We'll be straight with you: Getting a bikini wax may not be the most fun experience for most people. That said, it's a longer-lasting method to removing your pubic hair than shaving, with the smoothness from a bikini wax lasting for two to four weeks, rather than days, making it a good option for the summer months when you don't want to be constantly reaching for the razor or epilator for hair removal.
But being aware of exactly what you're getting yourself into will help you get through the experience and ensure you get the smoothest results. Here, experts explain the ins and outs of what a full bikini wax includes, from the types and shapes to the pain factor and more, plus how to prepare for your first bikini wax.
1. Let hair grow out.
A big mistake many women make before their first waxing session: shaving! Wax can't pick up your hairs when they're too short: they should be at least a quarter of an inch long for your waxing session, recommends Jodi Shays, owner of Queen Bee Salon & Spa. For this reason, avoid shaving between waxes.
2. Don't schedule around that time of the month.
"Don't schedule a wax within three days prior to your period," advises Marta Camkiran, senior aesthetician at Haven Spa in New York City. "Your skin tends to be extra sensitive during that time." Good to know!
3. Take a shower and exfoliate beforehand.
This may seem obvious, but it's worth a reminder. You'll feel less self-conscious if you suds up at least 24 hours before your bikini waxing session. Even better, taking a warm shower (or bath!) right beforehand softens your pores, making the actual process less painful. In the days leading up to your appointment, give your body a good scrub with a mild exfoliant, like Dove Exfoliating Body Scrub, a Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab top pick.
4. Know what type of bikini wax shape you want.
There is more than one option when it comes to bikini waxing and salons may offer a menu of choices. Some of the basics you'll find include:
A regular bikini wax, the standard type which only takes pubic hair off the sides of your bikini line
A Brazilian bikini wax that removes all or nearly all of the hair from front to back
A full bikini wax style that removes all hair from the vulva and back but keeps a triangle in the front
5. Plan your outfit (and day) accordingly.
Post-wax, your skin is often red and irritated. Wear loose clothing to your appointment so you'll be comfy afterwards. For the rest of the day, you should steer clear of applying too much friction from tight-fitting clothing or exercise, lest you may wind up with even more irritation or ingrown hair in the waxed area. Good news: The redness should go away overnight.
6. Get comfortable with the exposure level.
Before your wax, you will have to strip off your pants and underwear. Some places offer disposable underwear for simple bikini waxes, but if you are having more hair removed than just on the sides, you will likely be completely naked below the waist.
Depending on how much hair you're having removed, the experience may involve some adjusting of your body. In order to give your waxer access to all the spots you'd like to target, be aware that you occasionally may need to assist or move into awkward positions. The important thing to remember is that your waxer has probably seen hundreds of people's pubic areas. This is just business for them, so don't worry too much about exposing yourself.
7. Brace for the potential pain factor.
So is a bikini wax painful? There are numerous treatments out there that claim to be "virtually painless" or "totally pain-free." And some people who have been getting waxed for years, and are therefore desensitized to the pain, have insisted that hair removal "doesn't hurt at all." Spoiler alert: It does hurt, at least somewhat.
Waxes work by sticking to hair, removing it at the root when the wax is pulled off, the GH Beauty Lab explains. Unless you have the thinnest hair on the planet or zero pain receptors (or use a numbing cream, like the below, beforehand!), having hair ripped out of your body can be at least slightly painful. A bikini wax isn't a walk in the park for anybody, but for some, it can be worse than others. "Coarse and thick body hair is more stubborn to remove, so you may experience more redness in the waxed area," Camkiran says.
8. Know that any hairs left behind may be tweezed.
Oftentimes, there are bikini hairs leftover from the wax that are removed using precise tweezers. Your waxer may ask you if you want them tweezed, or she may just start plucking without letting you know first. It's a good idea to ask beforehand so you can be prepared.
9. Plan post-wax pain management.
The fastest way to soothe post-waxing irritation is to apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, Camkiran says, available at drugstores or on Amazon. "It calms inflammation, quells itchiness and reduces redness," she explains.
10. Think about trying DIY waxing.
Once you're familiar with bikini waxing, you may want to consider using an at-home bikini wax kit. Since the price of professional bikini waxes run from around $20 to $50+, depending on the type and your location, they can potentially save you money in the long run. Just be sure to follow the included instructions precisely (along with the guidelines above!) for best results.
Additional reporting by Sam Escobar
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