Body Hair Removal for Men
Tired of back hair? More men than ever are choosing to take it off, and they have several options in their quest.
According to a survey in Men's Fitness magazine, if men could change one thing about their bodies, 54.9% would rather change their hair follicles than their muscles.
Ron Shelton, MD, an assistant professor at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, says that back hair is the chief complaint of men who visit his New York City clinic for hair removal procedures.
"They're tired of being told they're wearing a sweater," he says, of his clients' experiences when they take their shirts off.
Dr. Shelton also treats swimmers who feel weighed down by arm hair, and body builders who refuse to hide behind their chest hair.
Here's the lowdown on the latest options for hair removal.
Laser hair removal, the latest and perhaps most effective method of hair removal, may be one reason more men are talking to their doctors about hair removal.
"I'm not sure," says Dr. Shelton, "but I think the thought of having a hot wax over the entire back was not appealing to people."
In 1995, the FDA approved the first laser treatment for hair removal use. So far, laser treatments appear to be safe and effective for long-term hair removal.
"About 80% of patients maintain 80% removal of their hair one year after treatment," says Dr. Shelton. Studies on long-term effectiveness vary, indicating 40%-80% hair removal after six months.
But getting your hair zapped off will cost you. Laser treatments can run anywhere from $800 to $1,500 per session, and effective treatment can take from two to six sessions.
Another drawback is temporary skin color change. "Color change is temporary as a rule," says Dr. Shelton, particularly "lightly-colored and darkly-colored spots that can take three to six months to go away." In one study of 53 people, 29% experienced skin color changes after laser hair removal.
And when it comes to laser hair removal, blonds have less luck than dark-haired men. Lighter hair (including white, gray, and red) doesn't absorb the laser light as well as darker hair does. Indeed, if people with light hair call Dr. Shelton's clinic about laser hair removal, he says, "We try to discourage them on the phone so they don't waste a trip." The perfect candidate for laser hair removal has dark hair and a light to semi-light complexion.
For those with light hair or dark skin, electrolysis may work. Electrolysis involves inserting a needle into one hair follicle at a time, destroying each with an electrical current. After treatment, 25%-50% of a person's hair may grow back.
Christine Sabick is a certified cosmetic therapist with over 20 years of experience in the field. Laser treatment, according to Sabick, is a better choice for men's back and facial hair, but electrolyis can also be done. The latter procedure is more time consuming, though. For example, Sabick sees a lot of men for facial hair removal. Even this process can demand one appointment a week for 1 to 1-½ years.
What about the pain factor? While laser treatments can create the sensation of a rubber band snapping the skin, people have still rated lasers less painful than electrolysis needles. And scarring is a potential risk with electrolysis.
Electrolysis session can run between $50 and $100 and complete hair removal can require 50 to 100 or more sessions.
For the man whose threshold for pain is higher than his bank balance, waxing is always an option.
Waxing sessions at a salon can cost from $30-$60, and home waxing kits cost anywhere from $6-$9. Waxing can tweak a unibrow and remove back and facial hair. The effects can last up to six weeks.
But even men who rip off bandages with gusto should think twice before waxing, in which a sheet of hot wax is ripped off of the skin, taking the hair along with it. If you choose to wax at home, be careful not to wax over moles or warts, and don't put the wax on so hot that you burn your skin.
If none of these procedures appeal, a man can always purchase a depilatory (like Nair or Neet), which dissolves hair, for less than $10 at the drugstore.
Depilatories can be used on chests and backs, but they don't compare to a good shave for facial hair. Several days may pass before you need to reapply a depilatory.
To prevent an allergic reaction, apply some to the underside of your wrist, before applying it to your body. Also, follow the instructions on the bottle closely if you leave a depilatory on too long it may leave your skin with a chemical burn.
Depilatories may leave your skin feeling itchy and tingly, and may also require more than one application, but re-applying may lead to chemical burn.
The American Academy of Dermatology
Hair Removal Journal
Canadian Dermatology Association
Canadian Organization of Professional Electrologists
Last reviewed May 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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