If you're thinking about going bare "down there," waxing might be at the top of your list of hair-removal options. After all, it's fast, effective and the results usually last for weeks, as opposed to shaving pubic hair.
But are there any negative side effects of waxing your pubic hair? And is it safe?
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Here, learn about the risks of pubic hair removal via wax, get tips to reduce the side effects and explore some alternatives.
The Possible Risks of Waxing Your Pubic Hair
The skin around your pubic region is particularly sensitive and delicate, so you might wonder just how safe it is to put hot wax in this area.
"It's considered safe to wax pubic hair as long as it's done by a trusted provider," says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.
Still, some possible side effects include:
1. It Can Be Painful
Discomfort is one of the biggest downsides of getting waxed, Dr. Garshick says. Removing the hot wax — and all the little hairs that come with it — off the thin, delicate skin around your pubic area can hurt, especially if it's your first time getting waxed.
2. Your Skin Might Get Irritated
The combination of hot wax and removing hair can leave skin red and irritated, Dr. Garshick says. It's not uncommon to feel red bumps, ingrown pubic hairs or sensitivity after a wax in this area.
If your skin is prone to irritation, you might also develop a mild rash, flaking or itchy pubic hair as it grows back. For most, the irritation will ease up in a day or two, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
3. You Might Get Burned
"Wax that's too hot can easily burn your skin," Dr. Garshick says.
Most of the burns that happen from waxing are superficial, meaning they damage the top layer of skin and cause mild pain, redness and irritation, and can even cause scarring in some cases.
It's also important to note that wax heated up in the microwave (as opposed to a wax warmer) can be risky. The high-power settings of the microwave can cause the wax to reach dangerously high temperatures even if you follow the label's instructions.
If in the rare case you get a severe burn that requires medical attention, call your doctor or visit the nearest emergency room to get it treated. Signs of a severe burn may include swelling and blistering, per the Cleveland Clinic, or skin that looks black, white or red with a leathery appearance.
4. You Could Get an Infection
If you go to a salon to get a wax, there is a small risk of infection if it's not done properly, and if the tools used are not sanitary, per the Cleveland Clinic.
While this does not mean every wax will give you an infection or even an STI, if you have a small nick or cut in that area, it's possible that infection-causing microbes could enter through your skin and make you sick, Dr. Garshick says.
For a safer wax, make sure the specialist you go to wears gloves and uses a new stick each time they scoop wax from the pot (instead of using the same one over and over).
Is It Better to Get Waxed at a Salon or at Home?
The short answer? Neither is better; both have the same amount of risk.(Although it may be harder to do at home if it's difficult for you to see the area you're waxing.)
"Whether waxing yourself at home or [getting it done in a] salon, there's always a risk of burning, scarring or infection," Dr. Garshick says.
Your risk is even higher if you or the wax specialist are inexperienced, the salon isn't taking the proper precautions or the salon doesn't have a license to perform waxing in your state.
How to Avoid Waxing Side Effects
1. Find a Provider You Trust
Waxing your pubic hair can be safe when it's done properly, Dr. Garshick says. The key is to find a wax specialist you trust.
At a minimum, waxers should wear gloves and use a new stick each time they dip into the wax pot, per the Cleveland Clinic.
If you're considering doing it yourself, do your research or enlist the help of a friend with waxing experience.
2. Prep the Area
It's also a good idea to gently exfoliate your pubic area before getting waxed.
Make sure your hairs are long enough, too. "Your hair should be at least a quarter-inch long to give the wax something to grab onto," Dr. Garshick says.
3. Take an OTC Pain Med
Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever (like ibuprofen or acetaminophen) beforehand can also help make the pain more tolerable.
4. Cleanse and Moisturize
Once the waxing session is over, you might want to take a shower to get rid of any residual wax on your skin. (Use lukewarm instead of hot water, which can be irritating.)
Alternatively, you could use a wipe like Nad's Post-Wax Calming Oil Wipes ($8.84, Amazon), which can help remove wax residue and ease any irritation. (Just make sure to do a patch test first — meaning, use the wipe on a small area of skin, like your arm or leg — to make sure you don't have a reaction to the product before using it in your bikini area.)
Then use a mild, fragrance-free moisturizing lotion or cream. This will help soothe your skin and help minimize redness, Dr. Garshick says.
5. Avoid Irritating Products and Clothing
You may also want to avoid using skin products that have alcohol, which can cause burning or stinging.
Skip the jeans or leggings in favor of loose cotton bottoms, too. "It'll be more comfortable post-wax," Dr. Garshick says.
6. Skip Waxing in Certain Cases
And if you've recently gotten a sunburn on your legs/groin area, or if you've taken isotretinoin (an acne medication) in the last six months, you might want to refrain from waxing. It will likely make your skin more irritated, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Alternatives to Waxing
Still want the feeling of being bare without having to wax? There are some alternatives to waxing your pubic hair that you can try, including:
- Shaving: Shaving scores points for convenience, and unless you get a cut or nick down there, it's not painful. Plus, you don't have to worry about your hairs being a certain length. The downsides are that you'll start to get regrowth after just a few days (compared to a few weeks for waxing). And it can cause ingrown hairs or razor burn if you use an old razor or have sensitive skin, per the Cleveland Clinic. "Using a moisturizer before and after will help create a barrier to minimize friction and soften and smooth skin," Dr. Garshick says.
- Depilatory creams: These hair-removal creams are easy to use at home and are generally painless. But they can be messy, don't smell great and don't always remove hair as effectively as a razor or wax. Plus, they can leave sensitive skin red or itchy, according to Nemours.
- Laser hair removal: A long-term option that uses a concentrated beam of light to get rid of unwanted hair, laser hair removal can be a good alternative to shaving or waxing. "The results can last anywhere from months to years," Dr. Garshick says. She also mentions that laser hair removal done by a dermatologist tends to be more effective than laser devices designed to use at home. The downside? This procedure can be pricey, and it also takes multiple sessions.
So, How Bad Is It Really to Wax Your Pubic Hair?
Waxing can be a safe and effective way to get rid of pubic hair if done properly. But keep in mind, it can irritate your skin and put you at risk for burns if the wax is too hot.
Your safest bet is to get waxed at a reputable, licensed salon, Dr. Garshick says. If you choose to wax yourself at home, do your research and take steps to do the job safely.