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what is a brazilian wax

They say bald is beautiful. If you agree, a Brazilian wax might be the hair-removal trick you’re looking for.  

A Brazilian wax removes all or most pubic hair. What should you know before you go bare? Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, explains what to expect.

What is a Brazilian wax?

Real talk: Most people are hairy. Often, pubic hair can grow down your thigh a bit, where it can peek out from a bathing suit or underwear. Sometimes it grows upward in a line toward your belly button.

A bikini wax removes hair along the edge of your bikini line, along your thigh and below your navel. A Brazilian wax takes things further.

This waxing method removes all pubic hair — above, behind and around every corner. Depending on where you go, your waxer may use different types of wax (both hot and cold). But all the waxes work by sticking to hairs so they can be pulled out by the root.

Is a Brazilian wax right for you? Here are the pros and cons.

Brazilian wax benefits

There’s nothing unhealthy or unsanitary about going au naturel (read: hairy). But if you prefer a more groomed look, waxing has some benefits, notes Dr. Khetarpal.

  • Less irritation: If you prep well, waxing may be less likely than shaving to cause rashes and bumps.
  • Long lasting: Wax pulls hair out from the root, so you’ll stay smooth for longer than you would with a razor. Eventually, the hair grows back — but a Brazilian wax can keep you hair-free for three or four weeks. (At that point, it’ll be time for a repeat visit to your waxer.)
  • Less hair over the long term: If you wax repeatedly, the hair often starts to grow back softer and thinner. Over time, waxing will be easier and less painful, and you may be able to go longer between sessions.

Brazilian wax side effects

No pain, no gain. Waxing does have some risks:

  • Pain: How bad is a Brazilian wax? It ranges from pretty uncomfortable to OMG on the pain scale. But the first time is usually the worst. 
  • Rash: It’s common to experience bumps and redness, especially right after waxing. This is temporary and typically resolves on its own.
  • Itchiness: Your waxed skin might feel itchy as it heals. “Try not to scratch since that can irritate the skin,” says Dr. Khetarpal.
  • Vulvodynia: Though it’s not super common, research shows that removing pubic hair increases the risk of developing vulvodynia, chronic pain of the vulva.

What to do before a Brazilian wax

If you want to try a Brazilian wax, these tips can help you prep for the best results.

Know when to say no

Skip waxing if you:

  • Are sunburned. (Ouch!)
  • Have very sensitive skin.
  • Have taken the acne medication isotretinoin in the last six months. “Waxing while taking isotretinoin can cause permanent scars. And that goes for both hot and cold wax,” says Dr. Khetarpal.

Do your research

“Hair removal does have a risk of infection or injury if it’s not done correctly. Read reviews and ask for recommendations to find a trustworthy salon,” says Dr. Khetarpal. Most waxers in the U.S. need to have a license to perform the procedure.

And waxers should wear gloves and never “double-dip.” In other words, they should use a new stick each time they scoop wax from the pot, rather than re-dipping the same stick they used to apply the wax to your skin.

Brazilian wax prep

To get the best results, you can take some simple steps to prepare before your appointment:

  • Trim: Hair should be between one-quarter and three-quarters of an inch long for the wax to do its job. If it’s longer, you might want to trim before you go.
  • Scrub: Exfoliating the area before a wax can prevent ingrown hairs.  
  • Prevent pain: Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen about a half hour before your appointment. 

Plan for after-wax care

After hair removal, your skin might be a little tender. Wear loose, comfortable clothes to avoid discomfort. “Applying a cool compress can help ease the pain and reduce redness,” Dr. Khetarpal says.  ​

Consider washing with a mild cleanser to soothe the skin and remove any residual wax, too. You might also want to skip soaking in the bath or having sex for a day or so until your skin has gotten over the shock.

A Brazilian wax may not be the most relaxing salon treatment you can get. But if you’re curious about going hair-free, it might be the fastest route to smooth city.

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