Inevitably, there will come a time in your life when you think it’s a good idea to shave your bikini line.
That trip/date/shindig-that-will-require-you-to-wear-a-swimsuit has been on the books for weeks—or maybe it was a last-minute invite; I don’t know your life—and yet, with T-minus 24-hours to showtime, you’ll look at your calendar and then down at your thighs, where you can see curly hairs peeking out from the sides of your underwear, and you’ll think, “What harm can it do?”
If you’re like me—and surely you are—you’ve made this mistake before. But like the pain of childbirth or that one time your friend said “OMG YES” when you asked if you should get bangs, you’ve shoved the memory so deep down into the depths of your psyche that you can barely hear it, even though it’s waving its arms and screaming, “This is a terrible idea!” What’s that noise? you’ll ask, your hand cupped to your ear. Was it a bird? The wind?
And so, you’ll do the thing. And for like, five minutes, you’ll be all, “This was a great idea. I’m so smart. Look at how smooth and hairless and always right I am.” Enjoy that feeling, kid—it won’t last.
With T-minus 24-hours to showtime, you’ll look at your calendar and then down at your thighs, where you can see curly hairs peeking out from the sides of your underwear, and you’ll think, “What harm can it do?”
Because then…later….you’ll be sitting on the toilet and once again you’ll look down at that crease where your legs meet your torso, and this time you’ll see vengeful bumps poking up like rows of shark’s teeth, red-stained after biting through your flesh. And it’ll sting like a thousand wasps and it’ll howl like a pack of wolves—oh wait, sorry, that’s you, actually crying because the stupidity of what you have done has just hit you with its full weight.
(Okay, okay. This is the part where I admit that I have been told by some people that shaving their bikini line works out just fine with no irritation. That they actually prefer it to waxing or sugaring. So, in the name of journalism, I did ask a dermatologist whether this could possibly be true. Mona Gohara, MD, a Danbury, Connecticut-based derm, tells me that, indeed, people will react to different hair-removal treatments in different ways. And it’s not the sudden switch from one method to another that causes the inflammation. “Our skin doesn’t get used to the method of hair removal that we choose,” she says. “Rather, we gravitate towards the method of hair removal that our skin can best tolerate, so we stick with it. Your preference may have to do with hair type and if you have any other skin conditions.”)
But back to the irate zoo that’s taken up residence in your skivvies. What the eff do you do now?
Whatever you do, do not scratch, rub, or pick at the area.
“Use ice,” says dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD. And if you’re not allergic to aloe vera, slather some of that shit on. If you’re really feeling the pain—which, I concede, could also be caused by waxing or another treatment—Dr. Downie says you can use a low potency, 1-percent hydrocortisone cream two times a day for two to three days. And whatever you do, do not scratch, rub, or pick at the area. (That means you, Dr. Pimple Popper devotees.) “[That] will further irritate the area and can make it worse,” potentially leading to scars or permanent marks, Dr. Downie says.
So load up on lotions, wear your comfiest underwear, wait out the week or so it takes for those awful ingrown hairs to actually grow back in, and promise your skin you’ll never, ever treat it so callously again.
And the next time a spur-of-the-moment pool party beckons, remember that a little body hair is nothing to be ashamed of. (Plus, that shark teeth image: I bet that one’s stickin’ with ya.)
This is how often you should actually shave (your legs and pits…). And whether you’re looking to put down the razor for good or hone your technique, here’s your ultimate guide to hair removal options.
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