There was a time, back in the 1970s, when a hairy chest and a few gold chains were all the rage in men’s fashion.
But the birth of “metrosexuality” over the past decade has men striving for a “smoother” look, paving the way for a movement called “manscaping.”
Men have been going for facials, manicures and pedicures -- grooming procedures once limited to women. And one of the more recent trends involves the removal of unwanted hair, mostly on the chest and back.
Some men try shaving the unwanted hair off, but quickly tire of the daily requirements of shaving and soon head to the salon to seek out alternatives.
“Men have been coming in for facials for a while, but I would say it’s really the last 10 years that men have been doing hair removal,” said Shizuka Bernstein, owner of Shizuka New York Day Spa in Manhattan. “The most popular area is the back, but some men also want the chest done.”
There are three approaches to hair removal that men can pursue:
— Waxing. This involves spreading hot wax across the area in which a person wants the hair removed. An aesthetician then begins removing the wax, and hair, by sticking muslin epilating strips to the wax and ripping them off in a quick motion. Warning: The first time can be painful, but the pain will lessen over time as the skin toughens to the process. Some men, especially those prone to acne, eczema and other skin conditions, may experience an allergic reaction to waxing, so it's best to start off with a small area to see how the skin responds.
Waxing is the cheapest of hair removal procedures, but it is not permanent and spa clients will have to undergo the procedure on a monthly basis -- if they want the hairless look year-round. Other men may opt to undergo the procedure only during the summer, when they are most likely to be shirtless. The cost varies by region and size of the area being waxed -- a back waxing runs about $90 a pop in the New York City area, Bernstein said.
— Laser Hair Removal. Intense pulsed light (IPL) laser hair removal is a permanent hair removal procedure, which uses heat to destroy the hair shaft or root of the hair. But not everyone is a good candidate for this procedure, Bernstein said. The best candidates have dark hair and light skin, because lasers have a harder time "picking up" light hair, and darker skin can be permanently discolored by the heat of the laser. Several treatments are required to permanently destroy the hair shaft.
“It usually takes four or five treatments and it will become thinner and lighter overtime,” said Bernstein. “Once the hair becomes lighter, it will become harder to remove. … But most men, unless they are professional weightlifters or something like that, are happy with 70-80 percent hair removal.”
The cost of laser hair removal also varies by region and state, as well as by the size of the area being worked on. Shizuka Day Spa charges $500 a session for full backs, $300 for the upper back only and $400 for the chest.
— Electrolysis. Electrolysis is a permanent, but tedious, hair removal process that involves inserting a needle into the hair shaft to destroy the hair using heat. In some cases, aestheticians use various chemicals to destroy the shaft. It’s a long process that can take several hours on a surface as large as a back, Bernstein said. Men will need several electrolysis procedures to achieve permanent hair removal, much like with laser hair removal.
Bernstein said the majority of her customers opt to use a laser for permanent hair removal and follow up with electrolysis for any hairs the laser does not pick up. This saves both time and money.
Bernstein charges $40 for every 15 minutes of electrolysis. She said using electrolysis alone to remove hair on a back may take 3-4 hours, meaning the procedure could run as high as $480 to $640 per session.