A full-proof guide to the Hollywood wax

Kristina Ratobilska GETTY IMAGES

As a woman, you should feel completely empowered to make whatever grooming choices you feel comfortable with. There’s no ‘wrong’ way to handle body hair, whether it be lasering it all off or keeping it completely ‘au naturale’. The important thing is that you’re making that choice for yourself, not for society or solely for your partner’s pleasure. Of course, we’ve all internalised patriarchy and have been conditioned by social norms so I guess no beauty regimen is ever completely performed ‘for oneself’ — be it makeup, waxing or cosmetic surgery. But that’s a debate better left for another day.

Even if you do decide to go the hair removal route, there’s a range of ‘styles’ to choose from: the bikini wax (only your bikini line), the Brazilian (the top, or the ‘mons pubis’ if you will, along with the back and bikini but not the middle), a landing strip (speaks for itself) or even some articulate design (you may recall when Sex and the City’s Samantha was shaven into a lightning bolt by her trainer).

Still from Sex and the City

But popularised by pornography and the media, the ‘Hollywood’ wax (code for ‘everything off’) has been gaining momentum and is the default choice.

Disclaimer: every style of wax is perfectly valid depending on your preference. This is a safe space for all waxes, okay?

Before I had ever gotten a wax, I mistook the ‘Brazilian’ for the ‘Hollywood’, and immaturely presumed no one would spend money on anything other than baby smooth hairlessness. I was left wondering why the beautician didn’t take it all off when I thought that’s what Brazilian meant. The first rule of waxing is to get your terminology right. If you want everything gone, you need to get a Hollywood.

I started waxing regularly about 5/6 years ago and, through some painful trial and error, I’ve found the perfect formula for prepping and caring for your wax. I’m definitely not an expert or professional so please do your own research alongside this.

But it’s safe to say that the six years’ worth of awkward chit chat with different waxers has given me some top tier waxing hacks.

  1. Exfoliate, Exfoliate, EXFOLIATE (pre-wax)

This is the one golden rule that any wax cannot go without. Before your wax, make sure to take a warm/luke-warm shower (also for added hygiene reasons) a few hours before your wax. In the shower, exfoliate the dead skin cells using a gentle but high quality exfoliator, such as Murad’s Hydrating Exfoliating Cleanser, so that your hair can grown above the skin’s surface.

Leave the cleanser on for a couple minutes before rinsing off with warm, not hot, water (it also makes a great facial exfoliator once a week). After your wax, wait 1-2 days before exfoliating (the first 48 hours are very important to prevent ingrowns). Then do this 2-3 times a week in your shower until your next appointment.

Although I do this more rarely, after your shower you can also use a cotton pad to dab on a tiny bit of ‘Ingrow Go’ exfoliator (test it on a small portion of skin first, and if you have sensitive skin rinse it off after a few minutes). However don’t do this 48 hours before your wax.

Without exfoliating, you’ll inevitably get ingrown hairs after your first few waxes because dead skin debris will block the hair follicle opening, causing the hair to grow sideways or back into the skin. They tend to occur with waxing because your skin gets harder and your hair gets thinner, so is less able to break through the surface. That’s why exfoliating is crucial. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

If you do get ingrown hairs, try to resist the urge to pluck or pick at them yourself- leave it for your waxer to do next time.

I love:

Skin Doctors Ingrow Go Lotion — £9.70

Murad Hydration AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser — £20.91

2. Avoid tight clothing

Image my own

Don’t wear tight clothing for the next few days and make sure you wear something like a skirt or loose-fitting pants to go to and from your appointment.

3. Don’t sweat it — literally

Make sure you don’t exercise AT LEAST 24 hours after a wax; 36-48 hours is even more ideal. The movement will produce sweat and, because waxing opens your pores, this can lead to an accumulation of bacteria in those pores and cause public enemy number one: ingrown hairs.

4. Don’t have sex…

…Or you will get pregnant and die. I’m obviously joking, of course. For many, the whole point of a wax is so that their partner can appreciate the silky smoothness of their hair-free skin. But make sure you leave 2-3 days ideally before you schedule a d (or p) appointment. Just like exercise, the friction against your skin and the likely sweat which may occur will be detrimental to your pores, as it can cause irritation and ingrown hairs.

5. Shower BEFORE a wax and NOT after

Never take a bath 48 hours after a wax. You can shower about 5-8 hours after a wax, but it’s better to leave it for the next morning because your hair follicles are open and the water will cause excess moisture, irritating the skin and thus clogging pores. To be safe, for up to 48 hours after your wax use cold water at the end of the shower to close your pores.

Before a wax, make sure to use warm/lukewarm (not hot) water a few hours before your wax so that your skin has time to completely dry off and your body temperature can be normalised.

6. Meet your new BFFS: Aloe Vera, Tea Tree and Hemp

Naturally, a wax will leave your skin very red and possibly quite sensitive in the first 24-48 hours. The best way to soothe it is using Aloe Vera gel with tea tree (it’s best to have a plant), but if you want something creamier opt for Hemp cream. If you get bumps or ingrown hairs, you could also use a tiny bit of tea tree oil directly on them. But make sure you only place it at the top of your bikini area (not anywhere near your vagina).

This doesn’t exfoliate the area, only soothes and moisturises it.

Make sure not to put anything on your skin on the day of your wax so that it’s left fully clean- only use these products after.

I love:

Dr Organic Aloe Vera Gel with Tea Tree — £6.99

Sterex Aloe Vera Soothing Gel — £12.90

Rescue Cream 24h Organic Hemp Oil — £11.79

7. Don’t shave between waxes

Thought Catalog on Unsplash

If you can help it, it’s best to refrain from shaving and instead pluck stray hairs until your next wax. By making hair stronger, shaving will defeat the progress of waxing, which in contrast makes hair much thinner, softer and sparser over time. I’ve built up such a ‘tolerance’ for pain from all these waxes and my hair has gotten so thin/sparse that plucking doesn’t even hurt (much). Seriously, women are muy powerful.

Also make sure your hair is long enough to be waxed off when making a booking. That’s why waiting around 4-6 weeks between appointments is ideal.

10. Don’t skimp on your wax

I’ve found that a good Hollywood wax should be at least £27.00, all the way up to £50.00. The salon (or place — self-employed practitioners are also great) has to be squeaky clean and they need to be using hot wax (never strip wax), pulling in the right direction of hair growth.

10. Calm your nerves

Camille Brodard on Unsplash

Don’t fear the pain. The first time feeling that exposed might seem daunting, but the experience is so professional and comfortable. Or at least is should be!! The beauticians literally see those parts every day and are not at all judgemental of anything; it’s literally their job. If it doesn’t feel that way, make sure you switch salons.

Contrary to what you might think, a few glasses of wine won’t make the pain more tolerable; stimulants in the system can cause skin to be extra sensitive to waxing because alcohol thins your blood.

Needless to worry, the process flies by much quicker than you’d think (max an hour usually). Making some convo with your waxer always helps pass time and also distracts from the fact that they’re unblinkingly staring into your nether regions. It’s over quicker than you think and you’re left feeling accomplished, free and looking forward to texting your beau.

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