A hairy situation
July 8, 2008 10:37 AM   Subscribe

I'm a woman with a close guy friend who has a LOT of back hair. He has decided he wants to get it removed, and has asked me for help.

I know there are different alternative methods for this (i.e., wax, shaving, hair removal lotions/creams), but I'm at a loss as to which method would be best. He is in his late 30s, and has never had this hair removed. While his entire back is hairy, the majority of the "real hairiness" is concentrated in 4 sectors of his back: the upper left and right shoulder areas and the lower left and right lower-back area. These areas are about 6"- 8" in diameter, and the hair in these areas is approx. 1/2" long.

I will be helping him with this, because, let's face it, this is not something that anyone could physically do on their own. I purchased a couple of tubes of Hansen for Men Hair Removal Lotion (which specifically mentions it's for removal of back hair, among other things). I have used hair removal lotions on me over the years with no problems, so I thought that this would be a good route to take. Here are my specific questions:

*Is hair removal lotion a good method to remove all this hair the first time around? If it's not, what is?

*Does the hair grow back any quicker depending on which hair removal method is used?

*Some people have mentioned using "hard wax." I'm not sure I could handle doing this to him--wouldn't it hurt (him) like hell?

*Is there any technique/device he will be able to use after the initial hair removal so he can handle upkeep and maintenance on his own?

*Any omigods, or DO NOT EVER DO THIS(es) that any of you can share are greatly appreciated.

Thanks, hivemind!!
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Any method other than waxing or laser removal is going to create stubble within a day or two, and I would imagine that the back would be a particularly uncomfortable place to have stubble. If I were a guy with back hair, I would get it professionally waxed the first time, and then let my female friend help me out with maintenance using wax strips from the drugstore from there on. The first time will be the hardest and a skilled waxer will be able to minimize the pain.
posted by HotToddy at 10:46 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'll have to chime in for my brother here and say not to wax your friend's back. My brother is a somewhat furry fellow, and a couple of his college (female) friends decided it would be fun (what?) to wax his back. He was getting attention from ladies, so he went along with it. Well, the video that they made (nice friends) shows him screaming like a girl and biting on a towel, and he told me it was one of the dumbest things he ever did. So, there's that.

What he does now is take a beard trimmer on the shortest setting and has his girlfriend buzz him down. He can reach most parts, so he's able to do it on his own most of the time. Not completely hair-free, but painless and easy to maintain. Run that by your friend and see if that's something he would prefer/consider.
posted by phunniemee at 10:47 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Waxed hair can grow back thicker.
posted by theredpen at 10:49 AM on July 8, 2008

Mangroomer -> Best Thing Ever.

...and the stubble isn't really that bad.
posted by unexpected at 10:51 AM on July 8, 2008

If I were a guy with back hair, I would get it professionally waxed the first time, and then let my female friend help me out with maintenance using wax strips from the drugstore from there on. The first time will be the hardest and a skilled waxer will be able to minimize the pain.

Agreed. Go to a place that has a "sensitive skin" wax or a similar alternative.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:57 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't do it yourself. Take your male friend to an actual place that is familiar with back waxing (and you will want to get it waxed - nair and hair removal lotions aren't effective when there is an extremely large amount of hair to remove) and allow a professional to do it. They will know the proper technique to minimize pain and the right materials to use.

The thing about waxing is that the more you do it, the less the hair will grow back. And when it does grow back, the hair will be thin and fine and less problematic for your friend.

However, to answer your questions...

Does the hair grow back any quicker depending on which hair removal method is used?

Hair on your back is like hair on your legs. Depending on which method you use, does your hair grow back at different rates? Different textures? The same applies to his back. Wax will be the most effective way for him to remove large piles of hair and for it to not grow back as fast as other methods of hair removal (not including lasers, etc).

Some people have mentioned using "hard wax." I'm not sure I could handle doing this to him--wouldn't it hurt (him) like hell?

If the hair is coarse and filled with stubble, hard wax will be able to get rid of it. If not, use a softer wax. Also get your guy friend to scrub his back with a loofah or other brushes to remove dead skin and to help clean the skin for wax removal. He'll get a better wax that way.

Is there any technique/device he will be able to use after the initial hair removal so he can handle upkeep and maintenance on his own?

Well, if he's completely bendable and can use mirrors and other contraptions to see his own back from all angles, then he can wax himself. However, since this isn't the case, the only real maintence he can do is possible tweeze stray hairs that he can reach but he'll need to regularly wax his back and he'll need help doing that.

Any omigods, or DO NOT EVER DO THIS(es) that any of you can share are greatly appreciated.

If you do wax him, pull hard and fast. Do not wait around or pull slowly thinking it hurts less - that causes it to hurt more. And when you're done, if his back is red, some light moisturizer can help the healing process.
posted by Stynxno at 10:58 AM on July 8, 2008

I'm not sure that a depilatory is the best bet for (presumably) thick back hair. Honestly, for his first time, I'd take him to a professional salon and have him waxed. A higher end salon, not the cheap place on the corner.

If he really isn't up for waxing, I'd go the shaving route as others have suggested.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:04 AM on July 8, 2008

I have to agree with HotToddy - have him go to a professional waxer. It will also be a longer period of time before the hair starts coming in again vs shaving or lotions.
posted by All.star at 11:04 AM on July 8, 2008

Waxed hair can grow back thicker.

No, wrong.
posted by electroboy at 11:10 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

as a person who has a "friend" with this problem, how much does it cost, generally in the US to get this done? and how often would a person have to go in?
posted by Amby72 at 11:12 AM on July 8, 2008

I used hair removal cream (of the sort I use happily on my legs all the time) on a hairy back once. It was tricky to get every bit of hair off, but the results were very. The downside? Mayor ingrown hairs and irritated follicles afterward. It's possible that would lessen if he'd kept at it, but eek, the mad epidemic of irritated red bumps on his back was kind of sad.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:21 AM on July 8, 2008

Waxed hair can grow back thicker.
posted by theredpen

Utterly false.
posted by Grither at 11:32 AM on July 8, 2008

Hair removal lotions give patchy, unsatisfactory results. I tried a bunch and went back to shaving.

Do not wax your friend's back if you want to keep him as a friend.

I used to indulge my miserly tendencies by buying home-wax kits and trying to do my own bikini. Results: patchy removal, gritting my teeth, much bleeding, seriously ugly spreading bruises over the whole area. Happened every single time - you see those home wax kits are just not good quality. The wax doesn't all stick to the cloth, and often will just let stubborn hairs slide through, which means redoing areas over and over again, which means pain and bruising. Even if they were good quality products, neither you nor I are trained in the best methods of ripping off those little cloths, which makes all the difference.

Once I went to a salon and paid like $40 to have it done, there was no going back. Because they have superior materials and expertise, each patch came off so quickly that there was only an initial gasp of "ouch" and then it was over. And they never had to redo anything, which meant that while I had been suffering for like an hour, they were done in five to ten minutes. Happy groin. :)

So anyway, tell him to go to a salon for his own sake. It doesn't hurt all that much *if it's done right*, but otherwise it's hell. And it will probably only cost $40-$60 every 6-8 weeks.

If he's not interested in waxing, I would say your best option is helping him keep it trimmed down with a beard trimmer.

Another option, if he's loaded, is laser treatment. It takes about 6 sessions, at a few hundred a pop, but it's permanent.
posted by GardenGal at 11:34 AM on July 8, 2008

I purchased a couple of tubes of Hansen for Men Hair Removal Lotion

Does he have sensitive skin? If he doesn't know, do a test patch. If he says he doesn't, do a test patch anyway. If he has a reaction to the stuff, at least it'll only be in a small area. A chemical burn across the majority of his back isn't going to be fun for either one of you: he'll be in pain for a few days and you'll feel like shit for having done it to him.

It should be included in the instructions, but you should trim the hair shorter before slathering on the stuff. Less hair to dissolve (or whatever those nair-like things do), less goo to apply, less chance of a bad burn.

Any omigods, or DO NOT EVER DO THIS(es) that any of you can share

See the above about chemical burns across one's entire back.

If I were to do something like that again, I'd opt for waxing. Temporary shriek-inducing pain would be orders of magnitude better than a couple days of constant pain and ruined sleep whenever I rolled onto my back.
posted by CKmtl at 11:35 AM on July 8, 2008

Laser it off. It costs more but it is cheaper than anything else, long term.
posted by tadellin at 11:53 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Another voice for professional waxing. His first visit can cost a little more than maintainance visits, depending on how thick his foliage is. Pricing for waxing ranges widely, but I'd say the average for large metropolitan city on the west coast is $40-70 for the full back, with most waxing estheticians charging between $60-65. Remember, they have a lot of area to cover. By comparison, underarms usually cost $10-20, lower legs $15-25, full legs $25-45, and brazilians cost $50-80.

Find someone with good reviews and lots of experience. It isn't a big deal, and though the sensation will be new and therefore more painful for him, it should not be shriek-inducing (I have waxed various parts of my body for nearly ten years and have given two men partial or full back waxes). Ask if you can be present during the waxing, watch carefully what s/he does.

The good news is that after that first encounter, waxing backs is relatively easy (though always sticky and messy, be prepared). The skin is generally taut and firm and easy for a novice to do. Go to your local Sally beauty supply and pick up a waxing kit, which should consist of microwavable wax, tongue depressors, and muslin strips. Have some oil handy to clean up messes, it seems to be the only thing that will get stray bits of wax off you.

Practice on yourself (assuming you're a girl)- try your legs first. Heat the wax up with something disposable underneath it (it will leak and wax is hard to get off things), when it is hot enough that it is still viscous but stirs easily and drips off the tongue depressor, it is probably the right temp. Check by touching it to your wrist. Swirl up a dollop on your tongue depressor, spread it thinly on your leg using it as you would a butter knife. Do not put too much wax on. Smooth on the piece of muslin, press it down for a moment, then pull it off against the direction of hair growth. As long as there isn't too much wax on your leg, it will come off cleanly. Too much wax = pulls off painfully leaving wax and hairs on your leg. If you do this, patiently keep trying to get it off or use the oil to remove it. Don't wax more than 2-3 times in a certain spot, even if you're unable to get all the hair. Leave it and come back another time otherwise you'll irritate the skin (this hurts). You can reuse the muslin strips, depending on how much wax you use.

Personally, the hair remover goop has never worked for me or anyone I know. Give it a try, but if it doesn't work, consider waxing.
posted by arnicae at 11:58 AM on July 8, 2008

How dense it it? Is it bad because it's long hair on his back, or is it bad because it's thick/dense? If it's just long hair then shaving (with an electric razor) to a much shorter length (but not all the way gone) will help a lot, and may be all that's needed. Going all the way to skin can cause stubble/ingrown hairs.

If it's thick/dense, then shaving won't help - it'll just be neatly trimmed carpet on his back instead of shaggy, but still bad. Then you get to go waxing...
posted by jpeacock at 12:00 PM on July 8, 2008

PS - a friend is doing laser right now, and having pretty good results. *If* he is interested in doing laser, make sure he is in the class of individuals it works on (dark hair and pale skin works best - blonds and redheads usually find laser ineffectual) and make sure he does a lot of research on which laser he thinks will work best for him.

Most of the cheap-o places use IPL 'lasers'- which aren't even lasers! IPL, or Intense Pulse Light is used by many of the chain hair removal providers. What's good about IPL is that it is less invasive, so while you're much less likely to have any hair removed, you're also far less likely to be burned by a poorly trained operator. FYI, in California (where I live) you must be a nurse or doctor to perform laser hair removal. Beware places that don't use nurses to administer the laser.

From my research, it seems like alexandrite lasers, diode lasers, and Nd:Yag are most likely to be effective at reducing hair. Nd:Yag seem to be more appropriate with people with darker toned skin because it penetrates more deeply, and alexandrite lasers such as the Candela: GentleLase seem to be best for pale-skinned people

But it is expensive and the costs estimates vary widely- some charge by the pulse, some by the inch, some by the area, and some by the hour. All offer substantial discounts if you buy a package deal. Make sure you do some comparison cross-checking before committing to a certain laser provider.
posted by arnicae at 12:11 PM on July 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

If you get any hair-removal lotion on your fingernails, wash it off right away. It'll soften your nails in a few minutes.
posted by wryly at 1:47 PM on July 8, 2008

My ex was a hairy guy and we used to tend to this for trips to the beach. Not a long term solution, but a good enough one. I would take hair clippers to his back first to shorten the hair (lowest setting) then shave it with cream, a fresh razor, a wash cloth & a sink full of warm water. No hair removal creams ever did the job well enough (believe me- we tried them all). And waxing was never pretty.
posted by MayNicholas at 2:41 PM on July 8, 2008

I wrote: Waxed hair can grow back thicker.

Grither wrote: Utterly false.

Grither, that article is debunking the myth that shaving hair causes it to grow back thicker. I am stating what is true for some -- not necessarily all -- people. Shaving hair does not affect the follicle. Removing hair by yanking it out (waxing or tweezing) may cause it to grow back darker and thicker by stimulating the hair follicle. I'm living proof.

Just trust me. Don't incorrectly contradict me on this one or I will show you my luxuriant chin hairs!
posted by theredpen at 4:30 PM on July 8, 2008

I waxed my legs for years, and I now have two areas on my legs where the hair hasn't grown back. I also found that the hair that has grown back is finer. So from my personal experience I would agree that hair that's waxed grows back denser and finer.
posted by cleo at 4:49 PM on July 8, 2008

I uh, actually like the feeling of having my back waxed. Nair makes a microwave glide on thinger that feels damn good going on and really not bad on the coming off. The downside is that the goo on the roller dries fast, and it has a tendency to pinch your skin in the roller as it gets cooler. Solution: keep a warm moist towel nearby and wipe it off before you start each time. We only stopped because apparently the concept of going side-by-side-by-side and not willy-nilly-here-then-there just doesn't make any sense to my girlfriend, and it results in strange little patches of hair.

But yea, I like it. I hate pain, not a masochist or into BDSM in the tiniest slightest way, but it's exhilarating to have your back waxed. Of course, I also thought that getting shocked by that electric fence as a kid felt kinda good too. Really I think it's the flush of endorphins after each strip.
posted by TomMelee at 7:56 PM on July 8, 2008

Mice that have had their hair chemically removed tend to absorb more chemicals than shaved mice. Ever since I learned this little tidbit, I´ve been a bit wary of Nair and other chemical hair removal products. I would be especially wary of the Hansens if his work or hobbies bring him into contact with any substances you wouldn´t want to eat, or if he´s into roasting his own chilies, planning on doing jello wrestling, or even going to the beach.
posted by yohko at 9:06 PM on July 8, 2008

Out of nowhere, a college roommate gravely warned me against letting one's girlfriend shave one's back. Really, I didn't even have a girlfriend!

He said it itched like hell.
posted by NortonDC at 10:09 PM on July 8, 2008

All that stuff about growing back thicker is bunk but beyond that everyone is different. The only permanent removal methods are electrolysis and possibly laser. Everything else will grow back, and possibly quite quickly.

Removal methods that pull out the entire hair (waxing) have a high risk of causing ingrowns. Shaving can also cause ingrowns though they usually aren't as bad as a waxing ingrown. Depilatory cremes are less likely to cause ingrowns but have a high risk of causing actual burns.

I've had my back waxed once. I had the worst case of ingrown hair in my entire life. My back itched non-stop for months until everything grew back out. No matter what method you try, I'd advise you to go slowly and do small test treatments to see if he can handle them.
posted by chairface at 10:20 AM on July 9, 2008

The wikipedia articles on IPL and Laser Hair removal are reasonably informative - if you really want to know more then they include links to the papers that have reviewed the technology.
posted by rongorongo at 2:05 AM on July 25, 2008

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