I’m pretty dense about hair removal. When I was 10, my aunt “taught” me how to shave with a disposable razor without bothering to tell me you have to remove the blade cover for it to actually work, so I didn’t actually start shaving until I was 12. I stopped precisely three weeks later, thanks to the combination of some not-so-pleasant bumps, two in-growns, and about a dozen nicks around my knee.
More than a decade later, my ultra-sensitive skin and I have been eluding the razor on the regular, partially because I’m lazy, and partially because those little red bumps that inevitably pop up seem like an awfully terrible alternative to some innocuous body hair. So, when my editor joyfully suggested I let a perfect stranger take hot wax to my labia in the name of journalism (“It’ll be fiiiiiine!” she said), I wasn’t exactly stoked. More accurately, I shuddered, and instantly demanded my co-worker accompany me to hold my hand.
Two weeks later, I had an appointment at Strip: Ministry of Waxing. Even though my (very encouraging, Brazilian-vet friends) suggested I take Advil beforehand, I just decided to skip lunch that day. I once heard you can only feel pain in one place at a time, and my hunger pangs would have to compete with the agony of what would probably feel like plucking out all your pubes at once, right? Oh, how wrong I was.
After arriving at Strip, I went downstairs to a cozy, dim-lit room and stripped from the waist-down, as instructed, when my therapist Gosia, knocked on the door. I let her know how paralyzingly nervous I was, and she simultaneously told me there’s nothing to be nervous about — and handed me a squeezy toy, “to help with the pain.” Awesome.
Instead of going on all fours like I’d expected, Gosia instructed me to bend my legs to form a diamond while we chat about my choices. “Most people stick to the standard strip Brazilian,” she said. I asked if that meant there’d be one fewer patch of hair for her to mercilessly rip out, and she nodded, smiling, before reassuring me that it’d be all over in fifteen minutes, tops.
In an attempt to keep from awkwardly laughing (or, you know, remembering a stranger is staring directly into my ladyparts), I asked every question that came to mind. Is my hair long enough? (You should be able to pinch the hair without having any skin pulling, or about 1 centimeter, Gosia said.) Is it too long? (If it was, they’d trim it “to minimize pain.”) Where’s it going to hurt the most? (“The pubic bone, for most people.”)
Within seconds, there’s a strip of warm, hard wax on my bikini line, and I’m flinching with every move she makes. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when,” Gosia says soothingly. She then assured me my ultra-sensitive skin would be fine. “For bikini waxes, it’s better to use hard wax,” she explained. “It’s created for sensitive areas, and it opens up pores and follicles to ensure hair comes out easier, prolonging the results.” Before I could register any of that, Gosia counted to three and ripped off the strip in one swift move. She immediately applied pressure with her hand to keep the pain in check (which worked!) and, in an attempt to distract me, offered an explanation as to why everyone so sadistically says the first Brazilian is the worst. Shaving, she said, is like getting a haircut — you’re cutting off the weak ends, leaving the follicle in tact, and thereby making the hair stronger. I was in the middle of an “aha” moment when I feel Gosia spread the wax on my labia majora.
Things I wish my friends told me about getting your labia majora waxed: Your entire body will start sweating, and you’ll begin involuntarily closing your legs so many times that you’ll legitimately wonder if your therapist is mad at you. (She isn’t.) You’ll thank a higher power that there are words printed on the ceiling for your enjoyment, but you won’t actually be able to focus on them. Eventually, the mirror in front of you will actually begin to blur, and you'll start to recite the alphabet just to keep from cursing. The pressure that magically took the pain away before will be futile, and tears will well up in your eyes. You’ll vow to never, ever, ever come back. And then, half a dozen pulls later, it’s over. Mostly.
Gosia instructed me to flip over on my stomach and spread ‘em, and I was thrilled to comply. I didn’t believe my friends for a moment when they said that the butt crack was the least painful, but, as luck would have it, the finale was a walk in the park.
After a total of 12 minutes, Gosia let me know we were all done, and after I put my shorts back on and went back upstairs, we talked about after-care: no sweating, tight clothing or hot showers for a full 24 hours, definitely no tanning (as if!), and no scrubbing for a week. “The most common problem is folliculitis — an infected follicle — and is mostly determined by what the client does after the wax,” Gosia said. “Ingrown hairs may occur, and can be treated with a cream like Malin+Goetz Ingrown Hair Cream to help keep the follicle clean, and can be prevented by exfoliating twice a week.”
I felt minor pain for a few hours after, but that disappeared as soon as I changed into sweats. Luckily, despite my crazy-sensitive skin, I never saw so much as a bump.
Gosia told me she hopes to see me back again in 4-6 weeks, when I’d probably be ready for my second wax. Coincidentally, 4-6 weeks is also the perfect amount of time required to almost forget about the amount of pain experienced, and I’ll be seeing her again soon. Maybe this time, I'll have some whiskey handy.
Photo: Courtesy of Seafolly.