HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - We live a beach lifestyle here in Hawaii and that means many women opt for bikini and Brazilian waxes. More salons, spas, even nail places, are offering them. But think twice before you dare to bare down there.
Women have always loved their teeny-weeny, polka dot bikinis, and we go to great lengths to make sure what's hair today - is gone tomorrow.
Brazilian waxing is more popular than ever.
"I would do 7 or 8 Brazilians a day," says Kailua's Honu You Spa owner and cosmetologist, Jennifer Mehau. "You can definitely see the rise of it in America."
They're also called a full bikini, "The Hollywood", "The Playboy", or "The Sphinx". Hair is removed - front, back, and all the real estate in-between.
Before you "wax on, wax off", though, know that not every practitioner is equal - or even properly licensed. In order to offer Brazilian waxing in Hawaii, the salon, spa, or space must have a Beauty Shop license (BSH), and each individual who performs the waxing must have a Beauty Operator's license (BEO) - trained as either a cosmetologist or aesthetician.
"The licenses should be conspicuously displayed - both the shop licenses and the individual operator licenses," advises Daria Loy-Goto, complaints and enforcement officer at the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs.
If they're not, buyer beware.
In a Hawaii News Now investigation, we randomly spot-checked a handful of small, Oahu businesses. More than half either did not have a beauty shop license or could not - or would not - provide us with a current operator's license - which, again, must be on display. Here's one exchange at a Waikiki salon:
Teri: "Can I see the license?"
Technician #1: "You see the license?"
Technician #2: "You cannot see. You cannot see the license."
Teri: "Why can't I see the license?"
Technician #2: "You cannot see the license. You have the number, the state board. You get the license. You cannot take the license of people."
Teri: "I can't check the license of people?"
Technician #2: "No, you can't. If you have the name, okay, from the state board, you can ask the license. If you don't have the name from the state board, you don't (inaudible) the state license."
Teri: "No, but what I'm asking is for the operator's license, the actual operator's license."
Technician #2: "You cannot ask me more. No more, okay? I show you. I have the license, okay? You cannot ask me more. You're not the state board. You cannot ask me more, okay? If you have the name, you can ask me. I'll show you."
Hawaii's Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs will investigate as complaints come in.
DCCA Complaints & Enforcement officer, Daria Loy-Goto, says, "For unlicensed conduct, our office may issue a citation for unlicensed activity - which could carry a fine with that. And additionally, our office may file a circuit court complaint - where we're seeking permanent injunction."
The DCCA advises customers to contact its office, if you've been burned - literally or figuratively. Nurse Tara Bowman has been getting waxes for 15 years. She says she's been burned, bruised, and gotten boils from botched Brazilians.
"Get recommendations from people," Bowman advises from personal experience. "Don't try and bargain shop for that kind of stuff. There's certain things you shouldn't bargain shop for, and that's one of them."
Before you get a waxing, of any kind, here's what you need to look for. Aside from current licenses on display, Honu You's Mehau says when you make an appointment, be ready for questions about medications, your cycle, hair growth, and bad experiences.
"If they don't ask you any questions, that's usually a red flag," says Mehau. "There are several contra-indications now, with modern medications and topicals, so if they're just saying, 'Okay, come in at 2:00', we consider that a red flag. They should be getting to know you a little bit, especially for a Brazilian procedure."
Customers should also feel free to ask questions - to get all the facts before you wax. And by the way, Brazilian are not just for women. "Manzillions" – waxing the whole kit and caboodle on men – are also growing in popularity
If you have a complaint or you just want to check if a shop and operator are licensed, you can go on the DCCA website at http://cca.hawaii.gov. Under the heading "Registration and Licensing", click on "professional and vocational licensing".