Hair Razing: Men, especially young ones, are taming the hirsute look
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Steve Carell as "The 40-year-old Virgin" undergoes a painful waxing to remove chest hair.
Determined to lose his virginity, geeky Andy Stitzer decides to get some body hair professionally removed. During the process, he screams in agony as an aesthetician rips waxy fabric strips from his chest and stomach.
Anita Lindermeir hates the scene from the 2005 comedy movie "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" because it teaches the public that body hair removal is excruciating.
"It kind of upsets me that they portrayed it in such a manner," said Ms. Lindermeir, a registered nurse and certified electrologist who performs hair removal at Monroeville Massage & Wellness. "There are ways to minimize discomfort. We use science."
Indeed, with bathing suit season upon us, more and more men, self-conscious about hairy backs or hairy shoulders or hair everywhere, are looking for ways to tone down the caveman look.
Advances in science and technology, along with more attention to grooming, are prompting more men to seek methods to shed unwanted hair.
While hair removal in America traditionally has been associated with women's legs, armpits and bikini areas, both men and women have a long history of doing it. And for men it had nothing to do with so-called metrosexuality.
Swimmers, bikers, bodybuilders and other athletes say they can compete better unfettered by body hair. Other men simply prefer a smooth body.
Jamie Smolinski of Mt. Lebanon said his wife helped him shave his back until two years ago, when he began getting professional wax treatments. Now, he gets one every six months at MEC in Mt. Lebanon, a men's barber spa.
"It lasts longer than regular shaving," he said. "I was nervous the first time. It does hurt a little bit, but you get used to it. The sensation gets less and less hurtful the more you do it."
MEC charges $40 to $60 for a back wax, which can take up to an hour. That's about average in cost and time for similar treatments locally.
Mr. Smolinski, 27, said he likes the professional treatment but has several male friends who prefer to remove body hair themselves at home.
Body-hair removal is the second most-requested service at MEC after haircuts, said owner Kristen Peckich.
"Especially the whole 'unibrow' thing," she said.
MEC customers can choose between waxing and sugaring, an ancient process that involves rolling a blob of melted sugar, honey and lemon across the body to remove hair.
Unlike Monroeville Massage & Wellness, MEC does not offer electrolysis, which, after repeated treatments, results in permanent hair removal, or laser, which is long-term hair reduction that costs more than electrolysis but doesn't work on light-colored or fine hair.
In Pittsburgh, an electrolysis session generally ranges from around $20 for 15 minutes to $55-60 for an hour.
Body hair removal is part of a trend toward more meticulous grooming among men who also are more knowledgeable about their options, said Ms. Peckich.
"I think they are just more aware. It's accepted now; it's not such a big deal, anymore. With fashion and what's presented before us as the way to look, you're not really seeing men in underwear ads with tons of hair all over them."
Whether men want a smoother, sleeker look or aim to minimize discomforts such as ingrown hairs, the fact remains that there's nothing attractive about clumps of hair sprouting out of ears, or a shirtless guy who looks like he's wearing a rug on his back.
The earliest known hair-removal techniques involved sharp stones, which were used by primitive men. Tools evolved to bronze razors in Egypt and graduated to tweezers as early as 3500 BC.
The use of thread and lye poultices eventually became popular methods, and the last 100 years saw the rise of abrasive mitts, disposable and electric razors, creamy depilatories, do-it-yourself home kits, and more hi-tech procedures such as electrolysis and lasers.
Where girlfriends, wives and mothers once were the driving force behind men seeking body hair removal, more fellows are getting it done on their own, said Michelle Grenata, owner of Michelle's Electrolysis & Skin Care in Monroeville.
Since she started in the field in 1971, she's seen her percentage of male hair-removal customers steadily increase from 5 percent to about 15 percent. Typically, the men are young or professionals, she said.
"A lot of it is the culture," she said. Body hair "once seemed manly, now it's considered grotesque. Women under 30 or 40 think it's the worst thing they ever saw in their life.
"A lot of it is society, too. I think we're better groomed now than we were years ago, and it's expected at a higher level."
First Published May 27, 2007 7:58 pm