I have to admit, I didn’t get on the bikini wax bandwagon until fairly recently.

So recently, in fact, that as a mid-30s beauty writer, I’m too embarrassed to name the date. Let’s just say that Jen and Brad had already broken up—and a few years prior, at that.

I still don’t think that bikini waxing is for everyone. And I certainly haven’t become a monthly devotee.

But what I have come to realize is that bikini waxing has benefits (it’s been a bona fide beauty ritual for centuries, after all), and that it’s totally possible to reap said benefits even if your visits are rare.

Also, regardless of my late blooming, I do recommend all ladies give it a shot. At least once, and sooner rather than later.

Personally, I have to give props to Bliss spa. Their wax is specially formulated to keep your pain to a minimum. Some of my friends claim it still hurts like hell (babies!), and of course it ain’t no orgasm, but I find the feeling to be one of quick discomfort. Like a Band-Aid or a bad breakup—one motion, right off! (Dating myself again with a Seinfeld reference, I know. Whatever, that show rocked.)

If you can, book an appointment at a spa—at least for your first time.  That way, you can set your own, ahem, pubic style, and then continue upkeep on your own.

Of course, there are also at-home waxing kits, such as the simple Satin Smooth Waxing Starter Kit (perfect for beginners, natch) or Bliss’ own Poetic Waxing kit.

I’ve used both to good results, however, had I not already gone to a professional, I would have been clueless. Also, it takes FOREVER. At least, that’s what I found.

And there is risk involved—it’s scalding hot wax after all, and you are unsupervised.

So just go easy, I’d say. Real easy.

As for how often? Most experts will say you should wax once your hair has grown out least a quarter of an inch.

I say, work with what feels right. Feeling self-conscious at the beach? Maybe it’s time for a trim. Got a hot date? Do it up. I’ve found that timetables mean very little. What matters most is how you feel.

And that’s how I deal with my hair down there. As much as Elita, the Bliss bikini waxer extraordinaire, would love to see me once a month, it’s never going to happen. I go two times during the summer—three tops. During the rest of the year, I’ll wax when I want to. Big trip to Barbados? Check. Surprise my husband with a Brazilian? Sure.

The bottom line is making sure that I feel nice and neat and sexy and sweet, and when it gets a little out of control, I book a session with Elita.

And in between, these are the tips that I deem as key for proper upkeep.

Exfoliate daily. For the best defense against ugly, ingrown hairs, use a body scrub while you’re in the shower and rub the entire area vigorously.

Banish Bumps Post-Shower. Lots of people swear by Tend Skin. There’s also a homemade remedy I use: hydrogen peroxide (use just a small dab on a cotton ball) followed by a triple antibiotic ointment all over. Doing this daily, or at the very least, every other day, seriously makes all the difference.

Moisturize. Don’t ignore the bikini area when slathering on your body lotion.

Trim. Unless you feel the need to be totally hairless, I find that trimming with a special just-for-place-tool works wonders. (Of course, I have light hair. If you are darker, this may not work as well). I use the TrimStyle by Schick Quattro, which you can get at drugstores.

And one big DON’T!

Please, I beg of you—if you’ve recently waxed, don’t shave! I know you’ll be tempted (I was and learned the hard way), but shaving will only add more unsightly issues, including those dreaded ingrown hairs. The reason? Wax pulls hair right out of its root, so it takes longer to grow back in, and is less coarse when it does.

Shaving, on the other hand, does the exact opposite. It chops off only the top layer of hair and makes regrowth sprout faster—and thicker—than it did pre-shave. If the razor is your regular method for removing down-there hair, this isn’t as much of an issue. Your follicles know what to expect.

But if you’ve taken the waxing plunge, your hair will go haywire if they are suddenly sliced.

Be warned: it will only wreck havoc.