Preparing for your first bikini wax — especially the take-it-all-off Brazilian bikini wax — may be a bit nerve-wracking. You probably have questions about the procedure mixed with concerns about waxing pain.

But others have gone before you and lived to tell about it. Even a Brazilian bikini wax, in which hair is completely removed from your intimate areas, takes less than an hour to complete, depending on your response to the process and the efficiency of your waxer.

Bikini waxes can be performed at a spa or salon. Unlike other body hair waxing, a bikini wax is difficult to do yourself . This procedure is often done by aestheticians trained in hair and skin care.

The first step is to decide how much hair you want removed. The cost, length, and pain of the procedure depend on that decision, so be sure you and your waxer are in agreement. Your options are:

  • Traditional bikini wax. Only the hair outside of the bikini coverage area will be removed.
  • Extended bikini wax. Hair is removed up to two inches inside the bikini line.
  • Partial Brazilian bikini wax. Hair is removed in the groin area, buttocks, and on the labia (the lips of the vagina), leaving a thin strip of hair pointing upwards toward your bellybutton. You do have some creative license with the shaping of this strip of hair.
  • Full Brazilian wax. All hair is removed from the groin area, labia, and buttocks.

If there are any stray hairs after the bikini wax, your waxer will probably pluck them.

Common Concerns About Bikini Wax

It helps to be educated about the bikini wax routine and its risks in advance:

  • The process. You will be asked to remove all clothes below your waist. Your waxer may give you a small temporary thong to wear. You will lie down. If your pubic hair is long, your waxer may first trim it with scissors. Your waxer will then use a stick or spatula to apply hot wax to your pubic hair in patches, and then use a clean cloth to peel the wax and hair off your skin.
  • The pain. “Waxing is a pretty aggressive technique. I don’t think there is any kind of anesthesia or pain killer they can give you to lessen the pain,” says dermatologist Clay J. Cockerell, MD, medical director of Dermpath Diagnostics in Dallas, Texas. Here are ways to manage bikini waxing pain:
    • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain killers. You could take a standard dose of OTC pain reliever before your appointment to dull the pain.
    • Creams. Ask your aesthetician if she can recommend any numbing creams or moisturizers that could make your waxing experience less painful. These may need to be used up to an hour beforehand.
    • Time it. Schedule your wax so that it occurs well before or well after your period. The days around your period come with an increased sensitivity to pain.
    • Breathe and relax. The pain and the experience are only temporary. Tensing up makes it worse.
  • Ingrown hairs. Some women may experience ingrown hairs as their hair grows back in. You can reduce this risk by gently exfoliating and moisturizing the skin.
  • Bleeding. There is a slight risk of bleeding, but if you do bleed it is likely to be only a small amount.
  • Allergic reactions. Most women will not have an allergic reaction. Your skinis likely to be sensitive after the waxing is complete, and your waxer may apply a cooling moisturizer to help ease the immediate irritation. If itching, dryness, or redness last more than a day or so and cannot be eased by moisturizing, you may need to consult a dermatologist.

A Bikini Wax Warning

On the whole, getting a bikini wax is usually safe, even if it is painful. However, sometimes over-waxing can lead to secondary bacterial infections, says Dr. Cockerell. “That part of your body has got a different set of bacteria, supplied by oil glands and sweat glands, and when you pull that hair out, it alters the natural flora. We’ve seen people get severe secondary bacterial infection and ingrown hairs.”

Any signs of infection should be brought to the attention of your doctor. These include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pus
  • Skin that is hot to the touch

You don’t have to avoid bikini waxes, but you should exercise caution. You don’t want to wax more than once a month, assuming that your hair has re-grown enough, about one-quarter inch, for waxing to work effectively.

If you’re still nervous, you may want to start slow, with minimal hair removal, and work your way up to your full hair removal goal.