TRENTON, NJ - Things could get hairy in New Jersey this summer for women who sport revealing bikinis or a little bit less.
The painful Brazilian wax and its intimate derivatives are in danger of being stripped from salon and spa menus if a recent proposal to ban genital waxing is passed by the state's Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling.
Cherry Hill salon owner Linda Orsuto said that women would "go ballistic" if the proposal passed. She said that some women would resort to waxing themselves, visiting unlicensed salons or traveling to other states, including Pennsylvania, in a quest to remain bare down there.
"The clients are going to freak," said Orsuto, who owns 800 West Salon & Spa, on Route 70. "It's a hot issue, and we're going to have to do something."
New Jersey statutes allow waxing of the face, neck, arms, legs and abdomen, but officials say that genital waxing has always been illegal, although not spelled out.
Regardless, almost every salon in South Jersey, from Atlantic City casinos to suburban strip malls, has been breaking the law for years by ridding women, and some men, of their pubic hair for $50 to $60 a session.
Jeff Lamm, a spokesman for New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs, said that the proposal would specifically ban genital waxing, and was prompted by complaints to the board from two women who were injured and hospitalized. One of them sued. Lamm said that the state only investigates infractions if consumers complain.
Two South Jersey hospitals and a handful of dermatologists didn't return requests for comment, and another hospital declined.
Dr. Eric Bernstein, a Philadelphia dermatologist, said that genital waxing could irritate or tear the skin and result in infections.
"But you can get an infection from almost anything," he added. "The state is probably just looking out for the residents' best interest, but they'll have to enforce it."
Martino Cartier, owner of Martino Giovanni & Pileggi, in Washington Township, Gloucester County, claims that the state previously was more concerned with salons' using the word "Brazilian" - connoting a full genital wax - than with the waxing itself.
At Cartier's spa, Brazilian waxes are known as "summer waxes" and they go by "custom bikini" or "full bikini" in other salons. Semantics aside, Cartier said, the full genital waxings are popular, and his licensed aestheticians do dozens per week in the spring and summer.
"This is the most absurd thing I've ever heard," he said. "We're all going to be losing a lot of money over this."
One Camden County salon owner who asked not to be identified said that she offers the service but didn't know it was illegal.
"If it's illegal, then why do they teach it in schools?" she asked.
Employees at the Rizzieri Aveda School for Beauty and Wellness, in Marlton, Burlington County, declined to comment. The PB Cosmetology Education Centre, in Gloucester City, did not return phone calls.
At least one salon owner in South Jersey didn't offer the forbidden Brazilian wax.
"We used to do them until I found out it was against the law," said Gino Giumarello, owner of In the Village, a salon and spa in Mullica Hill, Gloucester County. "I abide by the law, and I suffer for it."
Orsuto said that the proposal may be the state's way of diverting a long-established salon procedure "perfected by aestheticians" to the medical community, where hair can be removed via laser treatment by dermatologists.
"We've been doing it for years," she said. "We know what we're doing."
If the state is truly concerned, Orsuto said, it should offer a two-day course for further certification.
The Brazilian wax was born of necessity shortly after the infamous thong bikini emerged on the beaches of Brazil, said Monmouth County salon owner Valentina Chistova, who has blogged about the procedure.
"I really don't know if the state can stop it at this point," she said. "I know a lot of women who are hooked."
The Board of Cosmetology next meets on April 14.