Love them or loathe them, shows such as The Only Way Is Essex and Geordie Shore have done the UK’s beauty industry a favour by normalising intimate waxing. France Baudet, managing director of the Oxfordshire-based Cannelle salons, which specialise in waxing, believes that bikini waxing fi rst came to the wider public’s attention thanks to US show Sex and The City, but it’s the upfront nature of the British shows that has really brought intimate waxing into the open. As Hannah Salisbury, trainer at for wax brand Lycon, says: “It’s landed in general girl-to-girl conversation.”
Anecdotally, suppliers are all reporting an increase in requests for training in intimate waxing, as well as in sales of wax that is suitable for intimate areas. Interestingly, though, fi gures from Kantar, a market research company, show that the value of the professional bikini hair removal market was up just 3% year-on-year in 2012, whereas the beauty treatments market as a whole grew by 4% over the same period. Indeed the hair removal market as a whole is looking quite static, with 7% of the female population having hair removed professionally in 2012, fl at on the previous year. However, Kantar’s senior insight director for the health and beauty sector, Tim Nancholas, does point out that the bad summer probably affected the results (fake tanning was also down).
Matter of course
Bad weather aside, Laura Hughes, education manager g at Grafton International, distributor of Clean + Easy and GiGi waxes, reports that its intimate waxing courses are always full, and it’s not just women demanding these services. Andy Rouillard, owner of men’s only salon Axiom Bodyworks and a waxing trainer, comments: “Five years ago you’d have been hard pushed to fi nd a technician outside of the larger UK cities offering male intimate waxing; now I’m training therapists across the length and breadth of the UK on a weekly basis and can barely keep up with demand.”
While it may be TV shows and newspaper articles that are boosting the profile of the intimate waxing market, what actually happens in salons is slightly different. Vajazzles, funky shapes and coloured pubic hair may be the headline grabbers, but as Annette Close, general manager of Australian Bodycare, says, “the majority of women are happy with a straightforward bikini, Brazilian or Hollywood – no frill or dazzle needed.” Valentine’s Day tends to be one of the few times that shapes and vajazzles will truly get a look in.
Women are increasingly likely to have every hair removed (although the Brazilian, where a strip is left, is still very popular), while for men the trend for complete hair removal appears to be waning, says Rouillard. “They are still removing hair from the scrotum and buttocks, but keeping the hair on the mons pubis, often clippering this area for a tidy but masculine finish,” he comments. “The über-groomed, sexless, Ken doll-look epitomised by the likes of Geordie Shore and TOWIE may have thrust male waxing back in the public spotlight, but in reality it is not a look that most men (or their partners) find appealing or aspire to.”
Up close and personal
One of the challenges of intimate waxing is putting a nervous client at ease. Ministry of Waxing, an international specialist salon chain, offers clients squeezy stress toys to help distract them, and Rescue Remedy to calm nerves. Lilliane Caron, owner and founder of waxing brands Caronlab Australia and Waxxxpress.com, recommends playing upbeat muysic to keep the energy flowing and clients relaxed.
“If a client is extremely nervous, it’s best to explain the details of the treatment, making sure to gain their trust, and reassure them that they will not be on display, and their modesty will be kept in tact at all times,” adds Jess Wilson, in-house therapist at Hive of Beauty.
Usually less familiar with the process than women, men can be particularly nervous waxing clients “Waxing is always a worry for the first timers,” says Matt Norris, owner of Essex male grooming salon Menace. “We get new-to- waxing customers every day. Unlike women, many men frown even for an eyebrow shape, their pain threshold seems lower for waxing, but it’s because you girls have been doing it for years!”
The easiest way to relax clients of either gender is to appear confident, and the only way to build confidence is to train, train and train, says wax trainer Kim Lawless, aka the Wax Queen, an ambassador for Perron Rigot. “Intimate waxing is a true skill and once you master it, there is no need for nerves,” she says. Lisa Stone, waxing expert for Salon System, points out that while many therapists may be used to bikini line waxing they may lack the confidence and knowledge required for intimate waxing, something that can easily be solved by additional training.
The Ministry of Waxing runs a four- week training boot camp to ensure all staff carry out waxes using their signature method, as well as having a good knowledge of the wax, pre-wax and aftercare products. Support from other staff and making sure therapists feel able to talk about any issues are important factors at Cannelle, where senior therapists are actively encouraged to show and talk to junior staff about procedures and client etiquette.
Humour is often used when marketing intimate waxing, especially when the target audience is on the younger side – take a look at Ministry of Waxing, nkd () and The Potting Shed Spa’s websites for some inspired examples – but when it comes to dealing with clients face-to-face, the language used needs to be tempered accordingly. “I would always favour the professional approach with full explanations of what it is and what the client should expect during the waxing session,” says Close. “Clients want to feel they are in safe hands, and sometimes humour can come across as a way of covering nerves or indeed incompetence.”
Hot wax is nearly always used for intimate waxing. It may be costlier than warm or cold wax but it gives better, less painful results as it “shrink wraps” around the hair, allowing just that hair to be removed and the skin to be left untouched – although, as Baudet says, “Ultimately it’s really up to the therapist to do a good quality, painless job.”
Lycon is launching a new wax at Professional Beauty 2013 called LycoDream, which the company says is the world’s first hybrid wax, a mixture of natural and man-made resin, that is easy to handle yet capable of removing particularly stubborn hairs. Perron Rigot is also introducing new products at Professional Beauty, including Cirépil Intimate 4, a non-strip wax with a creamy texture and antibacterial properties that, as you’d expect, has been designed specifically for intimate waxing.
Also making its debut at Professional Beauty is Outback Gold, a new wax developed by Outback Organics in collaboration with Rouillard. It’s a peelable wax with a low melting point and quick drying time that grabs even short hair. Salon System’s latest waxing product is Multiflex from its Just Wax range, a stripless wax that can be removed in almost any direction, making it another good product for intimate waxing.
Meanwhile, the newest launch from Caron, distributed by Couture Training, is Quick Dry Wax Mist, a spray that the brand claims will instantly touch dry hard waxes to speed up treatments. It is designed for “hot and humid” conditions and also reduces redness and cools the skin, making it particularly suitable for bikini waxes.
Despite intimate waxing getting all the attention at the moment, leg waxing remains a highly profi table salon staple. According to Kantar, the market for professional leg hair removal also increased 3% in 2012, while the underarm hair removal market dropped by 9%. Lisa Stone, waxing expert for Salon System, has also noted that nostril waxing is a growing trend among both male and female clients.
The margins in waxing can be very good, as Rouillard explains: “As a general rule, salons should be aiming for their product costs to eat up no more than 10% of their treatment price, so for a £30 back wax I would expect my consumable costs (including wax, strips, spatulas, gloves, cotton wool, couch roll and all associated lotions and potions) to be no higher than £3 for that particular service.” He warns against basing prices on what the salon down the road is charging, saying that instead salons need to calculate fi xed and consumable costs before setting prices. As he points out, “there are enough clients out there looking for a quality waxing treatment without salons having to resort to price wars”.
Naked truth Proving the profi tability of waxing, the specialist nkd () salon group is continuing to grow. Owner Rebecca Dowdeswell opened the fi rst nkd () waxing salon in Nottingham three years ago, followed by a second in Glasgow in 2012. As an outsider to the beauty market (she was previously a motoring journalist), Dowdeswell observed that the industry was becoming fragmented and that waxing was a growing market. As a relatively new business she is seeing an increase in turnover each month that may or may not be connected to a general increase in demand for waxing, but she does report a gross profit of 40% (taken after payroll as well as materials), and is still expanding, having opened a training school just before Christmas. Intimate waxing forms over 70% of the business in both nkd () salons, and it’s a business that inspires loyalty, with 75% of her clients returning every four to six weeks despite the young demographic nkd () attracts (80% of the clientbase is under 35 years old; 50% is under 24).
An interesting additional trend to note is that of the increasingly savvy waxing client who wants to know what brand is being used. Rouillard predicts that, as is the case with skincare brands, clients will start visiting salons because of the waxing brands on offer. “To a small degree, we’ve already started to see this with flagship Lycon and Perron Rigot salons popping up across the UK, but a greater move in this direction could potentially turn waxing as we know it on its head,” he says.