Make sure you've read Part One of my guide to waxing before we embark upon this discovery of salon wax etiquette, knickers on or off, pain aftercare and how to choose a good salon.
Your therapist should advise you whether to leave your underwear on or take it off for intimate waxing - if they don't, ask! And don't be embarrassed that you have to ask; I have yet to meet anyone who was born with an innate knowledge of what to do when getting the hair stripped from their undercarriage.
For basic bikini, extended bikini, and g-string waxes, you'll usually be able to leave your smalls on assuming they're on the thong/g-string side of small (bigger knickers will make it difficult for the therapist to ensure even results.) For Brazilian and Hollywood waxes, it's best to take a deep breath and go au natural. Experienced therapists will have seen it all before and any worth their salt will actually prefer it when you ditch the knickers because they can see what they're doing, work quickly, and are sure of achieving an even finish. One of my worst waxes ever came courtesy of a local therapist who insisted that I could keep my underwear on for a Brazilian; I was left with a postage stamp of hair that reminded me so much of a creepy little Hitler 'tasche I had to finish the job at home.
Even if hair looks so long you could plait it, resist the temptation to trim. You run the risk of cutting it too short to have it waxed effectively, so leave the decision to the pros. Your therapist will trim longer hair if she deems it necessary.
The most pertinent question for many, of course, is does it hurt? And the straight answer is yes. I mean, it would be a fairly specific fetish that found the use of wax to rip hair, roots and all, out of the skin pleasurable. Once you don't wax immediately before, during, or for a couple of days after a period, though, it is definitely bearable.
I find waxing fine compared to using an epilator, which I'm pretty sure was invented as a portable torture device, and while there are grit-the-teeth moments with waxing (the backs of my calves get me every. frickin. time) they are over very quickly.
Waxing definitely becomes less painful the more you do it, but taking a couple of painkillers (NOT aspirin) or applying a topical numbing agent like No Scream Cream 30-45 minutes beforehand will help to lessen the ouch. And while eating something beforehand is a good idea as it will help keep your blood sugar steady, you should resist reaching for a coffee or some Dutch courage to steady your nerves since caffeine and alcohol can actually heighten skin sensitivity.
One other tip: remember to BREATHE while you're getting waxed. Holding your breath while that hair's being ripped off only makes it feel more painful (and I speak from experience: I'm a divil for doing this.)
This is probably the most important thing to consider when choosing a salon in which to get waxed - and I say that as someone who has dealt with therapists who are leaders in the field and, at the other end of the scale, has had hot wax dropped where no wax, regardless of temperature, should ever be dropped.
An expert practitioner makes for an altogether more comfortable experience. They will have little tricks to minimise the pain, like getting you to stretch the skin taut while they wax, they'll work super fast, and they won't have to do the rookie thing of going over the same patch over and over and over again while the skin gets more irritated.
In Dublin, I can't recommend anywhere more highly than Waxperts (the clue is in the name.) Ellen and her team of crack commandos (pun totally intended) are quite simply the best at what they do, and I've yet to find anyone at home or abroad who can touch this friendly Dun Laoghaire outfit when it comes to waxing prowess.
Going to an establishment that specialises in waxing means (a) you know they genuinely have seen it all before and won't bat an eyelid at your overgrown ladygarden and (b) you're unlikely to get halfway through your Brazilian and have your therapist sigh about how she prefers doing facials.
You'll need to do a bit of post-waxing maintenance to minimise skin irritation in the short term and then to prevent ingrown hairs. Aloe vera gel (widely available at chemists and supermarkets) will help to take any residual sting out of just waxed skin. Exfoliation alone doesn't cut it for me in the prevention of ingrowns; if you're in the same boat, try a product containing salicylic acid like Tend Skin (find it in the men's shaving section in chemists) or Bliss Ingrown Eliminating Pads to keep the little buggers at bay.