Did the Brazilian Wax Originate in Brazil?

Bikini Fashion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I have arrived, I’m back in Canada!

What a wonderful opportunity I had to visit Brazil with my son and daughter-in-law.  The island where we were staying is called Santa Catarina Island, Florianopolis, The capital Santa Catarina is one of Brazil’s southern most states and is roughly the size of Portugal.  Santa Catarina has a total area of 424.45 square kilometres and is 18 kilometres wide, with a population of approximately 478,000. Portuguese is the language spoken there.  I didn’t have time to brush up on Portuguese before traveling to Brazil, but I was able to learn some phrases while I was there to get me by.

When you walk the streets of the Island of Santa Catarina, you see a real mixture of light skin to very dark skin.  This is because of the Spanish explorers, arriving in the 16th Century, discovered the Island and established the first settlement in 1542, 33 years later the Portuguese seized it as their own territory and set up Captaincy of Santa Catarina in 1738.  Later the European influx began to bring Germans, Italians and Polish, followed by Japanese.

Brazilian girl on Copacabana Beach

We were able to enjoy 15 beaches of the 42 beaches in the area.  I realized, when arriving at the first beach, is all the ladies, no matter what age, or size, were wearing very tiny bikinis.  Before I left for Brazil I was warned this would be the case, so I brought my Canadian style 2-piece bathing suit, which unlike the ones they wear, covered my entire buttocks, and hoped I would look like I fit in.

I learned from my daughter-in-law, who is from Brazil, that all the ladies go to get what is called a Brazilian wax before they put on those tiny bikini bottoms and head to the beach.  I wondered if the Brazilian wax actually originated in Brazil and how did it get its name?

Well I found out centuries before the Brazilian wax graced the fashion world, girls were getting their bits waxed in Brazilian-Style equivalents, yet it was generally considered practical for hygiene purposes, especially in hotter climates.  In Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Persia, a full wax was commonly performed using a paste from sugar and lemon.  In Egypt, this was, and still is, known as sugaring and was popular at pre-wedding ceremonies.  In Middle-Eastern countries today, it is common to remove all unwanted hair, including the pubic region.

This practice, centuries old, never took over the world by storm.  Yet that began to change when bikinis in Brazil got smaller in the 1970’s and 80’s and the beaches in Rio de Janeiro began to fill up with women in thong-bottom bikinis.

This mode of waxing was finally taken internationally in 1987 when the J Sisters, seven Brazilian sisters, opened a waxing salon in Manhattan, New York and so introducing the idea and techniques of pubic hair removal.  Soon the salon gained celebrity clients and the Brazilian wax became famous, associating Brazil with vast pubic hair removal, earning its name of the Brazilian Wax.

Today the laser is gaining huge popularity and is being used in place of the Brazilian wax more often to remove pubic hair in a timely manner, without the cringe-inducing experience of waxing.