Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

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summer options for hirsute men who want to shed fuzz

by keysha whitaker

while many men are opting for the burly and bearded look these days, the sultry summer months may mean that some will opt to manage their unwanted body hair. but deciding between the various techniques-including creams, shaving, waxing, electrolysis and lasers-can appear intimidating. luckily the city offers just about any option one can imagine.

"men are getting more comfortable [with hair removal], and the most popular area for men to want hair removal is the back and shoulder," said nicolas cornuot, general manager of nickel (pronounced nee-kale), a men's spa in the west village. "for many years it was taboo and feminine, now it's metrosexual." he said bikini lines and brazilians are fair game, too.

eyebrow shaping is also growing in popularity among men. a representative of the berenice electrolysis and beauty center on east 61st street explained that "young boys don't want the unibrows. they want their sideburns trimmed or the back of the neck done so it's smooth." the upper east side location has been specializing in hair removal for 30 years. according to the representative, 20 percent of berenice's clientele are men between the ages of 13 to 70.

the two most advanced hair techniques-which produce the most drastic reduction in, and in some cases stop, hair growth-are electrolysis and laser removal. electrolysis uses a probe that is inserted into the hair follicle and delivers an electrical current to kill the root.

"a laser uses light energy that is converted into heat energy," explained andrea young, owner of beam laser spa on broadway near columbus circle. "the heat penetrates the follicle and disables it by heating it to death." young said 30 percent of beam's clients are male. "the most popular area is the back. as men age, they get new hair growth, especially on their back," said young. "they find that a laser is most effective."

although everyone's body reacts to treatments in different ways, most agree that laser hair removal is fastest. "years ago, if people wanted to do their leg, it could take 10 years [with electrolysis]," explained the rep from berenice. "you have to catch the hair at the growth cycle otherwise you're not going to be finished when you'd like to." even though electrolysis requires more sessions, berenice's clients continue to request it in strong numbers.

laszlo friedman, owner of le cachet day spa on east 30th street (between park and madison avenues), is not a fan of electrolysis. "we stopped doing it because it introduces foreign electric currents in the body," explained friedman. "electrolysis is history, that's very ineffective; [with lasers] we are much faster."

young said she still sees a value in electrolysis since, in her estimation, laser hair removal works better on hair with dark pigmentation. "blond hair is invisible to the laser, and red hair doesn't work that well either."

since the laser targets melanin, men with darker skin complexions need specialized treatments. all three spas noted the distinction in serving men of color. beam laser spa uses a candela laser that houses two lasers in one, explained young. "the alexandrite laser treats fair caucasian skin, while the yag laser is necessary to treat clients with olive-skin tones to dark skin tones," said young.

some men even opt for laser treatment to banish pubic hair. friedman said it's a delicate procedure for technicians. "you have to be cautious and move the testicles aside or run the risk of making men infertile," explained friedman, who has four licensed technicians at le cachet. "we can always control how deep the laser beams are going."

while pain is relative to the individual, most experts agree that electrolysis is more painful than laser hair removal, which has been compared to the sensation of a rubber band snapping the skin, but both are better choices than waxing if a man is concerned about avoiding ingrown hairs and dramatically reducing hair growth.

friedman said he calls his technique "painless laser hair removal" because "we use a special cooling system that cools the surface of the area where you do the laser hair removal. by cooling the area you don't really feel [pain]."

for those who opt for wax, organic waxes are best for sensitive skin: nickel offers a tea-tree based wax and le cachet offers, among others, a cucumber-based wax for men.

laser or electrolysis performed by unskilled technicians can result in scars, skin discoloration and burns. as with any medical procedure, potential clients should research the facility.

troy goodwin, an aesthetician at nickel and a west village resident, admitted that he keeps his own buttocks and groin area trimmed. according to him, men may be removing hair in greater numbers, but they're not removing as much of it. "the whole completely hairless craze that was popular five years ago is dying off," he said.

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