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Bikini waxing is the epilation of pubic hair in and around the pubic region by the use of wax. While the practice is mainly associated with women, men at times also remove pubic hair. With certain styles of women's swimwear, pubic hair may become visible around the crotch area of a swimsuit. Visible pubic hair is widely culturally disapproved of and considered to be embarrassing, and so is at times removed. However, some people also remove pubic hair that is not exposed, for aesthetic, personal hygiene, cultural, fashion or other reasons.
The bikini line delineates the part of a woman's pubic area which would normally be covered by the bottom part of a swimsuit. In the context of waxing, it is generally understood to describe any pubic hair visible beyond the boundaries of a swimsuit. Epilation is usually also performed on the upper leg.
Pubic hair can be removed in a number of ways, including waxing, shaving, sugaring or using chemical depilatory creams. Hair that is not removed may be trimmed.
In Middle Eastern societies, removal of the female body hair has been considered proper hygiene, necessitated by local customs, for many centuries. In Islam, this is known as an act of Fitrah. According to ethnologist F. Fawcett, writing in 1901, he had observed the removal of body hair, including pubic hair about the vulva, as a custom of women from the Hindu Nair caste.
In Western societies, removal of female body hair (except for head hair, eyelashes and eyebrows) has traditionally been considered appropriate when it was visible. Visible pubic hair continues to be widely culturally disapproved and considered to be embarrassing, and so is at times removed. In relation to pubic hair, with the reduction in the size of swimsuits, especially since the coming into fashion and popularity of the bikini after 1946, the styling of pubic hair has also come into vogue. The practice to remove even more pubic hair continued with the popularity or fashion of even briefer swimwear, such as the thong, which exposed the buttocks.
Changes in lingerie styles also encouraged the removal of pubic hair, and the nude crotch—i.e., the total removal of pubic hair, such as in a full Brazilian or the Sphinx style—became considered by many to be erotic and glamorous. A nude crotch is considered by some to be more youthful looking. According to Tschachler, Devine and Draxlbauer, removal of all visible body hair has come to be seen as an important aspect of femininity.
Pubic hair may be styled into several basic styles which may have differing names. Different salons use different names for common types of waxing, for example referring to a Brazilian with a "landing strip" as a "Mohican" or a Hollywood as "Full Monty".
Anthropologist Desmond Morris has identified other waxing styles:
Warm wax is applied to hair and covered with small strips of cloth. When the wax hardens sufficiently, the cloth is pulled off quickly to remove hair up from the roots. Some discomfort is associated with the procedure. Generally, discomfort lasts less than five days. A person can wax themselves using a home kit. A bikini wax during pregnancy is generally more painful, due to increased sensitivity.
The pubic area is one of the most sensitive areas in the body, and special attention must be paid to avoid irritation. Over time hair becomes weaker and grows more slowly, leading to less frequent waxing. If the client has never been waxed before, or has not been waxed for a long time, it may be necessary to trim the hair down first using scissors or an electric razor. A patch test is necessary, usually at the uppermost part of the thigh, to test that the client is not allergic to wax or the skin doesn't overreact. Since the mucous membrane of the vulva is the most sensitive of the bikini area, it is usually better left to the last part of the process. Sometimes bumps or in-grown hair can result. Isolated hairs can be removed by using tweezers or by electrolysis. Waxing can be performed privately in the home, or by a cosmetologist.
The pain involved with this procedure can be slight or severe and can continue from several seconds to several minutes. Some people experience less pain during subsequent treatments. It can be helpful for a bikini wax recipient to take a mild anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen) an hour or so before waxing to reduce potential pain from the waxing. Application of Egg Oil for a few days post-waxing can help moisturise the skin and reduce inflammation, pain or growth of bacteria.
The medical community has also seen a recent increase in folliculitis, or infection around the hair follicle, in women who wax or shave their bikini areas. Some of these infections can develop into more serious abscesses that require incision with a scalpel, drainage of the abscess, and antibiotics. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause of folliculitis.
Family physician Emily Gibson, M.D. expresses the view that shaving pubic hair "removes a cushion against friction, leaves microscopic open wounds and exposes you to infections".
Bikini waxing has been credited with a significant global reduction in cases of pubic lice.
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