Waxing is a semi-permanent hair removal process that pulls hair out by the root. A solution of wax is applied to the skin over the hair and removed in the direction of the hair growth. Hair does not grow back for 2–8 weeks, depending on the area of the body being waxed and the individual’s rate of hair growth. Any body hair can be waxed, but the hair should be at least 1/4 inch in length for ease of removal. Women most commonly wax eyebrows, the upper lip, legs, and the bikini area, while men typically wax their back and chest, although the pubic area is becoming increasingly popular for men. Other common areas include arms, toes, armpits, and knuckles.
People have used waxing to remove body hair for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Turks used waxing or sugaring (a similar process involving a honey emulsion) to remove body hair, especially pubic hair. Modern waxing is performed using the strip wax technique or hard wax. Strip waxing involves spreading a wax solution thinly over the area chosen for hair removal. This wax is typically warm, although cold wax solutions are available. A strip of cloth or paper is pressed over the wax and ripped off quickly, removing both wax and hair from the skin. Hard waxing is similar but instead of using a strip, the wax is allowed to cool and the hardened wax is removed directly from the skin. Hard wax is recommended for sensitive skin and is typically used to remove hair in the bikini area and almost always used for Brazilian waxing.
Brazilian waxing refers to the process of removing most to all of the hair from the genital area, including the inside of the buttocks. A strip of hair above the genitals, sometimes referred to as a landing strip is optional. The J. Sisters Salon in New York City, a salon owned by seven Brazilian sisters, first offered the Brazilian wax in the United States in 1994. They named the technique after their home country, where more extreme forms of bikini waxing are common in order to accommodate the smaller bikini bottoms favored by Brazilian women. The practice was quickly popularized by Hollywood celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, known to frequent the J. Sisters Salon.
The benefits of waxing include that it removes large amounts of hair at one time and lasts longer than shaving or depilatory creams because it removes hair from the root. Additionally, hair typically grows back softer than with shaving, which can result in rough, coarse stubble. Waxing does have other disadvantages. It can be painful, particularly in sensitive areas like the upper lip or bikini area. The pain generally recedes quickly, however, and most women find that avoiding waxing during menstruation helps decrease the pain. Waxing can be done at home with over-the-counter supplies, but many prefer to have professional aestheticians perform waxing services, particularly for the bikini and facial areas, making the process expensive. Waxing is not recommended for people suffering from diabetes, varicose veins, or poor circulation because of the risk of infection, excessive irritation of the skin, and broken blood vessels. Users of prescription and over-the-counter acne medications are also advised to avoid waxing.