Who Should Wax
Wa is a great alternative to shaving if you have hair you're uncomfortable with, says Cornelia Zicu, chief creative officer at the Elizabeth Arden: Red Door Spas. "Wa is recommended for people of all ages and both genders." Though she recommends that people start getting wax treatments at a young age, when the hair is fine and will be less painful to remove, anyone can get it done, regardless of age.
Wa vs. Shaving
"Wa is better because it removes [hair] from the root," says Janea Padilha, cofounder of the J. Sisters Salon in New York City and author of Brazilian Sexy. She adds that when you shave "you just cut the hair, so two hours later, you can see the hair there or the blue shadow (the hair follicle below the skin)." Wa, on the other hand, not only can last up to a month, but it's also much more permanent—over time it thins the hair so less grows back. Bonus: It exfoliates the skin as well, leaving you feeling silky smooth.
Preparing for a Wax
If you're worried about pain, take one or two Advil an hour before your appointment. "We also recommend an exfoliating scrub the day before and advise not to apply body lotion the day of the wax," Zicu says. Also, for underarm wa, she recommends you use deodorant without antiperspirant because it comes off easier.
How Often to Wax
If you've shaven recently, wait five days. And though the time does vary between waxes, depending on how quickly or coarsely the hair grows back, Padilha says it's best to wait around a month. "People should wait three to four weeks between wa," she says. "But in an emergency, if they have a new boyfriend or are about to go on vacation, they can come back in three weeks with no problem."
What to Expect
First your waxer will clean and disinfect the area. After that, she'll apply the wax and remove small areas of hair at a time. "There are two different types of wax," Zicu says. "Soft wax is done with paper or muslin strips, and hard wax is removed without strips." In general, hard wax is used to remove hair in the bikini, underarm and face area; soft wax is used on larger areas of the body such as the leg or armpit. Afterwards, she'll remove any wax residue and apply cream.
The Pain Factor
Wa is uncomfortable because the hair is being pulled all the way out. "If the roots are not pulled out, the discomfort is minimal but the results are also minimal," Zicu says. She adds that "discomfort is only [felt] at the time of service and stops immediately after." To be sure it's done right, you may want to check the strips to ensure the roots were also removed (you should see a small dark bulb on the hair follicle).
Although the pain does subside as soon as the wax is over, the area can remain sensitive, which is why Zicu says not to use any scrubs for the next 48 hours and not to expose the area to direct sun for at least 24 hours. To treat redness or swelling, apply a small amount of cortisone cream from the drugstore.
After the tenderness has subsided, Padilha says to exfoliate in the shower to remove dead skin so the pores don't become clogged, causing ingrown hairs and bumps. If bumps do appear, "don't squeeze or tweeze!" she urges.
First and foremost, make sure you go to a place with proper sterilization procedures. Zicu insists, "The technician should be licensed and she should not double-dip during the wa session." (Double dipping means that the technician used the same stick each time she dipped into the vat of hot wax. This practice contaminates the wax and allows bacteria to spread from one client to another. Plus, you wouldn't want the wax used on your upper lip to have been mixed with a stick used on another woman's bikini area.)
The Bikini Wax
There are special concerns when wa the bikini area, but they're very similar to those for the rest of the body, according to Padilha. She popularized the Brazilian-style bikini wax at her spa in 1994, "before anybody knew what it was," she says. "But now that people do know, the bikini area is the most common part of the body I wax."
Bikini vs. Brazilian
A Brazilian wax removes more hair than a bikini wax. Whereas a bikini focuses on the front and sides (what would be visible in a swimsuit), the Brazilian removes the front, sides, back and everything in between, often only leaving a strip of hair in the front—or none at all. Most of the time, you can leave your underwear on during a standard bikini wax, but for a Brazilian, you'll have to be sans panties.
Some reasons for having a Brazilian wax include cleanliness, convenience and, of course, sexiness. "I always say men are my biggest clients," Padilha notes. But it's not just about sex. "When you sit at the beach or pool in your bathing suit, you feel so good, so comfortable because you don't have to worry about it [hair peeking out]."
Does It Hurt More?
"Some women can't do the bikini, but they are OK with the eyebrow. Others can do the bikini, but they can't stand to wax their legs," Padilha says. "Everyone is different. But it does hurt less the longer you do it. Eventually the hair becomes weak, so it doesn't hurt at all."
Does It Matter What Time of the Month It Is?
According to Padilha, wa hurts more the week before your period, so it's best to go in the week after. And if you're pregnant? "Just like always, some days we are a little more sensitive than others," she says. "So if you're pregnant, it's fine. It doesn't hurt more." Otherwise, she says, it's just about being comfortable. "The first time clients are scared. Not because of the pain, but because they're embarrassed. But after they've gotten one, forget about it!"