I need to wear a bathing suit!
June 29, 2010 7:31 PM   Subscribe

I need help with personal grooming. NSFW and possibly TMI:

Mid-twenties female here. I have some problems grooming my lady parts. Specifically, I can't seem to do anything, shave or wax, without getting terrible razor burns, rashes, or ingrown hair. I've tried trimming with electric clippers/razors, but my hair is too dark and the stubble is obvious. I've tried bleaching, but that irritated the skin and obviously it doesn't remove the hair at all.

My preferred method is waxing. The pain is bearable, and I love how smooth the non-blemished skin is. I wax my eyebrows without any problems, but my skin is generally combination/sensitive everywhere on my body. To be clear, I don't normally do a full Brazilian. I tend to go for the "deep bikini", which means they shape the hair in front and get as close to your bits as possible on the side.

I've tried exfoliating daily (not immediately after shaving/waxing, I hear that irritates things more), and I've used three different products over the years and none of them have helped. The products I've used:

Tend Skin (This one burnt like hell and was torture on my sensitive skin.)
PFB Vanish (I've used this one for a long time, but it hasn't done squat. It didn't irritate like Tend did, so there was no point in stopping.)
Bikini Zone (This one didn't do anything either, and I stopped using it a while ago.)

I've even tried icing my crotch after getting waxed. I take a pain reliever about 30mins-1 hour before waxing (usually Advil or Aleve, neither seems to work better than the other), and my salon uses the "blue" wax, which is made for sensitive skin. It grabs only the hair and don't require strips.

Despite all the advice I've been given from my salon professionals, I can't seem to get rid of the irritation. If you have ANY advice for me, no matter how insane, please share. I'm set on keeping my bikini area clear, so giving up isn't really in the playbook. I'm also aware that I could try laser treatments, but they're a bit out of the budget right now.

I have a baby sock puppet account I will use for memail and responding, so please feel free to ask questions. If it's at all relevant, I'm in Philadelphia, PA. (The mods OK'd posting this as an anon question since the SP is still spankin' new.)

Sock puppet: your mom's a sock puppet
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly...I'd go for a skirted swimsuit and skip the irritation altogether.
posted by Ouisch at 7:37 PM on June 29, 2010 [9 favorites]

I know people who have had this problem. Frankly, nothing worked except laser. Laser is actually cheaper than waxing in the long term, especially since it's semi-permanent (3 - 4 treatments will remove most of the hair and you will be able to go in once or twice a year after that). And it's sometimes the only thing that helps.
posted by metametababe at 7:40 PM on June 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

My salon gives me a product called Finipil Pro. I'm not sure if it's significantly different than the products listed above.

I have very sensitive skin and generally don't have many problems with waxing. Are you getting a lot of ingrown hairs? How long does your irritation last? I'm not sure if it's possible to never get any ingrown hairs. I usually get one or two with every wax. I also get irritation every single time, although it goes away in a day or two.
posted by unannihilated at 7:44 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Laser is actually cheaper than waxing in the long term

This is what I was going to say. Do the math -- how many waxing appointments per laser treatment, plus the cost of the various post-waxing products? Financially, there will be a break-even point, perhaps in months or maybe in a few years. But better than just financially, if you can put up with the discomfort of a few laser treatments, you will reduce your rashy ingrown issues to a bare minimum.
posted by Forktine at 7:49 PM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Not sure if you are open to an idea that takes waxing out of the picture but I don't wax anymore after suffering this irritation for years-I use Nair and that has been fantastic. The results are similar to waxing, in that it's perfectly smooth, not prickly like shaving. And I don't get any of the razor burn, irritation, or anything as it grows back. It grows in very soft. And also, I don't have to wait so long between treating it-I use Nair in the shower about once a week and stay pretty smooth all the time. And I am...hmmm....more aggressive about hair removal than you are so I think I'd notice any irritation.
posted by supercapitalist at 7:54 PM on June 29, 2010

I agree with everthing supercapitalist said. After suffering through waxing for years, I tried Nair and I think it's great. Nair Bikini Cream is great for this. It is cheap, quick, effective, easy, and painless.

I noticed recently that they have a new brand called Nair Pretty out with different scents and more girly packaging and things, and I keep meaning to try that. Now that I have a look at the web site, I see it's aimed at teenagers.. It still looks more feminine and vaguely nicer than regular Nair, though.
posted by Put the kettle on at 8:02 PM on June 29, 2010

Nair worked pretty well but laser hair removal has been a lifesaver. Like you, I got irritated and ingrowns no matter what I tried with bonus! bruising from waxing. Laser means a little discomfort (from the shaved hair growing back) for month-long results and so far 90% hair loss after six sessions. What hair there is is so fine I don't need to shave to wear a swimsuit without embarassment.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:15 PM on June 29, 2010

For the love of all that you hold dear, try Nair on a small area first. Speaking as someone that learned the hard way that when they say not to use it on sensitive areas, they mean it.
posted by tamitang at 8:19 PM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Laser is actually cheaper than waxing in the long term

Well, this isn't of much help if you don't have the optimal hair/skin colour combination required for laser to work. This is an important point to remember, but if you're considering laser, then I'm going to assume that you do.

Since you're not doing a full Brazilian, try self-waxing and experimenting with a few different waxes. There's not a lot of point in spending the money on a salon wax if all you are waxing is hair you can easily reach. There are a whole bunch of hard waxes along the lines of the blue stuff, and this might be an issue of you finding the right wax. Zip Wax is pretty popular for at-home use.

Also, try your basic store-brand salicylic acid toner (typically the store-brand knockoff of the regular Clean & Clear green toner for sensitive skin), and just dab it on after you shave or wax. It's far less pricy than Tend Skin or any of the other hair removal-specific treatments, and you might find it less irritating. For me it's been a total gamechanger and I can shave without worry now.
posted by thisjax at 8:20 PM on June 29, 2010

I like this stuff. It's kind of pricey though. I've also been considering laser, because waxing plus products really adds up!
posted by bobafet at 8:24 PM on June 29, 2010

bobafet, that reminded me of why I use toner rather than the Bliss pads. The extra ingredients and the handy pad format are nice, but there are a lot of less-expensive AHA/BHA preparations that one can slather on that will do the trick.
posted by thisjax at 8:54 PM on June 29, 2010

Have you considered just trimming? you can get a grooming razor, and just keep everything trimmed short, unless you have too many hairs growing down along your thighs. It would eliminate bulk, and avoid the irritation, without the monetary investment of laser treatments.
posted by annsunny at 8:56 PM on June 29, 2010

I use Clinique Clarifying Lotion #4 immediately after shaving or epilating with success; I don't think it burns as much as Tend Skin, and it keeps the angry red bumps from forming. As for keeping ingrown hairs away, my only solution is using those exfoliating gloves every day to slough off my bikini line, and even that isn't foolproof.
posted by gatorae at 9:06 PM on June 29, 2010

I have super sensitive skin and have tried every preparation known to humankind in an attempt to avoid ingrown hairs / nasty rashes. The only thing that has ever worked has been unscented Dove antiperspirant applied directly after shaving and every morning afterward. You can use the kind that doesn't show or rub off on your clothes.

I also exfoliate every day. Apply a layer of lotion that's suitable for sensitive skin while you're in the shower and then scrub the area gently with your exfoliating tool of choice.
posted by corey flood at 9:08 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if it'd work the same for waxing, but Bikini Zone has been a huge help to me.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:19 PM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: I always had issues with ingrowns and irritation from waxing--the skin that's not down there is horrendously sensitive so you can imagine what it's like there. I switched to shaving a little over a year ago for financial reasons, and I'm pleasantly surprised to find that my skin has actually toughened up a bit. The combination I've found to work excellently was exfoliation beforehand, shaving (with a new blade) with the grain of the hair, then finishing up with a Seiko Cleancut. It's not quite as smooth as you'll get with waxing, but it's pretty damn close, and doing that on a regular will reduce the number of ingrowns and whatnot you get each time. My theory is that one goes so long between waxings that the skin doesn't get messed with enough to toughen it up.
posted by Anonymous at 10:10 PM on June 29, 2010

Metametababe (and other pro-laser folk): I did the math on this before. I'd get about 25 bikini waxes (4 years) out of the cost of 6 sessions of laser. That's pretty tempting, but I simply don't have $1500 to shell out on something like that. I wish I did!

Unannihilated: A LOT of in grown hair, and when the normal hair grows in there are a lot of red follicles, if that makes sense. One or two in grown hairs would be something I could handle, but this just looks worse than leaving the hair alone.

Shaving gets uncomfortable for me when it starts growing in. The stubble irritates the skin. Shaving works great in other places, but the stubble kills me on the bikini line.

Nair... scares me. The thought of putting chemicals anywhere near my lady parts... Eek! I'm not sure whether that would cause less irritation, but I'll test it on a small area.

Great suggestions so far! Keep 'em coming. Thanks!
posted by your mom's a sock puppet at 10:59 PM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: Shaving initially killed me too. I kind of just dealt until it got better. When you shave, do you do against or with the grain? Like I said, shaving with the grain makes a world of difference, and though it's not as close that's what the CleanCut is for. Shave once, maintain with the CleanCut.
posted by Anonymous at 11:03 PM on June 29, 2010

You do shave along the direction of hair growth, right?

Waxing is expensive; have you considered an epilator?

I have serious serious problems, but regular moisturizing (alternating a moisturizer and baby lation at the end of the daily shower) and exfoliating (loofah and occasional glycerine-kosher salt) seems to help. Not supermodel/airbrush help, but... better.
posted by porpoise at 11:12 PM on June 29, 2010

Waxing gives me rashes and ingrowns so bad it looks like I have some horribly advanced form of VD. Shaving used to be almost as bad, until I stopped using chemical exfoliators and started exfoliating with actual gritty things. The product which has saved my sanity and possibly my life is Clinique's Sparkle Skin Body Exfoliating Cream. I use it every day on my bikini line, and right before shaving anything. I have not had a single non-scar-related ingrown hair in 10 years.

I also use unscented lotion everywhere that's been shaved (except armpits, which would be weird) and I don't use any soap products with SLS, which tends to aggravate sensitive skin.
posted by elizardbits at 4:38 AM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'll keep watching this thread, because like you the creams like Bikini Zone didn't help, and Nair didn't seem to really work (despite leaving it on for seemingly forever - I got redness and a lot of hair left), so I just gave up and wear shorts until just before I hop in the water. I decided that the hair was preferable to a red, painful bikini area. But hopefully something here will help!
posted by ldthomps at 5:38 AM on June 30, 2010

If this is seriously only a bathing suit issue, I generally hate shaving that area and recently decided to get a more modestly cut one-piece. Both Urban Outfitters and Modcloth have incredibly cute, retro style suits that cover far more than normal bathing suits. I'm not exceptionally hairy, but had to shave the bikini area in pretty much every other bathing suit I've ever had. It's no longer necessary.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:58 AM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

I always shave with the grain.

elizardbits: I use gritty things for exfoliation, too. I'll check that product out.

PhoBWanKenobi: I normally will wear a regular bikini with board shorts, and swim in the shorts. My hair is not thick, but I maybe it comes out a bit farther than most? The board shorts are more than adequate, but I think even in boy shorts there's always a chance something's going to show.

Idthomps: I hope we both find a solution! On-and-off throughout the years I've come to that same conclusion, only to change my mind when I think I've found a new product that'll help. It's frustrating.

Bathing suits aren't my ONLY problem, I was simply at a loss for a good short title for the post. I hate that my hair sticks out of all of my underwear unless I shave or wax, and then I get terrible irritation. I'd also like to keep things relatively clean down there for sexy times. I know my partner appreciates that, and while he knows how sensitive my skin is and understands, I'd still like to find some solution.
posted by your mom's a sock puppet at 6:54 AM on June 30, 2010

Just to give you an idea of the leg cut of the retro style bathing suits, here's me in mine (warning: leg chub). My feeling with the board short deal is that there's a chance of the leg of the shorts lifting up and stuff peeking out, which doesn't seem to happen with older-style swimsuits. Like i said, this was a problem for me in pretty much every other style suit, but something like this or boyshort-bottom suits may help to let you feel a little self-conscious.

(I'm a fan of women's boxer brief underwear for the same reason. When I want to trim things up down there, I just cut it very short with an electric trimmer, and condition what's left to get it nice and soft. My skin is much happier since I've given up on going fully bare. YMMV, of course).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:08 AM on June 30, 2010

Have you tried the powder deodorant trick? Google if not, might help...or calendula ointment, Jergens Ultra Healing Hydralux whatever lotion. I'm assuming bc TendSkin irritated you this option's out, but you can make your own with crushed up uncoated aspirin in a glycerin (I forget, it may be something else) solution.
posted by ifjuly at 7:14 AM on June 30, 2010

This is how I deal with my pitch black pubes on my translucent white skin that grow outside a normal underwear / bathing suit line (this is the line on the front only. If someone sees hair on my inner thighs next to my sin hole, well what the fuck are they even looking there for in the first place?):
I exfoliate in the shower with St Ive's Apricot Scrub.
Trim if necessary.
Pluck with tweezers. Yes, this may take 2 hours the first time, but then afterwards its only as much maintenance weekly as plucking your eyebrows.
Baby powder.
Put on swimsuit and go to the beach. Look at other women's bikini lines. Realize that most also have stubble / razor irritation / discoloration / other imperfections. Conclude that you notice these little details on yourself more than anyone else does. Others looking at you probably don't even notice.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:35 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you can get laser for much less than $1,500 -- keep an eye out for a sale or a coupon (seriously!). I got six sessions for both brazilian and underarm for less than $900 at an upscale salon in New York City. Bikini alone would have been about $600 (even less if I didn't do the brazilian), about 1/3 of the cost you're quoting, so you'd recoup your costs in just over a year.

And frankly, if this is such a quality of life issue for you (as it was for me), it's worth it to sacrifice a little, save up, and just get it done. There's only so much complaining about a situation you can do before you either have to accept it or do something drastic about it. (Not saying you're being complainy, but it sounds like this is a situation where not much else is going to work. There is no magic bullet for this.)
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:00 AM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

My one piece of advice is to make sure you are doing this for *your* comfort and not for your partner's. I used to suffer with waxing until one day I had a bad technician and physically *could not* do anything with the area for a period of three weeks (as mandated by my physician). Not cut, not shave, not wax, nothing on the area except keeping it clean and using a prescribed medication on it. It also HURT LIKE EFFING HELL if anything touched me wrong.

That was when I realized that my partner was not someone I wanted to engage with, because he had zero sympathy and was actually urging me to go against doctor's orders. I couldn't engage in certain positions because of the area of injury and he couldn't have cared less, and would just argue with me endlessly about it.

That was when I decided that I cared a lot less about personal grooming, and a lot more about who I was dating.

It's fine to have a preference, it's another entirely for a partner to be continually inconvenienced by something.
posted by micawber at 12:48 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

micawber: Oh my goodness! That is so horrible. I hope that guy rots in relationship hell!

My SO is extremely fine about whatever I do. He certainly LIKES when it's smooth, but he'd never suggest anything I didn't want to do. It's really my preference.

And I've certainly never let it get to the point where I need to visit a doctor. I've been keeping up with waxing for so long because a lot of folks said the irritation would go away after time, which was not true for me.

In other news, I'm seriously considering laser. Thanks to all who convinced me to look into it again. There are definitely some place that are about as expensive as I thought, but I found many places offering massive discounted products. I hope it works out! I'm ready to be smooth.
posted by your mom's a sock puppet at 1:28 PM on June 30, 2010

I find that Neosporin cream (I prefer it to the ointment, it's less messy) works really well if you put it on right after shaving. It vastly reduces the red-and-bumpy problem.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:08 PM on June 30, 2010

Have you tried threading?
posted by pick_the_flowers at 12:43 PM on July 4, 2010

I have sensitive skin, and I use an oil product called Miracell 37+.
I used to buy it at a health food store, but after I moved, I couldnt find it anywhere in new city, so now I order it off of Amazon.
For some reason, I shaved (down there) the other day (must have been bored or something) and applied miracell 4-5 times the next day (wasnt tender the first day) third day, I was fine.
It also is miraculous on sunburns.
I've been using it as a night time moisturizer for years, and look ten years younger than I am.
I tell everybody about it. you should try it.
posted by saragoodman3 at 3:56 PM on July 28, 2010

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