News & Politics

Taking It Off

A guide to getting rid of unwanted hair—including threading, sugaring, and the latest in bikini waxing. Plus, spas that do it well.

Love sometimes hurts. So do bikini waxes.

Maybe it’s fitting that when some women get their bikini line waxed, they have a loved one in mind. Salons get requests to shape hair into a heart or dye it unexpected colors—pink is popular around Valentine’s Day, says Nora Piroglu, owner of Skin Beauty Lounge in DC’s Eastern Market.

At Sisters3 in Clarendon, co-owner Arlie Morgan says Swarovski-crystal designs temporarily adhered to the skin with glue are popular. One client got a yellow ribbon to celebrate her loved one’s return from Iraq. Another got a “45” in celebration of her husband’s birthday.

Although waxing—of bikini lines, eyebrows, and other body parts—is a service commonly sought by women, more men are getting backs, chests, and even nether regions waxed.

The seemingly archaic technique of applying hot wax in strips to remove hair—specifically, to rip it out by the roots—has been around since ancient Egypt. While most salons use a combination of soft wax and muslin strips to remove hair, others prefer hard wax, which is applied directly to the skin without muslin. Some salons use sugaring, a combination of sugar and water, to remove hair. For facial hair, still other salons offer threading, a Middle Eastern technique that uses cotton thread to pull out hairs.

As a rule, hair must be at least a quarter-inch long before it can be waxed. Sugaring can be done on hair that’s one-eighth of an inch long.

Waxing ranges in intensity and depends partly on your pain tolerance and on the esthetician’s skill. At best, it’s about as uncomfortable as pulling off a Band-Aid. At worst, it feels like someone slapped you across the face—hard. Taking two ibuprofen 30 to 60 minutes before treatment can minimize swelling and alleviate discomfort.

Most estheticians use soft wax because they say it’s gentlest on the skin. But if you have thick or coarse hair, hard wax can be the better bet.

Salons that use sugaring say it leaves less redness and irritation, making it better for sensitive areas or skin. There’s no risk of burns, either: Although burns are rare in waxing, they can happen because wax is applied hot; sugar is used at room temperature. In the procedure, a sugar solution is smoothed onto skin, then pulled up, removing hair as it goes.

Threading—known for helping achieve the highly arched “Bollywood” eyebrow look—is no more or less painful than an eyebrow wax. The sensation feels somewhat like tweezing. Fans say it lasts longer and creates a cleaner shape than waxing.

Just about any area on the body that has hair can be waxed—from upper lip and chin to underarms and legs. When it comes to the bikini line, you’ll have to choose how much hair you want removed—from a little off the sides (classic) to all of it (Brazilian) to something in between (French).

In this area, we found prices for eyebrow waxing that ranged from $10 to $75, although the average is $10 to $20. Bikini waxing starts at around $25 for a classic and runs between $55 and $70 for a Brazilian—although some spas charge $100. On average, you can expect to need waxing every four to six weeks. And try not to shave between appointments—because hair grows at different rates, shaving will shorten the time that waxing lasts.

Because prices and quality vary greatly, we went in search of good waxing—and came up with more than a dozen places we’d recommend. A word about this list: I’m a waxing devotee, but a girl has only so much hair. So in addition to trying salons, I relied on recommendations from trusted friends and colleagues. For each salon, attention was paid to price and service, decor and atmosphere, and how long a treatment lasted.

Good Quick Hits 

Ibiza Day Spa and Salon, 2401-G Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-659-4249; This cozy Foggy Bottom salon knows how to get the job done—and quick. A Brazilian with Anita, the most popular esthetician, took less than three minutes. It wasn’t luxe—there are fluorescent lights, and an in-room fireplace is more kitschy than classy—but it was less painful than many we’ve had. A 10-percent-off coupon for first-timers didn’t hurt, either—you print it off the Web site.

Polished, 1425 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-7877. Brazilian waxes at this tiny Georgetown spot are lickety-split—ten minutes or less. The wait to get on the calendar isn’t always quick, though: If you want Tammy, the salon’s most popular waxer, you should book early—up to a month in advance. Don’t expect perfection, either; we found ourselves tweezing stray hairs a few days after.

Robert Andrew Salon & Spa, 1328 Main Chapel Way, Gambrills; 301-261-3844; The spacious backrooms in this large strip-mall salon make you feel as if you’re in a five-star hotel. Just 15 minutes later, our wax was finished, making us wish we had more time to relax in the quiet and well-appointed treatment room.

Roxsan Day Spa, White Flint Mall; 301-881-7505; There are some days when you just don’t have time for a spa treatment. At Roxsan, the lavender-infused postwax lotion gives that “ahh” feeling of relaxation—and we’re still in and out in under half an hour.

Best for Star Treatment 

Dessange Paris, 5410 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-913-9373; Esthetician Elena Arrieta has a long list of regulars. With first-timers, too, she’s thorough and friendly.

Erwin Gomez Salon & Spa, 1519 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-7290; This self-professed “eyebrow guru” once groomed the Bush twins, and we’re fans of his swank, glassed-in Georgetown waxing room, with walls that fog up at the flick of a switch for privacy. You’ll pay for it—it’s $75 for a first-time appointment with Gomez. Or save a little money and book Kari, who has a loyal following as well. 

Best for the Detail-Oriented

Ilo Salon & Spa, 1637 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-342-0350; Nycole “Nycci” Nellis, publisher of the e-zine TheListAreYouOnIt, says this airy Georgetown spa’s waxes are “virtually pain-free.” Others like how the esthetician spends extra time tweezing afterward.

Sesen Spa, 111 Church St., NW, Suite 202, Vienna; 703-281-0822; Sesen, in a tiny shopping center, gets the little details right, like low-lit treatment rooms and heated beds. “This won’t hurt a bit,” promised waxer Marie Noelle, my 27-year veteran. It did hurt less than many treatments I’ve tried, and the extra tweezing and sample pack of skin-soothing lotion went a long way toward making me comfortable. The spa is also known for pedicures and its emphasis on cleanliness.

Sugar House Day Spa & Salon, 111 N. Alfred St., Alexandria; 703-549-9940; We love the special touches—like a buffet table with cookies, pastries, and drinks, or the selection of magazines at this girly Old Town salon. Plus, the wax was less painful than many we’ve had. 

Good Wax Alternatives

Maria’s Place, 720 Grant St., Suite F, Herndon; 703-787-9013; Some women swear by the threading at this tiny salon, which also does henna designs.

PR at Partners, 14 area locations; pratpartnerscom. This local chain is best known for haircuts, but locations in Shirlington (703-998-6500), Mazza Gallerie (202-966-6771), Manassas (703-369-5150), and Chantilly (703-378-1555) also offer sugaring. 

Best for Extra Attention

Sisters3 Epilation and Lingerie Boutique, 2729 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-525-3333; Shop for pretty underthings while you wait for your signature Rio de Clarendon or Country Club Classic at this boutique owned by, yes, three sisters. The quiet back room isn’t the most luxe we’ve seen, but the sisters go out of their way to make you comfortable. With 24-hour notice and for an extra $10, one of the sisters will sketch a custom crystal tattoo design.

Skin Beauty Lounge, 404½ Eighth St., SE; 202-543-6993; Around the holidays, ask for a heart or shamrock waxed right into your bikini line. Owner Nora Piroglu, who once appeared on The Howard Stern Show for her male waxing prowess, is most in demand (and $35 more per service). Service includes a mini-sample of soothing postwax cream.


This article is part of the 2008 Great Day Spas Package. To read more articles like it, click here