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Here’s What Men Are Doing With Their Pubes These Days

We continue to seek out definitive trends in men’s pubic grooming

Let’s start with the stereotypes: Waxing and grooming your pubes is mostly a gay thing; straight men are about as aware of their pubes needing a tune-up as they are of their feelings. But it turns out neither of these things is true — a new study finds that men are close to keeping pace with women in terms of tending to the hair down there, and according to professional waxers and grooming experts, the men who flock to pube grooming services are getting straighter and younger by the minute.

First, the study, published recently in JAMA Dermatology: Out of 7,500 adults surveyed, researchers found that roughly 67 percent of men (compared with 85 percent of women) have attempted grooming down there in some capacity. While many take on this task at home — and the study looked at injuries that landed them in the emergency room as a result — about 4 percent sought out professional services. Interestingly, about 9 percent of those surveyed asked a partner to help with personal pube grooming, and a curious 0.5 percent asked a friend for assistance. (Hey, can you rip this hair out of my butthole, please? I’ll share my Netflix password!)

Unsurprisingly, the hairier the man, the greater the chance of injury. About 24 percent of men reported an injury related to trying to trim pubic hair, and the scrotum takes the biggest hit — some 67 percent of the injuries were on the sack, with 38 percent on the penis. Men also got burns from misguided waxing efforts, as well as rashes, presumably due to rusty or dirty razors or ingrown hairs. Going for a totally bald look was also significantly more likely to result in injury.

These are all good reasons to seek out a pro when ripping hairs out of your junk, so we turned to a few experts to find out what men are going for down there in the first place these days.

Modern male expert Stephan Handisides, who guides men in everything from grooming to etiquette to style via his Bravo series, The Modern Face of Beauty, and the website Modern Male Mindset, says he’s seeing younger men increasingly committed to trimming and shaving their pubic hair. Among the most common questions he fields from readers on his site are from mothers asking whether it’s okay that their sons, aged 14 or 15, are shaving their pubic hair.

“Is it normal that they’re fanatic about shaving their pubic area?” Handisides says of the requests. “So I asked a lot of the younger guys, and some of them told me — when you’re getting changed in the locker room, if it’s not all cleanly shaved down there, it’s a stereotype of you being weird or unhygienic,” he said. “So part of it is the pressures they have at school.”

Handisides says this is a dramatic shift from his own generation, and he’s in his 30s. “Guys today — millennials and even younger, starting at 14 — are manscaping on a completely different level than they were 10 to 20 years ago. Some of them want to be bald as a badger.” [Editor’s note: Yes, we know badgers aren’t bald.]

Michael Pena-Linares, owner of the Los Angeles salon LA Skin, has a highly rated Yelp page thanks to male reviewers who praise his ability to put them at ease in compromising positions. Pena-Linares says there’s no one prevailing trend with male pube grooming, just that’s it definitely happening.

“A lot of it is overlapping,” he says of the trends. Pena-Linares has an interesting perspective because his salon is adjacent to the gay community in West Hollywood, but his clients are a mix of industry people, gay and straight, who make up an eclectic community with one thing in common: looking good.

His salon caters to male models, actors, porn stars, and the like, so there’s an inordinate number of particularly savvy men when it comes to manscaping. Some of them, he says, are very corporate guys who are in party scenes that involve lots of cruises and Speedos. And it comes down not just to individual preference, but also where men are taking their aesthetic cues for pubes.

“You get everything from the 1970s vibe to modern to completely bald,” he says of typical requests for genital grooming. “We customize to what they need. If you’re looking at age brackets, I’d say the younger ones in their 20s and 30s tend to be going for a clean look, with everything off. They want full waxing, what we call the male Brazilian. Older guys, they tend to be the more natural ones, keeping that 1970s look, just grooming the shaft and the scrotum via waxing or shaving. The more corporate male clients might just want a more manicured look.”

According to Handisides, a lot of men end up staring down a waxer after hearing their wives or girlfriends talk about the effort they make to wax and groom regularly. “A lot of women say, ‘We like guys to maintain themselves down there — we make the effort, why can’t they?” he says.

Pena-Linares says his clients’s wives and girlfriends are often getting them in the door, too. But they know what they want when they come in, sometimes bringing in magazines magazines for reference. “They say, I want my hair like this,” he says. “I tell them, well, he doesn’t have a pocket in the pubic area, he has a flat stomach, so we can’t accommodate that.”

Other men come in with a more single-minded concern: They just want to make sure their “cum gutters” look right — the dents caused by ab muscles next to the hipbones. While that’s a particularly next-level move, because more of the Los Angeles salons catering to male grooming are in gay neighborhoods, straight men are venturing out to them to find these services, too.

At another West Hollywood location called Smooth Cheeks, licensed aesthetician Gabriel tells me that straight men are his fastest-growing demographic, alongside younger men and a more diverse range of clients. His clients are no longer just guys over 50 who can afford the services.

“Now I get guys in their 20s, too, and they may come in to see me for just one thing, maybe they can only afford a crotch trim for $45,” Gabriel says. “But I have all financial demographics coming in now, and all demographics — Latin, white, African American, gay, straight.”

And those straight guys, he says, are a delight. “The straight guys who come in to get their butts waxed are just the sweetest guys,” he tells MEL. “Sometimes their wives or their girlfriends make the appointment. Eventually I expect my clientele to be mostly straight,” he said. “They do outnumber us gays.”

His clients want to look or feel sexy for their partners. “These are very professional men,” Gabriel says. “They want everything neat. Their cars, their wardrobe, and their body.” They come in for maintenance or event-specific needs. “Maybe they are going on vacation, or their honeymoon, or having pictures taken,” he said.

And it’s also a boon in the bedroom. “Really, it all comes down to sex,” he says. “Straight guys and gay guys, they all care about the penis. A lot of guys just want it to look just neat and kept, so you don’t have to dig for the penis and try to find it. Some men have really long hair, and if flaccid, you can’t even see the penis. This makes it look as big and as pleasant as possible, the best it can.”

Oftentimes, Gabriel notes, the men who come in have only just been told to consider grooming, because no one ever pointed out before. “You don’t think about it until someone tells you, and then you go, ‘Oh wow, I should have done that a long time ago. I didn’t even know it was a thing.”

Handisides echoes that sentiment for himself. “When I was growing up, it never crossed my mind that I needed to do any manscaping,” he says. He advises his male clients that keeping things neat and trim down there is just a baseline rule. “It just needs to be really nicely maintained down below,” he says, whether that preference is totally bald or something more natural.

Handisides says if you’re going to shave at home, a hot bath first is a good idea, followed by aloe vera or shaving products to take the hair off. But if you’re just trimming, you want the area to be completely dry. You can use scissors, but given the proliferation of those injuries, he recommends the trimmers that are now made specifically for trimming pubic hair. “It’s easier and it’s safer.”

Handisides says he tells every guy he counsels that there are five things women look at immediately on a first date: Shoes, eyes, smile/teeth, hands and fingernails, and hair. “That’s referring to the hair on the head,” he says, “but hair anywhere has to be nicely maintained, whether it’s down there, or coming out of your nose or ears.”

Los Angeles, of course, has a hyper-promotional appearance-obsessed vibe, so I wondered what a more middle-American dude might want down there. So I took my questions far away from the big city to my former home of Nashville, where even progressives still evolve at a slower pace. When I asked my friends where they’d go to get “manscaped” in Music City, most of them laughed, or didn’t even know what I meant. “Do what?” a motorcycling photographer friend asked in response.

Turns out there are a few places that offer some male grooming, but Wax Nashville, in wildly gentrified East Nashville, is the only salon that offers full body and intimate grooming for men. How many straight dudes come in wanting pube maintenance?

Turns out, a lot. Daly McPherson, manager at Wax Nashville, says her clientele is half male, and by and large, straight guys, who want sack to crack care. Some of them are gym guys or UFC fighters who want frictionless bodies. Some of them are surgeons at nearby Vanderbilt University who spend long hours on their feet and don’t want to be distracted by itchy hair regrowth while concentrating. But outside of that, her clients are a range of ages, in every profession, who want everything down there eliminated for aesthetics or cleaniness.

“My youngest client is probably 25,” McPherson said by phone. “My oldest is 65. They both want everything off. Front to back, inside crack, butt cheeks, scrotum.”

Here, too, it’s mostly wives or girlfriends pointing these men to the service. “They’re just getting into trimming or shaving every day, and realize this is easier, quicker, and lasts a lot longer. They mostly use trimmers, but having to shave near the testicles is tricky. And when they go to razors, they get ingrown hairs and breakouts.”

Most of her clients come in very nervous that it’s going to hurt like hell, usually off stories from their female friends or partners who say it’s wincingly painful. “They all think it’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” she said. “But they always say it’s not that bad.”

Wax Nashville offers two specials that their male clients tend to go for. The Brozilian — taking everything off, front to back — or a lighter version they call the Nashvillian. “We leave a little bit on the top, that’s bigger than a guitar pick but that same circular shape,” she explains. “We take everything from the shaft to the scrotum to the sides, all the way to the backside. So if you don’t want it all off, you get the Nashvillian.”

But even men who do come in a little sheepish about going all the way are easily convinced in getting their backside done, she says, when she explains the main benefit. “I usually convince them to do the the anus area and the crack because it doesn’t hurt,” she said. “And they like it because of the cleanliness. Men are hairier back there. It’s a cleanliness thing.”

And increasingly, it’s simply a social pressure thing and a changing times thing. Gabriel at Smooth Cheeks says that his clients tell him that, if for no other reason, they see older men who don’t do any grooming and don’t want that to be their future.

“Guys tell me, I don’t want to be that old guy in the locker room, that old man with the hairy back,” he says. “A lot of men cringe at this thought, just being that old guy walking around butt-naked with all that hair.”