Wax On, Wax Off: Why and How We Choose To Groom the Hair Down There

Photo by Yuri_Arcurs/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Yuri_Arcurs/iStock / Getty Images

A few years ago, a girlfriend commented that her husband had never seen her with pubic hair. I was surprised because she definitely struck me as a waxing kind of girl, and waxing requires about a quarter-inch of growth. How could that work? “I’ve been shaving every day since high school,” she said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

For those who aren’t taking a DIY approach or basking in post-laser-hairless glory, downtown maintenance requires more planning. As a vacation, anniversary, or holiday approaches, many women—and a few men—start checking their calendars to find the right date for hair removal. A bikini wax typically lasts a week or two, so you want to schedule your appointment to (1) give your skin time to recover from the post-hair-removal chicken-skin texture, and (2) maximize your hair-free time.

But with each appointment comes a barrage of questions and anxieties. First, there’s the discomfort of exposing your nether regions in a rather pronounced way to someone who’s mostly a stranger. And since this is a stranger who sees pantsless clients all day, is your bare bottom relatively on par with other clients’? How much hair removal is too much? Brazilians are not as popular as they once were, but does that mean that you should opt for a landing strip this time?

To help make sense of the awkward questions we ask ourselves about hair removal, I decided to pose those questions to a group of locals in an anonymous survey to get their take on first times, how much is too much, and more.

Some stats to get started.

Out of the 20 people I surveyed, 11 are women and 9 are men. (They selected pseudonyms for this article, so you’ll see their names accented with an asterisk.) Eighteen of those groom their pubic hair, while two prefer to go au naturel. Eight prefer a DIY approach to personal grooming, five keep it strictly professional, four rely on a combination of the two, and two reiterated their commitment to being natural. Among those who see a professional, five like to stick with the same esthetician, while the other four will go to whomever is available. Only two of the respondents have tried decorative grooming, like creating a shape or vajazzling.

Then and Now

Who can forget their first time lying on a salon table, sans underwear, awaiting the untold horror of waxing? For most waxing virgins—and some repeat customers—the biggest mistake is going in with too much hair. Many estheticians will give you a quick trim before starting if the situation is especially unruly, but some will get straight to the hot stuff, which means way more pain. That said, survey respondents impressions of first time hair removal ranged from, “Why the fuss? It was painless” to “Torture. It was horrible. I'm surprised I went back.”

Xylla*, who’s now a waxing and sugaring regular, called her first Brazilian “a wee bit terrifying” and admits that part of the discomfort was how clueless she felt during her first waxing appointment. “I don't often whip out that area in front of strangers. I [had] no fucking clue what I [was] meant to do. I hadn't really thought about a pre-groom or even the logistics of this at all. I was in a pretty tiny thong... I would have to take it off, but when was that moment? It seems a little rude to just be there, pants off, bush out.”

Svetlana* echoed that sentiment, recalling, “It was the combination of not really knowing what [the esthetician] was going to do and the first time being rough because your hair isn't thinned out yet; that did me in. But those results kept me coming back.”

Victoria*, who’s been waxing since college, says finding an esthetician who’s a good conversationalist is key. “I've found it's so important to have someone you really trust and can talk to during the process to distract from the molten wax being slathered on your nether regions. I've also been doing this now for a decade, so it's one of those NBD personal care things you just do.”

“I started Brazilian waxing when I was in college because I read about it in magazines,” Bianca* said. “Now it's something I keep up because it just makes me feel well kept and sexy.”

 Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

Pro or Nah?

Home waxing kits are certainly an option, but it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to do your own bikini or Brazilian wax. In a salon, there’s no turning back after the esthetician has slathered wax on your skin. At home, you can chicken out and be left with a mess. (If you want to try DIY waxing, this Into the Gloss explanation is excellent.)

The folks I interviewed agreed that hot wax is best left to the pros, and many believe the process is much less painful if you go regularly. (Estheticians recommend every four to six weeks.) Others, however, find that the drawbacks outweigh the temporary results. Sakina*, who has tried waxing and sugaring is over both. “I no longer go,” she says. “Pulling my hair out by the root has proven to be extremely distressing to my skin. Thick curly hair corkscrews into the skin instead of out of the pores it is meant to, resulting in in-grown hairs, irritation, bumps, redness, and pain for days and weeks afterwards.”

Partner Preferences

If you’re going to subject yourself to any type of uncomfortable body service, your primary motivation should be a selfish one. Don’t get a tattoo or piercing or wax or butt implants because your significant other thinks it’s a good idea; do it because you like the way it looks. But hair removal is one of those areas where we often take our partners’ preferences into consideration due to the sexual implications of the process.

Seventy-two percent of survey participants said their partners have expressed a preference for a specific style of personal grooming, (e.g., all on, all off, or landing strip), and 53 percent of survey participants have told a partner how they prefer the partner’s hair to be maintained. The women in the survey preferred male partners to keep their hair trimmed and neat, while the men preferred when women either waxed everything or left a landing strip. What’s interesting about those numbers is that men in these relationships tend to be speaking up more about their preferences for their partners. My favorite response was from Courtney*, a waxing regular, who said her partner, “prefers it trimmed, but doesn't complain when life gets busy.”

Both male and female respondents seem open to entertaining their partners’ preferences, so the takeaway here is that speaking up pays off. But, if your preference is that your partner to undergo an uncomfortable, $65 monthly treatment, you should respect their decision to skip a session. And, if you want more oral sex, consider more maintenance. Most respondents expressed that they prefer going down on a manicured area.

When you’re basing your grooming decisions solely upon what you think your partner wants, be sure to actually ask your partner about his or her preferences instead of assuming. If there’s something your partner could be trimming to keep you happier, gently broach the subject. 

You Do You

Some folks are vehemently opposed to hair removal, citing the biological function of pubic hair. Others prefer waxing because it makes them feel pretty. Whether you shave, wax, use hair removal creams, or keep it natural, how you maintain your situation is one of the most personal (and private) grooming decisions you’ll make. In the end, it all comes down to what makes you feel good. If you choose to remove hair, just be sure to do your research and either find a professional known for maintaining strict hygiene standards or take the necessary steps to establish a clean, healthy home grooming routine.

Looking for a new waxing or sugaring salon? Check out the Rockyt guide to San Francisco's best waxing salons.