Bikini Wax: What You Need to Know

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Beautiful Skin Image Gallery There are many variations on the bikini wax, starting with one that only removes hair at the outer edges of your bikini line. See more pictures of beautiful skin.
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After working hard during the cold winter months to keep your beach body in shape, you probably wouldn't want a little excess hair to ruin the appearance of your bikini line. Anyone who's in that boat is constantly looking for better ways to get rid of that hair and keep it gone as long as possible. Out of the temporary hair removal solutions, shaving and cream hair removers need the most upkeep -- their effects don't last long at all. For something that requires a little less maintenance, a bikini wax might be your best bet.

During a bikini wax, an aesthetician spreads hot wax over the target area, then sticks a cloth to the wax so she can rip out the unwanted hair by the roots [source: Sorgen]. And you don't have to limit yourself at just the bikini line: The bikini wax's more comprehensive cousin, the Brazilian wax, leaves you with little to no hair in the pubic area.


Although it can be painful, especially the first few times, waxing in the bikini area does have its benefits. Hair grows back more slowly than it does with other hair removal methods, and it may even get finer and sparser with repeated treatments [source: Goins]. But, like most other beauty procedures, waxing costs money -- and it comes with some risks. There can also be a little embarrassment involved, especially if you're someone who is usually very modest.

Read on to learn where a traditional bikini wax ends and a Brazilian begins.


Bikini Wax vs. Brazilian Wax

Once you opt for waxing, there's still another decision to make: How much hair do you want to get rid of? There are many variations on bikini waxes and Brazilian waxes, which are distinguished by the amount of hair they eliminate -- and require varying degrees of exposure in front of your aesthetician.

For the most unabashed out there, a full Brazilian wax is an option. This type of bikini wax, also known as a "Sphynx," bare waxing or Hollywood waxing, will leave you completely hairless from belly button to buttocks. During a full Brazilian wax, you will have to be naked from the waist down, and maneuver into various positions so the aesthetician can reach every hair in your pubic area. Beware of asking for a full Brazilian if this process sounds unappealing to you [source: University of California, Santa Barbara].


During a modified Brazilian wax, you will still have to be naked from the waist down, but the technician will leave a thin strip of hair at the top of your vagina. This is also known as a "landing strip." If you're going for a more natural look, you could request a small triangle of hair instead.

A natural wax removes hair anywhere it might be seen while you're in a swimsuit and also from your buttocks. Finally, a simple bikini wax, which can be done with your panties on, only removes hairs that grow outside the lines of your bikini bottoms.

In order to get exactly what you bargained for, be sure to explain what you want taken off and what you want left, since not every salon uses the same terminology for the different styles of waxing.

If you've taken the plunge and made a waxing appointment, you may be wondering how to prepare for it. Keep reading to find out what you can do in advance to minimize pain and maximize results.


Preparing for a Bikini Wax

You've bitten the bullet and have an appointment for your first bikini wax. If it's with a licensed professional, you are already on the road to proper preparation. But no matter what style you choose, there are a few extra steps you can take before you go in to ensure that you get the best possible results.

Timing, for one, is very important when you're planning a waxing appointment. For example, you'll want to stay out of the sun for at least 24 hours before you go in. Sunburn or some other form of skin irritation will only add to the discomfort you'll feel when someone slathers hot wax on you and yanks hair out of an already sensitive region of the body. Women should try to get waxed during the week or two after your period because the body can withstand pain better during that time. Avoid the week before you menstruate, when your skin is most tender [source: Goins]. Finally, early in the day is better for a wax than later, when oil and sweat have built up on your skin.


Soft hair follicles release hair more easily, thus making the waxing process less painful. So it helps to exfoliate the bikini area ahead of time, then put on baby lotion or cream to soften hair follicles and skin [source: Sorgen]. Here's another tip to reduce pain: About a half an hour before your waxing appointment, take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen. One last trick is to apply a numbing cream. Over-the-counter topical solutions that contain lidocaine should be effective, but follow the directions carefully when you apply it. Also, be aware that lidocaine can cause a serious allergic reaction in some people, so you'll want to check with your doctor before using it [source: Goins].

You're now ready for your waxing appointment, but if you don't feel like shelling out upwards of $50, a home kit might be a better option for you. Read on to find out what you need to know about waxing at home.


Bikini Waxing Kits

If you're brave, modest or frugal, perhaps you've decided to go for it and give yourself a bikini wax. This is best if you are doing a simple bikini line wax. Imagine how you'd have to contort your body to give yourself a Brazilian -- not to mention the damage you could do if you made a mistake while waxing such a sensitive area. Better to leave the extreme waxing to the professionals.

For a basic bikini wax, the tools you'll need include wax, cloth and a spatula to spread the wax. Home kits can come either with or without cloth strips that adhere to the wax -- sometimes you can pull on the wax itself, depending on what type of product it is. You could use either warm or cold wax [source: Skincare-News]. Some kits also come with any combination of pubic hair scissors, a mirror, numbing spray, lotion or cleanser. You may have to try a few different kits to find out which type you like best.


Before you start smearing wax on yourself, check the length of the hair you're about to remove. It should be between one quarter and three-quarters of an inch (between 6 and 19 millimeters) long [source: Carrillo]. From there, prepare as if you were going to a salon. When you're ready to start, read all the directions included with the kit. Make sure your skin is clean and dry or the wax will not stick well [source: Skincare-News].

One more helpful hint: If you're using hot wax, test the temperature before you drip it onto the sensitive skin of your inner thighs [source: Carrillo].

Is a bare bikini line really worth the pain you have to go through to get it? Find out what the benefits are on the next page.


Benefits of a Bikini Wax

Bikini waxing does have its advantages -- if it didn't, it's unlikely anyone would ever brave the pain factor to try it. First off, because waxing tears hair right out at the root, it takes longer for the hair to grow back. The root lies well below the surface of the skin, and it may be two to three weeks or more before you notice a significant re-growth of hair [source: emedicine]. That's certainly better than shaving and seeing stubble in a day or two.

Additionally, there's some evidence that the process of yanking the hair out may actually damage the follicles [source: emedicine]. This might not sound like a plus, but it means that the hair may grow back thinner and finer and, in some cases, not at all. Repeated waxing means fewer and fewer hairs to get rid of over time [source: Goins].


If the effects alone don't convince you to try a bikini wax, you might consider the fact that waxing takes less time and money when compared to permanent treatments like electrolysis or laser hair removal. You can also find recipes to make your own wax at home, which makes it an even more budget-conscious choice.

Now that you've heard the good stuff about waxing, read on to find out about the risks.


Problems with a Bikini Wax

Of course, there are also some risks that go along with getting a bikini wax. Whenever you put a foreign substance near your genitals -- and add to that the potential of tearing delicate skin -- you're giving bacteria an opportunity to enter your body. Remember, pubic hair is there for a reason: It helps protect sensitive skin and mucous membranes that are otherwise more susceptible to germ invasion.

You may have heard of the Australian woman with diabetes who ended up hospitalized two weeks after a Brazilian wax. During waxing, the woman had some skin pain and bleeding, signaling a skin tear and opening for infection. Because diabetes made her immune system weak, she was unable to fight off the bug that entered her system. When she got to the hospital, she was in pain and had a high fever, swelling, a rash and discharge [source: Dendle, et al, MSNBC: Bikini].


Although her case was extreme, this woman is not the only one to have been hospitalized after a bikini wax. Two women in New Jersey also ended up with infections after Brazilian waxes, and state officials briefly considered banning the procedure [source: MSNBC].

Because people with weakened immune systems, such as those with diabetes, HIV/AIDS or other immuno-compromising diseases, are more susceptible to complications, dermatologists recommend that they not get Brazilian waxes. For most others, the risk is minimal [source: Glamour]. While a serious infection is unlikely, you could develop less severe complications like a scarring, folliculitis or ingrown hairs [source: emedicine]. If you notice signs of skin irritation, monitor yourself and head to the doctor to check on anything that doesn't clear up quickly.

Now that you have the scoop on bikini waxing, it basically up to you to decide if the potential benefits outweigh the risks. Read on for much more information about hair removal techniques.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Ask Men. "Hair Removal Trends for Men." (Accessed 8/15/09)
  • Barba, Alicia. "Nonlaser Hair Removal Techniques." eMedince. May 28, 2008. (Accessed 08/26/2009).
  • Carrillo, Sarah. "The Dos and Don'ts of At-Home Waxing." Total Beauty. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Cardellino, Carly. "Do bikini waxes spread STDs?" Shape. August, 2009. Findarticles. (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • Dendle, Claire, et al. "Severe Complications of a 'Brazilian' Bikini Wax." Clinical Infectious Diseases. 8/1/07. (Accessed 8/16/08)
  • Glamour. "Bikini Waxing: Could It Be Dangerous to Your Health?" 3/25/09. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Goins, Liesa. "Fuzz Busters." Women's Health. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Hirsch, Larissa MD. "Hair Removal." Kid's Health. Jan. 2008. (accessed 08/25/2009)
  • Jaret, Peter. "Locking in that Shaven (or Unshaven) Look." Sept. 29, 2005. (Accessed 9/10/09)
  • MSNBC. "N.J. Scraps Plans to Ban Genital Waxing." March. 20, 2009. (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • MSNBC. "Ow! Beware of bikini wax mishaps." Aug. 4, 2009. (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated. "Waxing." DermNet NZ. Dec. 24, 2007. (Accessed 9/10/09)
  • Skincare-News. At Home Waxing: An Inexpensive Alternative." 5/20/09. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Sorgen, Carol. "Intimate Grooming: What You Need to Know." WebMD. (Accessed 8/26/09)
  • University of California, Santa Barbara. "The Brazilian Bikini Wax." SexInfo. 5/31/08. (Accessed 8/25/09)