As bikini season looms on the horizon, millions of women around the country are having the same conversation with themselves: I would really like the smoothness and thoroughness of a bikini wax, they think. But the idea of a stranger pouring hot wax on my vulva is a little scary.
Well, there it is. As opposed to shaving, which chops hair off at the skin line and whose effects last only a day or two, waxing removes hair from the root, which means the smooth results of a professional wax can last up to a month. However, pulling hair out by the root does involve a certain amount of pain.
Most women who wax regularly will tell you that this short-lived pain is definitely worth it for a fuss-free, low-maintenance bikini line throughout the summer. So if you’ve decided that this is the summer you’ll finally take the plunge, follow these few simple steps to prep for the big event.
Check Out the Salon
Susmta Patel, a professional makeup artist, hairstylist, aesthetician, and waxer in New York, advises to choose a salon that friends or family have referred and to make sure that the technicians practice proper hygiene. “The technician should be licensed and she should not double-dip during the waxing session,” she says. If the waxer repeatedly dips the same stick into the pot of wax, it can spread bacteria from client to client. Make sure that the salon’s standard practice is to use a fresh stick each and every time, and that it only uses new, unused wax strips on each client. Get a feel for the salon’s general air of hygiene. Chances are good that if it feels dirty, it probably is.
Make Sure Your Hair Is Long Enough
Generally, hair should be about one-quarter-inch long to be effectively grabbed by the wax and removed; so make sure to let your hair grow for at least a week before waxing. If your hair is fine or grows slowly, you may need to wait longer. Don’t worry—if the hair is too long or unruly, your waxer can easily use clippers to trim the area down.
Get the Area Ready
Patel recommends using an exfoliating scrub the day before the wax to slough off any dead skin cells. On the day of the wax, don’t apply lotions, creams, oils, or astringents to the bikini area. Moisturizers can prevent the wax from adhering to the hair correctly, and astringents can tighten the pores and increase the amount of pain you experience.
Expect Some Pain—and Awkwardness
The point of waxing is to remove the entire hair bulb, so there will be some discomfort. If the roots are not pulled out, the discomfort is minimal, but the results are also minimal, Patel says. “Discomfort is only felt at the time of service and stops immediately after,” she explains. If you are concerned about pain, take two Advil before your appointment to reduce inflammation. Patel also cautions, “You might think that ice would be great to numb skin and reduce waxing pain, but applying anything cold to the skin tightens pores. The goal is to have the pores nice and relaxed.”
If you’re apprehensive about disrobing in front of a complete stranger, don’t worry—for a regular bikini wax that focuses on the sides and front, you’ll keep your top on and will most likely wear paper panties or even your own underwear. If you’re going for a full Brazilian wax, you’ll need to be naked from the waist down and don’t be surprised if the technician asks you to assume some rather immodest body positions. Relax—it’s all to ensure that the hair removal is as thorough as possible.
Practice Effective After-Care
Patel recommends that you shouldn’t use abrasive scrubs or go tanning for twenty-four to forty-eight hours after the wax. Once the area is no longer tender (in a few days), gently exfoliate in the shower to avoid developing ingrown hairs. Expect to return for your next wax in about a month. “People should wait three to four weeks between waxing,” Patel says. “But in an emergency, if they have a new boyfriend or are about to go on vacation, they can come back in three weeks with no problem.”
Waxing is a great long-term hair-removal choice; it can work for almost anyone and on any part of the body, from lips to eyebrows to underarms to chests. Even pregnant women can get bikini waxes with no problem, or at least as long as they’re still comfortable. Patel does recommend that people with diabetes, varicose veins, or poor circulation should be cautious about waxing. She also says that anyone using topical medications like steroids or oral acne drugs should not wax. Even regular waxers should avoid getting a wax if they have a sunburn, broken skin, warts, or other skin irritations.
Waxing is the ultimate no-pain-no-gain beauty treatment. But after that brief, fleeting moment of discomfort is a long stretch of smooth, hairless skin. So go ahead—wax on.