Brazilian Wax: What You Need to Know

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You might not be sad to see summer end, simply because of the constant work that's required to keep your beach body smooth and hairless. But the next time you want to wear skimpy lingerie, you'll realize there's never a good time to forget about your bikini line. There are a few hair removal techniques, however, that can keep your intimate areas hairless for weeks without upkeep, and the Brazilian wax is one of them.

Named for the country that often evokes images of beautiful beaches and beautiful people, this type of wax gained popularity in the United States after a plug by the TV show "Sex and the City." These days, you can find it on many spas' menu of services. Fans of Brazilian waxing claim it's hygienic and effective. But before you sign up to get one, there are a few things you should know. For one, this specialized treatment removes almost all hair from the genital region. Using the appropriate combination of wax and cloth, a trained aesthetician can remove every stray strand.


But like some other beauty treatments, this one comes at a price. Beyond paying upwards of $75 for the service, you can also expect to experience some physical pain, depending on your skin's sensitivity and the type of wax used [source: Bouchez]. The technique was actually almost banned in some areas, because some women have been seriously hurt during the waxing process [source: MSNBC]. A wrong swipe of wax in such a delicate area can turn into an emergency visit to your gynecologist, or worse. But that doesn't happen in every case. If you're thinking about giving Brazilian waxing a try, take a look at the facts about the process and learn how to protect yourself, and you'll be well on your way to being safely hair free.

Read on to learn why this sometimes painful waxing technique has so many people lining up to get bare.


Brazilian Wax Procedure

As soon as you utter the word "Brazilian" at the spa, you may be handed a strange, underwear-like garment -- a strip of paper attached to a string of elastic. This underwear is supposed to hide the hair you don't want waxed, and there's a reason it doesn't cover much: You're there to have everything except for a tiny strip of hair removed.

The majority of salon professionals who perform Brazilian waxes are women, but it's probably best to state a preference either way when you make your appointment. Whoever you choose, that aesthetician will most likely ask you to remove all your clothing from the waist down, and lie on a table in your new disposable G-string. Depending on the length of your pubic hair, you may first require a trim to prepare the area for waxing. Longer hair is not easy to remove with wax.


Next, you'll move your legs to expose the area to be waxed. It's likely that your aesthetician won't prep your skin with any pain medication. (You can address the pain before your appointment, if you need to, by taking an anti-inflammatory or using a doctor-recommended topical anesthetic.) But he or she may apply baby powder to keep the wax from sliding [source: Goins].

The aesthetician will spread wax on your genital region in even strokes, starting on one side and then the other, followed by the buttocks. After each application, he or she will cover the wet wax with cloth strips. When the wax is set, the strips come off the skin with a quick pull of the cloth. The aesthetician may ask you to help by pulling the skin with your hands and keeping it taut -- this makes it easier to remove the hair [source: University of California, Santa Barbara].

Now that you know what happens when you go in for a Brazilian wax appointment, read on to discover the benefits of having little-to-no hair in your bikini area.


Benefits of Brazilian Wax

Whether you're preparing to bare-all in a bikini, or you just prefer a hair-free lower body appearance, waxing removes hair in a way no other non-permanent method can. It leaves the skin clear of stubble and re-growth for weeks at a time, which can be more comfortable as well. If you usually use a razor and are looking for smoother, longer-lasting results, a Brazilian wax might be just the solution.

Hair that waxing removes won't start to grow back for several weeks. Whether cold or hot, wax removes hair so well and keeps it from growing back quickly because it actually pulls hair from the shaft where it grows. And it doesn't just take out hair one at a time. Several large strips of body hair can be gone in a few quick rips by your aesthetician. Plucking each strand one by one would take much longer [source: Barba].


A proper Brazilian wax is best accomplished in a salon. Even if you are confident in your own waxing skills, experts say you'll get better, faster and probably safer results if you enlist the help of a qualified professional [source: Barba].

Waxing has many advantages, including longer-lasting effects, which means fewer trips to the salon. But if you don't take necessary precautions when waxing this sensitive area, your experience could be anything but smooth. Keep reading to learn about the potential problems that may arise when you wax.


Problems with a Brazilian Wax

Weeks of no hair in hard-to-shave areas are a huge benefit of Brazilian waxing. But the process can also come with some less-than-desirable side effects that last long after you leave the spa, including ingrown hairs. In more serious cases, women experience chemical burns and bleeding, which can result in scarring, or they contract infections or sexually transmitted diseases [source: Barba, MSNBC: Bikini].

Wax temperature and the type of wax used are just a couple of factors that can lead to lead to discomfort or even skin damage. Think about it: Wax is hotter than most of the things you put anywhere below your belly button, so if the temperature is even slightly too high, it could cause some lasting pain. How the hair is removed during a wax makes a difference as well. If the aesthetician doesn't properly prepare the hair by making sure it's the right length, wax may have to be applied to the same area multiple times. The resulting bruises and stinging from the repeated trauma to your skin can last for days [source: Freeman, Goins].


In a worst case scenario, it is possible a Brazilian wax could lead to more long-term medical problems, including illness. If not properly sanitized between uses, the tools used for waxing could spread any number of diseases or skin conditions from one person to another. Since Brazilian waxing is not as highly regulated as some other industries, spa technicians who are not licensed have been accused of "double dipping," or using tools more than once before sanitizing. The reason this is especially bad is that microorganisms can live in the wax and be transferred from visitor to visitor [source: Shape]. An infection as a result of broken skin in the bikini area could land you in the hospital, and some women in this situation have had to undergo surgery when antibiotics and pain killers didn't resolve the infection [source: MSNBC: Bikini].

Of course, many people regularly get Brazilian waxes and never have any negative experiences. It's up to you to understand the risks and decide if this approach is right for you. Read on for much more information on hair removal techniques.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Barba, Alicia. "Nonlaser Hair Removal Techniques." eMedicine. May 27, 2008. (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • Bouchez, Colette. "For Women Only: Best Options for Hair Removal." WebMD. Feb. 9, 2007. (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • Cardellino, Carly. "Do bikini waxes spread STDs?" Shape. August, 2009. Findarticles. (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • Freeman, Hilary. "Your Life: A Bikini Wax Ruined My Sex Life." The Mirror. June 1, 2005. HighBeam Research (Accessed 8/17/09)
  • Goins, Liesa. "Fuzz Busters." Women's Health Magazine. July/August 2006. (Accessed 8/15/09)
  • 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)
  • University of California, Santa Barbara. "The Brazilian Bikini Wax." SexInfo. 5/31/08. (Accessed 8/25/09)