Read this before you plan your next wax. 

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Fact: If you say you don’t mind getting a bikini wax, you’re lying. There’s nothing fun about being in close quarters with a total stranger as they rip unwanted hair from your nether regions. Sure, we love the smooth end result but as soon as the surge of intense throbbing hits after the first wax strip is peeled off, we question if the next 15 minutes of misery is really worth it.

Despite the unpleasantness, waxing is still a popular method of hair removal, because the clean finish lasts longer than shaving. "With waxing, you can go two weeks or more without shaving, and with very little maintenance,” says Stephanie Kaulesar, Specialist Director at Spruce & Bond in New York City.

Whether you're preparing to get your first bikini wax or you want to make your next wax more bearable, find out what to do to prepare for a bikini wax, plus what to do for aftercare.

Pre-Wax Prep

1. Prep the Area

“Before waxing, it is helpful to exfoliate to rid the skin of dead cells and allow hairs to break through the surface,” says Nandi Wagner, technician at one of Bliss Salon’s New York City outposts. A gentle exfoliator like Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish will slough away dead skin without irritating the sensitive area.

Wagner also recommends treating the skin with an antiseptic cleanser like Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar to remove surface bacteria and prevent a post-wax infection.

2. Sync Your Appointment with Your Cycle

Getting a wax right before your period may seem logical, but if you schedule an appointment the week before you’re due, you’re setting yourself up to undergo next-level discomfort. “The best time to come in for a waxing service is about two weeks into your cycle because your hormones are fairly balanced at that time and you can avoid any extra discomfort," Wagner explains. "While there's no ideal time of day to get your wax, I'm a fan of getting everything done at the end of the day. That way you can go home, relax, and enjoy your evening."

3. Consider Your Wax Options

Two techniques are commonly used at salons: hard wax and strip wax. Hard wax, says Wagner is a good option for the bikini area because it works well on sensitive areas of the body. To ease up the pain threshold, Wagner recommends making an appointment at a salon like Bliss, who applies a layer of oil to the area before the hard wax, because it creates a barrier that prevents the wax from sticking to the skin, which can make waxing more painful. On the other hand, strip wax can be taken off more quickly without leaving any residue behind.

4. Consider Your Hair Length

The length of your hair makes a big difference, says Kaulesar, who suggests avoiding trimming until hair is the length of a grain of rice (around a quarter of an inch), which is ideal for hair to adhere to the wax. If you need to trim before getting a wax, use a trimmer that's specifically designed for public hair such as Venus Bikini Precision Women's Trimmer.

5. Mildly Medicate

Take a pain reliever within 45 minutes of getting waxed to numb some of the pain you’re about to undergo. But Wagner says to avoid aspirin because it thins the blood, which can increase pain and the chances of bleeding.

6. Don't Be Afraid to Tell the Waxer Exactly What You Want

It’s important to remember that while your waxer is a specialist and a body expert, they are also a regular human being. “Our goal is to make every client feel as relaxed as possible,” says Kaulesar. “Like they’re having a conversation with a girlfriend.” What’s more, waxing is not an “all or nothing” experience either, emphasizes Kaulesar. So, don’t be afraid to tell the specialist exactly what you want. “Hairstyles change and everyone’s preferences are unique," she adds. "We customize our bikini treatments to whatever style makes you feel your best.”

Post-Wax Care

1. Plan Your Wardrobe Accordingly

Don’t try to impress your waxer — save your frilly lace underwear for a more special occasion. “Cotton or seamless underwear is always best a day or so post-wax to allow the area to breathe and not be constricted or irritated,” explains Wagner. This also means forgoing the gym and your form-fitting workout gear. “Avoid waxing before any strenuous exercise or activity. This ensures you won’t irritate the skin or cause any ingrown hairs to develop,” she says. Wagner also recommends waxing two days before a beach vacation so that any redness has subsided by the time you step out in your swimsuit.

2. Take Action Against Ingrown Hairs

The best way to avoid stubborn ingrown hairs is by exfoliating the bikini area no less than 24 hours after a wax. The primary cause of ingrown hairs is hair being trapped beneath the skin’s surface. The best remedy is exfoliation, which rids the skin of dry and dead skin cells and allows the hair to break through the surface,” explains Wagner. She recommends using Bliss Bump Attendant Ingrown Eliminating Pads, which are infused with salicylic and glycolic acid to exfoliate, as well as green tea extract and oats to soothe and calm skin. Alternatively, Fur Ingrown Concentrate is a nourishing oil that soothes irritation and prevents ingrown hairs.

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3. Avoid Using Products with Heavy Fragrances

Love that scented body lotion you just bought? Wagner says to consider keeping powders or fragrances near the bikini area to a minimum to avoid redness and irritation.

4. Resist the Urge to Do DIY Touch Ups

It’s tempting to try to touch up your wax when you see hair growing in. However, Wagner says shaving too soon after your last wax or not waiting long enough until your next appointment, can make your next time even more painful. "When the hair is too short, the wax cannot adhere to it meaning your esthetician has to go over areas repeatedly to try and remove the hair which increases your discomfort," she says. "A quarter of an inch is the ideal length for waxing, or what you can pinch with the tips of your fingers." Another important tip? Don’t shave 14 days or less prior to your appointment. Not only are you making your waxer's job harder, but it's going to be more uncomfortable for you, too.