Thinking about skipping the salon in favor of an at-home wax kit? Tread carefully. Recent research from the University of California, San Francisco, shows that injuries from botched lady-scaping have grown exponentially over the past few years. The researchers add that their numbers are likely vastly underestimated because many women don't seek treatment or are too embarrassed to say what really happened to them. And while it's usually safer to have a pro do your waxing, if you're determined to go the DIY route, here are some expert tips to safely take care of business.
Waxing does involve pathogens—blood-borne and otherwise, says Bridget M. Riley R.E., owner of Boston Skin Solutions, which means you want your environment to be as sterile as possible. Place a clean towel on the floor and make sure all your tools are still in their original packaging or have been sterilized. Riley adds that many people believe the wax itself is hot enough to keep it germ-free, but it isn't so no double-dipping! Use a fresh stick for each application.
Start with a tepid shower and a little mild soap to clean up your bits. Riley also recommends exfoliating with either a scrub, a loofah, or a cloth. Some women prefer to use pre-packaged disinfecting wipes on their vulva and pubic area. You can also take Ibuprofen 30 to 60 minutes in advance to help minimize discomfort and inflammation.
Use the Right Tools
There are lots of options for waxing, so it can be confusing. When it comes to safety, Grayson J. Guzman, M.D., of MomDoc Midwives says there's a simple test: "If it's assumed to be safe for your face, it's probably acceptable for your pubic area." Trial and error will help you figure out the rest of your ideal set-up but in the meantime, make sure you have enough wax or wax strips, wooden applicators, wax dissolving oil, tweezers, and clean towels to get the job done. Nobody wants to have to run to the drug store with half a bikini wax.
Check the Length
Professional waxers recommend your pubic hair be about one-fourth of an inch. If it's too short, the wax will have a hard time grabbing the hair. If it's too long, you're setting yourself up for even more pain (and waxing already hurts enough!). If your hair is too long, trim it with scissors or a small electric razor. When you apply the wax, make sure you're going in the direction of the hair growth.
Aloe vera gel works wonders on tender post-waxed skin, says Riley. But she adds that the most important thing to remember about taking care of your bits after any hair removal procedure is that heat and sweat are not your friends. "Showers should be tepid. Avoid hot yoga or heavy cardio for a few hours, as well as saunas and steam rooms," she advises. Loose clothes and an over-the-counter pain reliever can help too.
Know When to See a Doc
"Waxing, when done in a clean environment is safe," says Renee Horowitz, M.D., ob-gyn, and director of the Center for Sexual Wellness. But she says that while temporary burning and redness are normal, it is possible to get an infection from waxing. The waxing procedure will rip off little pieces of skin, leaving openings for germs—and you're also at risk for ingrown hairs which can become infected. If you have extreme pain in one area, a painful bump, or any sign of infection like persistent redness or a fever, see a doctor immediately.
Ask Yourself: Is It Right for Me?
DIY waxing isn't for everyone. Horowitz says that if you are diabetic, have certain skin conditions such as eczema or psoarasis, or a compromised immune system you may want to think twice before doing anything to your female parts as you may be more prone to more serious infections.