There was a time when the only wax applied to a man’s hair was to keep his pompadour stiff and his mustache curly. But while both pomade and facial fuzz are enjoying a resurgence (especially among plaid-shirted gentlemen who make their own pickles), there’s also a more recent use of wax for dudes, this time aimed at removing hair rather than shaping it.
The metrosexual trend may have come and gone, but it’s left behind the term “manscaping” and a new acceptance of the hairless, action-figure bod. But with manscaping on the rise, why are some dudes taking it an extra step further and waxing, rather than shaving or trimming? The reasons are many: There’s the surprising speed of the procedure, the longevity of its results, and the smoother-than-smooth sensation afterwards. For many first-timers, the experience is a revelation, as discovered by one construction worker who had to get his fuzzy butt waxed after losing a bet. “He hated the process,” says Jodi Shays, owner of Los Angeles men’s spa The Shays Lounge. “But four days later emailed us to tell us how much he loved it and how he couldn’t stop staring at his bum in the mirror.”
More and more salons are popping up specializing in male clientele, and many specifically cater to the man who first cautiously enters “on a dare”—the type of dude who needs reassuring that this is a perfectly acceptable—indeed, masculine—activity. The Shays Lounge, for example, makes men feel at home with a sportier atmosphere than a traditional unisex salon, and will even pour you some whiskey to take the edge off. Rates at such spas vary greatly among providers and region, and you can expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $100 for a waxing of the back and shoulders, the same again for legs, and a little less for the chest. Your nethers and tush are surprisingly cheap in comparison—more in the $50 range—considering their sensitivity and the number of nooks and/or crannies. When it comes to waxing rates, it seems, it’s all about the surface area. Still, most guys don’t go all in, and it’s possible to save time and money by just targeting problem spots. Shays says her clients mostly tend to take care of their back and chest, while Joe Leon, of Totally Smooth Skin, a massage and wax parlor also located in L.A., says his customers “tend to wax more butt, legs and private areas,” along with their backs.
Some men are fine with their hair’s appearance, but want to spot-wax just for the tactile difference. Men like Reddit user RaxonRacks, who discussed his experience of waxing his scrotum in the site’s r/malegrooming subreddit. “I just had my scrotum waxed for the first time, and I love it!” he raved. “It’s such a crazy sensation afterwards. I can really tell when I'm running on the treadmill; everything is just so smooth, and I don't chafe like I used to. I highly recommend waxing. Everyone should try it at least once.”
You may now be beset by visions of your body looking smoother than a dolphin’s gumline, but hold fire for a moment: Your new existence as a frictionless being comes with a few (manageable) caveats. First off, as anyone who’s enjoyed the waxing scene from The 40-Year-Old Virgin can probably guess, the experience is not entirely painless. “What hurts the most is pubes,” admits Leon, although surprisingly, he claims that the nipples hurt the least, alongside the butt cheeks. Shays agrees about the pubic area and warns, “Those men who opt for a full bikini, including testicle area, feel the pain more in that area.” If that’s daunting for you, Reddit user halloweenek recommends taking ibuprofen beforehand, primarily to fight pain and prevent swelling. Some claim it’s not as bad as it sounds, however. Redditor Matthew37 says of his full-body treatment, “The pain isn't bad at all. The ears and nose just feel like quick yanks. The sack feels like quick bee stings (maybe a 6 or a 7 on the pain scale), but it goes away pretty quickly (though it remains tender for a day or so). Everything else is just a quick moderate sting that goes away quickly.” Of course, one man’s six on the pain scale is another man’s 11, so your mileage may vary.
Even if your pain tolerance is high, Redditors often warn of the “swamp-ass” caused by the lack of hair to wick away sweat from the butt-crack. Additionally, get ready for louder farts without that muffling mat of mane you’ve come to depend on—your newly hairless cheeks may reverberate like Flubber 2.0. The type of wax used can sometimes improve the experience. Redditor paintedlion, for example, has espoused the virtues of sugar wax as “amazing and virtually painless,” while Shays says her salon prefers “a soft cream wax that removes all hair in one small strip.” Hard waxes, she says, are less user-friendly since “you need to go over the area more than once, and who needs that?” The type of hair and its location on the body are also factors, so don’t be afraid to speak up if a particular wax isn’t working for you, says Leon. “There's different waxing supplies for face and body, for sensitive skin and regular.” In other words, you have options.
A more prevalent concern than the pain for first-time waxers is the possibility of itching and rashes. Since you’ve just uprooted a forest of hairs, the landscape of your flesh is going to be repairing itself deeper than your fingernails can scratch. As Redditor Blackrook7 cautions, “I once allowed my wife to wax my balls, on a bet, and it wasn't as bad as I feared it would be. They were smooth as eggs and she loved it. The stubble a week or two later was unbearable. I can still feel itchy just thinking about it. Never again.” He might want to reconsider stopping at just one session, of course: Regular waxers don’t suffer to the same degree, and rashes in particular tends to be a one-off problem. One reason, says Leon, is that the hairs grow back “smoother, thinner, and in certain areas, in fewer numbers” subsequent to waxing. Shays agrees, saying that getting finer hair is a motive for most of her clients. Even if you do experience irritation, waxing lasts much longer than shaving—most commonly four weeks, though for some it’s as few as two or as many as six—so you’ll be doing it less often.
There are other, more obvious advantages to waxing downstairs, too. “My wife loved it,” says Matthew37. “She was a lot more... attentive after I started having my crotch and backside done, which alone made all the trouble and expense worth it.” So there you have it: Attention from a partner balms all wounds. Just make sure you go to a pro, or you’ll risk ending up like one troubled customer of Leon’s. “After a wife waxed her husband to her liking, she was asking to fool around with him,” he laughs. “He replied that he didn’t want to be touched by her for a month!”