Bikini waxing is the epilation of pubic hair in and around the pubic region, commonly by women, by the use of wax. With certain styles of women's swimwear, pubic hair may become visible around the crotch area of a swimsuit. Visible pubic hair is widely culturally disapproved of and considered to be embarrassing, and so is at times removed. However, some people also remove pubic hair that is not exposed, for aesthetic, personal hygiene, cultural, fashion or other reasons.
The bikini line delineates the part of a woman's pubic area which would normally be covered by the bottom part of a swimsuit. In the context of waxing, it is generally understood to describe any pubic hair visible beyond the boundaries of a swimsuit. Epilation is usually also performed on the upper leg.(p139)
Pubic hair can be removed in a number of ways, including waxing, shaving, sugaring or using chemical depilatory creams. Hair that is not removed may be trimmed. While the practice is mainly associated with women, men at times also remove pubic hair.
In Middle Eastern societies, removal of the female body hair has been considered proper hygiene, necessitated by local customs, for many centuries. In Islam, this is known as an act of Fitrah. Evidence of pubic hair removal in ancient India dates back to 4000 to 3000 BCE. According to ethnologist F. Fawcett, writing in 1901, he had observed the removal of body hair, including pubic hair about the vulva, as a custom of women from the Hindu Nair caste.
In Western societies, removal of female body hair (except for head hair, eyelashes and eyebrows) has traditionally been considered appropriate when it was visible. Visible pubic hair continues to be widely culturally disapproved and considered to be embarrassing, and so is at times removed. In relation to pubic hair, with the reduction in the size of swimsuits, especially since the coming into fashion and popularity of the bikini after 1946, the styling of pubic hair has also come into vogue. The practice to remove even more pubic hair continued with the popularity or fashion of even briefer swimwear, such as the thong which exposed the buttocks.
Changes in lingerie styles also encouraged the removal of pubic hair,(p139) and the nude crotch — i.e., the total removal of pubic hair, such as in a full Brazilian or the Sphinx style — became considered by many to be erotic and glamorous. A nude crotch is considered by some to be more youthful looking.:59 According to Tschachler, Devine and Draxlbauer, removal of all visible body hair has come to be seen as an important aspect of femininity.:60
Pubic hair may be styled into several basic styles(p139) which may have differing names. Different salons use different names for common types of waxing, for example referring to a Brazilian with a "landing strip" as a "Mohican" or a Hollywood as "Full Monty".
- Natural, au naturel, bush does not involve any trimming or styling.
- Trimmed or cut involves the shortening of pubic hair but not its removal or shaping, inner thighs may be shaved.
- Triangle, or bikini line involves hair removal (generally waxed) from the sides to form a triangle so that pubic hair cannot be seen while wearing swimwear.
- American waxing is the removal of only the pubic hair that is exposed by a swimsuit, depending on the style of the swimsuit. For a bikini, it would be hair at the top of the thighs and under the navel. It is also known as a basic bikini wax,(p139) or a bikini line wax.
- French waxing leaves a vertical strip in front (sometimes called a landing/Playboy strip), two to three finger-widths long just above the vulva, and 4 cm (1½ inches) wide. It is also known as a partial Brazilian wax.(p139) Hair of the peri-anal area and labia may be removed. Removal of hair from these areas is also known as the Playboy wax or G-waxing. The landing strip wax has become popular with models who must wear garments of an extreme narrowness in the crotch region.
- Brazilian waxing is the removal of all hair in the pelvic area, front and back, while sometimes leaving a thin strip of hair on the mons pubis.(p139) It can be used by those who wear thong bikinis. It is a form of bikini waxing, and involves the complete removal of hair from the buttocks and adjacent to the anus, perineum and vulva (labia majora and mons pubis). Brazilian waxing is also known as a full Brazilian wax, full bikini wax, Hollywood wax or the Sphinx (named after the naked breed of cat).(p139)
- Some women trim, but keep hair on their labia, while removing the pubic hair on the mons pubis.
- The full bikini or the European is the removal of pubic hair except for a small amount on the mons pubis.
- The moustache is the removal of pubic hair except for a wide, rectangular patch just above the hood at the top of the genital slit. This is sometimes called "Hitler's moustache", or "Chaplin's moustache".
- The heart is the shaping of the main pubic tuft into a heart symbol and may be dyed pink. This is a popular style for Valentine's Day, presented as an erotic surprise to a sexual partner.
Brazilian waxing is more controversial than other types of waxing.(p528) Like all waxing, it can be a physically painful experience during and after waxing,(p531)(p161) which some believe can become more unpleasant if receiving cunnilingus from a bearded partner.(p233)(p89) American actress-model Lisa Barbuscia commented on her negative first experience at getting a Brazilian at a Los Angeles salon popular with porn stars: "It was so painful I collapsed. I only fainted, but I was nearly carted off to hospital and I have vowed never to try it again."[better source needed] However, the continued popularity speaks against such experiences being universal. Some critics of the procedure believe that Brazilian waxing can contribute to making an adult woman look underage, claiming that this may be one reason for its popularity in the pornographic industry.(p161) Christina Valhouli of Salon has suggested that it is unnatural.(p246) There is also a health risk involved if it is not done properly, as well as a risk of infection if done on a person with a weakened immune system.
Warm wax is applied to hair and covered with small strips of cloth. When the wax hardens sufficiently, the cloth is pulled off quickly to remove hair up from the roots. Some discomfort is associated with the procedure. Generally, discomfort lasts less than five days. A person can wax themselves using a home kit. A bikini wax during pregnancy is generally more painful, due to increased sensitivity.
The bikini or similar undergarment worn by the client is tucked in and covered with paper towel. A small applicator may be used on both sides of the bikini area to create a clean and even line. Using an antiseptic cleaner and covering the area with powder after the cleaner dries up is standard. Wax is applied with a large spatula in the direction of hair growth, which is downwards. It is applied in a strip 2 inches wide and 4 to 5 inches long up to the femoral ridge. Since the hair on the pubis is coarse and grows horizontally and inward, a second application of wax is often required. Then all the wax strips are pulled away when the wax is set but still pliable. It is pulled against the direction of hair growth while keeping the skin taut. The pulling ideally is done as swiftly as possible. The last part of the waxing is done with the patient lifting her legs so the hair near the table can be worked on. A normal American waxing job takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.(pp117–118)
It follows mostly the procedures of an American waxing, with special cleaning and powdering of areas to be waxed. Gloves are mandatory. To create the "landing strip" (a line of hair) practitioners and clients prefer either of the two positions: lying face up or lying face down. Sometimes hard wax is used, though strip wax works as effectively.(pp117–118)
The wax used is often a mixture of natural beeswax and tall oil rather than the more common synthetic waxes used for regular leg waxing. It is felt that beeswax is stronger, and more effective at removing the thicker, coarser pubic hairs. Many products are available to lessen the pain involved, such as topical anesthetics. Sometimes a hair inhibitor is applied, which slows the regrowth of hair and may halt regrowth completely. The results can last up to two months.
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The pubic area is one of the most sensitive areas in the body, and special attention must be paid to avoid irritation. Over time hair becomes weaker and grows more slowly, leading to less frequent waxing. If the client has never been waxed before, or has not been waxed for a long time, it may be necessary to trim the hair down first using scissors or an electric razor.(pp117–118) A patch test is necessary, usually at the uppermost part of the thigh, to test that the client is not allergic to wax or the skin doesn't overreact. Since the mucous membrane of the vulva is the most sensitive of the bikini area, it is usually better left to the last part of the process. Sometimes bumps or in-grown hair can result. Isolated hairs can be removed by using tweezers or by electrolysis. Waxing can be performed privately in the home, or by a cosmetologist.
The pain involved with this procedure can be slight or severe and can continue from several seconds to several minutes. Some people experience less pain during subsequent treatments. It can be helpful for a bikini wax recipient to take a mild anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen) an hour or so before waxing to reduce potential pain from the waxing. Application of Egg Oil for a few days post-waxing can help moisturise the skin and reduce inflammation, pain or growth of bacteria.
The medical community has also seen a recent increase in folliculitis, or infection around the hair follicle, in women who wax or shave their bikini areas. Some of these infections can develop into more serious abscesses that require incision with a scalpel, drainage of the abscess, and antibiotics. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause of folliculitis.
Family physician Emily Gibson, M.D. expresses the view that shaving pubic hair "removes a cushion against friction, leaves microscopic open wounds and exposes you to infections".
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- How it feels to give a Brazilian wax—Interview with a depiladora, specialized in Brazilian Waxing, January 4, 2005.