Photo courtesy of Nat Lanyon/The Licensing Project
Where exactly the bikini line might be has wavered considerably decade to decade, and we’ve arrived at a place where anything—from minimal trimming to maximal waxing—goes. “For too long, the only bikini-grooming routine that was considered ‘normal’ for women was full hair removal,” says Laura Schubert, cofounder of Fur, a clean line of pubic hair and skin products. “It’s important to us that we validate the bush as a legitimate body hair expression. If you choose to keep all your body hair or some of it as an expression of your identity, that’s great, too! Everyone across the gender spectrum should feel empowered to make up their own mind on their body hair, which is why we work so hard to normalize all grooming routines as equally valid options. Why shouldn’t freedom of expression extend to body hair?”
Whether you like to err on the side of smooth and hairless or prefer to experiment with something more bushy and ’70s-inspired, there are some brilliant, clean ways to keep the bikini zone free of irritation and ingrowns.
“Any sort of pubic hair or bikini-line regimen starts with exfoliation,” says Schubert. She likes a scrub with both chemical and physical exfoliation (we included both in our Microderm exfoliating scrub for the face for the same reason—the two optimize each other for better results). “We made our scrub with fruit enzymes and glycolic and lactic acids to burrow deep into your pores and keep them clear of excess sebum and other debris, and we added jojoba beads to slough it all away and smooth out the overall texture. When your pores are clogged, your hair isn’t able to grow up and out, so it curls inward and results in an ingrown. When your skin is clear and healthy, your hair can grow more comfortably,” Schubert says. “About ten minutes before I start running my shower, I put it on as a mask, so the acids have a chance to go to work.”
Exfoliating often—the more you do it between treatments, the better—prevents a buildup of dry skin, which can in turn create ingrowns. Schubert exfoliates two or three times a week but says the right amount of exfoliation for you depends on how sensitive your skin is. “If you have sensitive skin, your exfoliator may just be a good dry brush, followed by a powerful serum. If you have rougher skin, you might want a stronger exfoliator. No two skin types are the same, so take time to experiment until you find the right fit,” she says.
If your skin is particularly prone to redness, bumps, or itching, Schubert recommends a treatment with soothing ingredients. Her special mitts for ingrowns, soaked in a soothing, exfoliating serum made with salicylic acid, witch hazel, and aloe-leaf juice, are designed for this purpose. “The longer you go between sessions, the worse ingrowns can get,” says Schubert. “For the same reason, I think a lot of people are experiencing itching right now, and the mitts are great for that.”
OPTION A: EMBRACE THE BUSH
“Once you move through that initial itchy, red ingrown phase, then you want to condition your pubic hair to help make it softer and more manageable,” says Schubert. Her oil—made with grape seed and jojoba, vitamins A and E, and tea tree oil—is designed to help soften, soothe, and calm both skin and hair. “Immediately after your shower or bath, apply it to any hair you’d like to soften and any skin that could use a little extra hydration and clarity,” she says.
“Over time, you should see fewer ingrowns, smoother skin, and softer hair. And honestly, I think it’s a cool opportunity to grow hair that you might not otherwise,” Schubert says. “You can always take it off later. Just let the hair grow naturally! But if you’d like to achieve a sleeker look, we recommend using clean, sharp trimming scissors—not the ones you use to open packages—or an electronic trimmer with a guard to determine exact length.”
OPTION B: SHAVE
Whether you’re just keeping things neat or you’re entertaining a major hair-removal operation, Schubert has some brilliant tips.
“The right shaving cream creates a buffer to protect your skin, and the wrong one—conventional foams in particular—can be really drying, with potentially irritating fillers and chemicals,” says Schubert.
“Always shave with the grain, as opposed to against,” says Schubert. “And while this seems obvious, it’s important: Use a sharp razor. In general, you should replace the blade every time you shave that area, especially if you’re very ingrown-prone. Safety razors are great for this, and they’re more sustainable.”
“After shaving, follow with a thin layer of stubble cream—Fur’s is made with skin-softening olive extracts, tea tree oil, and lavender oil—to keep skin smooth and soften regrowth,” says Schubert.
OPTION C: PRIME YOUR SKIN FOR WAXING
For those waxing at home or in a salon, prep and aftercare are crucial, says Elizabeth Taylor, the owner of True Beauty Brooklyn spa.
“Always prep the area you are going to wax by cleaning it with wipes or an antiseptic solution,” says Taylor. “Then use a small amount of fast-absorbing oil—like Fur Oil, grape seed, or jojoba—to moisturize your skin. Next, use a clean cloth or arrowroot powder to blot off any excess oil. You want the wax to pick up only your body hair, but when the skin is dry, the wax can adhere to it more and cause painful results.”
“Afterward, exfoliate your skin three times a week with a gentle scrub to keep your skin and hair regenerating on a cycle where the follicle is free to breathe,” says Taylor.