Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Brazilian Wax

Get expert advice on how to prep for a Brazilian wax, and what to know before your first appointment.

Whether you choose to go au naturel, want to remove every last pubic hair, or fall somewhere in between is totally up to you (and always should be). But if you've ever nicked yourself shaving your bikini area or suffered from razor burn, then the allure of a Brazilian wax has surely crossed your mind.

If you're a waxing newbie, then the idea of dropping your panties for a total stranger is probs a bit daunting. Fret not: Here, experts explain everything from how to prep for a Brazilian wax to pain tolerance and exactly what to expect at your first appointment. You'll want to read this guide before you jump into your first Brazilian wax experience, trust. (See also: Your Complete Guide to Body Hair Removal and Grooming)

The Deets on Shaving vs. Waxing

A quick reminder: Shaving cuts hair from the surface of the skin but doesn't remove the entire follicle. The skin has three layers and the root of the hair lies in the dermis, which is the second deepest layer. Shaving cuts the hair where it peeks through the skin, never getting near the root — so every few days when it regrows, it will reappear on the surface.

Waxing, however, pulls the hair completely out from the root. Removing the entire strand gives a smoother, longer-lasting result. You will be hairless for several weeks with this method, but waxing is not a permanent hair removal solution, as the follicle will regrow new hair. While not a foolproof method, many people anecdotally report that when they wax consistently, their hair will start growing back finer because the strength of the follicle is diminished. (More: Everything You Need to Know About Laser Hair Removal, According to the Professionals Who Do It)

Brazilian Waxes, Explained

There are a lot of terms used when talking about bikini waxes, which can get confusing. When choosing your service, there's the bikini line (removing just the hair that would stick out of a typical bikini), deep bikini (a more thorough bikini wax that removes all hair on the sides of the labia), and Brazilian bikini wax (which removes all hair front and back), says Noemi Grupenmager, founder of Uni K Wax Studio.

As it's usually known, a Brazilian wax consists of removing all hair from the pubic area including a buttocks strip (also called full Brazilian or Brazilian front and back). In case you were wondering, the service got its name from the popularity of Brazilian bikinis in the '90s. The high-cut, tiny bottoms inspired a more thorough waxing style so as not to show stray hairs. However, if going totally bare isn't your style, you can choose to get a Brazilian wax but leave a bit of hair on the pubic bone in a triangle, strip, square, or whatever shape you prefer, says Helene Marie, waxing expert at European Wax Center.

What You Can Expect When Getting a Brazilian Wax

While every salon has a different method, getting a Brazilian wax follows the same basic premise. For a bikini wax, you may be able to leave your underwear on for the service — but you'll be in the nude from the waist down for a Brazilian. The first step is removing lotions and oils from the skin with a cleanser, toner, or wipe. Some salons use strips to rip off the wax, while newer innovation has led to waxes that harden to become the strips themselves.

After prepping the skin, the waxing specialist will have you lay flat on your back with your legs splayed in a butterfly position. When it's time to move on to your backside, different salons will have you get into different positions so that they can access the area, but you'll almost always be using one hand on each butt cheek to spread them apart. Yes, it sounds unbelievably awkward, but the waxing specialist has seen it all and will tell you which position to be in, how to get into it, and when to switch.

After the waxing step is completed, a soothing gel or serum is applied to calm inflammation and prevent ingrown hairs. Many wax salons sell their own products so that you can continue to prevent ingrown hairs and keep the skin hydrated at home. European Wax Center has a wide variety of ingrown hair serums and even post-wax masks for soothing hydration.

Every salon uses a different type of wax — e.g. pine, honey, chocolate, and aloe vera waxes — but many salons will also have a proprietary blend. For example, Uni K Waxing Studio has a blend that is a pine-based elastic wax and is all-natural and gluten-free. European Wax Center uses a beeswax-based wax that is applied warm (not hot) and hardens to be removed as the strip. (If you still think you just can't handle waxing, try these six tricks for shaving your bikini area.)

Where to Go for a Brazilian Wax

This is one beauty treatment you don't want to DIY. Go to a waxing salon, especially if you're wanting a Brazilian. While waxing seems straightforward, doing it wrong could lead to ingrown hair, bruising, burning, or stuck-on wax — ouch. To find a salon, start with the basics: ask a friend for a rec or read Yelp reviews in your area.

If you know you have allergies or sensitivities to ingredients, be sure to ask a lot of questions to determine if a salon and its ingredients are right for you. Regardless of the type of wax, one of the most important things to watch out for is hygiene: Make sure that your wax specialist doesn't double-dip into the pot of wax and uses a fresh stick to dip into the wax for each strip. Even though every client gets their own new pot of wax, once the applicator has come in contact with the skin, it shouldn't go back into the wax because there's always a chance it could contaminate the wax and cause infection, explains Marie. (See: How a Brazilian Wax Made Me Physically Ill)

The cost of a Brazilian bikini wax varies depending on the wax used, how much hair is removed, and where the regional location of the salon, but you can expect to pay between $40-60 plus tip per session.

How to Prep for a Brazilian Wax

The most crucial part of prepping for a Brazilian wax — or any bikini wax, really — is to not shave for at least a week or until hair is about the length of a grain of rice. When in doubt, go long. Too long is always better than too short, as the wax specialist can easily trim before waxing if needed, says Marie. If you come in with too short hair, you risk a canceled appointment (bummer) or a very painful experience (with lackluster results) because the wax can't fully grip the hair to remove it.

And because you're probably wondering: You can get a bikini wax on your period (if the salon allows it, they'll probably just ask you to put a tampon in). Just be warned: You may be more sensitive to pain or may experience more tenderness after the wax around that time of the month.

Gently exfoliate the external bikini area in the shower the morning of your appointment or the night before. Also, be sure to apply lotion to your skin post-shower and drink tons of water leading up to the wax. Dry skin and dry hair can cause the strands to break during removal, rather than being pulled from the root, says Marie. For the smoothest, longest-lasting result, your hair and skin should be well hydrated.

And as tempting as a quick shot of vodka might be (this is a very vulnerable experience, after all), avoid alcohol (and caffeine) before your wax as both stimulate the skin and could make you more sensitive, says Grupenmager.

How Painful Are Brazilian Bikini Waxes?

The hard truth? Getting a Brazilian bikini wax is not pleasant, and some spots may be more painful than others. However, you can talk to your wax specialist, listen to music, or otherwise distract yourself to (hopefully) make the time go by quicker. Usually, your wax specialist works in small sections and presses down on the skin after pulling off the strip to dull the pain. (You could also try this genius secret to a pain-free Brazilian wax.)

The good news: The second time you get a Brazilian bikini wax and all consecutive times after are usually a more comfortable experience — mostly because you know what to expect and are acclimated to the pain.

Tips for Preserving Your Brazilian Wax

You'll want to put on loose clothing immediately following your wax, and you should skip out on your regularly scheduled workout until the next day. Friction and sweat can irritate the inflamed skin and lead to infection since pores are still open and more susceptible to bacteria.

Also, wait a few hours before taking a hot shower, since the hot water might feel uncomfortable or painful on your sensitive skin. However, this sensitivity will lessen the more times you get waxed, as your skin gets accustomed to the process and rebounds quicker. And as tempting as it may be to touch your newly smooth skin — resist. You can clog pores and transfer bacteria from your hands, which can lead to ingrown hairs or infection. You're also going to need to go sans sex for 24 to 48 hours to avoid more inflammation from the friction.

You'll want to continue to exfoliate and moisturize regularly after your wax to stop dead skin cells from clogging the pores, which can prevent hair follicles from growing outward, says Grupenmager. Hairs that don't grow toward the surface of the skin become red, itchy ingrown hairs.

It's less maintenance than shaving, but waxing does have a lot of upkeep. For the best result possible, Brazilian bikini waxes should be done on a schedule. When you wax too early or too late, hair is more likely to break, says Marie. Return every three to four weeks to maintain the result, she recommends.

Now that you know how to prep for a Brazilian wax, enter your first appointment with confidence, ready to go bare.

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