Skepticism

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Remember when we lived in a country (clever, dirty pun totally intended) where you could decide things like how much foliage you let spill out fromunder your clothes and then got to make the decision on how to remove it? If certain legislators in New Jersey have their way, you’ll be keeping that memory not-so-neatly tucked away in your thong – provided there’s any room – if their proposed ban on Brazilian waxing passes.

Last year it seems that there were a couple of Jersey ladies who had issues getting their bald on. They complained, one even filed a lawsuit, and the great state of New Jersey’s … um… ears perked up. They were ready to listen.

“Please, tell us in detail what happened during your waxing session. Wait. Start with what you were wearing… yes, yes it’s very relevant! We need these details for the official record… slow down, what did your waxxer look like?”

Not to take the complaints lightly, both women were hospitalized because of their injuries, but is a state-wide ban on uhoh-waxing really necessary?

Fact: The wax at your salon is not necessarily sterile. It’s not necessarily new. And it’s not necessarily free of little pieces of the last client’s (or the one before hers or the previous day’s clients’) vajayjay skin… but that’s also true for lip skin, armpit skin, leg skin and toe skin (from the hobbits going undercover).

Fact: The vagina and anus have more bacteria living around them than other waxable parts. That wooden stick smears that bacteria all over your body like frosting on a hairy cupcake.

Fact: There is a real risk when going to a salon that you could come out with someone else’s bacteria partying in your vacated follicles.

Fact: Sterilizing wax in between uses is generally impractical. It has to be heated to at least 220ºF (104.4ºC) for 15-20 minutes.

Fact: Infections do happen. And, like in cases like the two women in New Jersey, they can lead to hospitalizations.

So yes, there are some real concerns involved in waxing. And new Jersey’s response is that women should either buy bigger bikini bottoms and embrace the abandoned wild ‘dos of the 1970’s or DIY.

Now, DIY doesn’t seem so bad (some websites have dedicated considerable time and space to those willing to pay $19.95 a month to “appreciate” the fine-art of DIY hair removal.) In fact, most of us rely on ourselves for hair removal. There are plenty of benefits to DIY over hiring someone to do it – it’s cheap, no appointment necessary and there’s no wondering what your hair removal expert is thinking about that curiously placed Max Hedroom tattoo you were so proud of back in 1986.

But it also raises new issues when its time to trim – or remove – the hedges.  Realistically, you have two options for your there-hair – you can shave or you can wax. Do not ever use hair removal cream on your nethers! Most of them are barely gentle enough to use on your skin at all without risk of burns, much less the most sensitive areas.

Self-waxing can be messy and tricky at best. While waxing at home frees you from the issues of other people’s coochie cooties, you still run the risk of spreading your own cooties to parts of your body they don’t belong… it’s like wiping back to front, but then smearing the tissue all over your irritated skin that’s covered with open micro-wounds. While you’re not going to get someone else’s infection, you’re still not using a sterile product. You’re probably not sanitizing your bathroom before waxing either, so you’re opening yourself up to other contaminants that you woudln’t find in a salon. Is it better or worse than a salon? Probably neither, but at least at the salon you don’t have to rip your locks of love out of place yourself.

Shaving is generally safe for most hair-removal purposes. It’s cheap. It’s easy. It’s fast. Unfortunately, it’s very short term, lasting only hours for some people. But the reality is that shaving can be risky, too. Anything that involves unsanitized cutting utensils pressed up against unsanitized skin should be categorized as “proceed with caution”. Add a bunch of folds and crevices while removing the ability to navigate visually… and suddenly “bumpin’ uglies” is crossing the line from euphemistic to literal.

Women are still going to remove their funfuzz, no matter what the lawmakers say. Salons are still going to offer it off the menu if it’s criminalized. Women are still going to be hospitalized with nasty infections. Ideally, we’d see salon owners working on making their salons more sanitary, or perhaps we’d see laws requiring more education in the licensing process. Maybe instead of banning the procedure all together, NJ could try some stricter regulations.

We should be educating people about what happens and what risks are involved with hair removal, and maybe even try to send the message that body hair isn’t a flaw.

There is no ultimately safe way to remove your downtherehair. If you like it gone, get it gone, but do it as safely as possible. Here are things you can do to reduce your risk of infection:

  • If you are diabetic, don’t get waxed. Diabetics are at increased risk of infection from waxing.
  • Before y0ur waxing session starts, ask for fresh wax. If they won’t oblige, leave. A good salon will do it.
  • Make sure your esthetician does all your other waxing before going on to the “bikini” part of your session.
  • Have the area around your anus waxed last, and area around your vagina done second from last.
  • Get over the stigma, go with the ‘fro!


Update: Thanks 100% to this post*, NJ has decided that the ban is ridiculous and is no longer pursuing a law against waxing-off.


*margin of error ±100 percentage points

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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60 Comments

  1. VAGINA. Vagina, vagina, vagina.

    Sorry, I hate euphemisms for genitals. For the sake of this article, where they were meant to be humorous and did not seem to indicate a genuine avoidance of the terms, it’s forgivable. :)

    In other news, I tried waxing my legs once. I was not a fan. I’ve never ripped the hair from my labia – never seemed like a worthwhile way to spend my time. Now I pretty much never shave (anywhere). Sometimes I feel like having hairless legs and arms, most times I don’t. I sometimes use trimmers on my pubic hair, but rarely.

    Guess that makes me a dirty hippie, but I save lots of money!

  2. You’d think people would maybe educate themselves a bit better before doing anything that involves their genitals. I for one do not shave or wax anything besides my armpits, and I’ve never been happier. I really can’t relate to those that wax.. never done it, probably never will. It looks much too painful, and I’m a wimp.

  3. @“Other” Amanda:

    I did use the word vagina on the part at the bottom where I was being more serious.

    But for the most part I wasn’t referring to nasty dirty shameful girl PARTS. I was talking about the nasty dirty shameful hair that grows on those nasty dirty shameful parts.

    @AmberEyes & @“Other” Amanda: both – Congrats on the saving money and not dying of any crazy diseases caused by hair removal.

    After writing this post, I took a shower… cut myself shaving three times. I never cut myself shaving. I should try to be less hypocritical.

  4. “Sterilizing wax in between uses is generally impractical. “

    Certainly more expensive. You’d need to keep more wax in stock and have sufficient equipment to sterilize it as needed. I can see where salons would resist doing this unless the market or regulations required it. Still more practical than an outright ban.

  5. I’m sorry to throw a fly in the ointment (literal or figurative… you decide o.O) but everyone knows that women are naturally completely hairless save for head and brow.

    Clearly you have not done much research on the subject. Even a cursory google search will demonstrate my point.

    I accept your apology in advance, and suggest you see a doctor about your obvious medical condition.

  6. Bikini waxing?

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAH no. Never.

    Why the hell would anyone WANT to rip hairs out of THE MOST sensitive part of their body?

    I don’t know if I support the NJ ban, but I certainly would support considering a person’s participation in bikini waxing as evidence of insanity.

    Just shave, ladies, if you really want the hairless look. Do it every day if you have to. But please don’t put MOLTEN WAX on your vagina, because it makes me want to throw up on my Iphone.

  7. I’ve used single-use waxing strips – no risk of spreading germs there. There’s also epilators. I haven’t used them, but my cousing likes them. Basically, I see shaving anything other than armpits fairly useless. Who are we kidding? People are hairy.

  8. I feel that if you are going to pay someone to cause you pain there are several more fun things you could do.

    Anyway, I find that a small pair of scissors and the occasional bikini line shave in the summer months are all I need to keep my lady bits in check

  9. I come from a weird and tiny generation — the baby bust of the early 1960s — so maybe I’m not representative. And certainly anyone in their 20s should not consider my prejudices when contemplating a personal hygiene routine.

    But seriously — hairless genitals? Ack. Don’t do it.

    I’m fairly certain that for the young women out there trying to decide what to do with their furry hoo-hahs, the opinions of creepy old men who hang out in bars are pretty far from your consciousness. But seriously, bald vulvas are creepy and disturbing.

    I may be flirting with girls half my age (it’s fun!) but in the event I get lucky, I don’t want to see something reminiscent of a child.

  10. And since we’re all Darwinian evolutionists, I should point out that a) recent biological studies show that humans have perfectly functional veromonasal organs, and b) hair holds pheromonal scents.

    So if you’re at all interested in exploiting hominid reproductive strategies, it makes sense to hold on to structures that keep those aromatics in play.

  11. In the last 20 years I’ve done about 5-8 PAP tests each working day, and I’ve seen everything from totally bald, studded, landing strips, through to full-on Planet of the Apes. I have to say, even with the relative frequency of waxing and the horror it gives me every time I think of it, I actually haven’t come across any complications, touch wood. Maybe our salons don’t re-use the wax. It can’t be that expensive?

  12. @Elyse: I’m in Cincinnati, Ohio. We need to have a skeptical/skepchickal meetup at Arnold’s Bar on 8th Street, not least because they have a scarlet A (for “Arnold’s”) on the awning out front. Also because it’s the best bar in Cincinnati. (Yes, there are holdouts for the Comet on Hamilton Ave, but they are wrong.)

  13. @sarahcookson:

    The complications are relatively rare… thus the ridiculousness of a full-out ban.

    And no, the expense isn’t great. In fact, wax itself is rather cheap. If you ask your salon to use new wax, they may be hesitant, but they should give in. I think the re-use is a matter of not wasting product + lack of education. If people are looking at it as a waste issue rather than a health risk, they’re going to re-use (and reduce and recycle).

    You can hardly blame people who aren’t aware of the risks for not being concerned about them.

    Generally complications arise in people with compromised immune systems. But even if your immune system is working just dandy, you don’t need other people’s skin and blood in your wax (which will then be in contact with your open, bloody pores).

    (Pardon me if this is non-nonsensical and rambling… I’ve been drinking some Buzzed Aldrins and I’m quite tired.)

  14. Elyse: Arnold’s is incredibly easy to find. Head to I-75, which is pehaps the major highway in the area. Take the Sixth street exit. Head off on Sixth Street (regardless of the highway you come in on), turn onto Broadway. Go north two blocks to 8th street and turn left. Arnold’s is a block andand a half on your right, across from the parking lot. You can’t miss it.

  15. @KristinMH: actually, i strongly prefer a little bit of pain every 4 weeks or so to the constant itching and razor bumps i’d have to endure with daily shaving.
    and yes, i know those are not the only options, but i like being smooth.

  16. You always just trim or shave the hair. It doesn’t have to be forcibly removed. I have kept my nether region trimmed short since I was a kid. It’s a favor I expect to be returned.

    Not only does short hair “look” better, but a clump of hair on a dark moist part of the body tends to develop a unique aroma over the course of the day.

    It’s the same reason I shave my arm pits. For the record, if I’m doing it for you, I expect the favor returned

  17. @colddayinapril: Very Funny, and I love your Avatar. Remember – Cthulu Saves!… in case he gets hungry later.

    @everyone else: First, I’m a guy, and I’ll say to the ladies that it doesn’t matter what you have doewn there, your man/other will probably like it, (Though if you want any ‘going down’ action a good trim helps). Past that, I’ve never understood waxing. I accidentally experienced it once when I was in theatre, (the make up crew used the wrong adhesives), and the result was that I ended up getting the right side of my face, neck, chest, and entire right arm ‘waxed’.

    On teh plus side, I didn’t have to shave the right side of my face for weeks. On the other hand, it hurt like all hell. So the idea of waxing the most sensative areas of ones body has always just stunned me.

  18. @virgilsego, golly, thank you for doing us hairy, stinky chicks with nasty messy crotch ‘dos so many favors, without nursing the self-righteous expectation that you are therefore owed our compliance with your subjective personal aesthetics.

    Oh, wait.

    Also, cutesy terms like vajayjay aside, the part a woman would be waxing would be her vulva, not her vagina. If there’s hair growing in your vaginal tract, you’ve got something unique going on that waxing is assuredly not the solution for.

  19. Rathia: “Also, cutesy terms like vajayjay aside, the part a woman would be waxing would be her vulva, not her vagina. ”

    Thank, you! This has bugged me for years especially when women talk about what their vaginas look like. I want to ask “How do you know this without a speculum and a flashlight?!”


    As a guy I prefer less hair. Flossing once a day is plenty.

  20. You’d think there would be a simpler solution, such as manufacturers selling smaller amounts of wax in sealed containers (one packet per customer) or something. There are ways to provide a sterile product without banning the procedure.

  21. For the record: I constantly think about skeptchick bits.

    Also I think waxing is ridiculous, unsafe, and inhuman. This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that waxing dose not leave anything for the well paid plants I have working in janitorial positions in salons across the country to sweep up and drop in the mail.

    …effigies don’t build themselves after all.

  22. Glad to hear they backed down regarding the ban. A ban is ridiculous. As is the idea of a Brazilian, imho.

    I don’t wax, shave, laser, epilate or pluck anything these days. I’m just a long-haired hippie, I guess. I occasionally trim the hair on my head, but that’s about it. The last time I shaved my legs was during the Reagan administration.

    My body hair is pretty sparse, which makes things easier. But I do wish I had bushier armpit hair. I would love to dye my armpit hair purple or green, but I think it would look kind of pitiful with my little tufts. I expect too much dye would get on my skin instead of the hair. That would just look silly.

  23. Also, if any of you DIY ladies out there are interested, I’m currently in the process of constructing a 50″, to scale, statue of Emma Goldman in the style of the Venus De Milo.

    Any donations would be much appreciated. However, I have ways of acquiring my materials should I not get enough volunteers.

    … I suggest you all by stamps o.O

  24. @“Other” Amanda:

    I knew you were bring snarky… I just wanted an excuse to point out how horribly disgusting and shameful the female body is. Obviously we don’t hear it enough since there are ladies here who aren’t bald from the cheekbones down. Next, I bet, you’re going to tell me you all don’t use vagina deodorant spray either!

    Actually, one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard come out of a 15 year old boy’s mouth were the words, “If it smells like fish, it’s a good dish. If it smells like cologne, leave it alone.” That kid dropped out of high school a few months later. If that guy can get it, why are there still douches, deodorants, and pina colada scented freshening wipes on the market?

  25. @carr2d2: I agree completely with this. When I do want to remove hair, I shave. I regret it within a day, though – anytime I shave anywhere near my crotch it gets itchy and bumpy, no matter what I try.

    One day of smooth and sexy is not worth a week or two of itchiness. (It’s hard to scratch your crotch in front of 16 3rd graders… observant little monsters.)

    I don’t have this problem on my legs and armpits, though.

  26. @carr2d2:

    I used to prefer waxing, but I didn’t like the waiting between the time I was ready to be waxed vs the time the hair was long enough to be waxed.

    In all honesty, I’m not a let-it-grow girl… but I fully support girls who are, and I think the stigma attached to it is ridiculous… especially for pit hair.

    Nevermind that insults are being hurled at hairy girls by dudes with party favors growing out of their noses.

  27. I’m still waiting for a piece of Larry Niven’s “throwaway” technologies to show up. In his “Known Space” universe, he occasionally mentions men using a “depilatory cream” to wipe off their beard. I eagerly await this product, as I hate shaving. I also think that if it were safe enough to use on the face, it would be safe for other regions.

    That being said, perhaps there are limits to current waxing techniques that should be respected until something better comes along. Maybe not waxing quite so close to some areas? Maybe clipping short with scissors? It just seems to me that when people start taking health risks for fashion reasons, there is something decidedly wrong. :-D

  28. Have to hit so many points here:

    I like to date mammals. In most cases, hair is far more tactilely pleasing than completely smooth skin. Women I’ve dated (and provided oral sex to) have run the gamut from scarily smooth to I-think-I’m-going-to-need-a-machete hairy, and I have only asked for a change in one case. She was itty-bitty, and with the way her breasts all but disappeared when she was on her back, she looked like a 12 year old*. That was just plain freaky, especially after all the Victorian era porn I’ve consumed. I will admit a preference for less hair when my face is getting into play, as it tickles when it goes up my nose.

    My one caveat with leg hair is that it looks funny under panty hose. They must be kept mutually exclusive for the sake of my few remaining shreds of sanity/not getting beaten upf or laughing.

    Yes, genitalia and depilatory creams are bad. Very bad. Inadequate rinsing combined with a need to take my grandmother shopping resulted in an hour long “slow burn” as my scrotum developed first-degree chemical burns. I cannot imagine what would happen to a mucus membrane, but any sort of convex surface must be viewed with apprehension.

  29. LMAO This has truly made my day!
    I personally am an aficionado of the “modest-trim-with-hotpant-tankini” combo. Debenhams do a great range for those who don’t fancy molten wax or razors near their nethers. I’m sure that was their sales tack.

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