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Extreme manscaping

More men are taking the hair off ... all of it

June 05, 2012|By Mick Swasko, RedEye

The groom who wants the initials of his bride-to-be emblazoned in jewels near his nether region.

The man who orders a full Brazilian wax (except for a "landing strip" dyed electric blue).

The couple who compete over the bling they have adhered to their lower abdomens.

Melodi Serna, general manager at Tease Salon and Spa in Pilsen, has seen it all. And she's not judging.

While male grooming and manscaping has been an accepted practice for years, the idea of a full Brazilian—or the removal of all pubic hair using hot wax—has seen a surge in only the past two or three.

Men in Chicago—straight and gay alike—are increasingly opting for specialty grooming services that until recently might have been considered taboo or for women only, specialists say. Serna, for example, has seen requests for pubic waxes rise 60 percent during the past year.

On top of that, some guys are going a step further and ordering a procedure in which glitter tattoos, colorful dyes or small jewels are applied around their genitals. Serna said appointments for that technique—known alternately as bedazzling, manjazzling or pejazzling—are scheduled in her shop about once a week.

And while specific statistics on the waxing industry's male clientele aren't available, Serna's experience is hardly unique.

Whether a reflection of media images of hairless men, a reaction to a significant other's requests for a smoother treatment or just a matter of general hygiene, the male Brazilian is big business, according to salon workers around Chicago.

Prices for the service vary. At Tease, it costs about $55 for Brazilian waxing, with additional bedazzling services starting at $15.

"Men are just being more conscious of grooming," said Collete Green, owner of Collete Salon and Spa in the Gold Coast, adding that there's no real target demographic for the service. "A lot of times people associate gay men [with] getting Brazilian waxing, but all men are getting waxing services."

Green said male clients have ordered waxes since the spa opened 18 years ago, but it's only been in the past three years that demand has climbed. Three years ago, the spa saw a couple of appointments for male Brazilians per-month. Now, Green has about five booked per week. She even has a dedicated staff member who specializes in the service. Beyond the pubic waxing, chest, leg, shoulder and back waxing also are popular, she said. Many times, men come in for one service and end up adding more.

"If you want your cheeks, that's extra," she said.

Julio Mendez, 32, of Ravenswood considers his waxes as common as a haircut.

"I think it's not necessarily a vanity thing, its leaning toward hygiene and cleanliness," he said, adding that he's been waxing regularly since he first had it done while in school to become an aesthetician 14 years ago. He said he's never been embarrassed to have the treatment done, except for one failed attempt to try to wax himself.

And though some men choose to keep quiet, he said finding a trusted professional and sticking with them, as he has, is the best way to ensure a good experience.

"You want to find someone you trust to do it; if not, it can be a big disaster," he said.

Mendez says he sees all types of men getting the procedure at the Chicago Male Salon in Lakeview, but one thing remains the same: The process doesn't come without a little pain.

"There's some guys where they've had a Brazilian and they are climbing the walls [in pain]," he said. "And others who are fine."

That's where some tricks of the trade come in. Most salon owners recommend taking a few Tylenol before a wax but say to avoid the temptation to have a few drinks, as alcohol thins the blood. For the particularly squeamish—like those who might get hives from anticipatory nerves—an antihistamine also can help. Men also should avoid trimming or manscaping for at least several weeks before making an appointment, and make sure they're clean and showered the day of the wax.

But it's not for everyone. While Green says most men say they enjoy the "clean" feeling a Brazilian provides, some men say a full wax goes too far.

"I can understand where there needs to be manscaping, but I don't understand where all the sudden the idea that men need to be smooth came from," said Michael Roche, 35, of Wicker Park. Roche said he pays close attention to his grooming habits and has regularly gotten back and shoulder waxes for years. But the idea of a full wax—or getting the bedazzled treatment—isn't for him.

"If I wanted my junk to look like Elton John circa 1977, I suppose I would do it," he said. "I don't think it's wrong, it's just definitely not for me."

Despite the naysayers, Serna said she's made skeptics into believers.

"We tell men, once you get waxed, you never go back," she said.

A (very) short history of pejazzling

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