The secret to the smoothest summer skin ever? Waxing. It may be painful, but the payoff is worth it when you don’t have to worry about shaving, pesky hairs and constant removal. Here are the keys to getting the most out of your waxing appointment (and ultimately, the secrets to perfect summer skin).

Exfoliate before waxing
“Women should exfoliate on a daily basis because it reduces ingrown hair,” says Iryna Richert, an esthetician and down-there expert.

Never shave before waxing
“If you’re planning on getting a bikini wax, you should not shave the hair first,” explains Richert. This is critical as hair should be at least one-quarter of an inch in order for wax to catch the hair and leave a clean bikini area once ripped off.

Never shave between waxing either
One of the most common at-home hair removal blunders is shaving in between waxing appointments (though we can see why it happens so easily). “When you shave, hair becomes thicker and more coarse,” says Maria Cristina Bruno, co-owner of Ritual Spa in Toronto. It also causes breakage in hair, which can leave pores infected and swollen.

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Avoid that time of the month

You’re naturally a little more sensitive (especially in the bikini area) when you’re on your period. The rule of thumb is to never wax right before, during or right after your monthly cycle, because, really, there’s no need to induce more pain.

Keep a regular schedule
Maintaining your bikini wax is a key way to keep skin smooth, soft and reduce the chance of ingrown hairs. When you wax, the hair follicle grows weaker each time, making it able to slide out of the pore more easily. That equals less pain.

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3 rules for first timers
Richert has three rules for first-timers to maintain as pleasant as pain-free as possible with bikini hair care:

No shaving or trimming hair in between appointments.

Regular exfoliation every other day

3. Scheduling appointments every four to six weeks. Her parting advice? “Don’t be afraid.”