Intimate Grooming: What Women Need to Know (cont.)

The first decision you'll need to make is just what type of bikini wax you want: traditional or Brazilian.

A Brazilian wax removes more hair than a bikini wax, says Susmta Patel, founder and creative director of Studio Sush, in Saddle Brook, N.J. Whereas a traditional bikini wax focuses on the front and sides (what would be visible in a swimsuit), the Brazilian removes the front, sides, back and everything in between, often leaving only a strip of hair in the front, or none at all. Most of the time, you can leave your underwear on during a standard bikini wax, but for a Brazilian, you'll have to be sans panties.

Some reasons for having a Brazilian wax include cleanliness, convenience, and sexiness, Patel says. For many women, this does not come without paying a painful price. "Yes, bikini waxes do hurt," Patel admits, but adds that everyone's pain tolerance is different; the good news is that it hurts less the longer you do it.

To minimize the pain, Patel recommends wearing soft panties that won't rub your bikini area the wrong way. Although the pain does subside as soon as the wax is over, the area can remain sensitive. Patel also suggests not using any scrubs for the following 48 hours and not exposing the area to direct sun for at least 24 hours. To treat redness or swelling, apply a small amount of cortisone cream from the drugstore.

After the tenderness has subsided, Patel advises exfoliating in the shower to remove dead skin so the pores don't become clogged, causing ingrown hairs and bumps.

If you do see any evidence of irritation or infection, see your doctor right away, advises Kenneth Beer, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Palm Beach, Fla. Beer says that when professional waxing is performed in a well-managed, clean spa by an experienced aesthetician using quality products, there is no reason not to get waxed if you choose to do so.

Make sure the spa technician is licensed and does not "double-dip" during the waxing session, Patel says. Double-dipping means that the technician used the same stick each time she dipped into the vat of hot wax. This practice contaminates the wax and allows bacteria to spread from one client to another.

Bikini Laser Hair Removal

If you don't want to make the time commitment necessary for regular waxing or shaving, you might want to consider laser hair removal for a longer-lasting fix. Lasers remove hair with a laser beam that destroys the root and the shaft of the hair.

Laser hair removal is best for those who have dark, thick, wiry hair, says dermatologist Kenneth Beer. This permanent treatment requires 4-6 sessions initially, followed by yearly touch-ups. Avoid any type of tanning (real or fake) during the process, or you might end up with a burn, says Beer.

Earlier laser treatment worked best on lighter skin, but new technology has made the treatment more viable for people with darker skin as well. The new lasers also offer longer-lasting results than they once did, Beer says.

Laser hair removal is not inexpensive, with costs ranging from $100 to $250 per session; this is not covered by medical insurance. Once it's done, there's a significant time savings in not having to shave.

Beer cautions that the rate of complications from laser hair removal goes up dramatically when the procedure is performed by aestheticians without a medical background in dermatology or plastic surgery.

For best results, look for a dermatologist or plastic surgeon who uses lasers specifically designed for hair removal. "One-size-fits-all is not a good strategy for laser hair removal," Beer says.


Kenneth Beer, MD, Palm Beach, Fla.

Christine O'Connor, MD, Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, Md.

Sustma Patel, Studio Sush, Saddle Brook, N.J.

Julie Harper, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology, University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Reviewed on May 12, 2011

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Last Editorial Review: 5/12/2011 7:00:44 PM