Summer is coming up and once again I’m super scared to get a Brazilian wax. It seems both incredibly painful and uncomfortable, but shaving hurts and I don’t know what to do. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about waxing gone wrong. Are Brazilians really that bad? —S.

Whoa, S.! There’s no need to drown in a glass of water, as they say. Summer is here! Everything should be all YAY! I understand you are bummed about HAIRZ, but I don’t want you to stress.

First of all, you do not need to get a Brazilian wax in order to wear a swimsuit. A Brazilian typically means that most of your hair is removed—hair you might not even know is there, like in between your butt cheeks and stuff! (Generally, a little strip is left in the front, but some people prefer to take it all off.) Most salons offer a variety of services, and the cost depends on how much hair you’re getting removed. If you go this route, I suggest you start with just the bikini line, which is the hair that sticks out of a standard pair of underwear. It’s cheaper (in the States, around $25), and it might be all you need. Then you’ll be able to see how you tolerate the pain and how your skin reacts to the process.

Do Brazilians hurt? The answer varies from person to person. It depends on the sensitivity of your skin and the thickness of your hair. A lot of estheticians recommend waxing right after your period, rather than right before or during, when your skin can be more tender. I wouldn’t say it hurts, but it stings for a few seconds. The pain passes quickly, but there can be some soreness/redness for a couple of hours afterwards, which you can treat with aloe or even Vaseline.

But this next part is super important: Research the spa/salon beforehand! Don’t go to the cheapest place—do you really trust just anyone to apply hot wax to your cooter? NO. In the States, a Brazilian will start around $50, though the price doesn’t guarantee the process is sanitary, so ask your friends for recommendations, or search the internet for the salon with the best reviews. Call ahead and make sure the estheticians wear gloves and that the waxing sticks are disposed of after every application (the wooden stick used to spread the wax on your skin should not be dipped in the pot more than once). My favorite nurse practitioner/fellow Rookie Lola advises you to be sure to tell the esthetician if you are taking any medications, topically or orally, because waxing is not recommended if you are using Accutane, Retin-A, or several other meds. She also said that waxing can leave you slightly more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections like HPV and molluscum contagiosum, because the skin is more receptive to bacteria. Generally, though, if you find a clean, professional spa or salon, you will be fine.

If this sounds like too much hassle, you have other options. You mentioned that shaving hurts. Have you tried soothing shaving lotions and using a new blade each time? If you still have discomfort, maybe you should look into other methods of removal, like this Veet lotion, which is super easy and doesn’t smell like burning poop, unlike most of the hair-removal creams I grew up with. The instructions are pretty straightforward, but do a patch test by applying a little to a small area on your bikini line. If you don’t experience any pain or tingling, and if the area looks fine after 24 hours—you haven’t developed a rash or redness—you can apply more and get the job done.

Of course, you could always decide to fuck it and go swimming with your HAIRZ hanging out, ’cause you know, it’s your body and you’ll do as you damn well please! —Laia

I have just received the worst news a soon-to-be bridesmaid can hear: I have to pick my own dress. Now this sounds like every girl’s dream, but my style is less wedding-appropriate and more SlutWalk NYC, and this outfit needs to be appropriate for church and the reception afterwards. I’ve been to only one wedding in my life, so I have no idea what to wear. You are my only hope. I’m a 5’9” redhead. (No pink, please!) Love, Iren

Don’t sweat, my pet! First of all, it is awesome that you get to choose. You don’t have to spend a fortune to wear an unflattering dress, and trust me, a lot of bridesmaids aren’t that lucky. So I say start by picking a color that you like. No pink, obviously, and you don’t want to wear white and make the wedding gods (or the bride) angry. Does the wedding have a color scheme? If you’re not sure, you should definitely ask, as that might help narrow things down. If the bride doesn’t care, then you have lots of options, and you won’t have to endure torture like Kristen Wiig did in Bridesmaids.

Top row, L-R:

Top row, L-R: Tutu and From, $55, ModCloth; turquoise dress, $236, Pinup Girl; Walking on Aria, $145, ModCloth. Bottom row, L-R: When the Night Comes, $100, ModCloth; teal dress, $108, Pinup Girl ; A Whole New Twirl, $125, ModCloth

My first suggestion is to look for dresses with a fit-and-flare silhouette, which means it’s fitted at your waist and flares out. That’s a safe bet, especially if this is a daytime wedding, because this is a classic look that never goes out of style, and it’s still sexy, which it sounds like you’re looking for. You mentioned you have red hair, so I automatically thought of mint green, because I love the contrast between the two. Momma digs this dress, as well as this pale green one. If pastel is not your bag, check out this stunning, smoky li’l number, or this strapless mauve dress with the schmancy neckline. I’m also excited by the idea of you looking like Joan from Mad Men and rocking a form-fitting satin dress like this royal blue one or this turquoise one from Pinup Girl. I hope this helps! —Marie

I am getting a breast reduction in December or January. I’m very excited about it (I almost wrote “tit”), but I’ve read that the healing process an ordeal: six weeks wearing a surgical bra and then another month or two with a sports bra. As someone who likes their boobs more separate than church and state, can you give me any advice on how to disguise/flaunt the uniboob? I’m prepared to invest in a myriad of sweatshirts, so if you could point me in the direction of any cute ones, that’d be great, too.

First of all, congrats on your upcoming surgery! My own reduction was 11 years ago last week, and I still maintain it was one of the breast decisions I’ve ever made (sorry, a side effect of the operation is abuse of boob puns). Although everyone’s experience is different, I can reassure you that the healing and recovery process was not nearly as bad as I expected. Now, for the first week or so, I was wrapped up so tightly in gauze and an ace bandage that the uniboob was fairly unavoidable. But at that point, you’re going to be at home and probably only leaving the house for a doctor’s appointment. If your surgeon recommends a post-surgical bra, this one is great. It has a front closure, which is essential, because it’s hard to stretch your arms in the first few weeks of recovery, and it still gives you a distinctive shape. I wasn’t too keen on the sports bra either, so once I had some mobility I opted for a supportive, soft-cupped bra like this one, which I lined with small pieces of gauze so it wouldn’t irritate my incisions. You definitely want to get a bra with as much support as possible so that it won’t rub against your sutures. Talk to your doctor, and see if she/he thinks something more defining like this bra can work for you after those first six weeks. Three months after my surgery I was able to return to bras with underwire support, but to tell you the truth, my breasts were pretty swollen and stiff for a while, and I often preferred the post-surgical bras for comfort.

My surgery was in the spring, so I ended up wearing a lot of sundresses, because they stretched easily, and initially it was hard to lift my arms and pull clothes over my head. American Apparel has a lot of colorful zip-up hoodies to choose from. Marie also recommended this awesome sweatshirt by Rachel Antonoff, this oversized black number, and and this whimsical one with zebra sleeves.

In the end, even if you are stuck with a uniboob for six to eight weeks, I guarantee it will be worth it. As someone who was insecure about my body for so long, I couldn’t believe it when a coworker who didn’t know about my surgery saw me changing in the locker room one day and told me I had the best boobs she had ever seen. My activity level, my wardrobe, and my confidence have improved. Tit will not be something you regret! —Megan Mele

I adore makeup. I love searching for new ideas and looks, and I even come up with my own sometimes. But there seems to be this attitude towards it. I’ve seen posts on Tumblr by guys hating on girls who wear makeup. I love empowering songs like “Little Things” and all that, but how do I wear as much makeup as I want without feeling fake? And what is so wrong with not wanting the world to see my giant pimple? Chloe, 15, Chicago

OK, I have a lot to say about this, but it all boils down to this: When someone tries to shame you for having fun with your body and what you choose to do with it, eat them. All right, so cannibalism is probably not a good idea, but you should ignore them and just do you. It’s not their body, and it’s none of their business. Lots of people—and dudes especially—feel entitled to comment on women’s looks as though those comments are welcome and important, but they’re not. And the emphasis on “natural” beauty can be misleading: Just because someone doesn’t wear makeup doesn’t mean they’re not putting in a lot of effort into their appearance, through exercise or facial regimens or hair-dyeing. And the idea that any of this makes a person fake is total bull. Like someone can’t be buck naked and a total jerkface phony?!

There are zero things wrong with wanting to wear makeup in order to have fun or be creative or experiment. Obviously, I can’t control how other people treat you. This issue gets debated a lot, and there are even some feminists who believe that wearing makeup is giving in to the patriarchy. (Naomi Wolf wrote a book called The Beauty Myth that’s in part a criticism of how much time women devote to their appearance, and the radical feminist Mary Daly went so far as to call us “cosmeticized freaks.”) You can choose to engage in this debate, or you can acknowledge these opinions and live by your own rules. As a queer feminist who is super into fashion and beauty, I approach makeup as both an art and a political statement. To me, it can actually subvert beauty standards. I wear red eye shadow and black lipstick and I exaggerate the contours of my face, and it makes me feel creepy and beautiful at the same time.

It’s also OK to want to hide your giant pimple. I mean, of course you shouldn’t feel pressured to use makeup to look pretty for other people, even though it’s hard, because images of unblemished (or Photoshopped!) women are everywhere. But it sounds to me like you also wear makeup for yourself, because you love it. And so my advice to you is to rock that cool eye shadow and those bright red lips or whatever, hold your head high, and be proud of how you look. I know it’s easier said than done, but some people are intimidated by confident women, and they want to belittle us, and we can’t let that happen. Indulge your own ideas about what is beautiful, and trust me, you’ll find people who respect you for it! —Arabelle

I swim and play water polo, so I wash my hair every day. I know this dries it out. And, because of my schedule, I have to go to bed with my hair wet, which means it’s kind of thick and fuzzy in the morning. What do you recommend to hydrate and protect my hair? —Isabella

Hey girl! There are a few things you can do to protect your locks from that cock-a-doody chlorine. Putting a conditioner in your hair before you get into the water will help coat it so it doesn’t absorb as many of the chemicals. Davines’ Natural Tech Nourishing Vegetarian Miracle Conditioner is a good bet, or you could also try a leave-in conditioner spray like Soy Tri Wheat from Sexy Hair. You should also take a look at what type of shampoo and conditioner you use right now. A lot of popular brands have alcohol and sulfates in them, which can further dry your hair out. I love Alba Botanica all-natural shampoos and conditioners, and if you can swing the $50 price tag, I also recommend using Argan Oil in your damp hair after you wash it. This should help that morning frizz. Now go restore your lovely ’do. —Marie ♦

If you have a style/beauty question for Marie et al., please send it to [email protected].