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 serious 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. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission. Do Your Prep Work
You get razor bumps or ingrowns when the hair curls underneath the surface of the skin as it’s growing out of the follicle, which 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
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 for keeping skin smooth.
Lemon & Sage Satin-Skin Body Polish, $8.00
Buy Nécessaire The Body Exfoliator Regular exfoliation is crucial to prevent ingrown hairs, and this gentle scrub is especially perfect for the lightly moisturized — not stripped — finish it leaves behind. Nécessaire
The Body Exfoliator, $30.00
Buy FUR Ingrown Eliminator Swipe these pads on your bikini line daily to keep bumps at bay, but be warned: The sting is strong if you do it immediately post-shave. FUR
Ingrown Eliminator, $18.00
Buy The Organic Pharmacy Skin Brush
“I tell patients to use a loofah to exfoliate the skin between waxing or shaving,” says
, 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 natural bristle brush is ideal for dry-brushing before your shower, and boosts circulation in the process.
The Organic Pharmacy
Skin Brush, $19.00
Buy Neutrogena Body Clear Acne Body Wash You can also shower with a salicylic acid wash twice a week as another form of exfoliation. Neutrogena
Body Clear Acne Body Wash with Glycerin, $6.49
Buy 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. Oui The People
THE SINGLE Rose Gold Sensitive Skin Razor, $75.00
Buy Schick Hydro Silk TrimStyle Razor There are also options that are engineered specifically for the bikini line. Try this one from Schick, which also includes a trimmer. Schick
Hydro Silk TrimStyle Razor, $16.49
Buy 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. Bevel
Shave Cream, $14.95
Buy Ursa Major Stellar Shave Cream
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."
Stellar Shave Cream, $24.00
Buy Get The Wax Facts Educate yourself on the type of wax you're using: Soft wax adheres to the skin, whereas hard wax grabs the hair as it hardens and is therefore less likely to anger the skin, Wagner explains. 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 once you're able to safely visit one again. 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. Flamingo
Body Wax Kit, $10.00
Buy 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. St. Ives
Nourish and Soothe Oatmeal and Shea Butter Body Lotion, $3.99
Buy Kubra Kay Razor Relief Avoid the sauna or steam room, or 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 this cream that eliminates ingrowns and bumps. Kubra Kay Skincare
Kubra Kay Skincare Razor Relief, $29.99
Buy Anthony Ingrown Hair Treatment Consider this the holy trifecta of beating ingrown hairs: It contains glycolic, salicylic, and phytic acids. Anthony
Ingrown Hair Treatment, $32.30
Buy Shaveworks The Cool Fix This fixer-upper has all the AHAs and BHAs you need to keep your bikini area smooth, plus a soothing complex that calms irritation. Shaveworks
The Cool Fix, $12.00
Buy PFB Vanish If a product has salicylic acid, then you know it'll help release those trapped hairs underneath the surface of your skin. Plus, this one has camphor to soothe your tingling skin. PFB Vanish
PFB Vanish, $23.95