When you think about it, no sane woman would ever pay good money to have hot wax painted on to her nether regions so that hair can be ripped from the roots.
Yet bikini waxing is a pretty standard grooming habit for thousands of women who routinely book a session every month without batting an eyelid.
If you're a waxing virgin but have been thinking of giving it a go, here's the lowdown on exactly what happens once you get over the basic embarrassment of showing your pants to a total stranger.
1. Everyone feels a bit self-conscious, especially the first few times. But remember, beauty therapists have seen it ALL before and perform bikini waxes every day. Worrying about whether you're too hairy / not hairy enough / have rubbish knickers on is all very normal but very unnecessary.
2. There are several categories of bikini wax based on how much hair is removed and priced accordingly. The are a lot of different bikini wax shapes and styles, but the classic shape is the 'Bikini' and involves a simple tidy up of hair at the front and a bit down below, so that it doesn't extend beyond your knicker line – just enough to get you bikini-ready (this is the ideal wax for first-timers).
The 'Brazilian' involves a lot more hair removal – typically leaving just a 'landing strip' of hair at the front and all hair removed down below and even round the back! The 'Hollywood' is total hair removal, front to back. Many salons offer a 'High Bikini' or 'G String' wax which is a little more thorough than your classic 'Bikini' shape and includes hair removed from the top to take your strip down in length.
3. Your therapist will ask you to lie down on a salon bed/couch and remove your clothes below the waist. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE YOUR PANTS OFF IF YOU DON'T WANT TO (and most people don't)! They are very adept at working around your knickers to protect your modesty (Cosmo tip: wear comfy pants, not your best lacy undies that can be a little, er, scratchy).
4. If you want a thorough wax like a Brazilian or Hollywood the therapist may find it easier if you remove your pants or offer you some disposable pants instead.Some salons which offer a form of hot wax without strips may also prefer you not wear anything. But your dignity comes first so if you feel uncomfortable at any point, just speak up – or leave!
5. The therapist normally asks you place one leg bent up at the knee and the other bent flat on the bed at a right angle, exposing one side of your bikini line. She will then tuck a tissue into the edge of your pants to protect them from the wax.
6. Wearing gloves, the therapist applies melted hot wax onto a small section of your hair using a spatula – it's warm, not too hot. Then a strip of cloth or muslin is applied on top of the wax, she presses down for a few seconds, holds the skin taut and pulls the strip away in one sharp tug. She continues repeating this process, both sides, until you're all done.
7. OK, the therapist WILL be very close to your butt and MAY have to touch your labia and adjust you here and there to get the skin taut. Weird but necessary.
8. Just how painful is it? Everyone has different pain thresholds but we won't kid you that it's painless (as many salons claim). Normally it results in a sharp intake of breath but it definitely gets easier the more you have it done.
In some areas you'll hardly flinch; other spots result in a bit of involuntary swearing (top of the landing strip always seems a bit ouchy) - but either way it's over in about TWO SECONDS. In our experience, the best therapists work in small sections and press down on the skin immediately after pulling off the wax strip to dull the pain – so ask your therapist to work this way. Popping an ibuprofen an hour beforehand also helps.
9. The therapist finishes by checking her handiwork and removing any remaining stray hairs with tweezers. Annoying but important.
10. Finally, a soothing cream is applied all over. This bit feels really nice. She'll leave the room to let you get dressed.
11. A bit of redness is normal afterwards for a few hours. BRAVO! You are now hair-free and low-maintenance for about 3-4 weeks before you're ready for your next session.