For many of us, body hair removal is an integral part of our pre-sex preening process.
Do you prefer men with trimmed pubes and hairy pits? Do you like your ladies with Brazilians, or bushes? There’s no hard-and-fast rule on this stuff; and depending on you and your partners’ preferences, you might shave here, wax there, and grow in still another spot.
I spoke with several depilation experts to determine the best hair-removal methods for your various parts. Because no one digs razor burn, stubble, or chemical burns.
Who is getting waxed? Um, basically EVERYONE.
"Women in their 30s and 40s are my bread and butter," says Amanda P. Westmont, a licensed esthetician who works as a professional waxer. "My youngest clients are just graduating from high school, and my oldest is an 80-year-old man who has me wax his ass crack every other month or so. The men who get Brazilians are almost all middle-aged, married white men whose wives can’t stand their body hair."
Waxing may be prevalent, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to self-wax from a kit you bought at Sally’s. For starters, different parts of the human body require different methods and tools.
"Genital waxing is different than legs, arms, and facial waxing," Westmont says. "In beauty school, they teach you to apply soft wax in the direction of the hair growth and then pull it off in the opposite direction. You can’t do that with vulvas, it would literally tear you open, so a professional waxer has to employ other strategies."
There are several serious "don’ts" to waxing. Never go to a nail salon for a wax. Never use a Groupon! Never EVER attempt to give yourself a Brazilian wax: "Brazilian waxing isn’t taught in beauty schools," Westmont says. "A waxer learns by experience. So find somebody who knows what they are doing, and loves doing it." Much like tattoos, good work isn’t cheap and cheap work isn’t good.
And don’t you dare shave between waxes.
"In general, hair needs to have three weeks of hair growth or at to be least a quarter of an inch," says Mads, owner of all-gender waxing salon Babe Wax. This is why strippers and full-time porn stars aren’t able to wax: we can’t live through that uncomfortable "in-between" growth time.
OK, so you’ve got a reputable professional, you’re coughing up the dough...but how much does waxing hurt? Well, that all depends on how hairy and sensitive you are. I’ve had full Brazilian waxes, and to me it’s very much like the adult version of ripping off a bandage.
"Waxing is more like a quick burning sensation that goes away fast," Westmont says. "It’s not the PART of your body that determines the pain; it’s how dense the hair is. This is why it’s the mons pubis or the base of the penis (not labia or testicles) that hurts the most. We simply have more hair-per-square-inch-there."
If you have a moderately steady hand and access to a few simple tools, shaving is a quick way to neaten your hair patterns.
"Firstly, have a clean, sharp blade," says Isaiah Mark of Bishops Barbershop in Portland. "If you’re shaving a very hairy and dense area, you should trim the hairs close to the skin. Use electric clippers for this. Then, use hot steamy water, or a hot towel on the area. After this, you should apply a hot, soapy lather or shaving cream. Because all your pores are now open from the heat and shave, you should close them up [after shaving] with either a cool towel or cool water."
Mark also recommends using a skin toner to bring the skin back to its natural pH, an unscented lotion, and a high-quality exfoliant. "You’ll notice a world of difference on your skin, no matter where you’re shaving," he says.
Cost of shaving is obviously highly variable; though I’ve had good luck using cheaper razors that are marketed for men (i.e. blue in color)—I find them to be sharper than women’s razors (just go slow!). Of course, disposable razors are cheap but the cost can add up during a lifetime.
After you finish your shave, rinse the blades and lay them face-up on the bathroom surface so moisture and bacteria are less likely to build up.
I’m skipping right over laser-hair removal, as it is the lesser stepchild of zap-zap hair removal and cannot be used on tattooed skin. Pass. Next up: electrolysis.
"Laser targets pigment, which is why you have to have dark hair and light skin for laser to work," says Danielle Lee of Rain City Electrolysis. "Electrolysis is targeting the hair follicle itself, not the pigment. I work on my tattoos in my spare time. Nothing like a fuzz-free, shiny tattoo!"
Electrolysis has the best track record for permanent hair removal because of its ability to treat any skin or hair color (without messing up tattooed skin), and the fact it can be done nearly everywhere on the body. But there are still areas that are better better candidates for electrolysis than others.
"Some [spots] are easier to get to, such as chin or eyebrows," Danielle says. "Brazilian and gender work is a little more difficult, just as far as positioning for treatment. Red hairs, and white or gray are more difficult in general and require multiple treatments."
As for the pain, some people feel next to nothing and sleep through their treatment. Others liken it to a bee sting or a pinch; though most agree electrolysis is less painful than waxing or laser.
"At my shop in Washington, the cost is $70 per hour, $40 per 30 minutes, and $25 for 15 minutes," Danielle says. "Treatment times vary person to person." And don’t forget electrolysis usually requires repeat visits. You might also want to tackle this investment after you’re done having any pregnancies, since hormonal changes can increase hair-growth patterns and cause new hairs to form.
Tweezing is the cheapest, slowest, simplest method for micro-level hair removal. Plus, it’s ideal for detailing areas or just removing a few hairs here and there, like eyebrows, happy trails, or nipples.
But god, is it tedious.
"Keep those tweezers clean," Bishops Barbershop Isaiah Mark tells us. "You can purchase a high-level disinfectant, Barbicide, for example. Or a good rubbing alcohol, and soak your item for at least 10 minutes. And clean the area first. Antibacterial soap like Dial is recommended by nurses who deal with common, easily avoidable skin infections." The last thing you want is for your skin to break out from bacteria on your tweezers or skin.
While you’re tweezing, never aggravate the area by pulling in the opposite direction of growth. Go with the flow here! And wait at least 15 minutes after tweezing to put makeup or perfume on the area. Those micro-wounds need to heal and close.
And lastly, never use rubbing alcohol on ingrown hairs; the high alcohol content kills good bacteria that your skin needs.
When in doubt, seek out a professional
Men and women and people have plenty of options for how they want to wear or remove their human-fur. And since I’m here for the self-love, choose your grooming style based only upon what makes you feel sexy and clean.
But promise me: if you aren’t sure how to execute it, seek a highly rated pro. Your body is a temple! And while you are free to decorate or desecrate it however you choose, you should always do so with the utmost in love and care.
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