Bikini-wax wars

Women who wear bikinis are often self-conscious about any stray hairs that stand out. Waxing these hairs away is recommended by some beauticians, as the process causes the hair to grow back at a slower rate than other methods of controlling it. It is a popular trend and some believe it is cleaner.

Should you lose a little of your “privates” hair or a lot? What’s up with the latest trend down there?

* A stray hair was sticking out of my bathing suit. I swear it was only one–and blonde, at that! I pointed it out to my friend Alice, who was sitting next to me on the beach. “Should I cut this?” I asked innocently. Within a minute, five of my friends were crowded around, pushing aside my bikini body bottom and arguing about the merits of waxing, shaving, and cutting with scissors.

Everybody was babbling at once, but one thing was perfectly clear: When it comes to pubic hair, most women think less is more. The overall consensus was that I should get my bikini line waxed. In the unthinking heat of the moment, it seemed like a fantastic and novel idea.

I sought expert advice at Gerta of Austria, a day spa in Saugerties, New York, where I live. The waxers unanimously agreed with my friends’ suggestion. They thought I should get the top and sides of my pubic triangle shaped.

Ouch! Hot wax, delicate skin, and adhesive yanking out the hair at the roots–think about plucking each eyebrow hair, then multiply that pain by a thousand. But everyone assured me that hair that’s been waxed grows back a lot more slowly than hair that’s been shaved and that the first time is more painful than subsequent waxings. I was convinced, so I went for it. It was torture, but afterward, my boyfriend, Steve, and I liked the results. “More manicured,” he said. Then I tried on my bathing suit and there wasn’t a single stray hair to be seen.

A few days later, a successful Hollywood actor I was interviewing told me that the last time he did a nude love scene in a film, he was surprised to find that the actress didn’t have any pubic hair. He mentioned this to the movie’s hair-and-makeup people, and they looked at him like he was nuts. “All the girls are doing that now,” they said. Two weeks later, he did another romantic scene with a different actress, and she didn’t have a drop of hair down there either.

Less Is More

A quick call to New York City’s Frederic Fekkai Salon confirmed the trend. Having the triangle made smaller, as I had, was still the most asked-for waxing style. Running a close second was what I named the Mohawk (that’s when they leave a thin strip of about one inch of hair on the pubic mound), and bringing up the rear was a growing group of women asking for the “bald” look. ‘We get a lot of models and actresses who want to have all the hair taken off,” confirmed one of their aestheticians (waxers). “It’s because the panties they have to wear are so revealing.”

Who knew? My girlfriends liked the, reduced-triangle bikini wax but thought I should have even more hair removed. In an attempt to educate me, my friend Ruth opened a copy of Playboy. The evidence was staring me in the face: The ‘ triangle of hair-once considered so risque that it was airbrushed out-had indeed been replaced by the Mohawk.

Back at Gerta, I’m there for my, Mohawk. “We knew you’d want to take more off,” the women say when they see me. In the last five years, they say, women have been trimming their pubic hair in ways only exotic dancers did before. “Men like it,” they claimed.

(This may or may not be the truth: At my poker game, my guy friends were evenly divided. Larry feared that the “five-o’clock shadow,” whether from shaving or waxing, would be rough on his face, while Wes, red-faced, admitted that he likes his wife shaved. The only thing they could agree on is that they didn’t like it “when there’s hair on a woman’s thighs–like my mother’s!”)

So now I have this thin strip on my mound, sort of like a hairy landing strip, and although I feel a little foolish (Am I starting to look like a prepubescent girl? Am I going to regret this?), Steve thinks it looks great, and I figure this waxing thing’s gone far enough.

Cutting It Closer

My girlfriends, however, don’t agree. “Nice,” they say, examining my pubic hair as if they were studying a bug under a microscope. “Now you have to take care of the rest of the hair.”

“What rest?” I ask.

“Take a pair of scissors and cut around your you-know-what,” Ruth urges. She hands me scissors, a mirror, and pushes me toward the bathroom. Once I start cutting, I can’t seem to stop. I trim all the hair between my legs, careful not to get too close to my clitoris, which seems to have retreated in horror anyway.

“How close should I go?” I yell from the bathroom to my friends.

“Very,” Lucy says with authority. “It’s fantastic when you have your period and it doesn’t get so messy.”

Tufts of hair are falling fluffily into the toilet. I keep snipping until I have the Mohawk on my mound and a crew cut–about one-quarter inch of hair–around my you-know-what.

The girls carefully inspect the results. By this point, I’ve given up any semblance of pride or privacy.

“Have it waxed,” Minerva says dismissively. “It’s so much cleaner, and then you don’t have to fuss with it so often.

I ask a doctor friend if the hair around the vagina can be cut. “It’s a barrier,” he says. “It keeps foreign objects out. But since most women shower every day, there’s really nothing to worry about.”

Within a few days, the hair I’d trimmed is growing back and starts to feel itchy. I decide to have it waxed.

Having the hair between your legs waxed is pretty much insane. Naked from the waist down, with my legs on the waxer’s shoulders, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I do both. There’s pain and embarrassment. Even just feeling the hot wax was a whole new experience in physical discomfort. No wonder all the girls at Gerta say they don’t get many requests for this procedure.

I’m handed a mirror, and I take my first look. I’ve skill got my landing strip of hair, but I’m bald farther down. Although the skin looks a bit like a chicken’s neck, all nubby and crinkled, there is something highly erotic about the nakedness of it. When I put on my parties, it feels like a hand is rubbing against me down there. When I show Steve the new me, he isn’t quite sure how he likes it. But when we have sex later that night, we’re both amazed at how much more sensitive I am during oral sex. There was a whole new area of bare skin down there. I could even feel Steve’s hot breath on it, and it was really erode.

Going “Bald”

A couple of weeks later, when the hair is beginning to grow out, I figure since I’ve already come this far, I might as well see what I’d look like without a single pubic hair. I head to the shower armed with a mirror, a new razor, shaving cream, and a lemon. Yes, a lemon. A friend who shaves her whole shebang had told me, “You take half a lemon and rub it on the hair first. It seems to make the hair come out easier, and there’s less irritation.” When I’m finished, I decide everything feels silky smooth, but looking at me later, Steve and I can hardly stand up, we’re both laughing so hard. There’s something intrinsically out of whack about a grown woman with absolutely no pubic hair. “Too weird,” he says, and I have to agree with him.

We decide that some is better than none. I ultimately settle on keeping the hair around my vagina shaved and having the mound waxed into a Mohawk. Yes, hair that’s been shaved does grow more quickly, but there is some pain that’s just not worth enduring. And the great thing is that I can always let it grow back, and in a few weeks, I will have a completely different “hair style.”

Taking It Off: The Dos and Don’ts of Waxing

* Waxing needs to be done about once a month.

* Getting waxed during your period or the first trimester of pregnancy is more painful and should be avoided if at all possible. (If you do, take two Tylenol beforehand.)

* One of the drawbacks of waxing is ingrown hairs. At the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salons, the aestheticians suggest using a natural loofah sponge, then a sea salt scrub (which you can buy at salons) twice a day for a week after waxing, to prevent ingrowns.

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