Ever since I was a senior in prep school, I’ve sported a hairy chest. Until now, that is, after I “manscaped.” And let me tell you, before my transformation into a Hairless Wonder Dolphin Boy, I had no idea that being manscaped hurt so good.
I’d been hearing about the growing trend of dudes getting their body hair completely removed for a while. Howard D. Sobel, MD, a prominent dermatologist and director of NY Institute of Aesthetic Dermatology and Laser Surgery, says his practice has seen a 25 percent increase in laser procedures for permanent male hair removal over the last two years. According to Sobel, the manscaping movement is being led by men in their 30s, who are willing to fork over anywhere from $600 to $3,500, depending on the area getting Agent Oranged. The popularity of laser hair removal has increased because men no longer feel that having a procedure that makes you look better is feminine, says Sobel. “The time has come that the metrosexual is cool and in. [There’s] no reason men shouldn't take care of their aesthetic needs any differently than women.”
As a middle-aged man, I thought, “What the hell, if now wasn’t a perfect time for me to embrace my ‘aesthetic needs,’ when?” After all, how painful could it really be to get my outfield (chest hair) and infield (lower-region hair) stripped out? Women get it done regularly, so I decided to take the deep plunge too and get a full-on hot wax strip. I mean, really, how much can it hurt, right?
If you’ve ever watched Steve Carrell scream bloody murder in The 40 Year Old Virgin, you start to get just a hint of the pain involved. And here’s the takeaway headline: That pain is REAL.
What is unreal about the whole manscaping landscape is how sweet, unassuming and engaging estheticians can be, considering it’s their job to rip every last hair follicle out of your chest and nether regions (with the physical fury of an American Ninja Warrior), all the while chatting away with you as if you were taking a leisurely stroll through the park on a sunny warm Saturday afternoon.
My Hair Ninja was Sybil P. (yes, that’s her real name), an esthetician at Bliss Spa in New York City who’s considered one of the best because of the special waxes her spa uses and the way she can magically distract you from what she is doing to you. For example, while Sybil was tearing out my He-Forest chest hair, she lulled me with wonderful stories about her days as a college student. When she got to the infield, she told me about a guy who had his girlfriend in the room during his appointment—the girlfriend acted like she was his mom and told him to “buck up” and deal with the pain like a man. And when Sybil got to the backstop, well, we didn’t talk at all. I mean, really, what can we talk about in that situation? Exactly. Sybil is a pro.
So what did I mean when I said earlier that manscaping “hurt so good?” Well, when I finally looked at myself in the mirror, completely hairless, I saw my body— my real body—for the first time. I no longer had body hair to distort my image of myself. My body was all right there for me to see as it truly is. The “Ultimate He-Wax” treatment at Bliss costs $120, and the “Chest Wax” was another $60 plus tip. My manscape took just under an hour to complete, front to back, and the end result of my experience is it made me realize not only what I needed to do to get my body in better shape, but also—and perhaps more importantly—to have a greater appreciation of my very own male body. Manscaping made me see myself differently, but for the better.
Nandi W., another Bliss esthetician, says that male athletes flock to her to get their hair removed in order to reduce drag when they swim and prevent chafing when they run or bike. As for why men get their hairy chests waxed, she says their motives are “to feel clean, confident and handsome.” Summer is a big waxing season, Nandi adds, because no one wants a hairy back or scruffy chest when vacationing on the beach.
Yet even if manscaping makes us guys feel better about ourselves, and in certain cases look better as well (i.e. not resembling a walking rug with your shirt off), the bottom line question remains: What, if any, medical benefits are there to getting manscaped?
I pose the question to Sobel, who responds, “Permanent hair removal is great for areas that tend to have breakouts or ingrown hairs.” And as far as hair removal in the infield, he explains that “by not having hair in the area, there will be direct contact to the skin—this certainly would mean more direct contact to the nerve endings in the area, therefore, more intense stimulation could occur.”
Bingo. Now that’s something really worth feeling good about manscaping.