Shaving, waxing, sugaring, lasers — men are doing whatever it takes to banish hair, even ‘down there’
Remember when “the best a man can get” was a baby-smooth face?
Of course, that was before razors started looking like props from a sci-fi movie — steel-toothed, pivoting-headed, micropulse little Terminators bent on the defoliation of mankind.
What’s the big hairy deal?
Shaving is an arms race. And if you believe the marketing hype, there are no buffer zones in the battle against superfluous fur.
As part of its new global campaign, Gillette is harnessing the power and reach of social media websites to push the offensive southward by urging men to “Go Further With Body Shaving.”
The Proctor & Gamble brand recently launched a series of instructional videos on YouTube, including one on “taking care of the hair down there.” In its first three weeks online, How To Shave Your Groin racked up more than 1.4 million views, not counting traffic on Gillette’s website.
The demos show a muscular cartoon swiping a razor over his (sometimes pixelated) parts as a voice-over addresses the benefits of body baldness. Rationale varies by part.
Chest? “A sweater should be bought not grown.”
Armpits? “An empty stable smells better than a full one.”
And the disposable razor’s new raison d’etre? “Trees look taller when there’s no underbrush.” (The animated dude offers tips to prevent “equipment” damage.)
Manscaping, as this neck-down grooming has been called, is hardly new. Competitive swimmers, bodybuilders, male models, some gay men and urbane types who never fell off the metrosexual bandwagon have long embraced hairlessness.
What has apparently changed in the years since high-maintenance preening crossed gender lines is that it’s now becoming the domain of average Joes.
“I see 1,400 new men every year and I can tell you there’s a very high percentage of them who shave — and I don’t just mean for surgery,” says Errol Billinkoff, a Winnipeg physician who has performed more than 15,000 no-scalpel vasectomies.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and in the last two or three I’ve noticed a big difference.”
In addition to running the Billinkoff Vasectomy Centre on Lombard Avenue, he’s also medical director of the adjacent Waterfront Laser Aesthetics Inc., which has been offering laser hair removal since 2006.
That market is still very much female-driven — men made up just 16.5 per cent of the Canadian cosmetic enhancement market in 2005 — but society’s ongoing obsession with appearance and youth is gradually luring more men out of the five o’clock shadow.
And hey, if you’re investing all that time, sweat and cash to get a buff bod, why hide your light under a, well, bush?
Billinkoff says most of the men who lend their follicles to Waterfront’s lasers (about five per cent of its clientele) are in their mid-20s to mid-40s and want a sleeker back or chest.
Groins? “Rare as hen’s teeth. I can think of maybe three patients we’ve done.”
Backs are also the most-lasered part of the manscape over at Dr. Earl Minuk’s Laser, Skin & Hair Centre, followed by neck napes and other tuft-prone areas around the “T-shirt line.”
“It’s mostly the average guy. He’s hairy and he doesn’t like it,” says Minuk, a dermatologist who estimates about a quarter of the clients at the center’s two locations (Grosvenor at Stafford, Meadowood in St. Vital) are male. “We see everyone from executives to students.”
But while below-the-belt business is booming, and 80 percent of bikini line laser treatments are Brazilians (complete hair removal, including the peri-anal area), there’s little demand for the manzilian.
“We do get a few men who want a mankini,” he says. “But I think a lot of men shave in the confines of their own bathroom.”
Contrary to popular belief, lasers do not remove hair permanently. Only electrolysis, where a fine probe is inserted into the follicle and emits an electrical current to destroy the root, can do that — one hair at a time.
Rather, what laser treatment provides is permanent hair “reduction.”
The laser targets melanin pigment in the hair follicle, so for starters, it’s less effective on gray or very blonde hair. And since melanin is only produced in the growth stage, only 15 to 40 percent of hairs will be available for zapping during any given treatment.
“That’s why you have to come back,” says Billinkoff, who recommends a package of five treatments. De-fuzzing a back can cost up to $3,000. A mankini at Minuk’s is $300, $25 more for the full manzilian.
For the budget-conscious, there’s always wax, or better yet, sugar.
“Hairlessness has become extremely popular,” says Tanya Thiessen, owner of Alexandria Body Sugaring in Transcona. “When we started (15 years ago), we had maybe one guy a month come in. Now we get five or six a day.
“It’s increased in ‘that’ area too, quite a bit.”
And apparently, some people consider a visit to the sugar shack kind of romantic.
“We’re also seeing a lot of couples come in together,” Thiessen says. “What’s really helpful for us is when we can get the girlfriend to help. It’s always good to have an extra set of hands.”
When all else fails, there’s always the good ol’ razor — and YouTube.