I am ashamed at how long it’s taken me to slog through these Ask Afrobellas. I need an intern! I am literally drowning in e mail. Mea maxima culpa, bellas who have asked questions in 2008. I will make it up to you! Here’s one I’ve been meaning to get to from a regular reader.
I am happy to actually feel comfortable enough to send you a question. Sometimes while reading the posts on your site, I hear “i know that’s right” in the background of my mind. I truly value your opinion as someone who has devoted quite a bit of time to help strangers with their beauty predicaments. I recently became engaged and am completely overwhelmed with happiness. But now the emotions of planning the wedding have rushed in so quickly that I sometimes forget that it is supposed to be a joyous occasion.
My question is regarding hair removal techniques for the big day. I have always been on the hairy side and am still searching for the best way to get silky smooth legs and underarms. My hair is course and is very resistant to removal. Shaving is a nightmare as I am the queen of in-grown hairs. When using those creamy chemical hair removers, I usually have super irritated skin and nubs of hair left by the time the whole process is over. Not only that but they totally give me scary flashbacks of squirming in the beauticians chair as a child while getting a touch up. All the beauty articles I have read never address women of color’s naturally curlier body hair, tendency to scar or get in-grown hairs. I am also interested in permanent body hair removal but am very apprehensive after seeing “post-op” pictures of black women scarred after laser hair removal procedures performed by reputable doctors not familiar with black skin. So please pass on whatever information you may have… My family wasn’t very much help on this subject as most of them don’t even shave or need to. I really appreciate your time and whatever information you or any of the readers might have.
Lauren, girl – I hope I made this answer in time for the wedding! The weeks have become months and just flown by. I am so sorry for taking so long to write back. BUT in that time, I’ve been doing quite a bit of personal research on the topic of hair removal, so I’ve got answers for you!
Before I dive headfirst into answering, I gotta say… the topic of body hair removal has been surprisingly touchy on this blog in the past. The decision of whether or not to shave your legs, or to wax the hair off your body, goes directly against some natural women’s definition of “natural.” I respect that completely. I won’t let a chemical straightener touch the hair on my head, but I’ll willingly slather on Nair anywhere else? It’s an inconsistency that I think about often. Also, it goes against the sensibilities of most feminists — why should we conform to male standards of beauty? Why is looking like a prepubescent girl the standard for women in Western society? The Europeans don’t do it, so why should we? All good, valid questions that are worth considering before you make a decision.
So why do I choose to inflict pain on myself and remove my body hair? Because I love feeling clean. I love feeling smooth and pretty and feminine, and for me, hair removal adds to that. My husband loves it, and he does things to make me happy, and I know this makes him happy. If I’m going to the beach, I don’t want to be worried about having a hairline if you know what I mean. If I’m wearing a skirt, I want to know my legs go well with the general appearance of manicured beauty I try to present from head to toe. I’ve got quite a few reasons why I choose to wax, thread, and shave away unwanted body hair. You should consider yours before you take any kind of plunge. OK — having said all of that, let me tell you what works!
You say shaving is out, and so are depilatorys. (Really? I love Sally Hansen, it works great for me!). I recently tried this $250 TBS product from Sephora, the no!no!. It sucked sucked. Unless you enjoy the stink of burning hair and leftover crispy curlies still growing out of your skin after repeated uses, I’d suggest forget it. $250? REALLY? I scoff at you, no!no!
I have never had laser hair removal, so I can’t speak to that. A very close friend of mine runs her own American Laser Center up in NYC, and she’s very pro-lasering, and recommends it to me. I’ll have to ask her about the potential for scarring — but the response might just be, “then you can have microdermabrasion to remove that!” Yippee, and pay another grand! No thanks.
I shave my legs (always using some kind of cream or oil — I love Skin Milk Shaving Milk and sometimes I steal my hubby’s Pacific Shaving Oil, loves it), because I don’t have the “naturally curlier body hair, tendency to scar or get in-grown hairs” you referred to, at least not on my legs. But I DO have those problems under my arms. Boy howdy.
I shaved under my arms for years, and Mama Bella always warned me it would darken my skin under there. Now I couldn’t dream of striking the Beyonce pose — my armpits are easily two shades darker than my face. I’m taking steps to remedy that with waxing, and it’s definitely making a difference! I found a place here in Miami, the Aqua Day Spa, where the waxer explained that certain kinds of wax hurt less, and also result in less discoloration, scarring, and irritation. She used the Satin Smooth aloe wax on me, and for ONCE I didn’t cry involuntary tears when someone ripped out the hair from my pits. The wax stayed tacky to the touch for a long time, and the procedure took longer than it would had she used cloth strips. But it was worth it and I am SO going back for more. It definitely made a difference.
For me, cloth strip waxing hurts more, and for my curlier body hairs, the thick hot beeswax works best. Lots of waxers tend to use cold wax, or cloth strips for larger areas (like your legs). Areas like that are less sensitive, so it’ll hurt… if you fear pain, I can’t sugarcoat the truth or lie to you. Waxing hurts. Especially bikini waxing for the first time. That’s why I would never wax myself. I just… couldn’t. I’d be walking around with wax I was too afraid to peel off. You need someone who is gentle and reassuring, but firm and professional. And it really DOES hurt less the more often you go. Promise.
I actually wrote about my first full bikini wax for my New Times blog, Patrice’s Pretty in the City. (we changed the logo! Check it out!!) The lady who waxed me was super sweet and VERY good at her job. And as she told me, “70% of my customers get the full wax. Young, oldâ€¦ I have grandmas.” GRANDMAS? Yes, child. I had to ask Mama Bella about that, and her basic explanation is that age = wisdom + gray hair. Everywhere. Nuff said.
Have you ever seen this YouTube classic?
Yeah, that’s about right. I wept through my first bikini wax. I gasped through the second. Kelly Clarkson! It isn’t fun, but having it done in a booth where I could hear the squeals and screeches of a chorus of other women helped me through it. And afterwards… oh, afterwards I thought it was completely worth it. So fresh and so clean. Such a dramatic difference in everything. I’m a new convert, so I’m all about it. If you’re gonna GO for it, go for it all. Trust me.
BUT — I strongly recommend you do some research before you just randomly pick a waxer. Ask your friends. Ask your coworkers. Then visit the place. Maybe get something innocuous done first, like an upper lip wax. Look around the room where they wax you — is it shady? Is it dirty? Is it in a storage room in almost-abandoned strip mall? Then run, run, run! You need a clean, well lit place. I really prefer places that specialize exclusively in waxing, like Wonderskin here in Miami.
I’ve been to sketchier places, and from reading this horrific tale of a wax gone wrong, you’ll see why you should avoid back-room operations at all costs. Click here for another worst case scenario, where the patient had type 1 diabetes and was therefore susceptible to infection…. I don’t even want to say anymore. The point is, be smart about it. It’s better to know what you’re doing before you go ahead and do it, you know?
Post-wax care is essential — immediately after waxing, all you might be ready for is a cool shower and some aloe vera gel. But the next day or so, exfoliate with a sugar scrub to help alleviate ingrown hairs. Gentle exfoliation made a big difference for me, in terms of scarring, discoloration, and ingrown hairs. This site has some great post-wax tips.
And that’s my two cents about hair removal. I sincerely hope I made it in time for your big day — if you’re trying to get waxed for your wedding, definitely go the day or two before, just so you’re not feeling extra sensitive under your beautiful gown. Your wedding is a special day for you and your husband and your family — savor the moment and enjoy it to the max. Have a magical, beautiful, magnificent day — you deserve it, bella bride!
Do you have any hair removal advice to impart or experiences to share? Do tell!