The Bikini Wax: What to Expect With Your First One

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What Happens, How Much Does it Hurt, How to Prepare

Getting ready to wax
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So you've booked your first bikini wax. Congratulations! Now you're probably wondering what happens next. There is no better or cleaner hair removal process out there, and you will love the results. Waxing the bikini area is much better than shaving it. Put down your razor! You should never shave the bikini line.

  1. Yes, it hurts. Especially the first time. Some bits hurt more than others. More on that in a bit.
  2. If you keep going regularly, the pain diminishes dramatically.
  3. As painful as a bikini wax may be, it's less painful than a Brazilian wax, where everything is removed.
  4. If you are a modest person, you may find the procedure uncomfortable. More on that in a bit.
  5. As embarrassed as you may be, at least you aren't undergoing a Brazilian, which is even more embarrassing. 

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What to Expect When You Arrive

Prepping for a wax
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You'll be ushered into a private room and left alone to remove everything from the waist down. You may be provided with paper panties and if not, don't be afraid to ask for some. You can also keep your underwear on for the procedure. But do note that the wax could get on them and ruin them, so wear underwear you don't mind getting ruined.

That said, your modesty is going to be tested. The waxer is going to be peering at your nether regions in order to remove hair from those regions. Just keep in mind that she does this every day and probably has for years or at least months.

These technicians have seen it all before.

Since it's your first time with the waxer, she'll consult with you first before removing any hair. She'll examine your hair length to make sure it's long enough (1/4 inch is recommended) and she'll ask how much you want off.

A basic bikini wax means removal of hair outside the panty line. This is a great option for your first time because the most painful parts are your most intimate parts. A full bikini removes just a bit more.

There are other types of bikini waxes, but instead of memorizing them and what they mean, tell your waxer what you want off. She may have no idea what a "Hollywood wax" is, anyway. You can point to where you want the hair to stop. And you can ask her to remove the hair in the back, too, between the buttocks, even if you don't want a full Brazilian.

If you feel nervous about the wax, speak up. Letting your waxer know it's your first time will give her the opportunity to guide you through it, making it as gentle and quick a process as possible.

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How Much Hair Should You Have?

Shaving to smooth skin
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A general rule of thumb is that hair needs to be ¼ inch (about the length of a grain of rice). If your hair is coarse, it can be ½ inch long, according to Cindy Barshop, owner of NYC's Completely Bare spas. It's important that the hair is grasped by the wax. 

You can help the waxer out by trimming your pubic hair with scissors or an electric razor before you go in. If your hair is much longer than required, your waxer may trim your pubic hair to the correct length.

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The Bikini Waxing Process

Body wax
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Now we're getting down to business. Here, I walk you through what happens during the waxing process.

There are two rules to keep in mind:

  1. Your waxer should wear gloves.
  2. Your waxer should never double dip the wooden stick into the wax. She should use fresh sticks for each application. The heat from the wax does not kill bacteria. You can ask before you arrive if the salon has a policy against double-dipping. Some experts recommend never booking at a salon that doesn't have this policy in place.

Waxing usually starts in the front and moves toward the back. You may be asked to help hold skin taut and you may be asked to lie with your knees spread or one leg up in the air. 

Here's how the process using soft, melted wax works (hard wax is a slightly different process):

  1. The waxer may liberally apply talcum powder to the skin. Talcum powder keeps hot wax from sticking to skin. 
  2. The best waxers are fast, which means less discomfort for you. Your waxer will dip a wooden waxing stick into a pot of hot wax and then spread it onto your skin and hair in the direction of hair growth.
  3. She will apply a cloth strip over the still-warm wax, pressing firmly so the cloth, hair and wax adhere.
  4. When the wax has cooled, she will pull the strip off, in the opposite direction of your hair growth, pulling the hairs out by the root. If the waxing at this point is too painful, ask the technician to apply strips to smaller areas at a time.
  5. You will likely be asked to maneuver your legs so she can reach your harder-to-get areas. You may lie with your heels together and your knees at the side, you may also be asked to raise your leg up and keep it there. Some waxers even prop your leg over their shoulders. You may feel like a contortionist, but it's just part of the waxing process.
  6. Once the waxing is complete, the waxer will tweeze any stray hairs and she may trim the remaining hair. 

  7. The waxer may spread soothing lotion over the waxed areas.

Just as you would your hairstylist, you'll want to tip your waxer at least 20 percent, unless, of course, you weren't satisfied with the job she did, in which case, you should speak up or ask to speak to a manager.

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How to Cut Down on the Pain

Wax
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You may be wondering how painful waxing is. The truth is it varies by woman. My waxer tells me some women hardly blink an eye while others cry from the pain.

Try getting a basic bikini wax for your first wax. The closer your waxer gets to your most intimate parts, the more painful the waxing is. And it makes sense: there are naturally more nerve endings near those parts because, well, sex.

Here are some tips to keep the pain at a minimum:

  • Be sure your waxer knows to be gentle with you if you are susceptible to pain or if this is your first time.
  • If you are new to waxing, don't start with a Brazilian. Try a regular or high bikini wax instead. After a few waxes, you'll find the waxings are much less painful. Then you can graduate to a Brazilian.
  • Don't wax during your period. Book the appointment for at least a week after your period. 
  • Get waxed regularly every three to four weeks. If you wait longer or only get waxed a couple times a year, it will be much more painful.
  • Hard wax tends to be less painful than regular melted wax or sugar. Find a salon that specializes in this. Once applied, hard wax hardens as it cools, shrink-wrapping individual hairs. The wax is then gently pulled off. 
  • Take two ibuprofen or acetametiphan an hour before your wax. Some women swear this cuts down on the pain.
  • You can apply a topical anesthetic, such as "Relax and Wax No-Scream Cream" (buy it from Amazon), 45 minutes before the procedure. 
  • To keep ingrown hairs at bay, exfoliate the area in the days leading up to your appointment.

If, after the wax, you later develop bumps, redness or ingrown hairs, gently exfoliate the area with a body scrub and then smooth on a lotion or cleanser with alpha hydroxy acid (the word "acid" makes it sound like it will sting, but it doesn't).

Also try Bliss ingrown hair eliminating pads (buy them from Amazon).

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The Importance of Regular Waxing

Waxing regularly
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The more you get waxed, the finer and lighter the hair will grow back. 

According to Melanie Gilliland, European Waxing Center’s education director, there are few things more important than sticking to a regular waxing schedule. 

"Getting waxed religiously every three to four weeks — throughout the entire year, not just during the bare-all summer months — is the secret to both less pain and better results,” says Gilliland on the Website Refinery29.

That's typically the exact time it takes for your hair to hit that magical 1/4 inch length. If you have coarser hair or hair that doesn't grow fast, you may be able to hold off up to six weeks.