Unwanted Body Hair
Hair during the teens or early 20s may be limited in length and extent as to where it grows. As body hair continues to grow longer and in more places some men may start feeling self-conscious of “unwanted” body hair – either it’s growing in places they don’t want, it’s growing too long, or it’s growing too thickly. Unwanted body hair often involves three types:
1. Hair in places you don't want it (nostrils, ears, uni-brow, back, etc.)
2. Desire for a more muscular and/or hairless look (chest, abs, arms, legs, etc.)
3. Fine hair in certain areas, but just not as thick/long (chest, armpits, pubic, etc.)
There are different ways of controlling unwanted or excessive hair growth – shaving, waxing/plucking, trimming, and permanent removal.
Shaving is the most common way of controlling facial hair and is often the first choice for body areas with extensive hair growth. Some men also shave body hair (chest, abs, back, arms, legs, etc.). Advantages to shaving are that it is quick and painless. However, there are downsides to shaving as well. First, shaving is very short term, only lasting for a few hours or a day or so. In men with particularly dark hair (and/or light skin) the roots of the hair can often still be seen below the surface. Shaving of thicker areas of body hair can leave the skin feeling rough within a couple of hours (think of how rough a shaved beard line is compared to areas with no hair growth). In addition, shaving of the pubic area is not recommended on the thin, sensitive skin areas of the penis or scrotum.
Waxing, on the other hand, creates bare skin (especially over larger areas) that isn’t rough and can result in being hair-free for a few weeks since the hair is pulled out by the root. Waxing can be common for unwanted facial hair (eyebrows) as well as larger areas like the chest. The downsides of waxing is that it is often painful as multiple hairs are pulled out at once and regrowth of hair can lead to ingrown hairs. Waxing can be performed alone or by professionals.
Plucking is an option if there are only a few hairs needing to be removed. This is common for the ears, nostrils, stray beard hairs growing on the cheeks, around the nipple, in the divit at the lower neck, or stray back hairs. The advantages of plucking are that it causes less ingrown hairs than shaving or waxing, but the downsides include pain and being time intensive if trying to pluck a larger area of hair.
Trimming is an option for men who don’t mind having body hair but don’t want it to be as long or look as thick. An example can be armpit hair. With age, armpit hair continues to grow from about an inch in length up to three inches or more in length. This can lead to men feeling self-conscious at the swimming pool or simply needing to use a lot of deodorant to get to their armpit skin. However, shaving isn’t an option for most men since they feel that not having armpit hair is just “not masculine.” Trimming or cutting the armpit hair back with scissors, or beard clippers with a guard, to a shorter length allows a man to “have hair there.” This decreases the amount seen and also saves on sticks of deodorant. It has also become acceptable in many western cultures to trim chest, abdominal, leg, arm, and basically any body hair, to lengths that prevent hair matting or looking “as hairy.” Men may even find that trimming pubic hair back to a shorter length is preferable. Trimming of facial hair can also be a valid option for men who get ingrown hairs or like the “scruffy look.”
PERMANENT HAIR REMOVAL
The final option includes permanent hair removal. This can be done through laser technology or electrolysis. These options reduce the amount of hair grown – either damaging the hair follicles or changing them so that they produce thinner, finer hair much like vellus hair from pre-puberty. These options can be quite costly. Complete hair removal usually requires multiple treatments. I If men begin permanent hair removal too young, hair growth may appear in other areas outside the treated “zones.” In addition, if men don’t go through with all the sessions, hair may come in splotchy (some hairs removed and other hairs not). Before making this type of a decision, it’s important to recognize there’s no going back after you’ve made the plunge. Many men have had laser hair removal when “hairless was in,” only to find out a few years later when hairy chests were appealing again that there was no going back to how things used to be. However, permanent hair removal can be a life saver (neck saver actually) for men who get ingrown hairs, especially on the front of the neck. Permanent hair removal can help avoid nicks and cuts in areas that continue to be problematic. As always, it’s up to each man to decide what he wants to do with unwanted body hair.
A WORD ABOUT PUBIC HAIR GROOMING
Grooming of pubic hair is becoming more common and it is worth noting some risks. A study[i] was performed looking at the incidence of genital injury due to grooming. This study involved over 4,000 men and found that two-thirds of these men had trimmed, shaved, or removed pubic hair.
The incidence of injury was actually quite high, with over one-fourth of men indicating that they had sustained an injury from pubic hair removal. The most common areas of injury were the scrotum (67%), penis (35%), and pubis (29%). Men who removed all of their pubic hair, rather than simply trimming hair, were 11 times more likely to have an injury. The incidence of individuals who had an injury and had to seek medical attention was 1.4%.
Shaving or using electric clippers can be perhaps the most dangerous. Cuts can bleed profusely and infections can set in. This can especially occur on the scrotum since the scrotal skin is so thin (hence the reason men have twice as many hair removal injuries to the scrotum compared to the penis or pubis). In addition, the skin on the scrotum and penis is constantly being stretched when the cremaster muscles cause the scrotum to tighten and loosen. Cuts on the penis are difficult to heal since men regularly get erections.
Long story short, great care should be taken if grooming the pubic region. It is significantly safer to trim with non-mechanical clippers rather than removing all pubic hair with electric clippers or a razor.
[i] Truesdale MD et. al., Prevalence of Pubic Hair Grooming-Related Injuries and Identification of High-Risk Individuals in the United States, JAMA Dermatology, 2017 Nov 1; 153(11): 1114-21.
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