Shaving, waxing, threading, bleaching—oh, the things we do for beauty. The bikini wax is perhaps the most insidious of all: as much as smooth skin is high on our list of priorities, especially during pool and beach season, it doesn’t change the fact that waxing hurts. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take both before and after waxing to curb the pain and suffering and make the process go a little bit smoother. No pun intended.
Exfoliate a few days before waxing.
Using a gentle exfoliating scrub on the area will remove any dead skin cells that have collected in the area—they can clog the hair follicles and cause irritation and ingrown hairs, so exfoliating will make your waxing process more effective (and less troublesome) overall. You can also use a gentle chemical exfoliant, like something that contains salicylic or lactic acid, for the same purpose. Just be sure to do it either the night before or, if you have especially sensitive skin, a few days in advance to reduce the risk of irritation.
Grow hair to around a quarter-inch long, and don’t shave.
Hair needs to be at least a quarter of an inch long for the waxing strips to be able to “grab” it, so be sure to allow your hair the proper amount of time to grow out. As tempting as it may be when you’re feeling a little hairy, resist the urge to shave—it’ll only start the process all over again, and you’ll need to wait an additional month to get a wax.
Take pain relievers if you need to.
If it’s your first time getting a bikini wax or if you tend to have a low pain tolerance, go ahead and take a low dose of an over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol or Aleve to curb the pain.
Don’t do it on or near your period.
Your skin is considerably more sensitive in the week before and during your period than any other time of the month, so your pain will be maximized around that time frame. Wait a week or two, and you’ll have a much more pleasant experience overall (and so will your waxer).
Use aloe or Aquaphor to soothe any irritation.
Post-waxing irritation and redness happens, especially if you have sensitive skin, and it’s totally normal: no need to freak if you see red bumps on the area for a day or so afterward. That’s just inflammation of your hair follicles from where the hair has been pulled out at the root. Use a soothing salve like Aquaphor or an aloe vera gel to calm the area and reduce irritation, and therefore the likelihood of ingrown hairs.
Don’t exfoliate, swim, or sunbathe for 48 hours afterward.
Even if you aren’t sensitive to waxing, it’s best to avoid exfoliating the area, swimming, or sunbathing for at least 48 hours post-wax. Your skin is still compromised, probably because it had hot wax applied to it and then torn off, so you don’t want to do anything else to make the aftermath worse. Even if it doesn’t look it, the area is still raw, so swimming and sunbathing should both be avoided
Avoid tight clothing.
Sweat and tight clothing can trap bacteria close to the skin, which is not what you want when your skin has been subject to waxing and therefore is more susceptible to bacteria and infection. Keep your clothing loose for the rest of the day, and avoid excessive sweating as much as you can.
Keep it up.
The best thing you can do to make bikini waxing as pain-free as possible is to do it regularly. It really does get easier over time—you’ll get used to it and your hair will eventually come out easier and grow less thick and coarse. Set up a standing appointment and stick to it, and you’ll be much happier with the results.
Read more from Daily Makeover: Hair Removal 101: To Shave, to Wax, or to Laser?