In the last several years, waxing has become a common (and popular) service offered at salons and spas. Whether it’s the eyebrow, upper lip, armpit or, well, someplace more intimate, many people choose waxing for longer-lasting hair removal. But to those who’ve never done it (or who’ve done it once and had a bad experience), it can seem a bit daunting. If you’re thinking about giving waxing a try, we’ve spoken to the experts and gotten the inside scoop on everything from preparation and pain to what kind of results to expect, so you can be well prepared when it comes time to take it all off—your hair, that is.
Who Should Wax
Waxing is a great alternative to shaving if you have hair you’re uncomfortable with. Though it is recommended that people start getting wax treatments at a young age, when the hair is fine and will be less painful to remove, anyone can get it done, regardless of age.
Waxing vs. Shaving
Waxing is better because it removes hair from the root. When you shave you just cut the hair, so two hours later, you can see the hair there or the blue shadow (the hair follicle below the skin). Waxing, on the other hand, not only can last up to a month, but it’s also much more permanent—over time it thins the hair so less grows back. Bonus: It exfoliates the skin as well, leaving you feeling silky smooth.
Preparing for a Wax
If you’re worried about pain, take one or two Advil an hour before your appointment. It is also recommended that you use an exfoliating scrub the day before and advise not to apply body lotion the day of the wax. Also, for underarm waxing, use deodorant without antiperspirant because it comes off easier.
How Often to Wax
If you’ve shaven recently, wait five days. And though the time does vary between waxes, depending on how quickly or coarsely the hair grows back, it’s best to wait around a month.
What to Expect
First your waxer will clean and disinfect the area. After that, she’ll apply the wax and remove small areas of hair at a time. There are two different types of wax: soft wax is done with paper or muslin strips, and hard wax is removed without strips. In general, hard wax is used to remove hair in the bikini, underarm and face area; soft wax is used on larger areas of the body such as the leg or armpit. Afterwards, she’ll remove any wax residue and apply cream.
The Pain Factor
Waxing is uncomfortable because the hair is being pulled all the way out. If the roots are not pulled out, the discomfort is minimal but the results are also minimal. To be sure it’s done right, you may want to check the strips to ensure the roots were also removed (you should see a small dark bulb on the hair follicle).
Although the pain does subside as soon as the wax is over, the area can remain sensitive, which is why you should not use any scrubs for the next 48 hours and not to expose the area to direct sun for at least 24 hours. To treat redness or swelling, apply a small amount of cortisone cream from the drugstore.
After the tenderness has subsided, exfoliate in the shower to remove dead skin so the pores don’t become clogged, causing ingrown hairs and bumps. If bumps do appear, don’t squeeze or tweeze!
First and foremost, make sure you go to a place with proper sterilization procedures. The technician should be licensed and she should not double-dip during the waxing session. (Double dipping means that the technician used the same stick each time she dipped into the vat of hot wax. This practice contaminates the wax and allows bacteria to spread from one client to another. Plus, you wouldn’t want the wax used on your upper lip to have been mixed with a stick used on another woman’s bikini area.)
The Bikini Wax
There are special concerns when waxing the bikini area, but they’re very similar to those for the rest of the body.
Bikini vs. Brazilian
A Brazilian wax removes more hair than a bikini wax. Whereas a bikini focuses on the front and sides (what would be visible in a swimsuit), the Brazilian removes the front, sides, back and everything in between, often only leaving a strip of hair in the front—or none at all. Most of the time, you can leave your underwear on during a standard bikini wax, but for a Brazilian, you’ll have to be sans panties.
Some reasons for having a Brazilian wax include cleanliness, convenience and, of course, sexiness. When you sit at the beach or pool in your bathing suit, you feel so good, so comfortable because you don’t have to worry about it [hair peeking out].
Does It Hurt More?
“Some women can’t do the bikini, but they are OK with the eyebrow. Others can do the bikini, but they can’t stand to wax their legs,” Padilha says. “Everyone is different. But it does hurt less the longer you do it. Eventually the hair becomes weak, so it doesn’t hurt at all.”
Does It Matter What Time of the Month It Is?
Waxing hurts more the week before your period, so it’s best to go in the week after. And if you’re pregnant? If you’re pregnant, it’s fine. It doesn’t hurt more. Otherwise, it’s just about being comfortable.