Facial hair removal for sensitive skin

Waxing, threading, sugaring, or shaving? Here’s what to do.

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Curology Team
Aug 18, 2020 · 3 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Fleeky brows? Sneaky ‘stache? Most of us will have to groom or get rid of facial hair at some point. But if you have sensitive skin, how you remove that hair matters. And depending on your particular skincare routine, your de-fuzzing technique and your skin products might not mesh.

First thing’s first: prescription-strength retinoids and certain hair removal techniques (like waxing!) don’t mix. Because of the way retinoids like tretinoin speed up cell turnover, it brings new skin cells to the surface more quickly. This means your skin will be more sensitive and easily irritated. It’s possible that you could remove the top layer of the skin with the wax and experience a “rug-burn” like reaction! Ouch. You should also be extra gentle when removing facial hair on skin with active breakouts.


If “no pain, no gain” is your mantra, waxing might be your go-to. However, if you have sensitive skin, the risks may outweigh the rewards. And while you might be able to wax your legs with no problems, the skin on your face is much more sensitive. When a warm layer of liquid wax is applied, then stripped off, it may remove some skin along with the unwanted hair. So it’s not only painful, but potentially irritating! Waxing may also lead to ingrown hairs and folliculitis (that’s irritation around the hair follicle). Proceed with caution!


Sugaring is an alternative to waxing that tends to be gentler on sensitive skin, including the skin on your face. A sugaring treatment uses a sugar-based paste to remove hair at the root — it generally doesn’t remove skin cells the way waxing does. That said, sugaring isn’t a painless alternative to waxing; you’re still pulling your hair out! And, just like with waxing, there’s a risk of in-grown hairs and folliculitis.


Threading is a hair removal technique that’s popular in shaping eyebrows (but it can also be done on other parts of the face). Basically, a cotton thread is rolled over the face, twining around rows of hairs until they’re removed in one clean line. It’s faster than tweezing and generally less painful than waxing. So is threading safe for sensitive skin? It’s definitely a good alternative to waxing and is gentler on skin, but it isn’t completely risk-free. Threading with dirty hands or string can transfer bacteria to the skin, which can cause breakouts (or worse). So it’s important to book appointments with an experienced threader and make sure they use sterile thread and keep their hands clean.


If DIY hair removal is your aim, then shaving is your game. Shaving your face is one of the gentlest ways to remove hair from sensitive skin. The most common risks of shaving include nicks, ingrown hairs, and razor burn. To avoid this, best practice is to wet the skin and soak it in shaving cream for a minute or two before you start, especially if you’re trying to shave a thick beard. Using an electric razor or fresh disposable razor can help, too! You can also try at-home dermaplaning, which is essentially shaving your face with a small single-blade razor like the ones by Tinkle.

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