My Awful Brazilian Waxing Encounter
When I arranged my first-ever bikini-region waxing, I went from 0 to 100, requesting a Brazilian. Note: If you request a bikini wax, they’ll remove any hair you may see while wearing a bikini. However, opt for a Brazilian and anticipate strips being applied to your vaginal lips and backside. (Nobody truly explained the seriousness of the situation to me.)
As someone who has only ever waxed her legs in sixth grade before a school dance, I was a novice to the realm of more ~mature~ waxing options. I decided to take the plunge because I wanted a wax prior to a beach vacation so I wouldn’t have to shave (farewell, razor burn, won’t miss you), and to see what all the excitement was about.
Too frightened to schedule an appointment at the salon ahead of time, I found a same-day opening in the afternoon after consuming numerous iced coffees — a major mistake when waxing, I would later discover, because caffeine heightens sensitivity to pain. I arrived alone, without any clue as to what the service would involve. But I had my determined expression on and was prepared to check off this rite of passage from my list of “things I believe all adult females do.”
The beautician welcomed me into her room and instructed me to strip from the waist down. Then I rested on a massage-style table in yoga Savasana. She applied the wax and explained the process briefly. Here it comes… the initial strip.
Yes, it was swift, but not swift enough. After completing the bikini line, she touched up the sides, the bottom, and one lip. That’s when I requested her to stop. I was bleeding a bit, which she stated was normal, but nothing seemed worth enduring one more strip (was it the sixth one? The eighth?). I hurried out of the salon, experiencing a painful ache in my groin, and was overcome with nausea and dizziness. This persisted for over thirty minutes — feeling as if I could faint and as though my blood sugar had dropped dramatically.
I spent the remainder of that day and the following three curled up on the couch in loose-fitting sweatpants, thinking to myself, “There’s no way this is normal.” I had a sore and tense body, heightened exhaustion, and felt disoriented as if I had just sustained an injury. I knew there were some minor adverse effects of waxing pubic hair — a bit of discomfort and sensitivity, perhaps — but this was an entirely different level.
Possible Adverse Effects of Waxing Pubic Hair
Turns out, I’m not alone. Many individuals feel physically unwell after receiving a Brazilian (or any bikini wax, for that matter), with some reporting symptoms such as fever, nausea, and exhaustion in the subsequent days.
In reality, a 2014 research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology discovered that 60 percent of females encountered a minimum of one medical problem associated with elimination of hair in the pubic area.
But why is this, and why it might have happened to me? “You’re breaking down and eliminating an immune barrier (your hair) that is one line of defense against infections,” explains Candice Fraser, M.D., a certified ob-gyn based in NYC. Yep, infections — including yeast infections or even a staph infection (caused by bacteria commonly found on the skin). “If you’re experiencing an immune response — a fever, for instance — it could be your body’s reaction to fighting the infection,” she says.
That’s because, even though society may want you to believe that it’s unattractive, pubic hair is there for a very significant reason. “Pubic hair safeguards the skin, vulva, and labia from irritants, allergens, and infectious microbes,” says certified ob-gyn Vandna Jerath, M.D., medical director of Optima Women’s Healthcare of Colorado. So although you can experience hair follicle inflammation from any type of waxing, there’s more at stake when it occurs down there than in your armpit. “Complications from any waxing can include irritation, burns, cuts, abrasions, scars, bruising, rashes, contact dermatitis, hyperpigmentation, ingrown hairs, and folliculitis,” adds Dr. Jerath.
Another physical response from the “harmless” bikini wax? You could develop an infection in the hair follicles themselves. “The follicle becomes inflamed, swollen, may create pus bubbles — similar to razor burn — and then increases your risk of skin-to-skin infections such as molluscum, herpes, and other STDs,” says Dr. Fraser. Whoa.
Mild inflammation of the hair follicles as a result of a Brazilian wax (which is to be expected for nearly everyone, to be fair) can also drain into your lymph nodes and make you feel generally unwell and tired, adds Dr. Frazer. “So at the cellular level, you’re combating a low-level or localized skin infection,” she explains.
But what about my experience of feeling almost instantly light-headed and sick in the half hour following my appointment? “When some individuals experience pain, they have a vasovagal response,” says Fraser. This type of response, which should typically only last a short while following the discomfort, causes your blood pressure to drop. It can cause nausea, lightheadedness, paleness, and rapid heart rate. It can even cause you to faint.
However, “I cannot ascertain whether individuals will experience these reactions on every occasion they undergo a waxing procedure,” explains Dr. Fraser.
So, What Are Your Options?
I have personally heard testimony from others that they ultimately became accustomed to the discomfort of waxing, but there was no way for me to know how my body would respond if I attempted it again. “Although it is difficult to anticipate if a woman will have an adverse reaction, it is a greater concern and potential hazard for women who are immunocompromised or taking steroids,” says Dr. Jerath.
“It’s crucial to ensure that you are going to a trustworthy salon and esthetician, which is clean, hygienic, maintains high standards, and does not mix the wax tub. Additionally, gently exfoliating the area with a lotion containing alpha-hydroxy acids or using an antiseptic moisturizer before waxing may help reduce the risk of infection, and using a soothing gel, occlusive dressing like Vaseline or Neosporin, or an antibiotic ointment afterward may also be beneficial,” recommends Dr. Fraser. Many salons have incorporated these pre- and post-waxing steps in their treatment (including the one I visited, which is a national chain).
Now, after the entire experience, I will admit that I have contemplated returning to the salon to have the waxing done again. I have also considered experimenting with some all-natural wax formulas that claim to make the experience less painful since I still enjoy the sensation of being hairless down there. However, the more I weigh the pros and cons and the potential risk of feeling so unwell again in exchange for smooth skin, the less I find it worth my money.
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