skin prescription, then choose another way to get rid of the hair.

Other Hair Removal Options

  • Tweezing: There are no chemicals that touch the skin, so it's safe. Removing hair from the root, it will last about the same amount of time as waxing.
    Tips: If the skin isn't experiencing side effects from the topical, a facial epilator or a coil hair remover like R.E.M. Spring both remove many hairs at once making much quicker than regular tweezers.
  • Threading: This is my favorite way to remove hair from the face. It doesn't pull the way wax does breaking down the skin's collagen, which can result in wrinkles. It also removes hair from the root with results lasting about three to six weeks.
    Tips: Just keep in mind that the string will touch against the skin somewhat and it may cause some irritation. So it's a good method only if the skin is in a healthy condition, not experiencing side effects, and you may want to try a small area first to see the reaction. (See a video on how threading works.)

How Not to Remove Your Hair

  • Depilatories: These contain harsh chemicals to break down the hair. Think about the delicate nature of a marshmallow. You put it over the flames and it gets toasty. The skin of it can slip off if you try. Then you place it over the flame again and it burns. The outside will come right off with little effort.

Still Not Sure What to Do?

When in doubt, talk to your doctor or dermatologist about your concerns with hair removal. Remember, a reputable skin care therapist will ask many health questions before working on your skin. If they don't, turn around and walk out. It's your safety that should be number one on everyone's mind.

For more circumstances when to be cautious of waxing or avoid this hair removal method: Waxing Precautions and Warnings.

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