Pictured: Walter Savage | Photography by Greg Vaughn for Out.
I have always been a hairy guy. So every summer, when it’s time to throw off my shirt and suck in my gut, I always hid in my bathroom with my electric razor and buzzed off my back and shoulder hair, a feat that has earned me extreme flexibility. My chest and abdominal hair isn’t ever an issue; in fact, I have completely shaved all of that off, too, just to see how I would feel (I felt—and looked—like a child, by the way), but now I just tend to groom those hairs so they aren’t too wild.
But as for my back and shoulders, I have always been extremely self-conscious that hair. I prefer collared shirts so that I don’t have to keep pulling the front of the shirt so hide the hair on my neck. I toss a towel around my shoulders in the gym locker room so that the other guys don’t have to see what kind of beast I truly am. Don’t get me wrong: I'm not covered in hair. I just don’t like it on the back of my neck, shoulders, and back. I just don’t find it attractive. And as my friend said to me over drinks, “It’s not like I can see the hair coming out from under your sleeves.”
Regardless, I decided that I wanted to actually get my back and shoulders waxed. Sure, I could keep on shaving every other week in my bathroom, but the promise of waxing is a bit more lasting than shaving and, call me a masochist, but I wanted to actually experience the waxing itself.
So I contacted Enrique Ramirez, owner and service practitioner of Face to Face day spa. I told him I was both excited and anxious about the experience. I always heard that I should knock back an Advil or two at least an hour before, so that the pain wouldn’t be so bad, and that I should avoid drinking beforehand. Apparently, listening to music or reading a magazine to distract myself would help as well. The bottom line, as Enrique reminded me, is that I was going to have hair ripped from my skin. This will hurt.
And it did.
Luckily, I had knocked back two Advil an hour before.
When I got to Face to Face, I took off my shirt and lied facedown on the waxing table and felt as if I was about to receive some sort of medieval punishment. Is this really what I have to go through to feel comfortable? I thought to myself. If I can’t have a drink before, then I’m going to need one after. The wax felt like warm, thick butter being smeared across my lower back. That part was comforting, until, you know, the paper was applied and then ripped.
At first, the feeling is a surprise. I felt as if I was smacked hard, maybe with a rubber band or something else elastic. As the waxing progressed up my back, where the thicker more dense patches of hair were, the pain, obviously, was much more intense. I felt as if getting quick, thin cuts along my backside. I was sweating into the paper between me and the table, clutching the sides of the wooden table, remembering to take breaths between each rip. Only at the back of my neck, where I rest the bar during squats, where the most tender of skin lies, did I quickly wail. The pain is quick, then it’s gone.
Between waxing the different sections of my back, Enrique applied a soothing lotion that he later gave me at the end of the session. He highly recommended immediately going home to take a lukewarm, not hot, shower and then applying Brave Soldier Antiseptic Healing Oinment (1 oz, $15) all over my back after the shower and for the following 24 hours.
During this timeframe, it’s also highly recommended to avoid the gym and working out entirely, since sweating will irritate the already irritated pores. For similar reasons, it's a good idea to avoid saunas and steam rooms, too.
After the initial day of recovery —which involved me sleeping on my stomach so the fan could blast my back all night, wearing a loose-fitting shirt the next day, and clenching my teeth whenever someone on the train accidently bumped into my back— I sprayed my back with a tea tree oil spray —try Lush Tea Tree Water (3.3 fl. oz., $9.95)—, which helps both alleviate pain and redness, and also avoid ingrown hair. Some portions of my back had broken out into little whiteheads by day four, but I used a gentle facial cleanser, like Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash (1.17 fl. oz., $6.99) to help clear those blemishes.
I don’t regret my experience. The waxing may have hurt, but the pain was only temporary, and now I think my back looks great. I’m stealing glances in the locker room mirrors, and actually more than ready to throw off my shirt without having to run to the bathroom with my razor first. So, guys, I’m calling you out: if you have hair that’s annoying you —or your partner!— I highly recommend getting waxed. Just do it. Your back will thank you later.