Forget the basic bikini wax. The Brazilian wax— which entails removing all of the hair down there (even between the cheeks!)— has become as standard a rite of summer for some women as spray tans and pedicures.  

In fact, many of us wouldn’t dare to slip into a swimsuit before enduring the 30 or so minutes of physical torture it takes to achieve the sexy, sleek, “clean” look and feel that a Brazilian offers. No question, the salon treatment is popular and even aesthetically pleasing— but is it healthy?

Being bare may seem more hygienic than sporting a full bush, but actually, the opposite is true. “We have pubic hair for a reason,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, a dermatologist in Briarcliff Manor, NY and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City. “It acts as a shield against bacteria, allergens, and other unwanted pathogens.” Stripping away that natural barrier puts you at higher risk of irritation or infection in the vaginal area, Dr. Bowe explains. (And there are more germs than you even want to know about lurking in sand, salt water, and the community pool.)

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The best way to go bare

We get it, though: An untamed nether region doesn’t exactly complement that itty-bitty bikini you just bought. So if you’re not going to forgo waxing altogether, what’s the best solution? Dr. Bowe recommends leaving a small triangle of hair behind instead of removing every single strand. Commonly known as the triangle trim, this style leaves you just the right balance between protecting your vajayjay and keeping your bikini line looking hair-free when you’re sporting a swimsuit.

Ready to try the triangle trim? Follow these ladyscaping secrets to make your wax-perience as quick, safe and painless as possible:

Prepare for takeoff

Trim hair to half an inch before your appointment; any longer or shorter, and the wax may not be able to grip properly. Find a salon that uses hard wax, which adheres to the hair— not the skin— better than the soft kind, removing more of the “ouch” factor along with the unwanted fuzz.

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Make it last

“Over-waxing can destroy the hair canal, leading to permanent ingrowns,” Dr. Bowe says. Aim to go six weeks between waxes, maintaining the triangle shape in between by shaving. Try the new Schick Hydro Silk TrimStyle ($16, walgreens.com) for total convenience— it combines a hair trimmer and razor in one tiny gadget.

Get a sleeker shave

For the closest cut, first run the razor in the direction of growth and then against. Another perk: “Stubble will grow in much thinner with this back-and-forth technique,” Dr. Bowe notes. Make sure to rinse the razor after every pass so it’s not blocked by hairs stuck between the blades.

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Banish the bumps

If you’re prone to ingrown hairs, reach for pads or scrubs with salicylic acid two days after waxing or shaving (use them too soon and you may feel your still-sensitive skin start to burn). These gently exfoliate, allowing hair to grow back free and clear of dead skin cells and dirt so it doesn’t loop back on itself and create painful bumps. One product to try: Completely Bare Bikini Bump Blaster Pads ($9, ulta.com).

Wash wisely

One of the biggest mistakes women make is over-washing the vaginal area, says Dr. Bowe: Too much scrubbing and using too many products can irritate the delicate skin there and even lead to infection. Add waxing to that equation and you’re just cruising for a world of hurt down there. Use only a mild soap, like Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Antibacterial Bar ($5, drugstore.com), or even just water to clean the vulva (e.g. your external genitalia). No need to get all up inside of your vagina proper; it naturally self-cleans (seriously!).

This article originally appeared on Health.com.