When it comes to hair removal, there are few things as fraught with feminist fervour as the bikini wax. “It’s just another painful beauty ritual women are told they must subjugate themselves to in order to attract and keep a mate!” says one school of thought. “But I do this for myself!" counters another. "I like it better when it’s fuzz-free! It feels airier, cleaner, sparklier!”
While each side has a valid point, I’m of the firm belief that what you choose to do with your body should be fine by anyone as long as it’s fine by you. So if it happens that you do find yourself in a defuzzing state of mind, you might have a couple of questions; and who wouldn’t? The process involves pouring hot wax down there and baring your bits to a complete stranger, after all.
So I got on the line with Cynthia Chua, who is the last word in the world of hair removal, thanks to her hugely popular Ministry of Wax and Browhaus salons, which are collectively responsible for keeping the brows and bushes of millions of women the world over in top shape. Here our guide to the bikini wax.
Know your options.
When it comes to pruning down there, you’ve got plenty of choices, from the self-explanatory bikini line wax to the all-out Brazilian, which defuzzes the entire front and, er, posterior region.
In between the two lies plenty of room for self expression, should you choose; everything from the popular landing strip (with the remaining hair shaped into a tidy little line) to hearts, letters and even a bit of bedazzling in the form of crystals, if you’re so inclined.
You needn’t go to great lengths.
For optimum comfort, it’s best to get waxed when the hair is between 4 and 6 milimetres long, says Chua – that’s about the length of a grain of white rice, in case you’re wondering. And while the idea of popping a muscle relaxer or trying a little liquid courage before your waxing appointment might sound like a good idea, it really isn’t. “Contrary to popular belief, all stimulants cause the skin to be extra sensitive,” she says. So definitely don’t go right after a boozy brunch.
So how much is it going to hurt?
Here’s the thing; getting a bikini wax essentially involves yanking the hair in one of your most sensitive areas out at the root, so it’s not going to tickle. But just how much it hurts can vary, says Chua, and mostly depends on four things - your waxer’s expertise, the kind of wax she uses, when you go, and how relaxed you are.
Get someone who knows what they’re doing: “Waxing is a delicate process and is best left to trained professionals,” says Chua. “It’s especially important never to attempt a Brazilian wax at home, as there are numerous folds in the area which complicates things, and bad waxing can cause minor burns, discomfort, skin discolouration and ingrown hair.”
Ask your therapist where she’s been trained, and for how long; Chua’s therapists are all trained for 8 weeks at the Ministry of Waxing Training School in Singapore to deliver a hair-free Brazilian in what she describes is a ‘near painless’ manner. Waxers are also trained to adhere to the company’s strict No Double Dipping mantra.
A note on double dipping: Regardless of where you get a bikini wax, always make sure that your therapist never double dips, or uses the same stick to apply wax twice. Doing so increases the risk of skin infections that range from harmless but annoying to ones that require serious medical attention. Always insist that your therapist uses a fresh stick each time she dips it into the wax. Speaking of waxes…
Go hard or go home: Chua recommends using hard wax, the kind that solidifies upon application and doesn’t require a strip to remove. “Hard wax acts as a shrink wrap around each hair strand, which is then removed along with the unwanted hair,” she says. “This method of waxing reduces contact and friction during hair removal. It’s also very soft and gentle on the skin and does not pull on the skin, so it’s excellent for sensitive areas such as the Brazilian and the underarm.”
Chua doesn’t recommend using the more traditional soft wax (which is removed with a strip of cloth) for a bikini wax, as it tends to remove more surface skin, which makes it far more painful. Stick to soft wax for your legs instead.
Don’t go around your period: Chua advises avoiding waxing any sensitive areas a week before or after and during your period, as sensitivity to pain is heightened during this time.
And breathe: So it might not be entirely possible to relax while you’re getting a bikini wax, especially if it’s your first time, but try to, as much as you can – it’ll hurt significantly less. “Being tense tightens the muscles, which in turn reduces the skin’s elasticity,” according to Chua. “This makes hair removal at the pores more difficult. Besides, tensing up also amplifies any pain and discomfort.”
Here’s a neat little trick Chua recommends for minimizing pain – exhaling when the hair’s being pulled out makes it hurt far, far less.
I’m done! Now What?
Don’t do any of these things for 24 hours: Take a hot bath, go swimming, wear tight clothing, use perfumed products around the area, touch, rub or scrub the region, or partake in any intensive exercise, if you know what I mean, you vixens.
Once 24 hours are up: Exfoliate! It’s the single most important step to preventing ingrown hairs, according to Chua. “It removes dead skin, which prevents the rise of any ingrown hairs.” A moisturizing body scrub works but if scrubbing at the area isn’t your idea of a good time, try salicylic acid pads instead, like Bliss’s Ingrown Eliminating Pads, which are formulated specifically for bikini waxes. In addition to effectively nixing all ingrowns before they have a chance to form, they’re also fantastic for women with kerastosis pilaris, as it turns out. For existing ingrowns, Skin Doctors' InGrow Go is one of the most effective ingrown 'fixers', out there, according to Chua.
Once you’ve exfoliated the area (every other day, if possible), moisturize the area regularly to keep it smooth and soft for as long as possible. Try something formulated to ultra-dry skin, like Neutrogena’s Norwegian Formula.
And remember, even if you don’t like the results, it’s just hair – it’ll grow back in about 4 weeks. Now go out there and have some fun!
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