What is a Brazilian wax? Your complete beginner’s guide

Waxing made easy, without splitting hairs…

What is a Brazilian wax

by Elena Angelides |
Published on

Being a hairy woman is hard work. Believe me, I know. I’m Greek Cypriot.

It involves constant up-keep, aftercare and there are pesky consequences like ingrown hairs to consider. In recent times, there’s been a culture shift when it comes to leg and armpit hair: we’re more happily letting it roam free.

Only, I feel self-conscious about having pubic hair on holiday, and a lot of women still prefer to manage it. If you’re looking to remove hair from your bikini area and optimise tanning, getting a wax is one highly sought after option. The hair removal lasts longer than shaving because the hair is pulled out from the root, allowing it to grow back softer and thinner. *Viola - Chef’s kiss!*

There are standard bikini line waxing options for the novices, but if you’re feeling slightly braver, the next stage of severity is the Brazilian wax. Unlike a Hollywood, it doesn’t remove every inch of pubic hair. Instead, it focuses on the bikini line, outer vulva and area around the bum.

It rose to popularity after Brazilian beautician Janea Pedila opened a salon in the US with her sisters - Judseia, Jussara, Juracy, Jocely, Joyce, and Jonice – we’re not joking, they’re like the Kardashians, but with Js. Their salon, The J Sisters was famous in ‘90s New York for servicing celebrities.

The Brazilian wax strikes a balance between convenience and pain levels, as you can run around on the beach, without worrying your hair might poke out either side but it avoids waxing your inner vulva, which can be super sensitive.

And that old saying, “beauty is pain” has never rung truer than when you’re lying on a massage table, having wax applied and pulled off to your downstairs region. But, we’ve heard beauticians claim they can do a Brazilian wax, without pain?!?!

I know, we’re interested too. Let’s break it all down in this complete beginner’s guide to the Brazilian wax…

What is a Brazilian wax?

A Brazilian wax is when all the hair is removed from your outer vulva, bum and the area in-between to leave a landing strip of hair. If you don’t feel ready for this, you can start with a natural or extended bikini wax, trim the rest, and then gradually build up your pain threshold to get a Brazilian.

The final frontier is the Hollywood wax, when all the hair is removed from on top, underneath and around the back.

A wax should last four-six weeks, and if you plan on getting another at this stage and building up a regular wax cycle, don’t shave in between.

Does a Brazilian wax hurt?

The one where Monica and Phoebe are excited about being “waxine girls,” but suffer extreme pain and end up locked in a bedroom while Ross and Rachel break up springs to mind. Yes, that’s right, we’re taking you back to this 1997 episode of Friends.

Since that was 25 years ago (yikes) we’re wondering if there have been any advancements since, and what you can personally do to minimise the pain.

At The Wax Expert, the website calls “Brazilian waxing” their “signature service,” which is “fast and pain-free.” The reviews even boast of an “almost pain-free” experience. So, we just had to ask.

Their beautician, Coco Dena, tells us The Wax Expert has developed an interesting technique. Coco will apply oil to the skin before the wax. This means the wax is mostly attached to the hair, minimising contact with the skin and pain incurred when it’s whipped off.

Coco said, “I mean, it’s not a massage. But we apply oil underneath the wax, so there’s less contact with the skin. You’ll have to come and try it.”

We hear you, Coco. Still, we’ll be taking painkillers before our appointment. But, more on prep later.

It’s best to be aware there will be some pain involved and it’s usually most painful in the first instance. Once you have a regular waxing schedule, it gets easier and less painful over time. If you shave in-between, it disrupts the cycle of hair growth and you’ll have to start again.

Hot Wax or Strip Wax: Which is better?

For such a sensitive area, with lots of different curves and angles, it’s best to use hot wax. This is because strip wax is straight and ideal for flat surfaces.

Also, strips can remove the top layer of skin as well as the hair, causing redness and irritation, something you just don’t want going on down there. On the other hand, hot wax focuses on sticking to the hair only, so it’s better for your delicate nether region. Amen, sister.

Coco only uses hot wax too. She said, “For the bikini area, it must be hot wax. Strip wax is only for straight and flat areas like the legs, which have the appropriate surface area.”

Brazilian wax prep: What you need to know

Before a wax, you must not shave for 2-4 weeks prior. The hair should ideally be the length of a grain of rice, around 6mm. If it’s too long, it’s advised to trim it, as breakage can occur and the hair will not be removed from the root – which means all that prep and pain for nada.

It’s also advised to gently exfoliate 48 hours before, to remove dead skin that could potentially trap hair below it. Remember to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water in the lead-up to your appointment, and avoid alcohol or caffeine as they can dehydrate you, tighten your pores and increase pain.

On the day of your appointment, take a warm shower to help open up your pores. To manage the pain, take a painkiller and apply numbing cream 40 minutes before the big hurrah.

If you’re on your period, this can be a time when you’re more sensitive to pain. Unless you have a holiday booked or an event you’d like to be hairless for, you could try to rearrange. Otherwise, make sure to check with your salon if they wax when clients are menstruating, and if they do, wear a tampon.

Coco said: “Sometimes, you just need to go on holiday the next day, and there’s nothing you can do about your period. We can still do it, as long as they have the tampon in. We have a great rapport with clients. We are all women. We all have periods. End of story.”

Finally, arrive dressed in loose clothes and underwear, to decrease the chances of skin irritation after the wax. You’ll have to travel home, so don’t wear any fitted, jeans or uncomfortable underwear. It’s more hygienic to bring a spare pair of underwear to change into too, and ideally, a 100 per cent cotton pair as they’re breathable. Avoid exercise, jacuzzies and hanky panky for 24 hours after, as working up a sweat is bad for your newly opened pores. Similarly, sun exposure, hot showers and the chemicals from public pools are not ideal either.

Preventing ingrown hairs

A downside of waxing is that it causes more ingrown hairs than shaving because hair is pulled out from the root instead of just removed from the skin’s surface. Extracting hair from the bulb causes pours to widen, and when bacteria from sweat gets inside, it clogs the pour and can result in ingrown hairs. Secondly, waxing increases ingrown hairs because the hair may break below the skin’s surface, causing them to become trapped and grow in-between layers of skin.

Founder and CEO of Sugaring London, Tanja Westendorff, uses a technique called sugaring to remove hair, which is meant to reduce the risk of ingrowing hairs. Sugaring is similar to waxing, in the way it removes hair from the bulb, but it pulls the hair in the direction it grows, causing less hair breakage, which is one of the main causes of ingrown hairs.

Tanja said: “Sugaring is one of the oldest hair removal techniques. It comes from Ancient Egypt and Cleopatra used to be a fan, and we all know about her beauty. It’s a paste made of water, lemon and sugar. It’s the consistency of honey. It doesn’t get hard like Lycon wax.”

Tanja tells us just how common ingrown hairs are, and they’re nothing to be embarrassed about.

She said “95% of people who come to us, after waxing or shaving, have ingrown hairs.”

She explains that in your bikini area, your hair grows downwards and often you get a wax from an upward direction, towards your face. This pressure causes hair breakage, one of the main causes of ingrown hairs, whereas in sugaring the hair is removed from a downward position.

She said, “when you sugar, we apply the sugaring paste and we remove it downwards. It’s less trauma on the hair and less chance of breakage.”

You might also be wondering how to prevent ingrown hairs in general. It’s important to exfoliate regularly – both a couple of days before your appointment and a couple of times a week on your body. For facial exfoliation, remember to be gentler and not over-exfoliate. You can start with once a week and gradually build up usage. Don’t forget a simple moisturiser after, especially in these colder months.

So, if you’ve got a holiday on the horizon, we hope we’ve waxed lyrical enough to have you feeling confident about making that trip to the salon first.

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