Beauty 101: Your Waxing/Shaving Questions, Answered


This weekend, our Beauty 101 series is focusing on all aspects of body hair removal. You had questions, and, as always, your fellow commenters have provided the answers:

Sadly, I’m not able to use all of the tips and tricks sent to me via email or posted in the threads, due to space issues, though I appreciate all of the responses. At this point, there are over 700 incredibly informative replies in yesterday’s waxing/shaving question and answer thread, so if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for below, be sure to check the original post, as it’s overflowing with info. And now, a few tricks and tips from our readers:

On Shaving:
From commenter Ipomoea:

Shaving: DO IT AT NIGHT. Then your blood is up and moving around, and you’ll get a better shave. If you can, take a bath for approx 20-30 minutes to soften the hair. I throw some sweet almond oil in the bath while the water’s running, and it smoothly coats my skin. Use a sharp razor!!! When you shave, take two or three passes and then rinse your razor, then repeat. I like shaving with oil because it’s less messy and I can see the hair I haven’t gotten. The downside is that you probably have to clean your tub after doing it in the bath.

From commenter sebluver:

I shave using conditioner. I don’t use a lot, less than I use on my hair for my legs and underarms (and pubes, when I shave them), but using conditioner, instead of shaving cream, really cuts down on my ingrown hairs and gets a much smoother shave.

From Elena, via email:

When it comes to shaving pubic hair, the things that I always stick to are a. using a good, fresh razor, b. lathering the area beforehand, and c. (and the most important) GO WITH THE GRAIN, NOT AGAINST IT. You’ll get a cleaner shave, and less bumps/irritation. There are some times when it’s good to go against the grain, but shaving one’s pussy is not one of those times.

From osea, via email:

When I shave my legs, I have a couple tricks. Firstly, I use cheap conditioner that I buy in 1L containers instead of shaving cream. Secondly, Use a sharp razor and very little pressure. I’ve found the more pressure you use, the more likely it is that you’ll cut yourself. By maintaining light pressure, It’s much less likely that I cut myself (especially over the ankles and knees).

On Facial Hair Removal:
From Emily, via email:

I had coarse, spiky hairs growing on my chin for years and after 3 electrolysis treatments they’re gone – and compared to laser removal, it’s incredibly cheap.

From Laura, via email:

I use Sally Hansen wax strips- they can be custom cut to be the right size, and are so user friendly. Before you wax, wash face and exfoliate. After, put a warm washcloth on the area, and if you are prone to breakouts, a GENTLE alcohol free toner (otherwise you will be doing the Kevin Home Alone screamy face!)

From Liz, via email:

With eyebrows and lip hair, waxing has always worked for me, with a little tweezer upkeep in between. (Not too much though—I have definitely made my eyebrows look so insane that my waxer grilled me relentlessly on who did it.) Chin waxing is a bit of a waste since the hairs are so tough (on me anyway), they end up tweezing each one, so I just do that myself, at home. Mine grow back quickly so sometimes I pack a spare, crappy set of tweezers in my purse. None of these methods has ever given me blemishes, though waxing causes temporary redness so do it the day BEFORE an event, not the day of.

From commenter Elle O. Elle:

For unwanted facial hair, I cannot recommend threading enough.
It’s cheap, it looks good, it’s better for your skin than waxing, you won’t cut yourself with a razor, you can get more hair at a time than you would with tweezers. They can remove the hair when it’s still so short you wouldn’t notice, though you can see the difference after it’s done. And it’s fast and relatively painless if you get someone really good.
I’ve had a few not so good people (mostly trainees, which sucks, but they’ve gotta learn somehow). If you get someone who’s not so great (yet?) it hurts for a few minutes, and can take longer, but your brows will look good for a few weeks.
Suggestion for those who decide to try it: put some of your moisturiser of choice on your brows afterwards, it’ll help sooth your skin and reduce redness. You can bring it with you if you think you’ll need it right away, but it’s not really necessary, just as long as you do it sometime that day.

From commenter jasminetea:

I used to have pretty bad facial hair. Turns out I have PCOS, and that’s a pretty common symptom of it – so I would suggest anybody with severe facial hair look up polycystic ovary syndrome and see if that isn’t something they might have some other symptoms of. My doctor prescribed me birth control upon diagnosis and the hair growth has lessened dramatically. It’s still there, but much, much easier to deal with.
As for removing the hair, whether or not you actually have PCOS, I suggest sugar wax. It’s just like regular wax but it’s much more gentle, doesn’t stick to your skin, and I swear makes the hair grow in thinner. I don’t know why it seems to do that but in my experience it does. If you can find a nearby spa or salon-type place that does it, that’s great, but if not you can look up recipes online (try searching “halawa wax”).

On Avoiding Ingrown Hairs:
From Jennifer, via email:

You can avoid ingrowns by doing a few of the following: shaving WITH the growth of your hair, not against. It probably won’t be as smooth, but it will help. Keep the area clean and exfoliated. You can use body scrub, facial scrub, something gentle, yet effective. Keeping the follicles bacteria free and open will help the hairs get thru to the surface. If you do have an ingrown, you can treat it like the skin on your face. I always tell my clients- “skin is skin!! Treat it like you would the skin on your face!” So, you can use topicals like benzoyl peroxide, glycolic, salicylic, etc to kill the bacteria. Try something with a low alcohol content so the area doesn’t get dried out. Some people are just more prone to ingrowns (coarse hair especially), and for that we do suggest laser hair removal. While expensive up front, it is a permanent reduction in hair and if you have no hair in the follicle, you will not get ingrowns.

From Nancy, via email:

As someone with a follicular thickness that would be the envy of most arctic animals, I am constantly beset by ingrown hairs. In spite of everything out there that might tell you how to avoid the ingrowns, there are really only two things that work for me (note: I usually wax): exfoliating the area on a regular basis, daily if necessary, and using the proper treatment products between waxings. Any generic body scrub will do – I just rub it over the area to slough off any of the dead skin cells that could later cause an ingrown. I also use Bliss Ingrown Hair Eliminating pads every couple of days to make sure the area stays clear, but I realize these can be expensive (in Canada, a jar is about $40)… however they do work on shaved areas as well. My esthetician has also recommended using extra virgin olive oil to prevent ingrown hair, or azulene oil if you can find it (a lot of pharmacies sell it, but one might have to shop around).

From commenter sarichkaa:

I have really thick, dark, ingrown-hair-prone hair along my bikini line, and after years of frustration and painful bumps, I finally figured out a really good system to prevent ingrown hairs. It goes as follows: (Before starting, I should note that I only shave along the edges, not the whole shebang, so I can’t say whether this technique would work for gals who like to go bald.)
Step 1: Use a loofah and some soap to exfoliate the area you are going to shave. This gets rid of the dead skin that can “trap” the hairs as they grow back, and make them become ingrown.
Step 2: Clean the same area with antibacterial soap.
Step 3: Lather up with some good shaving cream (or hair conditioner, that works pretty well too) and shave down, in the direction of the hair growth (as opposed to, for example, shaving up the leg, which is against the hair growth.)
Step 4: After you finish shaving, wash the area again with the antibacterial soap, just to be sure!
Step 5: Every time you take a shower, wash your bikini line again with the antibacterial soap. I’m not sure why this works so well to prevent ingrown hairs, but it really does!

Bikini Line Tips:
From commenter cbm:

Bikini line: the only good way to go about it is with warm wax and patience!
I use this product [] (I live in France), but I’m sure you can find something similar in the US. I love it because you can wash any rests with water (really easy to clean up the mess afterwards).
Main tips:
– Sit on the floor, on a chair or on the toilet and open your legs wide.
– If the hair is long, cut it with scissors first. It should be about 1 cm or less.
– Wax small portions of the hair each time, especially when you get closer to the vulva.
– Be sure to follow the direction of the hair when applying the wax. As in armpits, pubic hair can grow in different directions. So, observe first, apply after.
– Let the wax dry a little before pulling. Otherwise, the hair will not be sufficently attached and it will hurt.
– Pull the skin as tight as possible with one hand and pull the wax with the other.
– Always pull in the opposite direction of that of the hair.
– Pull hard without hesitation.
– Do not be afraid. Proceed slowly and practice often.
To soothe the skin:
– Wash the skin with cold water and soap to desinfect and close pores.
– I find that applying baby talcum work very well. But you can try aloe vera or some other cream.
For maintenance, I use an electric epilator (such as Phillips Satinelle or Braun’s Silkepil). It quick, not too painful if you pull the skin tight (and think of something else), and leave the skin very smooth.

From Andrea, via email:

Magic Shave powder. I have really sensitive skin. For me, shaving is okay everywhere but the bikini area. I used to get terrible razor bumps, and waxing would leave me red for days. A few years ago I found this tip online, and I’ve been using the product ever since. It works really well. It’s a depilatory, so you put it on, let it sit for ~5 min, then scrape it off. It comes as a powder, so you do have to mix it with some water in a little bowl first. I use a plastic spoon to mix it, then use the edge of the spoon to take it off. It’s designed for African-American men’s beards, so you may have to look for it in the “ethnic” section at the pharmacy. I use the skin conditioning shaving powder, which seems to be best for sensitive skin.

From commenter SheelaNaGig:

To prevent groin area bumps after shaving, I’ve had very good luck using solid deodorant. It has to be solid! If I use it every morning after shaving, I don’t get any irritation.
I got this tip from a stripper, who has to have a bump free, shaved bikini area daily. Works like a charm, and is cheaper than those creams.

From commenter IfWhiskeyWereAWoman:

1. Shave after a warm bath. Hair will be easier to remove and will greatly reduce chances of irritation.
2. Use a clear shaving gel, formulated for sensitive skin. Be wary of brands for men, as they often have menthol or other “cooling” agents and your ladybits do not need “cooling”!
2. Find the right razor. I like these from Noxzema: [] They are much easier to handle and only have a single blade, which can reduce irritation.
3. For the “upper” part, only shave hair in the direction it grows, so in a downward motion, not up. Use nail scissors to carefully trim and tidy the parts you don’t want to shave bare, or lightly drag your razor through it (downwards) without touching the skin. For the “lower bits” shave downward first, then upward just once or twice to get the closest shave.
4. Use an analgesic cream to reduce bumps around the bikini line, like Bikini Zone.
5. Go slowly and carefully. Practice makes perfect. (I’d use a mirror when I first started.) Now it only takes an extra 30 seconds tacked onto the end of my shower, but definitely don’t rush until you’re used to it.

Waxing Tips:
From Jennifer, via email:

Thought I might be of service. I am an esthetician and work in a NYC spa that specializes in hair removal (men and women). I wax and laser nether regions all day, every day 🙂
As a note: if you are going to get waxed, please don’t shave for about 2 weeks. I have clients come in that shaved a week or week and a half ago, and it’s just too short a length for most estheticians to be able to remove all of it. It doesn’t need to be *that* long, but about 2 weeks length is good if your’e currently a shaver.
In addition, if you’re not shaving and have really let the area go- do your tech a favor and trim up the area with either scissors or a trimmer beforehand. Yes, we can trim you ourselves (and we will certainly do this if needed). But it saves a lot of time in your service and allows us to give you the best wax possible if you’ve aided us in taking care of a few things beforehand. 🙂
Also, don’t be shy!! We see this all day every day. We are not going to remember what your genitals look like. We aren’t analyzing them, cataloguing them away for future reference. We’re there to make you feel good about yourself in every way possible, so just relax and breathe.

From Yvonne, via email:

For those who can’t afford to constantly wax (who can?), I recommend getting your own waxing machine. I use Cirepil Blue wax for my face and underarms, which doesn’t require messy strips etc. to remove. It cools to a hard strip you can rip off with your fingers and they make a green wax for those with sensitive skin. The heating machine itself is pretty inexpensive when you consider the costs of a professional wax and the wax works wonderfully. (I’ve tried the heat in the microwave rollers and those just tend to be messy as hell. Go with the full heating machine.)
To prep your skin for self-wax, make sure you haven’t just showered and pat a bit of baby powder to remove any excess oil to help the wax grip the hairs. Make sure hair is at least 1/4″ before waxing and clean up any stray hairs with a tweezer (I recommend Tweezerman).

Consider Sugaring:
From commenter shiftercars:

SUGAR! Sugaring will change your life. I have the most sensitive skin on the planet and waxing would leave me red for hours and sometimes days. Sugaring is less painful and for me the results last longer.
I sugar my underarms (sugar pits!) in the summer and they are pretty much hair free for 2-3 weeks. The grow back is very fine and sparse.
For my face the sugaring doesn’t leave me “Captain Redbeard” and I can even plan things the same day as I get sugared where that was definitely not the case with waxing. It doesn’t pull at your skin because the sugar only sticks to the hairs. It seriously changed my life. I live in Seattle and only a few places around do it, but more and more people have been converted and its gaining popularity.

On Going Natural:
From commenter arianamb1:

I only shave my lower legs and pits on a semi-regular basis, and the rest goes as is. So for anyone wondering about going all-natural down below…
It’s awesome. Totally awesome. The only time it’s unpleasant is if I haven’t showered for a few days, the combo of hair and sweat against hip/thigh crease can cause a bit of a heat rash. But I also have a LOT of thick coarse hair, so.
In my experience, it has been a total turn-on for partners in bed. And like I said above, my “full bush” is much fuller than what you see on models/porn people who claim to be “hairy”.
I’ve never had a yeast infection, haven’t had a UTI since I stopped shaving. Obviously, I don’t wear high-cut swimsuits. But I don’t like that style anyway.
And the lack of ingrown hairs, rashes, and just general weirdness of having dragged a razor all over my vagina? Wonderful.

From commenter boxspelunker:

To those who are thinking about going the non-removal path: You feel really self-conscious at first, like everyone will notice you, or be able to tell, or will think you are an unwashed garbage-dweller. But most people will never notice. People notice things like that on celebrities, because we are completely focused on how they look and dress. We hold them up as fashion idols to be emulated, so while everyone notice Mo’Nique’s legs, hardly anyone will notice yours. And if they do, fucking tell them off. Strangers have no goddamn business commenting on your leg/arm/facial hair, and if they do, they are rude and shallow assholes.
Also, if you’re used to no hair, the hair growing in will probably totally itch and you will be conscious of it. Once you get used to it, though, it’s no big deal. I can’t speak to wearing tights/nylons, since I never do it, but I know some women that grow out the hair and it doesn’t bother them, and some who grow it out and find it uncomfortable.
The bottom line is that if you want stop doing regular hair-removal, there’s going to be an adjustment period, and don’t let it put you off! If you like shaving and whatnot, keep on doing whatever makes you happy, but if you want to stop, give yourself some time to adjust to the new feelings 🙂

Didn’t get the answer you were looking for? Be sure to check yesterday’s thread—as I said earlier, there are hundreds of detailed tips and tricks from your fellow commenters. Disagree with something you see posted here? Feel free to set the record straight in the comments. And as always, suggestions for next week’s Beauty 101 column are always welcome, as well.

Earlier: Beauty 101: “Okay, How Does Ladybit Shaving Actually Work?”
Beauty 101: Your Hair Questions, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Foundation And Concealer Concerns, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Eyeliner Woes, Solved

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