Ah, spring. ‘Tis the season—for violently ripping out the hair from your nether regions. And though this is a practice so common in our culture we mostly know what to expect (spread eagle, heat, some pain, repeat) there are still some questions that should be answered directly. So we went to the experts: Eileen Cornell, former waxer and current president of New York’s MaxWax and Natalia Laragione, waxer at the Upper East Side location of Uni K. Read and learn, folks.
What’s the best way to prepare for a bikini wax?
Come clean, be prepared to work with the waxer in terms of holding your skin taut and/or adjusting your body. And make sure that your hair is not too long or too short. A quarter to half inch is the ideal length — this way we will be able to grab all the hair. If the hair is too short, we won’t be able to remove it. If it’s too long , the hair may break. -Eileen
Nothing special is needed before you come in for a wax, but it is always a good idea to take a shower before! -Natalia
Do you ever judge our vaginas? What do you notice about them?
We see too many vaginas to judge any of them. -Eileen
I’ve been in the industry 15 years, so at this point have gotten used to it! At the beginning, I was very surprised to see how different vaginas can be. -Natalia
What about if they’re really hairy? Or smelly?
Really hairy is okay. Removing hair is our job after, all. Really smelly is not so great. If somebody is odorous, we use powder and hold our breath while we are in the smelly zone. -Eileen
When waxing, I recommend for customers not to trim before coming for a wax if they are really hairy. Sometimes they trim too short which will impact the waxing so I rather do this [myself] and cut to the ideal length. It is ideal to shower at least that morning, although we do provide customers with an individual wet-wipe for extra freshness before we clean the area to be waxed, just in case you chose the snooze button over the shower that morning. -Natalia
What about periods?
Periods are not a problem as long as you are using a tampon and not visibly bleeding. –Eileen
It’s not ideal but you can wax during your period, and if you have a bikini wax during your period, a tampon is the way to go. But—if you are sensitive during your menstrual cycle, you might want to avoid a bikini wax during those days. -Natalia
What about pimples down there?
Pimples in the vaginal area are not that common. What we mainly see are in-grown hairs and moles, but only after we’ve removed the hair. If you have a mole, please let your waxer know before she starts removing the hair. The last thing she wants to do is rip a mole off your body. That’s really a terrible thing. In terms of in-growns, we will advise you on how to get rid of them. –Eileen
I’ve never come across acne down there but some customers have ingrown hairs that can seem like a pimple. You can still wax if you have bumps from ingrowns. I recommend exfoliating a few days prior to your wax for the best results. -Natalia
How does interacting with vaginas all day impact your personal life? Your sex life?
We view the act of hair removal from a clinical perspective. It does not affect our personal lives at all and there is nothing sexual about it. That said, there is something vulnerable and personal about being waxed and we do make a connection with many of our clients on a personal level; similar to a relationship with a hairdresser. When we don’t see or hear from them, we wonder if they are okay. It is not uncommon for us to meet somebody when they are single and then watch them date, get married and have children. We’ve seen our clients fight cancer, go through a divorce, lose their job, go through gender reassignment, have kids…all of it. And they know about our lives as well. –Eileen
Well, my sex life is non-existent right now [laughs]. -Natalia
How do people respond when you tell them you’re a waxer?
Some people feel sorry for us because we have to deal with other people’s private parts. But we don’t view waxing that way at all. If we could have chosen another professional 20 years ago, we would have still chosen waxing. We make people feel clean, presentable and beautiful. Vacation-ready. Skirt-ready. Date ready. My-family-is-a-nightmare ready. Everything. –Eileen
Men and women respond differently. Women are generally curious, often wondering what kind of vaginas are out there, and ask about the types of services I perform and often ask for suggestions. For men, let’s just say I’ve stopped saying “I’m a waxer,” on dates because right away their imagination and fantasies run wild! -Natalia
What do you think about when you’re performing a wax? Are you playing Rihanna’s “Work” in your head?
There’s typically a lot of chatting with the client so we don’t zone off. When we do have a quiet client, we think about the usual things — what we’re going to have for lunch, our kids, things we have to do… –Eileen
Usually I try to start a conversation with the customer to distract them so they feel more comfortable. But if the customer is not interested in chatting then yes, many tunes, including “Work” run through my head. -Natalia
Try to describe the experience of waxing someone.
When you are beginning a career in waxing, part of the experience is feeling uncomfortable, probably even more so than your customer feels, because you are truly up close and personal with them. But with experience I’ve learned to keep in mind that I’m really helping people feel and look better. Especially pregnant women who cannot get all the way down there to take care of their vaginas! -Natalia
What’s the trendy ‘do down there right now?
Nothing. Thank you waxing gods. We think trendy things like attaching feathers and rhinestones to your vagina are a waste of time and money. –Eileen
Full Brazilian wax front and back is the trend and it’s not going away anytime soon. People really don’t like hair in their private areas. And eventually with age, your hair turns white, and some women don’t want to have to see their first white vagina hair. -Natalia
Have people’s requests changed in the past few years? Are you seeing more or something? Less of something?
Brazilians will always be popular with the younger crowd. What we have seen working with the same customers over a long period of time is a change in how much hair they want removed. For example, middle-aged clients often move from taking all the hair off to leaving more hair. It feels like they are waxing for themselves as opposed to waxing for their partner or for a social norm. They want to look neat and feel clean, but they don’t want all the hair removed. –Eileen
Over the past few years it’s definitely leaning towards everything being removed. It went from the Brazilian “landing strip” to full front and back. Now there is an increase in men starting to wax… even a Brazilian wax. -Natalia
Similarly, are there demographic patterns? Do teens ask for one thing while workingwomen ask for another?
Young teens typically do regular bikini waxes, college age through mid-thirties generally take everything off. The middle-age clientele generally do regular bikinis. Clients who get regular bikini waxes often get a buttocks strip as well. –Eileen
Women 18 and older usually want everything removed — full front and back: the Brazilian wax. Conservative or older women tend to get the deep bikini or Brazilian ‘landing strip’. -Natalia
What about men?
It is very typical of a man to tell us that they don’t have very much hair. We don’t know if this is because he wants to pay less or if he’s embarrassed about having hair in the first place. We always tell them that it’s about the surface area that we wax and not the quantity of hair. Men are waxing more — more backs, more bikinis, more legs. And they come for various reasons: they are cyclists and swimmers, their partner is “encouraging” them to wax or they are simply self-motivated. –Eileen
More men are coming in for a full Brazilian wax. Our married customers often send their husbands in to be waxed. -Natalia
Please tell a hilarious waxing story.
I have two. We once had a client who wanted a bikini wax, but refused to remove her pants and her panties. Eventually, she did. What we contributed to that process was patience. Another time, we had a beautiful hippie girl with super long underarm hair; clearly opposed to waxing. She was getting married and was wearing a strapless, sleeveless gown. Her friends made her wax her underarms, saying she’d regret wedding photos with hairy pits. –Eileen
A male customer came in wearing a chastity belt and asked us to wax his bikini area around the belt. Although it was definitely a challenge, we succeeded in meeting his request. Another one—this one was recent. I was doing a chest wax for a guy and after the first strip he yelled out “Kelly Clarkson!!!” like the movie The 40 Year Old Virgin. Not because it hurt, but because he was so nervous based on what he thought the experience would be from the movie. So he reenacted the scene from the movie. –Natalia
Are there weird or funny habits / rituals you see people doing while getting a wax? Personally, I like to listen to podcasts, but once, I was on the phone with my mom during the wax. What do you see?
It’s mostly making faces during the waxing process. And some grunting/gasping noises. Many clients talk on the phone while being waxed. Or read a magazine. –Eileen
Normally people are on their phones playing games during their waxing. But one day a woman came in for her Brazilian and leg wax. She got completely naked then pulled out her post-it notes put them on the wall next to the waxing bed and proceeded to conduct a conference call for work referring to her notes on the wall. She even spread her paperwork over her chest to continue working while getting waxed. –Natalia
Don’t feel embarrassed about showing us your goods. It’s just another workday for us. You go to work and open your computer. We go to work and open your legs! –Natalia
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.