Hair removal is serious business (as in, there are seriously a lot of businesses devoted to it). There are lasers, threading, waxing, sugaring, lotions, something swamp-colored called Nad’s, the terrifying-sounding ‘epilators’ and even, a quick Google dive tells us, “friction” and “prescription oral medications.” The questions then arise: when did this desire to be hairless enter our culture and why? WHYYYYY!? The truth? We don’t know exactly (some people point to Ancient Egypt, others the ‘90s), though we could guess. You probably could too, and we could together blame it on—in no particular order—the media, Britney Spears, Sex and the City, reality TV, and the porn industry. What we do know is that the bikini wax gained notoriety and acceptance as swimsuit seams advanced upwards from the 1950s on, and surged in the ‘70s, thanks to images of body-builders (See: Arnold Schwarzenegger) and anybody else making money by showing skin (without unsightly hair). Then came the '90s, and the appearance of the “J Sisters” (aesthetician relatives Jocely, Jonic, Joyce, Janea, Juracy, and Judseiain Manhattan, who brought the Brazilian wax to the States). “In Brazil, waxing is a part of our culture because bikinis are so small,” Jonice explains on their website. “We thought it was an important service to add because personal care is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.” And for a while, the J. Sisters and their “everything must go!” philosophy was a thing: I mean, Oprah featured these chicks on her show. But we don’t feel—and correct us if we’re wrong—like it’s as much of a thing as it used to be. Or, maybe it is and we’re just clueless. You see, waxing is one of those things people spend so much money on and never talk about. So,
We want to talk about hair removal, or the pursuit of total hairlessness, or something. To (hopefully) start the dialogue with you all, we procured a bottle of Don Julio, some tortilla chips and guac, and sat down as an office (we even video-conferenced our tech man, Michael—much like the Navy SEALS, we never leave a man behind) to discuss the mysteries of the human body. So here goes, the ITG Bikini Waxing Roundtable:
Note: Enter this conversation at your own risk, knowing that in doing so, you might experience significant firsthand or sympathetic embarrassment for those involved. Also note that ITG does not recommend rubbing any of your body parts so furiously that your hair falls out. Neither do we endorse the medications you’ll find on the internet, or really, any hair removal at all if you’re not into it—that’s your business, and we’re all about you being you. Play on, playa.
Nick: Someone tell a story about the first time that they got waxed.
Alessandra: I was too young to actually legally get a bikini wax when I did. I was 16, and in Boston, you’re not supposed to go when you’re under 18 without written permission from a parent, but I always looked older than I was, so—
Michael: Can I just interrupt for a second? I really appreciate you guys including me in this, but I’m not sure why I am...
Nick: Because you’re going to have to share too, Michael!
Alessandra: You can go first, if you’d like.
Michael: No, tell me more about your illegal waxing job.
Alessandra: Well, it takes a few unexpected turns. Long story short, my age came out and she insisted that I have written permission from my mother before I came back the next time, and since I would have rather chewed glass than asked my mom for a note for a bikini waxer, I resorted to less reputable places the next time around.
Nick: How did you know you wanted a bikini wax?
Alessandra: I don’t know… Blame the media? I thought it was something that you did. My friends had gotten them, and it felt like what you were supposed to do. I guess I started early—
Emily: I got one earlier than 16. But I also started shaving my legs at ten.
Elizabeth: [Laughs] That’s not ridiculous at all...
Alessandra: Did you even have leg hair?
Emily: I think so. There wasn’t much to it, though. But wait, let’s get back to your story. You were 16, you were alone...
Alessandra: I wasn’t alone. I’m pretty sure my mom dropped me off and picked me up.
Elizabeth: Well, I was 17 and it was before prom, and me and two of my friends went to the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa near our high school.
Emily: I have a question, how did you know what style to get?
Nick: Hold on, what do you mean “style,” how many options are there?
Alessandra: Are you kidding? There’s so many options.
Michael: Is there like, a chart to pick from?
Alessandra: Yes, you’re like “I’ll take number 3, please!” [Photo 2]
Nick: [Laughs] Oh, do you really?
Alessandra: No! God, like a McDonald’s menu?! Except with crotch shots?
Nick: No just like, a triangle, a lightning bolt...
Michael: What about like, an initial?
Alessandra: I’ve asked waxers about the most annoying thing that gets requested, and they always roll their eyes and say “initials.” Because I guess it’s next to impossible to do a curved line, and that’s a heck of a lot of the alphabet.
Emily: Like that Gucci campaign! [Photo 3]
Alessandra: But that was shaved! And the G was straight lines. If you want an S, I think you’re out of luck.
Nick: Explain the styles.
Emily: There’s the regular bikini wax which is, if you’re thinking about the brief, is what is outside of the brief. There’s a high-bikini, which is further in from that line. There’s a French wax, which is a classic bikini and the back, and then there is a Brazilian, which is everything but what they call a “landing strip.”
Alessandra: See, here’s the thing: I’ve always thought a Brazilian was everything. I think at J. Sisters, the Brazilian is everything, and they purportedly invented it.
Emily: I think other places call them other things; at Completely Bare, it’s a “completely bare,” etc.
Alessandra: Whatever they call it on the “menu,” if you want everything off you have one of those conversations that’s goes, “everything off.” and they’ll be like, “Everything?” “Yep, everything.” Otherwise you give some sort of vague description of how much you want left.
Nick: So you’ll be like ‘Eh, an inch, an inch-and-a-quarter...’?
Emily: [Laughs] But I hate that because then you have to look down! And they’re like “how’s this?” and you have to, like, stare down there and I’m always like, “It’s great! It’s fine! Whatever!”
Alessandra: [Laughs] See, I’m fully present in the situation. I’m, like, chatting and watching and what have you, because I mean, you’re there, you’re paying for it, what the hell else are you going to do?
Emily: The thing is, inevitably you end up holding your leg in some strange and unwieldy position for a very long time [demonstrates].
Nick: Why do you have to do that?!
Alessandra: I mean, it’s an odd body part, there’s a lot of positioning involved in getting all the angles right.
Emily: There are some angles that are particularly uncomfortable.
Michael: I’m waiting for one of you guys to describe what you think is a normal waxing routine and everyone else be like, “...I’ve never had to do that before.” And for it to be sexual assault.
Nick: Why do girls do this?!
Emily: Here’s my issue: You wax, and it’s only okay for, like, seven days. And then after seven days, the whole cycle repeats itself. You start feeling prickly and it’s like, “It’s coming baaack!” You get seven days.
Alessandra: I think the optimum day is the second day, post-waxing.
Nick: Not so with the chest waxing. It takes, like, four days for the redness to go down, and then for the rest of the time—
Alessandra: Um, when did you get waxed?
Nick: I was going to a friend’s beach house for the weekend, and I'd heard there was such a thing as chest waxing, and I don’t have a lot of chest hair to begin with, but I thought, okay, I’ll get it done on Friday night, and go right to the beach on Saturday morning. What they don’t tell you about waxing is that you’re not okay the next day. It's splotchy and red. And then as the hair grows back, you have to keep using different tinctures and creams all the time because there’s the possibility of getting ingrown hairs, which I didn’t know existed. I thought that you waxed it off and they put some baby powder on you and you were golden, but it’s not that simple.
Emily: Now they have the regular wax and the hard wax. There’s the wet runny wax—the honey wax that’s traditionally used with the linen strips—which is probably what you got, Nick, when you got battered by the spa. That stuff sticks to your hair and your skin, too, so when you rip off the strip, your skin gets red and irritated.
Nick: You’re supposed to put AB Ointment on it—I don’t know, it’s just disgusting.
Emily: But if you use the hard wax, it only sticks to the hair. So it’s better for your skin.
Alessandra: Regardless, I don’t think that you should ever be bleeding after a wax. I think that’s a bad wax job.
Nick: The whole thing just seems painful and awkward and humiliating.
Alessandra: It’s not, it’s not, it’s not.
Emily: It is! It’s so painful! Whenever anybody asks about piercings and they’re like, “It’s going to hurt so much,” I always say a bikini wax hurts way more. It’s prolonged pain; it’s not all at once, it’s series after series after series.
Nick: I don’t understand why. So the answer is basically that people wax for other people. You wax for someone else, not because you love it for yourself?
Emily: Yeah, pretty much.
Alessandra: Mmm.. I don’t know, because now I’m aesthetically trained to like it a certain way.
Elizabeth: I think, at a certain point, it’s for yourself.
Alessandra: I feel better when everything is sort of ‘taken care of.’ It’s like you feel ‘ready.’
Emily: Me too!
Nick: Ready for what?!
Emily: Ready to take on the day!
Alessandra: [Laughs] No! It’s like getting a pedicure in the winter: it doesn't matter if anyone can see your toes, but it’s still nice to know you’ve got a great pedicure.
Emily: What do you think, Michael? What do guys care about?
Michael: I can't really say I have a preference. I think most guys are just happy to be there.
Nick: Well, forget about waxing, what about hair-removal creams?
Emily: They don’t work, they smell awful, and they’re probably poison.
Alessandra: I mean, they dissolve your hair, so they're definitely poison. Also, they cause ingrowns, because the hair only gets removed to just below the surface. It’s none of the benefits and all of the bad parts.
Nick: And lasering?
Emily: Well, most people I know get laser treatments and still wax—because if they’re getting laser, they’re not doing a Brazilian or a super high bikini, but just what would show in a bathing suit. So, wax is still in the picture.
Nick: I think this is actually the most bizarre socially acceptable grooming ritual. You’re there holding your leg up like you’re in Cirque du Soleil. This is a very invasive and kind of...not okay...so why does everyone do it?
Alessandra: It’s aesthetic!
Nick: To one or a few people, the people who see you naked!
Alessandra: But a lot of people do strange things just for one person, especially the person who sees them naked.
Nick: Strange things like show their vaginas to a stranger.
Alessandra: [Laughs] I guess, technically, that’s the one thing you’re really not supposed to do, when you’re in a sexual relationship.
Michael: I think the Christian thing to do is that you have to marry your waxer.
So, in summation, ITG’s Official Waxing Recommendations:
1) Whenever possible, use hard wax.
2) Wax only if you want to (though feel free to tell us your reasons why/why not, if you so desire).
3) For ingrown, the best antibiotic ointment we’ve discovered in Dr. Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel (because it's natural, and not sticky or tacky like most options).
4) Exfoliate the waxed areas.
5) Most important of all, find a waxer that you’re comfortable with. You’re going to have to get prettyyyy cozy.
Now, anything we left out?
Photos 4-6: Screenshots from our Waxing Roundtable video conference.