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My friend Bernice has shed the poundage. Dutifully hitting the gym every day and sticking with her South Beach Diet brought back her pre-baby body. Next month she and her husband are celebrating their anniversary and her new slimness with a trip to Cancun. "I just bought my first bikini," she laughed over last week's coffee clutch. "Believe it or not, I've never worn one, and if I don't now, I just might never." We had a good laugh and discussed styles. She insisted on buying a teeny bikini. "But I'm going to need some waxing help." Laughter erupted again and I agreed to research for her. Bernice is a bit leery of delving into delicate topics with perfect strangers. Though I knew a bit from my own research about bikini waxing, it looked like Bernice might need a Brazilian wax, of which I knew little. Juliana Rodrigues, esthetics director for downtown's Spa Velia, filled me in. "A bikini wax is a hair removal procedure," explained Rodrigues. "Typically most spas have three types of bikini waxes. The first one is the regular bikini wax [ $30-$40 ], which is waxing the sides of a bikini bathing suit line. The second kind, instead of just waxing the sides, it goes a little bit farther down for the smaller bathing suit. Then there is the famous Brazilian wax, where everything is waxed out [ $55 to $80 ]. With the Brazilian wax, you do have choices on the top of the pubic hair. Most people like a little strip, right above the lips, a long one-finger type of strip so it is very sexy. They feel like a Playboy woman. Or they want a triangle style, where you leave a small triangle of hair. But some people wax it all out. Though some people feel like they have too childish a look when they wax everything, especially people who have children. They like to leave a little something to differ from the younger people."

What was the origin of the Brazilian wax?

"It originated in Brazil because of the smaller sizes of our bathing suits," replied the Brazilian native. "And Hollywood and Playmates really adopted it because of its perfect clean look. So the idea from Brazil and a touch of the sex industry made everything happen. It's been a trend for quite a while, and I think it has come to stay. It's what's hot right now. The guys are loving it. Basically it has an impact on a man. If your guy kind of likes the clean cut, most women will go for that. And now I get a lot more moms. Five years ago it was just strippers. Now it is all kinds of women."

Is there any preparation the client should do before waxing?

"There are two things you can do," continued Rodrigues. "The best thing is to come with the hair not so long; a quarter of an inch works. Also, there are some creams that can numb the area a little bit. There's disagreement with the creams; some people don't know if it really works. I think it is more of a psychological thing. I think for some people the cream works really well; for other people, no." The cream, called No-Scream Cream, runs about $16 to $20 for a six to eight usage tube. "So that you don't scream about it," chuckled Rodrigues. "You apply a small amount everywhere in the area 35 to 45 minutes before your procedure."

There is some disagreement over ingrown hairs and waxing. "Some people say they get ingrown hairs because they are doing waxing. I don't think so. I think it's actually one of the best ways to go, much better than shaving. It should help with ingrown hairs, if it is done properly."

Does it hurt more than waxing your legs?

"It hurts and definitely more than waxing your legs," she said. "But the legs are a larger area, and the bikini is an intense but quick pain procedure. Some clients tell me they have a glass of wine or take a muscle relaxer before they come in. And there is the No-Scream Cream. I try to distract my clients by having funny or interesting conversations with them. I think my accent really helps. And I help them take deep breaths, so when they realize that I will pull the strip, it is already done. And since I have been waxing for seven years, I am very fast. After you have a few treatments the pain is better because you know what to expect and the hair is easier to work with. After the procedure, we apply a treatment that kind of calms down the skin; it is very nourishing to the skin. I recommend people not to take a hot shower right after because the skin is a little sensitive. But after a couple of hours, it should be fine."

How long should the wax last?

"It varies," Rodrigues answered. "The first time it can last for two weeks because your hair is not used to it, and when you shave you shave in all directions, so the hair is kind of confused and goes all over the place. But for a regular user it lasts for three to four weeks. It also depends on how much hair you have. Some women have more hair, so the hair grows in a lot faster. Some women have a lot less hair, so it lasts for a month even. And it also depends on how picky you are. If you are the kind of person that likes a very clean area all the way around, then you will come back more often. But I think three weeks is perfect. And after two or three times, you have the perfect skin, like babies, all nice and smooth right off of the wax. There is no dark shadow. It is really good."

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