Pret-a-Reporter

Bye-Bye, Brazilian: Women's Personal Grooming Gets Wild and Woolly Again

Illustration by: Stuart Patience

Call it a comeback — or better yet, a grow back — but after 20 years of the bare minimum, women's grooming down there is fuller as "even men are starting to revolt against a female-juvenile look."

This story first appeared in the Aug. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Big hair isn't only for the head anymore in Hollywood: Size counts more than ever in the bikini wax industry, a more than $2 billion business in the U.S. alone. Ever since 1994, when seven South American siblings calling themselves J. Sisters brought to the States the Brazilian bikini wax — which can refer to anything from bare to "Bermuda" triangle — the circumference and shape of a lady's lower landscaping (or "ladyscaping") have been scrutinized and debated as much as Kim Kardashian's figure. Now the pendulum is swinging back from the no-hair, virginal va-jay-jay (thanks, Shonda Rhimes) to what's being hailed as the full-bush Brazilian. Just as men have been morphing from shaved heads and faces to scruffy beards and man buns, women suddenly are embracing a more hirsute, natural look, from thicker brows to wavy hair — and now a fuller garden growing down under.

Many attributed the rise of taking it all off to the growth in online porn around the same period — the late 1990s. Women of all ages sported the nether regions of prepubescent girls and porn stars, but now, says Paz Stark, owner of Stark Waxing Studios in Los Angeles and New York, "women are desiring a fuller, more natural look that works with all the '70s boho styles, like Birkenstocks and culottes. Everything's fuller, wilder — but still groomed. Trendsetters are embracing their inner hippie, even below the hips." The full-bush Brazilian (L.A. salon fees start from around $35) has even been described as "hippie in front of your crotch, porn star in the back." It's also been called "a reverse mullet." But, says Stark, "it still requires maintenance," though only half as much (about every three to four weeks) as a fully bare bikini wax.

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For even the uneducated (aka men), the past 20 years have made waxing terms like "full bare," "Mohawk," "landing strip," "postage stamp" and "love triangle" as common in the vernacular as Starbucks coffee drink sizes. Yet the bare minimum has lost shock value over time: Hustler ran the first "pink shot" of a pubic hair-free woman way back in 1974. Now what's startling are American Apparel's mannequins, which — with sheer lingerie exposing full bushes in early 2014 window displays — caused gape-gridlock in Manhattan. Claiming it celebrated "natural beauty," the streetwear brand turned dress forms into pornography, not to mention a social statement, by showing something no one had seen (or had) in years.

In between, the full bush has been creeping back into pop culture, popping up like a hairy reminder in film and TV period pieces. Sienna Miller's bikini'd body had to be bushfully and digitally enhanced in 2008 for Hippie Hippie Shake when a merkin didn't quite do the job. That same year, Kate Winslet grew out her landing strip for a post-World War II nude bath scene in The Reader. In a 2010 episode of Entourage, adult actress Sasha Grey's nude scene contained full bush, just like the one she sports in her own films. Mitch Glazer's Magic City for Starz, set in 1959, required female extras to grow out waxes for authentic skinny-dipping scenes. Boardwalk Empire had actresses doing the same or wearing "wigs." And in 2014, Cameron Diaz asked in her tome The Body Book: "Do you really want a hairless vagina for the rest of your life? Consider leaving your vagina fully dressed, ladies. Twenty years from now, you will still want someone special to unwrap it like the gift that it is."

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So who's going full bush? Women in their "mid-thirties and up," says aesthetician Tiana Brandon of Bliss Spa at the W Hotel in Westwood. "Women now prefer not to seem so juvenile. There's the pain aspect of the hairless look, and everyone's been so clean for so long. Even men are starting to revolt against the female-juvenile look." Mihaela Corcoz, owner of Belladonna Face and Body Clinic in Beverly Hills, concurs: "Suddenly, wives are passing on compliments to me from their husbands! The Brazilian trend has gotten cookie-cutter, which makes it not as hot. And those landing strips, those aggressive straight lines: so hostile!"

Yet another point in the bikini backlash: Gail Dines, Wheelock College professor of sociology and women's studies and author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, says, "There is no doubt that the medical profession is beginning to discuss the harmful effects of full bikini waxing." Studies report extreme waxing can cause ingrown hairs, infections, inflammation and increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, while having pubic hair signals sexual maturity and wafts pheromones, all part of the evolutionary plan. So for all you bare-fronted Hollywood doubters, hear this: turns out hair is down there for a reason.

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