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A First-Timer's Complete Guide to Brazilian Waxes

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With summer now fully upon us, swimsuit season is in full swing. And with swimsuit season comes the pesky task of maintaining your bikini line (if you're into that). If you choose to remove hair from the bikini area, you have a few different options: shaving, laser hair removal, and waxing being the big three.

Shaving is the most temporary and irritation-prone choice. Laser hair removal can be expensive and isn't recommended if the area has had recent sun exposure. Waxing, however, offers a happy medium. It lasts much longer than shaving and is not nearly as expensive as laser hair removal.

One of the popular styles of waxing is a Brazilian wax—but what exactly is a Brazilian, and how is it different from a standard bikini wax? And most importantly...does it hurt?! Below, we've tapped an expert to help cover all these questions and more.


About the Expert:

Jodi Shays is the owner and founder of Queen Bee Salon & Spa, a luxury waxing salon based in Los Angeles.

So, what is a Brazilian wax?

"A Brazilian wax is the process of removing unwanted pubic hair from the genital area," says Jodi Shays, founder of Queen Bee Salon & Spa in L.A. Unlike a standard bikini wax, which typically only removes hair around the bikini line, a Brazilian wax "includes the mons pubis, inner and outer labia, and inside of the bum cheeks."

Typically, a classic Brazilian wax (sometimes referred to as a Hollywood wax) will remove all hair from the bikini area. We mean all of it! If you'd like anything left on top, like a triangle or landing strip, make sure to tell your waxer before they begin–otherwise you might be in for a surprise.

The advantage of waxing as a hair removal method is that it rips the hair out from the root whereas shaving only trims the visible surface hair and leaves the root intact. It also is less likely to result in irritation and ingrown hairs. Waxing lasts significantly longer than shaving because the hair follicle needs to fully regrow before producing more hair you can actually see.

Waxing the same spot repeatedly can permanently weaken the hair bulb, causing slower hair growth and a finer texture over time. This can actually be a good thing when it comes to the bikini area as it can mean less frequent and less painful waxing appointments.

How do you prep for a Brazilian wax?

First things first, before heading to the salon for a wax, you'll need to make sure the hair growth in the bikini area is at least a quarter of an inch long, otherwise, there won't be enough hair for the wax to cling to.

On the day of your appointment, there are a few steps you'll want to take. First, Shays recommends, exfoliating and showering to remove excess oils from skin," she says. "This also aids in loosening the hair follicles or debris."

About 20 minutes before your appointment, Shays recommends taking ibuprofen or Advil. "This helps with any inflammation and some have even said it helps with the pain associated with hair removal," she says.

You will also want to make sure to wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing to your appointment. Leave the jeans at home. You should also try to wear cotton underwear. Both of these tips will also airflow in the area and help to avoid rubbing and irritation.

How long does a wax take?

Because a Brazilian wax is the most thorough bikini wax option available, it will take the longest amount of time, but a skilled esthetician should be able to complete a Brazilian wax in somewhere between 15-30 minutes. Exact timing can vary. For example, if it's your first time or you have a low pain tolerance, your waxologist may go slower than they normally would. Or if the hair needs to be trimmed or you haven't been in a while the appointment can also take longer.

What about the different types of wax?

The two main types of wax used in Brazilian waxing are hard wax and strip wax (AKA soft wax). "Hard wax is applied to the hair in the direction it grows. Once it cools it can be flicked off in the opposite direction. I like hard wax for sensitive areas and it’s fantastic for nostril and ear waxing. However, I find that with most of the hard waxes I have used, they can sometimes leave short, coarse hairs behind." Strip wax is applied to the skin and immediately covered with a fabric stip which is then ripped off while the wax is still warm.

The type of wax you go with really comes down to personal preference. However, if you have sensitive skin, hard wax may be the way to go as it's gentler on skin and adheres only to the hair, meaning an esthetician can go over the same area multiple times without the risk of waxing off layers of skin.

At Shays' salon, they use a custom cream wax. "It is easier to maneuver across the skin and I can use it on ALL parts of the body. It’s more efficient for me personally because I don’t have to wait for it to dry and my clients prefer to be in and out!"

If you feel strongly about only using one of these types, make sure to call ahead and confirm that they use the wax type you're looking for.

Most importantly, does it hurt?

The truth is, yes, it does hurt. There's really no way to get around it. This is the most thorough waxing option on one of the most sensitive parts of the body. However, there are some things you can do to minimize the pain associated with waxing.

Shays reiterates taking an Advil 20 mins before your appointment. She also says, "If you are hungover, feeling under the weather, or are expecting your period, cancel the appointment." All of these can make a wax more painful than it otherwise would be.

While the wax is taking place, Shays and her staff use a yoga breathing technique for nervous clients and first-timers. "Deep belly breaths and a sense of calm can help alleviate discomfort," she says.

Shays also recommends that your waxing appointment be a solo endeavor. "Don’t take a friend into the room, they make things worse," she says.

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About the author
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Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
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Article Last Updated July 18, 2020 12:00 AM