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BellaPelle and Habit
Reinventing the Brazilian Bikini Wax…Sort of
by Nirmala Nataraj on Aug 31, 2007
There’s certainly something to be said for San Francisco’s au naturel beauty philosophy -- a lenient stance which pretty much dictates that bedhead is sexy and pancake makeup is soooo 1999. All the same, no matter what the purveyors of unfeigned sex appeal tell you, the old adage that “pain is gain” resounds with more than a modicum of truth. After all, in bikini weather, looking good has its price.
The Brazilian bikini wax -- which, just so you know, entails removing all the hair around your genitals and anus -- is perhaps the most ouch-inducing beauty ritual known to womankind (and now, pockets of mankind). But with all the celebrity endorsements and endless garden varieties of waxing styles, the Brazilian is no longer confined to the insular chic of porn starlets and classical sculpture. Sure, Brazilian naysayers abound (the canned “prepubescent girl” argument springs to mind), but the “bare is better” team is quickly swelling ranks these days as well.
Once you get over your squeamishness and accept that even if you opt for a Brazilian in an upscale spa rather than a nameless, neon-lit storefront establishment, the experience won’t be a walk in the park, the next step is picking your waxing specialist. Why is this important? Well, the real professionals will minimize the number of times hot wax gets applied to your delicate spots and ensure a clean, fast movement so that the pain of getting your hair yanked out by the roots won’t be needlessly prolonged.
Waxing habitués and modest Millies will be tempted to take advantage of their bare rondures and sport a daring swimsuit after frequenting the following hot spots, which specialize in zapping unwanted hair. And boys, be apprised: tending the topiary ain’t just for the girls anymore.
This funky loft-style establishment has already garnered a ton of accolades and acknowledgments from spa babes everywhere. Shelley Costantini’s funky New York-style skin studio is celebrated for its customized facials, serious brow sculpting techniques, and results-oriented line of medical-grade products, but it’s an especially beloved outpost when it comes to taming and beautifying unruly nether regions.
Hanging out in the spacious upstairs area, whose hardwood floors, sunny lemon and tangerine walls, plush sectioned couches, and funky Brazilian lounge mix set wax-weary souls right at ease, it’s easy to see why this is the place to go bald. Aside from the inviting, sophisticated environment, BellaPelle uses not one but four different waxes to tend to sensitive skin.
“The skin is the largest organ, so it’s a major part of one’s health and often reveals whatever’s going on in your life at any given moment,” Costantini, who’s been doing Brazilians for close to a decade -- way before everyone was clamoring to get one -- tells me. “So if you come in here dehydrated or stressed out, you’re probably more likely to feel a lot of pain during waxing.”
Um, so what degree of pain are we talking? Well, Costantini says that a ton of factors affect how painful one’s waxing experience might be. “Obviously, given the procedure, it’s definitely going to hurt. But depending on whether or not you’re close to your menstrual cycle or whether you’ve had a lot of caffeine or if you’re stressed out…you are going to experience different degrees of pain.”
Luckily, a few of BellaPelle’s products work well for assuaging the ouchies. For instance, their numbing cream is an especially effective pre-waxing balm that helps to desensitize sensitive areas. The spa’s Cherry Lifesaver after-wax soothing balm, which includes ingredients like wild cherry and bark extract, also helps soothe burning, irritated skin, while still other products provide stuff like antibacterial and anti-inflammatory protection. And if it’s not pain but bikini bumps you’re stressing over, BellaPelle’s Chiara Polish -- made with cornmeal, jojoba beads, and salicylic acid -- is a body scrub that helps exfoliate skin and prevent nasty ingrown hairs. If you’re set on zapping the ingrown hairs once and for all, you can always get extractions prior to your treatment.
Costantini, whose Brazilians, like her business, have largely been hyped, admired, and sought after due to the word-of-mouth buzz, asserts that waxing is such a great alternative because more permanent treatments, such as laser therapy, tend to be effective only for specific skin and hair types. “It’s also better than shaving, because it’s close to impossible to get a perfectly close shave—and ingrown hairs tend to be more common with shaving. Also, when you wax, hair follicles are pulled out by the bulb, which means hair grows back thinner,” she says. What’s more, a Brazilian lasts for roughly 21 days, and contrary to popular opinion, doesn’t bring with it any itchiness or irritation -- unlike shaving.
According to Costantini, some of the best ways to avoid a bad Brazilian include “trying to be stress-free, not being caffeinated, and making sure you’ve eaten a meal and are properly hydrated. Potassium is also a great way to avoid inflammation, so you may want to eat a banana beforehand.”
BellaPelle’s loyal clientele even include a discreet passel of men, who opt for the spa’s Boyzillian treatment. When I ask Costantini what she thinks about the Brazilian trend, she doesn’t hesitate. “When you’re smooth, you feel better, cleanier, and sexier.” And hopefully, with BellaPelle’s nifty products and talented aestheticians, all those things come without too much pain.
Waxing maven Carrie Maxwell’s diminutive establishment, Habit, is just what the doctor ordered for gun-shy waxers. It’s one of the city’s only waxing-specific boutiques, and Maxwell’s got the sworn followers to prove her chops. A smile, warm greeting, and complimentary alcoholic beverage prior to your session will almost be enough to take your mind off the procedure and help you pretend you’re in a pampering place.
Maxwell’s custom-blended waxes and soothing balms are what draw Brazilian lovers from all over. Ten waxing blends for a variety of skin types make for more effective experiences: lavender guarantees fewer ingrown hairs and inflammatory reactions, while glycerin French wax is good for coarser hair. Maxwell’s amicable chatter, breathing tricks, and a shot of vodka will also set you at ease and save you from vicissitudes of pain.
Maxwell, like Costantini, says that a variety of factors coalesce when it comes to getting the best possible waxing experience, but that it’s also about trial and error. “The experience really varies from person to person,” she says. “It’s best to see clients regularly, because patterns start to emerge…if something didn’t work for them the last time, you can try another type of wax or make recommendations on what they should do prior to the treatment to relax and see better results.”
Maxwell is chockfull of information that’s vital to getting the barest Brazilian possible. First of all, growing out hair at least a quarter of an inch ensures that your aesthetician is getting rid of the maximum amount of hair. Exfoliating beforehand and even taking painkillers an hour before your appointment can help make your experience both comfortable and efficacious.
Maxwell always tells her clients that a little redness and blotchiness are normal post-wax, but her essential-oil soothing balms—paired with the cozy vintage décor and mellow music—leave her fans and frequenters cooing. Maxwell also uses the Earth Mama bottom balm as a salve for tortured skin—in fact, this concoction was made especially for women with post-labor pains, and herbs like St. John’s wort and yarrow help alleviate itching and swelling.
The best thing about Habit is that, unlike a lot of other waxing establishments, there’s nothing clinical about getting a Brazilian here. As you settle down into the waxing bed in one of Habit’s airy treatment rooms and give Maxwell the lowdown on your dating life as she tugs away at your coiffure, you’ll forget to be embarrassed about the strange yogic postures your Brazilian entails. Cocktail, please!
by Nirmala Nataraj on Aug 31, 2007