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There are many bikini wax styles to choose from, whether you want a little or a lot of hair off. That said, it can be daunting to have a stranger rip off hair from some of the most sensitive and personal places on your body, but getting that super smooth feeling is next to none. If it's your first time, fear not. The pain involved is often talked up, and while it won't be all sunshine and rainbows, you might be surprised at how little you're actually bothered during your wax session. To get the lowdown on bikini wax shapes and types, we turned to Gina Petak of European Wax Center for expert advice.
Ahead, get a look at everything you need to know about bikini waxes, from preparation to the most common wax styles.
Meet the Expert
Gina Petak is a waxing expert and the Learning Program Manager at European Wax Center headquarters in Dallas.
Popular Bikini Wax Styles
Every salon or spa will have a different name and price for very similar services. Just because a facility offers bikini waxes, it doesn't automatically mean they will do all the styles for both women and men. With that in mind, names can get tricky, so if you're unsure, describe to your waxer exactly where you'd like hair to be removed—don't leave it up to a name! Petak explains that all of European Wax Center's bikini waxes are customizable, so you can choose to remove as much or as little hair from your chosen areas. For women, there are about five common basic bikini waxing styles:
- The Regular Bikini Wax: Petak explains that a bikini line wax only removes the sides of your bikini and a little off the top—anything that is shown outside of a regular bikini coverage.
When to choose: If it's your first bikini wax, or you're just looking for some light housekeeping, a regular bikini wax will do the trick.
- The Full Bikini Wax: The full bikini wax takes the bikini line's sides deeper than a regular bikini wax. It can also include waxing some hair on top to make a more defined 'triangle' area while trimming down leftover hair. As with all waxing styles, you can remove as much or as little hair from each area.
When to choose: If you still want to keep some hair but want more definition and hair removed deeper into the bikini line than a clean-up, this is the right wax for you.
- The French Bikini Wax: This wax takes all hair off in the front (except a small strip). It doesn't take the hair off from the back like a Brazilian, however.
When to choose: Select this wax if you want the area pretty smooth with most hair removed but don't want to take any hair away from your behind.
- The Brazilian Bikini Wax: The Brazilian bikini wax takes all hair off the bikini line, front to back. "This is perfect for a completely nude look, or you can leave a neat triangle, strip, or square on the front," says Petak.
When to choose: This is the perfect option if you wear a thong or want to be completely or almost hairless in the front and back.
- The Hollywood: While a Brazilian may leave you with some hair left, a Hollywood removes all of it.
When to choose: Get the Hollywood if you are certain that you don't want any hair in the front, in-between, or the back. It's not recommended for your first bikini wax, as it's something you should ease into.
How to Prepare for a Bikini Wax
You're in control of your service. Double-check with your technician to ensure that you both are on the same page on how you want your bikini wax to look. Tell them your preferences of where and how much hair you want to be removed or left. This way, they can adjust the style to make it your own.
Plan on exfoliating before your wax? Petak says to make sure to use a film-free exfoliant that rinses clean off the skin rather than leaving it coated in oil 24 to 48 hours before your wax. She recommends European Wax Center’s exfoliating gel; it’s non-abrasive and contains their exclusive Comfort Blend™ to help calm, nourish, and restore skin.
As far as length goes, Petak recommends that your hair is at least one-quarter inch long—about the size of a sprinkle. "It’s a good idea to stop shaving at least five days before your waxing reservation," Petak says.
It's better to arrive at your waxing appointment with hair that is too long, rather than hair that is too short. Those that are unsure about their hair length should wait a bit longer. The worst-case scenario is that your spa trims down the hair before your session.
Additionally, many studios will be okay with you having your period as long as you have a fresh tampon in. However, you'll want to call ahead to make sure. Being on your period during a wax can be more uncomfortable for obvious reasons, but this often means that you'll be more sensitive to the wax as well. If it's your first time, it's highly recommended that you avoid getting waxed during your period. If you do, however, pop an Advil before you go to lessen the pain.
The Benefits of Bikini Waxes
You may be wondering—are there benefits to getting a bikini wax aside from hair removal? You'll be happy to know there are. "The benefits are that it provides long-lasting results—giving you back more time in your day, week, life," Petak says. "Plus, by waxing, hair is removed from the root, so when the hair does eventually grow back, it will be softer and finer."
How Painful is a Bikini Wax?
If you're worried about pain, keep in mind that the anticipation is what hurts the most. Once you find a technician that you get along with, you can spend most of the time chatting to get your mind off it. The first time you get a bikini wax is typically the most painful, especially if you're used to shaving down there.
Once you've stopped shaving and go for regular bikini waxes, you'll find that the pain gets easier and easier every time. Petak explains that a high-quality wax can make all the difference in your experience. "European Wax Center uses an exclusively developed, hard stripless Comfort Wax. It removes hair effectively with minimal pain while also being gentle on the skin—ensuring the most comfortable waxing experience."
Oh, and remember how we talked about hair-length earlier? The longer your hair is, the more painful your wax will be. On the other hand, if your hair is too short, the wax won't be able to grab onto it, which means it won't come off right, or ingrown hairs may develop. If you're worried about your hair being on the long side, ask your technician if they think it needs a trim before waxing.
Are There Any Risks/Side Effects?
As with many procedures, there are risks—in this case, sanitation is key. "If you find a place that double dips their stick—run," Petak warns. "Double dipping is highly unsanitary and can cause the spreading of bacteria and infections between guests."
A proper post-wax routine is the secret to avoiding ingrown hairs and maintaining your bikini wax until your next appointment. Petak recommends using European Wax Center’s ingrown hair serum and some other products to stretch out the time between your appointments to prevent ingrown hairs post-wax. "To help slow the growth of hair between waxes, try European Wax Center’s Slow It line, which consists of a Body Wash ($20) and Body Lotion ($20) that include our Hair Growth Minimizer."
Falcone D, Richters RJ, Uzunbajakava NE, Van Erp PE, Van De Kerkhof PC. Sensitive skin and the influence of female hormone fluctuations: results from a cross-sectional digital survey in the Dutch population. Eur J Dermatol. 2017;27(1):42-48. doi:10.1684/ejd.2016.2913
Cleveland Clinic. Shaving vs. waxing: what’s better for your skin? Updated September 8, 2020.