Despite what “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” would have you believe, waxing isn’t the most painful beauty treatment I’ve suffered through. (If you ask me, extractions are much worse.) Still, a Brazilian wax isn’t exactly a walk in the park—especially if it’s your first time.
Here’s everything you need to know to make your first time go smoothly (lol).
Make Sure Your Hair Is Long Enough—But Not Too Long
You’d be surprised at how many women come in with hair that hasn’t been touched in years, Dorothy, my wax technician at Bliss Soho told me last week as I lie on her table, legs butterflied like a steak. Same goes for women who shaved two days ago and expect the wax to adhere. Nandi Wagner, lead aesthetician at Bliss Soho, agrees: “Make sure the hair is around a quarter of an inch. Anything shorter and you risk skin irritation and extra pain. If you can pinch the hair with the tips of your fingers, you’re good to go.” Dorothy mentions she’ll trim the hair if it’s too long, otherwise the wax can be more painful than it needs to be.
Exfoliate Before You Go In
“Before waxing, it’s helpful to exfoliate to rid the skin of dead cells and allow hairs to break through the surface,” Wagner says. Plus, you’ll want to wait a couple days post-wax to exfoliate, so you might as well get it in now.
You Can Get Waxed While on Your Period
But you’ll probably be more sensitive. Just make sure you use a tampon, rather than a pad, and know that you definitely risk getting it stuck in the wax if you’re a squirmer.
But Don’t Get Waxed Right Before Vacation
Wagner recommends coming in at least two days before a vacation or special occasion. “That way, any irritation or inflammation has subsided so you can enjoy the sun with confidence.”
Yes, It’ll Hurt
Anyone who says they barely even notice the entire thing is lying. Some sections do hurt worse than others, though: The actual bikini line is pretty easy and the area around your rectum (yes, seriously) is a relative piece of cake, but once the wax technician moves inward toward the labia, you really have to focus on your breathing. Same goes for the pubic bone, should you choose to take it all off. Which brings me to my next point.…
Take an Advil
Two painkillers about half an hour before your appointment can do wonders for the pain both during and post-wax.
Oh, and You Don’t Have to Take It All Off
Sure, a traditional Brazilian usually means totally hairless, but your tech will likely ask you if you want to keep any, and if so, how much. I usually like to keep the hair on my pubic bone intact, for instance. Most will trim any unwaxed hair if it’s particularly unruly.
Know You’ll Be in Some Weird Positions
In my experience, each wax technician is different: Some prefer your legs in a diamond so they can switch between sides with each strip to minimize pain in a single area, and others prefer you assume an ostrich-like position (one leg bent, the other straight) so they can work their way inward, which can also minimize pain depending on where you’re sensitive. To access the butt, which also grows some hair, you may be asked to get on all fours, or you might be instructed to assume the Happy Baby position. It’s always awkward at first, but you might be the 14th client your tech saw today, so it’s much less weird for her.
They May Not Use an Actual Wax-Paper Strip
While every salon is different, during my first wax at Bliss, I was particularly surprised to find they often use a hard, stripless wax that peels off on its own. “It’s ideal for brows, bikini lines, lips, chins, cheeks, underarms, or any other area where skin is sensitive.”
Lay Off the Razor
It’s not exactly a rumor that hair can grow back thicker when you shave. “Over time, repeated waxing can weaken the hair follicles leading to finer hair,” Wagner says. “When you shave, the hair is cut off at the skin’s surface and upon regrowth can feel prickly. Waxing removes the hair at the root, so as the hair regrows it has a more natural, tapered shape, which leads to the hair feeling thinner.” If you keep waxing, your pubic hair’s growth cycle will also begin to harmonize.
Don’t Shower for 24 Hours
Waxing leaves your hair follicle open, leaving it vulnerable to bacteria, so it’s best to wait 24–28 hours after waxing to shower. Skip the tight clothing, too—it can lead to more irritation, and worse, an ingrown.
You Might Get Irritated After
But it’s not exactly like razor burn. Instead, skin can be red and sore to the touch. “Soothing botanical ingredients like chamomile or rose hips can reduce irritation,” Wagner says. “If you have very sensitive skin and are inflamed post-wax, apply a thin layer of cortisone cream to reduce irritation. Avoid using any powders or fragrances near the bikini area to keep irritation to a minimum.”
It’ll Last About 3–4 Weeks
Depending on how quickly your hair grows, you can expect your wax to last just short of a month.
Nobody’s Judging You