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It's going to hurt

But experts reveal tips for waxing sensitive parts of the body
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Christine Boutillier, owner of Mille Fiori Spa, is known around Victoria for being a master waxer. (Nov. 30, 2010)

My favourite Jerry Seinfeld joke goes: "I don't understand how a woman can take boiling hot wax, pour it on her upper thighs, rip the hair out at the roots and then still be afraid of a spider."

If Jerry could only fathom the other places where many women, and a few men, are willing to get waxed he'd probably faint.

When it comes to waxing the sensitive parts of the body -- lips, underarms, eyebrows and "down there," no amount of advertising or deals will replace a good recommendation.

This is how I found Christine Boutillier, 34, two years ago. I was going to Mexico to learn to surf and wanted a bikini wax. A fair amount of digging around local spa websites and chatrooms led to a discussion forum about spa services on Tribe.net. This was before Facebook and Twitter had become so prolific in local information-sharing.

Every woman has a nightmare story about waxing. Mine was at a new spa with a very new esthetician who squealed every time she tugged a waxed strip off my body. This time, I needed a pro.

Boutillier, then working out of a small spa at Bernstein and Gold boutique, was heralded by those posting on the message board as the master of a quick and thorough bikini wax. Her specialty has become what she has dubbed the "full lily" bikini wax for women, also known as a Brazilian. Everything is stripped.

"I wanted a name that described the service but not in a medical [anatomical] sense," Boutillier tells me at her new spa, Mille Fiori, 1-946 Meares St. "It's a nice analogy for women to imagine but it also helps describe the parts, petals and stem for example, to make waxing easier.

It's a coincidence her spa's name means "a thousand flowers" in Italian but she sees the humour in it.

"I've seen thousands. I've seen everything. Nothing shocks me," Boutillier says. "I do my best to make clients comfortable."

Confidence and comfort are key when seeking someone to wax the sensitive bits of the body.

"If you're seeing someone new I'd recommend a basic bikini wax before the whole deal. Just to make sure you're happy with the experience and the results," says Boutillier, who has built her business on word-of-mouth recommendations. "You have to have a lot of confidence to be good at waxing. I have confidence because I have experience."

Boutillier opened her first spa when she was 19 years old in Prince George, after taking an esthetics program in Victoria. When she returned to Victoria for a visit, she met her future husband, a navy officer, and decided to stay.

"I started doing the full lily when a friend asked me to 'take it all off,' " she says. "Not many people were doing it and no one was teaching it, so I got a lot of experience."

Boutillier uses a honey-based hot wax and cloth strips. "It's familiar, what I'm best with," she says.

In the past few years, different types of waxes, strips and hair removal techniques have flooded stores and spas. The wax and spa franchise Frilly Lilly on Fort Street offers bikini waxing from the Alaskan (just a bit off the sides) to the Canadian (bikini-line) and the Hawaiian (thong-line) to the Brazilian (nothing left).

While most spas offering waxing for men focus on backs, shoulders and chests, a few offer services below the waist and above the knees. Carmen Rees is one of the few estheticians in Victoria to specialize in waxing men's sensitive bits -- but she didn't plan on it.

"I've been doing this for 20 years and have really seen an increase in men coming in over the past five or 10 years," she says. Her home-based Gordon Head spa, Carmen Day Spa and Zen for Men, offers a full line of esthetic services. Facials for women were always her specialty.

"Now I'm seeing a lot of younger guys wanting their chests and backs waxed. It really is a trend you see at the gym and the pool," Rees says. She offers Boyzillian and buttocks waxing for men.

Rees says it is partner parity that has inspired more men to wax. "Their girlfriends and partners do it and they want it done for them in return."

She says some men are still shy about waxing, so she has separate spaces for men and women at her spa.

Both Boutillier and Rees say waxing is painful, regardless of what you do, male or female bits alike.

"It depends on the person and their hair," says Rees, adding cleanliness and exfoliation are best for maintenance.

Boutillier recommends dry-brushing to avoid in-grown hairs. It allows the new, weak hair to come up and not get infected under the skin. Clean with hydrogen peroxide and apply Polysporin to places like the upper lips and eyebrows if they get small pimples.

She says it's better to get waxed when your body is not flushed, such as during pregnancy, menstruation or after a night of drinking.

"Although it's a good hangover cure," Boutillier says.

She adds that seeing the same esthetician can also have beneficial effects. "Different people have different styles and it's better for in-grown hairs and regrowth to not confuse the hair, to take it off the same way each time."

She demonstrates her technique on my underarms -- the one sensitive spot I've always feared to strip.

"The key is to not let it be a battle. There's no tugging, no tension when we're chatting and being social," she says. "That's what I'm good at -- remembering people, what's going on in their lives and talking. Before they know it, it's over."

And with that, we're done.

On the web

millefiorispa.com

zen4men.ca/

spetrescu@timescolonist.com

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FASHION EVENT

What: Congo Rising necklace launch

When: 7 to 8:30 p.m Tuesday

Where: The Office, VIP Lounge, 759 Yates St.

Why: This fundraising launch of Congo Rising, a Victoria-based initiative to help Congolese women, includes an interesting jewelry partnership. Local jewelry designer Dawn McNeil has created two silver and gemstone necklace designs, incorporating female solidarity. Attendees can order both necklaces for $150, with the idea that they wear one and the other is given to a Congolese woman.

"It's something to remind them that women in Canada are thinking of them and fighting for them," said organizer Saje Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald will travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo in January to work with women and film a documentary.

A necklace set will be auctioned at the event and others can be ordered, separately or together. The gemstone necklace is $110; the pendant necklace is $40. Tickets to the event are $30. Contact: mcneila@uvic.ca or sajefitz@uvic.ca to purchase.

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