taking care of down there
November 22, 2016 10:37 AM   Subscribe

confused about the pros and cons between shaving, waxing, and lasering.

hi there,

i'm considering getting a Brazilian wax. i usually like my nether regions to be hairless but honestly i'm a little confused by what the best option is for me.

right now, i shave it all off. i haven't really had any problems, except for an occasional ingrown hair.

my options are:

1) shaving: cheap, easy. but causes the occasional ingrown and probably does not get everything. and probably not good for my skin?
2) waxing. i've never done, and my skin is sensitive so not thrilled with the prospect. i also have no idea how to do it - do i need to grow out my hair?
3) laser. this one seems attractive as it seems painless (true?) and removes it from the equation. but at the same time, a little nervous about permanently removing it -- no idea, but maybe down the line i want to grow it out?

please enlighten me.
posted by pando11 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to lasering, but IMO waxing is Not Worth It. You do have to grow the hair out to 1/4" and it hurts like the devil. Yes, it's very smooth but only for a few days and in my experience you are more likely to get ingrowns.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:45 AM on November 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

If you're not wedded to 100% smooth you could just trim. Keeps things nice and neat without the worry of ingrown hairs. That's how I've done it for years. There are razors you can buy at the drugstore that have a waterproof electric trimmer on the other end.
posted by MsMolly at 10:54 AM on November 22, 2016 [10 favorites]

laser does indeed hurt! it is also not necessarily permanent. it is often necessary to get a follicle zapped as many as 6 times to kill it, and sometimes you will have semi-permanent. like no growth for 6-12 months but then some starts again. it can get very expensive.

personally if shaving causes you such little issue why not just stick with that? I cannot shave due to complete skin freakout, so I use a hair trimmer thing instead. I wish I could just shave.
posted by supermedusa at 10:57 AM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Just a data point: I don't find waxing particularly painful. However, I did stop doing it because it was too expensive -- $60 a month here in NYC and not that much less in Seattle where I once had it done.

Laser: Not painless. No no no no no.
posted by O Sock My Sock at 11:04 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

It probably comes down to the amount of work you want to put in, and how frequently. This is my personal experience.

Shaving is quick and painless, but the frequency of having to do it all the time started to bug me. My skin is very sensitive, and constant shaving of my legs led to a lot of very unpleasant redness and itching. Also, that prickly stubble when it grew back in was just annoying. Which got me to...

...waxing. This hurts like a b*tch! The upside is I love the feeling after - clean, smooth, and knowing I won't have to take a razor to it. I've been waxing for maybe five years now, and the pain has definitely gotten less intense. Finding a good specialist is key, because technique dictates how much it will hurt, or not. I haven't tried doing it on my own down there. Unless you're an expert with it, you risk ripping skin off, and it is particularly hard to get to the nooks and crannies for stray hairs. Also, doing a Brazilian on yourself might require contortion of pretzel-like proportions. The biggest pro about waxing is that the hair that grows back is finer. How long you can go between sessions depends on your hair type. I can go six weeks between waxings. Resist the temptation to shave between waxings because it sets you back.

I haven't tried lasering my nether regions, but I have done it on my legs and underarm area. It is not completely painless. At its worst it feel like pinpricks on your skin. The lasering may be effective depending on the contrast between the color of your hair and your skin. Higher contrast is easier for the laser to pick out and zap effectively. Different types of lasers, and the technique of your technician can also contribute to how painless it is. Lasering has been a godsend, and it took 6 sessions to completely go away. It can get expensive, but there are frequent Groupons for services.

If you have a high tolerance for pain, maybe go with waxing? Not DIY, though. You can stay smoother for longer, and have the option of growing it out if you want to. If you decide that staying 100% smooth is the way you want to go, fork out the $$$ for lasering.
posted by Everydayville at 11:06 AM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Lazering HURTS! And takes a series of sessions to get it all -- it only zaps the active follicles (and like supermedusa mentions, it doesn't always kill the follicle on the first go) and then a few days/weeks/months later, other follicles activate, and so on, until eventually all your follicles have been zapped to death while active. In my opinion, it's not quick, easy, cheap or painless.
posted by Grandysaur at 11:09 AM on November 22, 2016

Seconding everything Everydayville said.

Personally, I find shaving intolerably irritating and waxing much less so, so YMMV depending on your hair. Waxing does hurt, but it's pretty quick, especially when maintained regularly.

But please pay someone to do it to you. I imagine the contortions and willpower required to give yourself a Brazilian would be monumental.
posted by circle at 11:11 AM on November 22, 2016

I had laser hair removal on my "bikini" area and underarms. The best results come with darker hair and lighter skin. Sadly, I waited until I was getting grey so I don't have the world's best results, but much much easier now to stay hairless. Think of laser hair removal as "permanent hair REDUCTION" rather than electrolysis which is "permanent hair REMOVAL."

But I am so damn grateful to have done it, and especially my underarms. I have approximately 2 or 3 hairs that grow out about once every three months. I tweeze them. It's fantastic. No irritation (and my underarms are VERY easily irritated).
posted by janey47 at 11:12 AM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Don't forget about 4) electrolysis.

I've done waxing and laser before. Waxing thins hairs but isn't designed to remove hair permanently. Find a good esthetician and they can do it in 20 minutes and without (too much) pain. Find a bad esthetician and they'll torture you for hours with no effect.

Laser is hyped, but people often go without doing their research. Research the kind of laser you're interested in and make sure you're choosing the right laser for your skin type (read: pigmentation). Though this is touted as a permanent hair removal option - it isn't permanent. Have a baby? Get older? Or just a couple of years pass? Some hair will return. I did laser (candela gentle lase was the laser I chose) and was very, very pleased with the results for 2 years. Hair returned on year 3. I now regret doing laser - it was an expensive short term fix and did nothing long term.

I'm now doing 4) electrolysis (and have been for a number of years) with great success and a lot of satisfaction. Electrolysis is the only proven permanent hair removal option. It is a little less expensive than laser, but both laser and electrolysis are definitely expensive.
posted by arnicae at 11:16 AM on November 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

My ex-wife did laser. It's not cheap, and as stated above it takes a number of sessions. She was very happy with it when finished. It's also permanent (assuming it works) , so be absolutely sure that that's what you want.

Most women I know (well enough to get to this topic!) agree generally with the posts above, that paying someone good to do waxing is the best solution.
posted by tillsbury at 11:28 AM on November 22, 2016

I've done waxing before and though I think the pain is pretty manageable, I feel like it's way too expensive to do regularly. You basically have to do it monthly and it's at least $50 a pop, probably closer to $75. Shaving won't keep you completely smooth and it's annoying to do have to do it so often but you won't be completely smooth with waxing either, as you have to grow the hair out to get it done again.

And yes, for waxing, you absolutely must pay someone to do it.
posted by armadillo1224 at 11:37 AM on November 22, 2016

Option 5) creaming.
Use something like Veet or Nair and you'll be hair free in no time... it's completely painless and you can play on your phone will you're waiting for the cream to do its work.
posted by JenThePro at 11:48 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you do decide on laser, make sure they prescribe you a numbing gel or cream (usually has to be made at a compounding pharmacy).

Laser does not last forever. I had my legs and underarms done about ten years ago and I experienced underarm regrowth within about five years; my legs are still almost maintenance-free except for a few spots where the tech missed those follicles. I also had bikini line done and it grew back in about 3 years. Laser hurts and is super expensive and you will get regrowth. (Fair skin, very dark hair.)

The best result I've had is with electrolysis, especially for lip and brow areas, though it's so hard to find a good electrolysist now that laser is the trend.
posted by catlet at 11:57 AM on November 22, 2016

Trimming, laser, or shaving with ingrown prevention strategies, which are namely: using something like Bikini Zone immediately afterwards to calm irritation, followed a bit later by a white (old school) stick deodorant, applied on a daily basis. I don't know why that deodorant trick helps, but it seems to. (Maybe it encourages hair to grow straight out vs lie back down into the skin, by providing a sort of platform?? Idk. Have had no irritation this way.) Then also of course regular exfoliation - gently with a towel in shower and/or gentle chemical exfoliant when dry (like salicylic acid, eg the stuff in the acne aisle at the drug store. Neutrogena used to have an SA topical that was pretty low in alcohol, will update if I can remember what it's called).

Waxing, sugaring, threading, tweezing, any kind of pulling method - *never again* for me. Guaranteed ingrowns later. Exfoliating doesn't help because the hair follicles are disturbed deeper in the skin. And unlike with shaving, pulling methods distort the root of the follicle, so hairs *want* to grow sideways. Forget that!

Also included in "pulling methods" is that coiled torture machine, I forget what it's called because I blocked it out.

Laser isn't as permanent as previously advertised, but it's still going to reduce and minimize things over a longer period of time than anything else, and won't cause dermatitis, folliculitis, etc.

The one thing with shaving is that it can create little microtears in the skin that can be openings for bacteria & viruses. Also applies to pulling methods. I don't know if it'd make sense to throw some Polysporin on there (haven't gone that far).
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:27 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

On preview would avoid Nair, too. That crap burns. It works by dissolving hair, not great for skin either. Plus dermatitis risk there also
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:30 PM on November 22, 2016

I've had experience with all three:

Shaving - I hate this one, how do you get it all bare without the possibility of always nicking yourself? Hated dealing with the stubble and regrowth and even though I rarely got ingrowns, when I did get them, they were a bitch to deal with.

Waxing - I've done traditional soft wax and also sugaring (sugar wax). Traditional waxing hurts like a bitch and makes your skin extremely sensitive for at least 24 hrs. Same with sugaring but a little less so. The regrowth is a lot softer though, but it's only completely hair free for like a week, then the growth starts up again but then you have to wait until its long enough to get waxed. Too much of a time commitment for me and if you want to maintain it, it can get expensive between the service and the tip you have to leave.

Laser - Very effective and after 4 sessions I can safely say I'm almost hairless down there. I see responses saying this hurts, but it doesn't hurt more than waxing. It actually hurts significantly less. And depending on where you go and the machines they use, you can almost barely feel it. You have to be a good candidate though, I have light skin with dark hair so for me, I got really good results. If you decide to go this route just do your research and ask about the machine they use. Lasering for me is cheaper than waxing. Upfront the cost is more but over time it's much cheaper and not as much time commitment.
posted by driedmango at 12:34 PM on November 22, 2016

Also - depending on where you go, it's not super expensive at all. I got mine all done through a groupon deal.
posted by driedmango at 12:36 PM on November 22, 2016

This will vary depending on your location but when we did the math, laser paid for itself over waxing in well under three years. But even though it isn't permanent for everyone, it can be, so you need to be sure that you won't regret it when fashions inevitably change.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:44 PM on November 22, 2016

re: sugaring, Ive had that done once and waxing about 10 times.

Sugaring hurt less initially, but took longer to do. Long enough that my skin's inflammatory response was firing at full capacity by the end. I'll stick with wax since it seems to cover more ground quickly. Also, if you don't have a prostate/are a cis lady, getting the bum region done was almost no pain at all! Seriously for that degree of smoothness, get that done too :)
posted by Drosera at 2:24 PM on November 22, 2016

I prefer waxing because it is less irritating to my skin than shaving, however, I still get a few ingrown hairs. There doesn't seem to be much I can do, I just deal with them when they come up (or don't, I guess).

In my neck of the woods, you pay more for your first Brazilian than if you come back frequently (less than 6 weeks apart) subsequent waxes are cheaper because it takes less time and product. Pubic hair grows in all sorts of crazy directions so that's part of why it's so much easier to get a professional to do it for you. It's not anything like waxing your legs at home. Yes, you do need to grow it out but not by much. So if you are looking for hairless all the time, you probably need to stick with shaving.
posted by BeeJiddy at 2:33 PM on November 22, 2016

If you're going to wax, some tips:

1) Wear loose clothing so you're not crowding your business afterwards
2) Apply a thin layer of CREAM neosporin right when you get home, and I'll do this the next day too. Helps keep the area calm and drama free.
3) Exfoliate lightly once you're past the service by a couple or three days.
4) You will get some ingrowns but it's no where near how awful I had it with shaving. I have some super pointy tweezers and make use of them.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:08 PM on November 22, 2016

When I looked I to laser I was told that it also damages some glands in the area which help to provide lubrication for sex. I decided to avoid it.
posted by vignettist at 8:30 PM on November 22, 2016

Also included in "pulling methods" is that coiled torture machine, I forget what it's called because I blocked it out.

Epilator probably. Quite intimidating for down there. Once the whirring is going you'll need nerves of steel to bring it close to your lady bits.
posted by eisforcool at 9:45 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are two types of waxing too! Strip wax is traditional, where they apply the wax with a spatula then put a strip on it and pull off the strip to remove the hair. Hot wax is where they apply the wax with the spatula, leave it to cool then just pull on the wax itself to remove the hair, no strips involved. Hot wax is gentler on your skin and less painful than strip wax, and usually takes a bit longer and is more expensive. Hot wax is far, far preferred for pubic regions, if at all possible.
posted by goo at 1:30 PM on November 23, 2016

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