How Can You Make a Bikini Wax Less Painful?

Cynthia Bailey, MD|June 17, 2013

bikini waxing adviceFor many people, a bikini wax is a pre-summer ritual. We all look forward to going for a swim in delightfully warm weather, but the bikini wax? Not so much! There are things you can do to make your bikini wax treatment less painful. Here are answers to some of the bikini wax questions I've been asked as a dermatologist and skin care expert. What's the ideal hair length for a bikini wax? Does trimming hair short or growing hair out to a particular length make the waxing less painful?   Having the ideal hair length for your waxing treatment is hugely important. Hairs should be trimmed to 1/8 to 1/4 inch long. This allows the wax to bind to the base of the hair for the best (meaning quickest and least painful) removal from the follicle. Is it helpful to exfoliate the treatment area before a wax treatment?   Gently exfoliate the treatment site a day or so before to allow the wax to bind better. Do this when you trim the hair for your treatment. Don't exfoliate too much though because you want some dead skin layer present to protect sensitive living cells from being waxed off. This exfoliation will also help minimize the risk of ingrown hairs as the waxed follicles regrow new hairs in the weeks after your treatment. Is there anything that can be done to prepare skin for a less painful waxing treatment? Does icing or using a numbing cream before waxing help? What about pre-soaking the skin with warm/hot water or applying a hot compress before waxing? I recommend using warm compresses before and cool compresses after your wax. Warm compresses help relax your hair follicle (and the little muscle that attaches to each follicle to make hairs stand up straight and give you” goose bumps” when cold). Relaxing the follicle aids in easier hair removal. When you apply cool compresses after your waxing they help soothe inflammation and reduce redness and swelling. You can also reduce waxing discomfort by applying a numbing cream to the treatment area 30-60 minutes before your appointment. However, most people forgo this because it has complications. The numbing creams are greasy and need to be completely washed off the skin and hair before waxing so they don't interfere with the binding of the wax. Also, some numbing creams have ingredients that you may be allergic to. This means it is possible to develop an itchy and red allergic rash on your newly waxed skin where you applied the cream. An allergic rash starts a day or two after your wax. You also need to know that numbing creams can be dangerous in more serious ways so read/follow the product instructions and ask your prescribing doctor. best bikini waxingAre certain types of wax and/or techniques less painful than others?   My medical aesthetician MaLinda is an expert waxer. In her opinion, a hard or stripless wax works best for the sensitive bikini area. These waxes effectively “shrink-wrap” the hair as the wax dries. This means they stick less to the skin and more to the hair. Look for a salon that uses Cirepil Blue Hard/Stripless wax; MaLinda says it’s the gold standard! Also, pick an expert who does a lot of bikini waxing because it’s an awkward area to wax and you want someone who knows all the tricks to do it efficiently, this is one spa treatment where you don’t want to linger.  Should you avoid waxing a few days before your period? Are there times of the day that are better than others for pain tolerance? The hormone cycle around the menstrual period amplifies pain and that includes waxing discomfort, pain from medical procedures etc.  It’s best to schedule waxing, (or painful medical procedures) for other times of the month. Also, most people's pain tolerance is better in the morning and worse in the afternoon so booking a morning appointment is a good idea. Is there anything you can do in terms of diet or hydration to help minimize pain? What about avoiding caffeine before waxing, will that help? Caffeine is a stimulant and turns up the volume on everything, including pain and the pre-bikini waxing jitters. It’s best to be relaxed for your treatment, so I recommend avoiding a double espresso right before your treatment.  Are there any after-care instructions to get the best waxing results? Continue to gently exfoliate the skin starting a day after your treatment to help prevent ingrown hairs. Use a gentle body scrub or a very clean exfoliating shower sponge when you bathe. Options include the Salux Cloth or a Buf Puf Body Sponge. Salux Cloth buf puf body sponge for exfoliation Use a gentle moisturizer on the treated skin daily to help the skin heal. Apply it immediately after toweling dry. Avoid moisturizers with AHA or BHA ingredients as they can be irritating. A rich, deeply hydrating product is best. My favorites are my Natural Lotion and Natural Butter. All Natural Face, Hand and Body Lotion Natural Face and Body Butter Cream Also, avoid tight clothing, friction from vigorous exercising, and hot tubs/Jacuzzis for 24 hours after waxing because you need to let the skin calm down. Would taking a pain medicine like Tylenol or Motrin before your treatment help? You can help ease the discomfort by taking a pain reliever like a NSAID or Tylenol to 30 to 60 minutes before your waxing appointment. NSAIDS do cause a little general blood anticoagulation, so if your skin is really fragile they may increase the risk of a little bruising from the skin pulling action that occurs as wax is removed.

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