If you’ve ever wondered what the differences between a Brazilian and bikini wax are, you’re not alone. Here’s your complete guide to all things Brazilian vs. bikini (plus, how to pick the right one for you).
The main difference is exactly how much hair is removed.
With a Brazilian, your esthetician removes everything or almost everything (there are a couple of variations — more on that below!).
If you’re getting a bikini wax, your waxer will likely only remove the hair along your bikini line (basically, anything that might be seen outside your underwear or bathing suit).
Brazilian vs. Bikini
A Brazilian wax generally involves removing hair from your entire pubic region. There are two popular kinds: the French wax and the Hollywood wax.
A bikini wax involves removing hair from areas seen outside a bathing suit or underwear while leaving the hair on your pubic bone.
This waxing method removes all the hair around the pubic bone, labia, upper thighs, and anus.
Its name comes from its (supposed) popularity among Hollywood actors. It’s also referred to as the “honeymoon wax.” This method removes all hair from your pubic region — and we do mean all!
This waxing method removes hair from your labia and pubic bone, leaving a small rectangular strip (also known as a “landing strip”) on the front of your pubic area. This type of wax is similar to a Brazilian, but hair from the buttocks area isn’t removed.
Generally, your waxer will remove any hair along your bikini line that could be seen outside your underwear or bathing suit.
The name is somewhat deceiving because it implies that everything would be removed — but that’s actually not the case.
With a bikini full, hair from your pubic bone and labia is removed, but the butt strip or area around the anus is not included. At most service locations, this is an add-on to a regular bikini wax.
The two most popular types of wax are hard and soft wax.
Hard wax sticks to your hair, not your skin. This is thought to help with the pain, making it the more popular option for Brazilian waxes. It hardens directly on your hair, and your waxer won’t use a waxing strip to remove it.
Soft wax is a little more old school, though it’s still pretty popular today. Soft wax doesn’t just stick to your hair — it sticks to your skin as well, which is why it’s the more painful of the two wax types. Your waxer will apply it using a waxing stick and remove it with waxing strips.
Hard wax vs. soft wax
Hard wax is applied directly to your skin, and no waxing strips are used.
Soft wax is applied to your skin using a waxing stick, and it’s removed with a strip.
Choosing the right waxing type and method is up to you! An esthetician or practitioner can guide you, but it’s ultimately your choice.
Hard wax is quicker and neater, whereas soft wax is stickier and messier. Dr. Nanette Silverberg, a dermatologist and boardmember of the American Academy of Dermatology, says using a softer wax can be less traumatic to the surface of the skin, but it ultimately depends on the practitioner.
“The closer the waxing is done to the genital area, the more prone to irritation it will be.”
— Dr. Silverberg
Yes, usually. There are more nerves around your genital area, so pain is more prominent during these procedures, according to Silverberg.
Trina Jones, an esthetician located in Charlotte, North Carolina, says that a wax with soft wax is far more painful than with hard wax. On a scale of 1 to 10, she rates the pain a 3 or 4.
One thing to keep in mind: You may find waxing more painful in the few days leading up to, during, and right after your period. So if you suspect that could be the case for you, you may want to schedule your wax for a week or two after.
The best thing to do is to remain calm (easier said than done, we know) and follow instructions from your esthetician.
Things to keep in mind
- Research the salon or waxing center to make sure it’s clean and hygienic. If you opt for soft wax, make sure your waxer doesn’t double-dip applicators.
- Mentally prepare yourself, and try to stay relaxed.
- Don’t exfoliate your skin aggressively. This could leave the surface of the skin looser and more prone to ripping, says Silverberg.
- Make sure your hair is long enough to wax.
- Gently wash the area with soap.
- Take an over-the-counter pain medication 30 minutes to an hour before your appointment.
If you shave regularly, let your hair grow for 2 weeks before waxing.
If you don’t shave regularly, the length of your hair should fit between your index and middle finger, says Jones. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that hair be about one-fourth to three-fourths of an inch long before you wax.
Silverberg also recommends washing the skin beforehand with a gentle soap such as Dove, Cetaphil, or Aveeno.
However, she cautions against exfoliating before your appointment, as that can leave your skin sensitive and prone to tears (just what you don’t want before waxing).
Silverberg recommends that you ask your practitioner about what to expect after your service. You may experience swelling, irritation, and redness.
Jones recommends using PFB Vanish ULTRA to avoid ingrown hairs.
Any pain should subside within a few hours, but here are a few tips that might speed up your recovery:
- Avoid any strenuous activity that could irritate the area.
- Avoid hot baths or showers.
- Wear loose clothing.
- Apply a cold pack on the area.
- Take over-the-counter pain medication.
- Avoid sexual activity for around 24 hours afterward.
If you noticed any open cuts or sores, speak to a dermatologist or a doctor.
It depends on how fast your hair grows. According to Silverberg, younger people’s hair grows at a faster rate than older people’s.
A Brazilian wax removes hair from the front part of the vagina, including the vulva and the anal area. With a bikini wax, hair is removed from the outside areas seen in a bathing suit or underwear, leaving a rectangle or pear shape.
They may both be right for you. Ultimately, it really comes down to preference.
Naomi Tellez-Duran is an associate market editor for Healthline. She graduated from Queens University of Charlotte in December 2020. When she’s not writing, you can find her vetting brands and products. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and dog, Tank.