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Is It Safe to Wax ‘Down There’?

By Katie McHugh, MDSeptember 10, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

The first time I had a wax, I thought I was going to die. I wasn’t totally sure what my cause of death would be, exactly – would it be the searing pain or the mortifying embarrassment of bursting into tears? I immediately thought: Why would anyone do this to themselves, much less keep doing it? And this was just my eyebrows! How could anyone consider waxing anything ELSE?

But after a few minutes, once I had recovered from both the pain and my embarrassment, I decided that waxing was the best thing ever, and I still go back regularly to get my brows beautified.

Grooming our body hair is a centuries-old practice, but the current widespread popularity and availability of waxing pubic hair – whether just bikini-area or full-on Brazilian – is unprecedented. Even Wal-Mart has a waxing salon! (Full disclosure: I get my brows done there, it’s great!) By now, most people have an opinion about waxing – they love it, hate it, think it’s pointless, or are just plain curious about it. When people have strong feelings about something, it can hard to get any real answers about it. And often, something becomes popular before it’s been thoroughly vetted for safety.

So what’s the real story with waxing “down there”? As with everything, there are pros and cons.

Benefits of Waxing:
Many women find removal of pubic hair to feel more hygienic and to enhance sex. Some studies show that younger men tend to be more attracted to women with less or no pubic hair, but no study has yet shown a direct relationship between improved sexual satisfaction and the presence or lack of hair. In other words, some people like the way it feels, and that can be a turn on, but we don’t know if it influences how people feel about sex. And, from a public health perspective, as having less pubic hair became more popular, pubic lice (or “crabs”) have been nearly eliminated.

Risks of Waxing:
While licensed aestheticians at reputable salons are most likely safe, there are always risks. The most common complications are burns or tears on the skin, allergic reactions, and infections, either of the skin, vagina, or the blood system. It is possible for these complications to be very severe, but that is rare. More often, small tears or infections can be treated either at home with good hygiene or with antibiotics from a doctor. Sometimes, however, people need to be admitted to a hospital, undergo surgical procedures, and even have permanent scarring.

With information like this, how does someone decide whether to get a wax? If you believe all the scary stories, it seems like the worst idea ever. But if you believe popular opinion, it’s God’s greatest invention. So which is it?

That’s really up to you. With appropriate safety and sanitation measures, it is most likely safe. Check out the salon before your appointment and make sure you feel comfortable with both the sanitation and the aesthetician. The most important thing that you feel safe. The instruments, equipment, and wax should be clean and sanitized. The aesthetician should wear gloves and be respectful of your body and comfort level. If you ever have doubts, stop the service. No one should sacrifice feeling safe just for a wax!

Your aesthetician is going to make or break this for you, so pick a good one! Ideally, you want someone with plenty of experience, because the longer this takes, the more it’ll hurt. You’ll want to prepare yourself for the experience with a good exfoliation of the area before your wax and possibly a dose of an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen about an hour before your appointment (if you are cleared by your doctor for those types of medications). And be sure to avoid sex and tight fitting clothes for 24 hours after the wax.

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