Your Guide To A Bump-Free Bikini Line

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar
A bikini wax has a lot in common with having a third margarita. It may seem like a no-brainer at the time — especially in the summer — but if you’re not careful, you’ll wake up the next day in major pain. In the case of your bikini line, a poorly planned hair-removal experience can leave you with a “hangover” of red, itchy ingrown hairs and razor bumps.
But there’s no need to avoid hot wax and razors as if they were cheap tequila; you just need to know the best ways to handle them. We got some of the top hair-removal experts in the game to share their tips and tricks for waxing and shaving to prevent ingrown hair and irritation — for a smooth, bump-free experience you’ll never regret.
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Do Your Prep Work
You get razor bumps or ingrowns when the hair curls underneath the skin as it’s growing out of the follicle. This usually happens after it has been sliced with a razor or yanked out with wax. When hair is trapped, your body treats it like a foreign invader and attacks it, causing inflammation.

No matter your de-fuzzing weapon of choice, you should plan ahead to dodge irritation. “Number-one rule for avoiding ingrowns is to exfoliate,” says Nandi Wagner, lead esthetician at Bliss Soho in New York City. Dry skin traps the hair below the surface, she explains, and a regular exfoliating regimen a couple times a week will remove that layer. Wagner likes sugar scrubs, like Bliss Blood Orange + White Pepper Sugar Scrub, for keeping skin smooth.

Bliss Blood Orange + White Pepper Sugar Scrub, $36, available at Bliss.
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Regular exfoliation is crucial to prevent ingrown hairs, and this gentle scrub is especially perfect for the lightly-moisturized finish it leaves behind.

French Girl Organics Sea Polish, $38, available at French Girl Organics.
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Swipe these on your bikini line daily to keep bumps at bay, but be warned: The sting is strong if you do it post-shave.

Bliss Ingrown Hair Eliminating Pads, $38, available at Ulta Beauty.
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“I tell patients to use a loofah to exfoliate the skin between waxing or shaving,” says Kate Holcomb, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Tulane University in New Orleans. She suggests very gently scrubbing in the direction of hair growth.

This palm fiber brush is ideal for dry brushing before your shower and boosts circulation in the process.

Bed Bath & Beyond Purest Palm Body Brush, $9.99, available at Bed Bath & Beyond.
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You can also shower with a salicylic acid wash, like Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash, twice a week as another form of exfoliation.

Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash, $6.99, available at Drugstore.com.
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Regular exfoliation is key to keep skin soft — and bumps at bay, too. This one smells like you're in a French spa drinking bottomless wine while also doing something good for your skin. Win-win!

Caudalie Crushed Cabernet Scrub, $38, available at Sephora.
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Pick The Right Tool
If you prefer shaving over waxing, a sharp, fresh razor can make the difference between smooth skin and a rashy nightmare. A dull blade causes friction when it tugs on hair and skin, while a sharp one glides right on through. That friction aggravates the hair follicle and creates an ideal situation for ingrown hairs.

Also, the newer the razor, the less likely it is to harbor bacteria, explains Dr. Holcomb. Those microbes can cause irritation and infection, so make sure you store your razor in a place that allows it to dry completely between uses. And replace the blades every three to five uses.

“I am not a big fan of the razors with the built-in moisture strips,” Dr. Holcomb says. The shape can make shaving more challenging and require more passes. And the strips don’t always provide enough lubrication to allow for a smooth shave. She suggests using a moisturizing shaving cream like Aveeno Positively Smooth Shave Gel to soften hair and moisturize skin. Look for a multi-blade razor, like Gillette Simply Venus, that can maneuver in tight spaces.

Gillette Simply Venus Disposable Razor, $7.49, available at Drugstore.com.
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Luckily, there are also newer options that are engineered specifically for the bikini line. Try Noxzema's bikini shavers for a compact model or this one from Schick for one with an optional trimmer.

Schick Hydro Silk TrimStyle Razor, $15.99, available at Walgreens.
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Start In The Shower
Make shaving part of your shower routine, rather than a stand-alone ritual. “Showering first makes the skin warm and more pliable, so there’s less tugging,” Dr. Holcomb says. Plus, the water can help soften hair a bit so the blade doesn’t have to work as hard.

“Always go with the grain when shaving,” Wagner says. “Pushing against the follicle causes irritation and bumps.” This is especially important for areas with coarse, thick hair like the bikini line.

Aveeno Positively Smooth Shave Gel, $3.96, available at Walmart.
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Jodi Shays, owner and founder of Queen Bee Salons in California, recommends finding a shave cream or oil that's natural and not heavy nor pore-clogging. "Look for shaving products that don't have a lot of ingredients in them," Shays says. "I look for a cream or gel that has aloe vera in it, since it's antibacterial."

Ursa Major Stellar Shave Cream, $24, available at Goop.
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Get The Wax Facts
Don’t assume all wax is created equal. If you’re going to a pro, find out what type of wax she uses. Soft wax adheres to the skin, and hard wax grabs the hair as it hardens and is less likely to anger the skin, explains Wagner.

Most people can handle waxing large, accessible areas like arms and legs themselves. But the smaller places that involve detail work — like the brows, or spots that require acrobatic skill to reach, like the bikini line — should be left to an expert. Wagner warns that she’s seen bruising — and worse — from botched at-home wax jobs.

If you do choose to do it on your own, apply the wax in the direction of hair growth. Then, hold the skin taut as you remove the wax or strip against the direction of hair growth. Wagner says that holding the skin taut increases the odds the hair will come out at the root. Otherwise, it could break and you'll have a higher probability of getting an ingrown.

Parissa Wax Strips Sensitive Formula, $12.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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After-Care Is A Must
How you treat your skin after hair removal is key to preventing ingrowns. “You have to moisturize liberally after shaving or waxing,” Wagner says. Keeping skin soft and smooth makes it easier for the new hair to grow out of the follicle rather than become trapped. Wagner suggests looking for a lotion containing oatmeal extract or lactic acid, like St. Ives Nourish & Soothe Oatmeal & Shea Butter Lotion.
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Avoid the sauna or steam room, or doing a workout, right after removing hair, especially on the bikini line. “Give it about 24 hours before being in a setting where you’ll sweat,” Wagner says. “Sweat breeds bacteria, and your follicles are more open in the 12 to 18 hours after hair removal.” Also, the friction of your workout clothes against your newly bare skin can cause irritation.

If you're still dealing with ingrown hairs, or you have some that just won't go away, consider seeking help from a pro. Today there are many treatments — like bikini-line facials — to remove the pesky bumps.

Consider Taking Permanent Measures “Laser hair removal is basically a cure for razor bumps,” Dr. Holcomb says. The energy from a laser can destroy the hair follicles, so there is less hair to remove and cause irritation.

St. Ives Nourish & Soothe Oatmeal & Shea Butter Lotion, $4.99, available at Target.
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Consider this the holy trifecta of beating ingrown hairs: It contains glycolic, salicylic, and phytic acids.

Anthony Ingrown Hair Treatment, $32, available at Anthony.
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The little sister to Anthony's Ingrown Hair Treatment has all the AHAs and BHAs to keep your bikini area smooth, plus a soothing complex that calms irritation.

Shaveworks The Cool Fix, $26, available at Sephora.
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