When someone describes the perfect man as having lustrous locks they can run their fingers through, chances are it’s a shimmering mane on his head they’re referring to, rather than a wiry, shag pile rug lurking due north of his bum crack. A chronic hairy back, while not a medically recognised diagnosis, is a furry affliction that affects an alarming percentage of the male population. “These men often fall into two categories,” explains Natasha Darling, owner of Spartan Envy male grooming salon. “Either their hair grows in clumps mostly at the top and bottom of their backs or they have the gorilla effect – very dark dense hair all over the back.” However, unlike a rugged, Tom Selleck-style chest hair, hair on the back of the torso tends to be more closely associated with subpar personal hygiene than virility and sexual machismo. “Put it this way: you don’t see many aftershave adverts featuring a hairy-backed man,” adds Tracy Davies of X-It! Male Body Hair Removal in London. With that firmly in mind, if you’re planning to go shirtless at all this summer and are concerned about being mistakenly targeted by poachers while sunning yourself, it may be worth getting rid. But before you set about gaffer-taping your Bic razor to a broom handle and rearranging all the mirrors in your bathroom, let’s first take a look at the facts behind the fur and explore some of the more favourable manscaping methods to keep that back as un-primatelike as possible.
Why The Hairy Back?
Since it doesn’t really have any apparent function besides repelling potential romantic partners and keeping your back maybe an eighth of a degree warmer during the colder months, you’re probably wondering why you have this type of hair at all. The reason is down to your hormones. In days gone by, both men and women were much hairier than we are today, something which is still reflected in our abundance of hair follicles. However, as we evolved, the need for thick hair all over our bodies became less and less. The difference is, testosterone, the hormone responsible for the growth of body hair, is much more prevalent in men than women. So, while the fairer sex shed the vast majority of their fluff, we men kept more of ours. And, given that some men have higher levels of testosterone than others, certain blokes are prone to excess body hair, including on their backs.
Despite a hairy back being perfectly natural, society has dictated that they aren’t the most pleasant of things to look at. However, the cons of a bushy back rug extend beyond mere aesthetics. “Significantly hairy men may find that their body hair generates a lot of heat, which can lead to excess perspiration and body odour,” says Darling. All of these factors combined have made back hair removal one of the most popular treatments among men at grooming salons worldwide. So, if you’re looking to rid yourself of yours, what are your options?
How To Fix It
So, you’ve tried and failed to make ‘chimpanzee chic’ happen and now you need an effective way to banish that back hair once and for all. Luckily, the continued trend for male grooming means that you now have a good range of options at your disposal. “Hair removal accounts for around 45 percent of sales in most salons,” says Davies. “Whether it’s backs, intimate areas or anywhere else, the clients all say the same – they feel cleaner.” So, if you’d like to experience that same fresh feeling that only comes with a newly hairless back, here are the best ways to get the job done.
If you were avoiding the razor out of concern that you might wind up looking more like Chewbacca than Oliver Cheshire in the long run, don’t worry – it ain’t going to happen. “Some people believe that shaving encourages more hair growth, but this is not the case,” says Matt Gass of the British Association of Dermatologists. “However, the stubble that follows regrowth may be undesirable and frequent shaving can irritate the skin.” Even so, if it’s just a quick fix you’re in need of and time is a concern, a simple razor job can work well. To get it done properly, find someone to help you out (preferably a friend or relative, as opposed to just a random person on the street). Make sure they clean up any longer hair with a set of clippers first. Then, using plenty of shaving cream, instruct them to begin gently removing hair using the razor, making sure always to go with the grain. Once that’s all done, get cleared up and you can finally enjoy trips to the zoo without being chased by frantic keepers who think you’ve escaped from your enclosure.
Put simply, waxing is to shaving what a hog roast is to a ham sandwich. It takes a bit more effort, but nothing will do the job quite like it. “Waxing is a form of semi-permanent body hair removal which removes the hair from the root,” explains Darling. “Large areas of hair can be removed quickly via waxing, and the area can remain hair free for several weeks.” This gives waxing the edge over shaving, which would tend to see hair growing back in as little as 12-24 hours. “Every individual is different,” adds Darling. “So while some men may only require occasional waxing, most will need it around every four to six weeks.” And don’t be put off by the thought of visiting a women’s salon. “The market for specialised male waxing is now growing as men are seeking out more experienced therapists who can provide a more masculine and specialised waxing experience,” says Darling. “Ultimately this means more client satisfaction and better results.”
If you’ve ever seen Goldfinger, chances are you’re not that keen on the idea of lying down on a bench while somebody directs a fricking laser towards you. However, this particular device won’t cut you in half; it’ll simply get rid of any unwanted hair. “Laser and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments aim to destroy the hair root permanently,” says Gass. “[They] tend to be expensive [budget around £200 per treatment] and usually require several treatments over a period of months.” Laser hair removal is a specialist procedure and you’ll want to make double sure you’re going to the right place unless you do want to find yourself reliving Sean Connery’s iconic scene. “This form of hair reduction must be done at a special clinic by an operator who is properly qualified,” adds Gass. “Check that they are registered with the Healthcare Commission or British Medical Laser Association.” Check FDA guidance in the US. Unsurprisingly this one can hurt and there are side effects to be aware of, including blistering, discolouration of the skin, swelling, redness, and scarring. Speak to your friendly neighbourhood laser operator about all of this and avoid sunlight while your skin heals.
If the idea of having a stranger inflict pain upon you doesn’t float your boat and you’d prefer to be in control yourself, there is a DIY alternative to traditional salon waxing that could be just what you’re looking for. “Another option is to attempt home waxing,” says Darling. “This is much more cost effective and discrete, however may be more discomforting, as without specialist training it is more likely that the hair will break whilst waxing and you may even experience bruising.” However, if you are determined to make a go of it yourself then you’ll want to grab a mate and find a natural wax that can be heated up before use. Make sure the temperature isn’t too hot and then get your assistant to apply it to the hairy areas, using the wooden stick provided to smooth it in the same direction as the growth. Once you’re all lathered up, your helper can begin applying strips and ripping them off in the opposite direction to growth while you scream and writhe in agony.
Embracing The Fuzz
One final option to consider when it comes to getting to grips with a hairy back is simply to embrace it. Who knows – with a little work, perhaps you could be the man to give gorilla backs the good PR they need, thus creating a new paradigm of male beauty. Seriously though, a bit of back hair is not the be all and end all. If it doesn’t worry you then save yourself the headache and leave it be.