I BLAME Ronaldo. When the absurdly sculpted, smooth-as-marble man-boy started appearing on the sides of buses and on billboards in his Armani boxers last year, the game was up: body hair was no longer part of the male ideal. At least David Beckham, Ronaldo’s predecessor in the Armani ads, looked like he could grow a beard, and sometimes actually did. By comparison Ronaldo, and this year’s model Rafa Nadal, look as though they’ve been moulded from wax. Hair, it seems, is an unsightly imperfection to be got rid of.
Of course, this is in one sense just male body politics – or body fascism, depending on how you feel about follicles – catching up with the female version. And as women well know, keeping those hairs at bay can be a very painful business. Waxing is a shrieking nightmare, and zapping hair follicles to oblivion with a laser is not a lot of fun either. Add to that the fact that, according to Deborah Gayle of Mayfair men’s grooming salon the Refinery, compared to the opposite sex men are, well, wusses.
“Men do seem to have a different pain threshold to women,” she says. “And of course with men you’re often dealing with hair going right across the back and shoulders – there are more areas to cover, and that can be very painful.”
Which is where something called the Soprano comes in. This is a laser with a difference – it doesn’t hurt. Developed with women in mind but just as useful when used on men, it works by deploying a cooling system behind the laser, eliminating the wince-inducing pricks of heat you get with traditional Intense Pulse Light (IPL) laser treatments.
Soprano machines are not exactly thick on the ground at the moment, and the Refinery, which recently introduced the treatment, claims to be the only male-specialist treatment centre offering it in London at the moment. Getting the treatment done there involves a consultation and patch test first, then around six one-hour appointments with a four to six week break between each one.
After that, you’ll look as smooth as Mr Ronaldo if you want to – though as Gayle points out, it isn’t always just a simple case of vanity that brings men under the laser. For the seriously hirsute, tufts of hair emerging from shirt collars, furry shoulders when stripping off at the beach, even hairy fingers when shaking hands, can be the source of crippling embarrassment.
While the chest, abdomen, back, shoulders and buttocks are the most popular areas for zapping, you can take it further. “If you’re after the back, sack and crack treatment, it’s a lot less painful than other methods,” says Gayle.
So. If having a beautician clinically applying a laser to your goolies and other bits where the light doesn’t shine is your idea of reaching macho perfection, go for it. But if you simply want to feel less like a Wookiee when you take off your t-shirt on holiday, you at least don’t have to suffer the agony of a thousand pin pricks to sort it out.
Back and shoulders Soprano laser removal: £325 per session. Customers who pay for the course up front can get six treatments for the price of five. www.the-refinery.com