I got my first Brazilian ever at age 40. Who waits until 40 to find out the answer to the question: what is a Brazilian wax like? Me—because until then, I thought getting a regular wax on any other part of my body was painful enough. No one had ever commented on my pubic hair, so I didn’t see a need to take my regular shaving routine any further.
Then, right before a beach vacation I booked with a friend, I did it on a whim. My plan was to request a regular bikini wax—you know, just an extra vigorous one to clean up the sides? But when my waxer asked, “Brazilian?” I weirdly heard myself replying, “Yeah, sure.” And before I knew it, everything just started happening (and there was definitely no going back).
As you may have guessed, I didn’t exactly read up on Brazilian wax tips before showing up that day. Now that I’ve ripped the bandage off, I feel like none of my friends that have been doing this for decades warned me properly about what to expect. If you’ve never dabbed in Brazilian waxes before, you can decide for yourself if you want to go for it or not. After all, pubic hair removal is a personal choice, and there’s no right or wrong method. For those that do decide to remove it all, here’s everything you need to know before going in—so you won’t walk out saying, “Why did no one tell me that?”
What is a Brazilian Wax?
Think of a Brazilian wax as a step beyond a bikini wax. “It removes all the hair from your bikini area: top, sides, front, and back,” says European Wax Center’s education manager, Gina Petak. While some clients opt to remove every single strand, Petak says that the term Brazilian covers everything from a “completely nude look” to one that leaves “a neat triangle, strip, or square on the front.” (I happened to go all out and choose the former.) Talk with your waxer about the exact style you want—and make sure to be vocal and communicative here.
Does a Brazilian wax hurt?
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: During my first Brazilian, there were moments of ripping and burning. There was also one panic-inducing moment when there was so much wax in my butt crack that I thought it was going to get sealed shut. But overall, the initial panic was worse than the actual experience.
“Waxing such a sensitive area can be uncomfortable, especially for first-timers,” concedes Petak. “However, since waxing removes the hair from the root, it makes it grow in softer and finer, resulting in each wax becoming less painful.” She recommends that you go to a reputable salon that uses high-quality wax to make the experience more comfortable. There’s also debate over what kind of wax is more comfortable; some people prefer soft wax and strips, while others recommend hard wax (without strips). Petak likes the latter, which EWC uses. “It removes hair effectively with minimal pain, while also being gentle on your skin,” she says.
How should you prepare for your appointment?
There’s honestly not much you have to do to prepare, but waxers generally give the same few tips to reduce pain: Avoid the time around your period, don’t drink beforehand, and maybe take a painkiller half an hour before if you’re especially sensitive.
By far the most important step is to leave enough hair for the wax to grip and remove. “We recommend hair be at least 1/4" long—about the size of a sprinkle,” says Petak. Stop shaving at least five days prior to your appointment to ensure your waxer has enough to work with.
What should you expect during the appointment?
On one hand, the process is pretty straightforward. Your waxer will first cleanse your bikini area with a wipe and apply wax section by section. Then, pressing your skin down to keep it taut, she peels the wax away from your skin, which pulls the hair out by the root. You might also get a soothing gel patted on afterward to soothe inflammation.
However, there were also some minor details I really wasn’t expecting. For instance: My waxer put her hands everywhere like it was no big deal, leaving no piece of my anatomy untouched. In theory, I knew this. In practice, it took some getting used to. At one point, I had to hold my own butt cheeks apart so she could get wax in places I didn’t know there was even hair.
If you’re nervous, talk to your waxer beforehand so you can be adequately prepped for each step.
How long do results last?
Everyone’s hair grows back at slightly different rates, but according to Petak, results should last around three to four weeks.
How much does a Brazilian wax cost?
Pricing will obviously depend on where you go. “On average, it can cost anywhere from $50 to $75 or perhaps more,” says Petak. “At EWC, we charge around $54 to $59 depending on location.” Bear in mind that this is not a beauty treatment you want to score the biggest deal on. Make sure to do your research ahead of time, and go somewhere that has trained and licensed waxing experts. Don’t forget, you also need to budget in a tip for your waxer: 20% is customary, but feel free to give more if you’re feeling generous. It’s certainly more, uh, intimate than a hairstylist or nail tech.
What should you do for proper aftercare?
To prevent ingrown hairs in the weeks following your appointment, regularly apply gentle exfoliants to your bikini area. Petak recommends EWC’s Smooth Me Ingrown Hair Serum, but any ingrown hair treatment will work.
One more thing you should do (that I didn’t): Cancel your workout class. After my Brazilian wax, I went to my regular Wednesday spin class because I’d reserved a bike and it was too late to cancel. This was a bad idea, and now I very much know why waxers always advise against any physical activity 24 hours after your wax—so you don’t further irritate your skin. And while you’re at it, make sure you wear loose pants to your appointment (and home).
Did I think a Brazilian wax was worth it?
I wish I could say this whole thing is a crime against women that’s worthy of a Law & Order: SVU episode. But sadly for my feminist fury, I personally liked the end result. That smooth, streamlined, aerodynamic feel is worth the 30 minutes of awkwardness, IMO. But again, to each her own.