Before I stepped foot into the salon last week, I'd never successfully waxed anything before. I'd thought about it. I'd browsed my options. In college, I even ordered a do-it-yourself waxing kit off Amazon. But there's a difference between telling yourself you have the gumption to rip a hardened wax strip off your own privates versus actually being able to do it, so the wax went clumsily to my legs instead. Even that didn't go swimmingly, so I've mostly stuck with razors and bikini trimmers whenever I've felt like changing up my natural landscape.
Still, the curiosity never left me. I knew I wanted a true professional to show me what all the fuss was about one day. So to kick off 2016, I decided to explore a new frontier for my own nether regions and get my first-ever Brazilian wax. That's right: a Brazilian. That means all of it—gone. Here's what I learned during my appointment—and what you need to know if you're thinking about getting waxed down there.
1. Pay attention to prep.
Prepping for a wax really starts a few weeks before. For the best results, you should grow your hair out to between an eighth and a quarter of an inch long, according to expert aesthetician Larissa Keyliss at Eve Salon in New York City, where I got my wax. "Usually three weeks after shaving and four weeks after waxing is enough."
Another huge prep essential: Cleanliness. Do it for your aesthetician's sake and do it for your own. As for the former, they're the ones who'll be staring directly at and handling your nether regions the entire time. Be kind to them—take a shower beforehand. But it's also a health concern for you if you're not as clean as you can be: "The root of the hair is larger than the actual opening so it is not uncommon for there to be a little (very little) blood," says Keyliss. "If you're not clean, and your pores are open, it's an invitation to irritation and a possible infection."
2. You might learn some things about your pubis.
As I lay out on my waxer Eileen's table, she informed me that I didn't have that much pubic hair compared to some of the other people who'd passed through her waxing room's doors. Interesting! See, I spent the required number of non-shaving weeks prior to the appointment thinking that my bikini area treasure trail was an aberration with the density of a prehistoric forest. In other words, I thought I was way hairier than most, but I'm apparently not.
While there's nothing wrong with being hairy in the first place, it's just nice to challenge your own assumptions about your body sometimes. This is especially true when it comes to info from an aesthetician, who's literally seen thousands of pantsless women and really knows what they're talking about.
3. Know your limitations.
There are some parameters you have to fall into in order to get a wax at most salons. For those wondering if you can be pregnant or on your period and get a wax the answer is yes. Be warned, though: You'll be more sensitive. And on the note of health, salons will turn you away if you have a yeast infection or something else visibly awry down there
There are also many oral meds and some topical meds that disqualify you. The three main ones to watch out for are Retin-A, Differin, and Accutane—and for the latter you must be off the meds for six months before waxing, according to the experts at Eve.
They also warn against waxing within 24 hours of tanning (whether natural or at a salon), or if you've had a body scrub or any type of exfoliation within 24 hours.
4. Your reaction to the pain might surprise you.
In the lead-up to my appointment, I spent most of my energy trying not to psych myself up too much about the pain. This was the same philosophy I employed when I got my first tattoo: I'd already decided to do this thing, and freaking myself out about it seemed like it just wouldn't help.
About a half hour before my appointment, I popped two ibuprofen and then listened to some calming, distracting music as I traveled to the salon. I have to admit though: That pain loomed large in the back of my mind despite my best efforts—and that's why I was truly relieved when it turned out to not be as bad as I'd expected.
For a lot of people, the mons pubis (aka the rounded mass of fatty tissue lying over the joint of the pubic bones) is the most painful area, so keep that in mind if it's your first time. The more, uh, intimate areas—including, yes, the elusive butt crack—are actually much less of an ordeal if you can overlook the inherently awkward posing involved. My aesthetician was a pro in that she kept me talking (and laughing!) through all of it.
Of course, everyone has a different tolerance for pain—and when it comes down to it, you're ripping hairs out of your skin so it's going to hurt. As Keyliss told me, "The first time is usually the worst because you've (probably) been shaving your whole life and the hair is like steel." The more you wax the less it hurts, the hairs come back finer and they resist less.
This is the best thing my wonderful and talented aesthetician taught me: Inhale through your nose. And when they're about to rip your hair away, breathe out of your mouth swift and hard. Work with your aesthetician on this; after all, you're buddies for as long as you're on that table. So remember this: BREATHE, BREATHE, BREATHE. And when you're done, go get yourself a treat. You deserve it.
This article originally appeared on GoodHousekeeping.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.