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September 14, 2011

Bikini Waxing 101: The way-too-much information guide to waxing the lady cabana

My brief but bright career in the magazine field was based almost entirely on writing articles about hair removal. Not many people want to claim expertise in this field, but hair removal is a subject close to my heart and hootch. I have tried almost every form of hair removal available to the women of Los Angeles, and that is saying so much, but what I am here to discuss today is waxing with particular attention to bikini waxing.

Over the past few weeks as I've talked here and on Twitter about dating and its strange little rituals, one of the questions that comes up over and over is about dating-related hair maintenance:

Hi Laurie! I'm thinking about getting back into the scary world of dating but the last real date I had was around the same time that cell phones were the size of shoes. Times have changed. I'm worried! What are the rules these days on bikini waxing and general hair removal down there?

The most important rule is that any and all grooming you do is for yourself, not for some dude you just met. There will always be dudes. Dudes may say they want a vagina sculpted out of gold and smoothness and pulsating with beams of light, but the truth is that any man getting near your ladyhouse should (and will) be happy to be in the zipcode. In the moment, it will not matter if you are rocking the full Kong or if you are waxed like a shiny apple. Lovin' is lovin'. Do only what you feel comfortable with.

Also I believe by now we have already set the tone for this essay and my dad is somewhere in the middle of Texas wishing he could un-read words from his brain. Hi family! Let's talk waxing!

Before We Get Started
The subject of hair removal -- but especially bikini waxing -- seems to draw out the ire in some women. I want it to be known right here and right now that waxing has nothing to do with your IQ, your morality, your beliefs about feminism or God or sexuality. It's just a cosmetic option for hair. That is all.

I often hear women defiantly say, "I would never wax! If God intended me to be hairless down there he would have made me that way!"

By that reasoning, God intended me to be a near-sighted, mousy-haired molechild with a vitamin-D deficiency and an inability to be in sunlight for more than six minutes. No one freaks out by my liberal use of sunscreen, or my need to take vitamins, or my desire to wear contacts and get highlights now and then. My guess is that God doesn't care what your pubes look like. God probably has other stuff going on. It's a MUCH more compelling argument to just say, "Hey, you know what? I have no desire to pay a stranger to drip hot wax on my twat and rip my hair out from the roots."

I am pretty sure a lot of people will agree with your decision.

So wax or don't wax, it's up to you. I'm just here to pass along the information that might be useful for those gals who want to experiment with ladyhair maintenance.

Baby Got Wax

While there are a majillion ways to get rid of hair -- sugaring, threading, laser -- waxing is available almost anywhere on the planet, is affordable, effective and not that weird of a concept. Even your great-grandmother knows about waxing. Each service is priced differently depending on the intricacy and the salon. An eyebrow wax will run you $8-$10. Bikini waxing starts around $25 for the most basic wax and can run up to $125.

Anything that sprouts hair on the body can be waxed. At different times in my life, I have had my legs, underarms, eyebrows and entire lower body waxed into submission. You will probably need an appointment for a good salon so call ahead. The actual waxing time depends on how much work you're having done, but usually runs anywhere from five minutes (eyebrows) to twenty minutes (full lower body.)

How does it work? What is waxing, exactly?

Wax is warmed until it's soft and spreadable. It is not boiling hot -- doesn't burn the skin and doesn't feel uncomfortably warm. Actually, it feels kind of soothing going on, it's about the same temperature as a heating pad.

Using a wooden stick that looks a lot like a tongue depressor, the warm wax is spread on a hairy part of your body. Usually the wax is applied to small portions at a time. Then a clean white cloth is pressed down on top of the warm wax and the cloth is yanked off quickly, pulling the hair out at the roots with it. It's kind of like pulling off a band-aid on a hairy arm.

Does it hurt?

Yes. It hurts like a MUTHA. But if you go to a reputable place that knows their stuff it will be QUICK. The pain is not crazy overload pain, but it is shocking the first time. The pain is quick and over in mere seconds. My waxer Cindy can get me completely hair free from navel to knees in under 10 minutes. I want to kill a human while it is happening. And she goes where no man has ever gone. But then it is over.

It's my first time! How does a bikini wax work? Am I naked? Can I leave my panties on? Is it weird having a stranger up in your business?

A simple, basic bikini wax just removes the hair that strays outside your panties (this is the bare minimum grooming you want for bathing suit season, for example.)

For a first-time bikini wax, I recommend just a basic procedure. It will be whatever is cheapest on the menu. Wear your tightest, skimpiest panties to the appointment. For the more modest ladies, you can keep your panties on this way but don't wear your old granny pants. Wear something that exposes some skin.

The waxer will generally talk to you a bit beforehand about what you want. You will still have your clothes on. Then she will leave the room and you will take off your pants. Modest ladies, if you keep your panties on the waxer will probably tuck some small pieces of paper towel or kleenex between the cloth and your skin to keep the wax from getting on your drawers. Yes, it will probably be supremely weird for you if it's your first time but like all things in life you get used to it surprisingly fast.

She will spread warm wax on the hairy bits of your body. Press down on the spot with a white cloth and then quickly rip off the cloth and the hair. Yikes! But it's over that quick. There may be some stray hairs above the panties (up to the navel) and this will be removed, too. Some ladies have hair on the upper thigh, and that gets taken off. Then you're done. Put your pants on and go home and shower!

How long does it last?

Depending on how fast your hair grows, a wax can last anywhere from three to six weeks. Some people think the hair grows back finer or softer -- this is because waxing removes hair at the root and there's no stubble. Plus, all hair grows at a different rate so when your hair grows back there appears to be less of it at once, and it seems softer.

The major upside for me is there is no itching during re-growth. I shave my legs daily and sometimes my legs just itch. And if you have ever shaved your wheelhouse you know from itch. But with waxing I find there is very little itching when the hair comes back.

Do I need to trim before I go in?

No. The hairier the better. Your body hair must be at least 1/4" long to get a great result from waxing. This is also the downside of waxing, having to let your hair grow out. I used to get my legs and underarms waxed, but the grow-out period is too much for my girly pride.

Will it hurt the next day?
A little bit. Your bikini area will just be sensitive (underarms, too, though legs seem to recover quickly.) The BEST tip I can give you is to find some Bikini Zone! I use Bikini Zone cream or gel (http://bikinizone.com/) as soon as I get my wax. I buy a tube of this stuff at Rite-Aid ahead of time and I take it with me in my purse to my waxing appointment. After Cindy is done and I have been de-furred down to my esophagus, I slather on Bikini Zone. Then I go home, shower to remove the wax residue (I have very sensitive skin, and you need to get the wax traces off your skin) I dry off and zip on the Bikini Zone again.

You will probably have little red bumps the first day -- this cream helps a lot with that -- and maybe on day two. But by day three everything should be smooth and back to perfect.

How do I find a reputable waxer?

Ask your friends. Look on the internet. The best place in Los Angeles (in my opinion) is Pink Cheeks Salon. Just ask your girlfriends who they trust and who they feel comfortable with. If you want to try someone out, go in for an underarm wax the first time. I think underarm waxing is a great way to try out waxing ... you get a smooth result, the area is less sensitive than bikini, and you don't have to get naked.

OR, call your salon and see if they will do a test strip. That's where you go in and have a little place on your arm waxed as a test. You get to see what it feels like and how your skin reacts. It's essentially a patch test and all reputable salons will do it for you. Usually for free!

Do I tip my waxer?

Yes. 10-20% or whatever you feel is appropriate.

What is a full bikini? Playboy? Brazilian?

When it comes to bikini waxing there are all flavors of intensity. The basic bikini wax I describe above is at the tamest end of the spectrum. At the other end of the rainbow is the full wax -- everything gone, everywhere, including up the butt crack. Yes, people, I said butt crack waxing. And there are variations of intensity. You can leave a triangle, a landing strip, get more or less removed here and there.

For a more vigorous wax, you remove all your clothes from the waist down. Your waxer will delve into places your last husband may never have visited. I am fairly certain that Cindy, my bikini waxer, has seen more of my anatomy than my OB-GYN. If there is hair it can and will be removed. If my lungs sprouted hair I feel certain Cindy would invent a way to remove it.

A full wax (sometimes called a Brazilian) removes all your hair from all parts. You lie on your back on the table as wax is applied to areas you haven't thought about grooming ever in your life. Then you flip over onto all fours and wax is applied to any area that has hair sprouting -- cheeks, up the butt, top of the back thighs, all gone. You can leave some hair at the top or none at all, there are many levels of coverage and removal in the bikini waxing arena. Most salons will have a menu or will be able to explain the options.

My advice here is to start small and work your way up to a waxing intensity level that suits you.

Why on earth would any human choose to get all their hair stripped off the hoohah?
Don't knock it until you try it, friend. I walk out of Pink Cheeks and feel like I lost ten pounds and got two inches taller. Different people like different things. I know many women believe (or perhaps fear) that all this cooch grooming is because of men and their weird sex preferences. I firmly disagree. I have never once been intimate with a man who expressed grooming preferences for my private areas. I don't feel social pressure about my down-there hairdo. I just like keeping myself maintained in ways that make me feel good, whatever that is at the time. I paint my toenails even in winter ... to me it's the same kind of thing. It's a fast, legal, non-permanent, inexpensive way to change it up a little.

Can I get herpes/diseases/die from waxing?
According to the CDC, no. But someone is already writing about it in the comments and they are doing it in a tone that seems full of concern but is really just excitement to tell you YOU'RE ABOUT TO DIE FROM THAT BIKINI WAX. Even though they have never had a full wax, they know. YOU WILL DIE.

Listen, it does not matter what you write about or talk about or ponder, a concerned individual somewhere thinks it will kill you or give you a disease. (Someone once wrote to tell me the yarn color I was using had a dye that would cause skin cancer. FO REALS, YO.) I am not a big fan of gloom and doom internet crap. I am, however, a Grade-A OCD germaphobe and I pick all my salon-style services very carefully.

Somewhere on the internet there is a feverish, intense declaration that bikini waxing will give you ebola of the vagina. Here is my advice: Do your own research. Be sure the salon you go to is clean and follows all the safety and sanitation procedures for the industry. Use common sense. I know ... crazy, right? Common sense! Nuts!

If you are someone who is going to freak out and need a Valium from the very idea of a bikini wax, then don't get one. If you are deeply worried you will get vaginaebola from a Brazilian then don't get a Brazilian. There are plenty of at-home waxing kits and lots of other options, including shaving or going full native or dying everything pink. Do what works for you and what you feel comfortable with.

In Conclusion...
There aren't a whole lot of topics where I can claim expertise: catbox scooping, okra frying, Jeep repair bills, hangovers. That's a list right there, my friends. But I have been fixated on hair removal for most of my life and hope my forays into smoothness can help someone out there.

It's not cold fusion or world peace. It's just some hair. Let's keep it in perspective, people.

Posted by laurie at September 14, 2011 6:33 AM