Brazilian waxes shouldn’t be complicated or something to fear, but because the act of getting one is so intimate and personal, we tend to overthink the entire process. Whether it’s your first time or you’re a pro, the idea of opening your legs to a stranger (or the kind of acquaintance you only see for an hour every four to six weeks) can admittedly be nerve-wracking for anyone. But it doesn’t have to be a big deal — really. Here are the answers to every single question you may have, whether you’re a newbie or a regular, before laying down on the waxing table and getting into the stirrups.
Questions to Ask Before the Wax
How do I find a good waxer?
A good esthetician or wax professional is just as important as finding a good hairstylist. You want to find someone you trust, who is also licensed and trained in Brazilian waxing. Just because you have a friend who has a friend who might be interested in starting to do Brazilians doesn’t mean you should let them get up close and personal.
You want to make sure they’re changing the paper lining on the waxing table between sessions and, of course, that they’re not doing unsanitary things like double-dipping (which is a term for reusing wax sticks from previous clients and/or strips to remove the hair). “Double-dipping is highly unsanitary and can cause the spreading of bacteria and infections between guests,” says Gina Petak, licensed esthetician and education manager for European Wax Center. Basically, you want to ensure you’re in the cleanest environment before getting to the work downtown.
Okay, but how do I prep my hair?
Petak explains that in order to get the best wax experience, you want to make sure that your hair is at least a quarter-inch long — about the size of a sprinkle. If you’re used to shaving, Petak recommends putting down the razor at least five days prior to your appointment, or longer if your hair grows back more slowly than others. “Don’t worry, your hair can never be too long to come see us. All of our wax specialists are expertly trained to work with all hair and skin types,” she explains.
I want to make this a pleasant experience for my waxer, too. How can I help?
To ease discomfort, you can also take an over-the-counter painkiller, like Tylenol, about 30 minutes before the appointment Sarah Bourgoin, a Michigan-based esthetician who works in Elina Organics Spa recommends. Don’t worry — they’ve seen pretty much everything. “If it’s your first time and you have been shaving, remember the first time may be a little more uncomfortable but since waxing removes the hair from the root, each time will get easier and easier with the hair growing in thinner and softer,” says Petak. She also says that by the third time, most people don’t even feel it. The main thing you can do is not make things worse for yourself in the long run, which we’ll get to in the next question.
Should I do anything to prep my skin?
Exfoliating your skin before your wax isn’t totally necessary, but it’s next-level prep, and may help you get a cleaner wax. Something that will also help? “Avoid alcohol and caffeine the day of your reservation,” says Petak. Going to get a drink to calm your nerves before getting a bunch of hair ripped out of the lower half of your body may sound like a good idea, but… just don’t do that, because alcohol may make you more sensitive, which can actually lead to a much more painful experience.
“Studies have shown that acetaldehyde, a breakdown product of alcohol, can stimulate a specific type of pain receptors,” explains New York-based dermatologist Hadley King. “So best to skip the pre-wax cocktail because it could make you more sensitive.” Another thing to skip out on? A cup of coffee. “Caffeine leads to more skin sensitivity, and also can up the pain during a wax,” adds Petak, emphasizing one more beverage-related point: “It’s best to be well hydrated so the skin allows for the hair to be removed easily.”
What to Know About the Wax Experience Itself
Be real with me: How badly is this going to hurt, and how long is it going to take?
There’s not a really good answer to this, because the way a person experiences pain can differ depending on individual pain tolerance and how often you get Brazilian waxes. But Patek explains that using a higher quality wax ensures that hair will be removed more effectively, while also minimizing pain and being more gentle on the skin, creating a more comfortable experience while on the table. Bourgoin explains that hard wax is the preferred wax for Brazilians, though the wax type may be in the hands of your technician. Ask and double-check that they’re using wax with nourishing ingredients that are beneficial to your skin — sugar hair removal is also great for Brazilian waxes, as it is softer and water-soluble.