Believe it or not, one of the most common questions I was asked when I told people I was training for a triathlon was are you going to shave? I found this incredibly amusing given all the other potential difficulties you run into when training for a tri, but I knew it was looming out there. I decided, then and there, that not only would I go the shaving route, but I’d also go for the full wax and give a little comparison. The details on that will follow.
Shaving the Legs and Upper Body
To begin, know that I’m already used to shaving my legs as I started doing it a year or so ago and have gotten quite used to it and the feeling. When asked why I shave my legs, I immediately respond that it’s not related to aerodynamics as I’m not trying to shave seconds off my time. I’m simply not that competitive or in that place with my riding. It’s actually more about function; getting your bibs on and off is much simpler and additionally, if you have ever wrecked and experienced any sort of road rash, then addressing those injuries becomes that much easier, cleaner and faster. I do remember that first leg shave like it was yesterday, so I can provide some level of insight for your first time.
What I do recommend before any of this is a Philips Norelco Body Groomer and while it sounds like I am doing a plug for it, I assure you I am not. This little device will make the entire process a little less painful and it honestly works really, really well. You can use it anywhere on your body and it has two sides allowing you to “trim” or take it all the way down to the skin. This is the perfect start for your shaving experience because it really helps thin everything out a bit. For me, I used this as a first pass and then used a razor to complete it. Its actually so good that many folks will find this to be enough of a shave, but I was committed and it does grow back quicker than a regular shave. Also remember, its not for your face… First, eww and second, what part of “body groomer” didn’t you get?
Next, know that I’m not a particularly hairy guy. I don’t get a lot of hair on my chest, shoulders, back, etc, but I definitely have those patches. The first time I shaved my legs, I did what most guys do and asked my wife (or another female in their life) and she gave me her suggestions. The most important item you have to know is that your legs are nothing like your face, in that your face can take a little more punishment. Your legs never been shaved before so go at it lightly your first few times until you get the hang of it. Also, don’t plan on using the same razor you use on your face on your legs. I know that probably goes without saying, but I also mean the style of razor you’re using. I decided to switch over and use my wife’s razor, with the change blade of course, given that it has a larger surface area and is meant for body parts. Apply the shaving cream liberally to your legs and go about it. The hardest area are your knees because of the contouring, the skin density, etc. Note, if you take your time and actually goes quite smoothly and quickly.
When I started this endeavor and decided to shave my chest and upper body I figured I need to follow the same rules, so I did. The problem I would say is that your upper body is a lot more baby soft then your legs so you need to move even more delicately.The next part to mention is that it’s really difficult to shave your chest because you’ve got to do it in a way where you can see what you’re doing, but also not drip shaving cream and everything else all over the floor. For my first time, I literally stood there in our shower with the curtain open using the bathroom mirror that was 7 to 8 feet away as my guide, needless to say probably not the best choice. The only real challenging areas are around your belly button and your nipples, so be really careful when you are in this area.
I will say, when you’re done the result is pretty astounding. For example, after you first finish your legs, all of a sudden they appear more muscular and you can really see the definition. Just the opposite though, when you shave your upper body you definitely have the sensation of doughboy and that you feel like you’re slightly prepubescent, so its awkward. It’s all in your head of course, but the feeling is definitely there. So after you’re clean-shaven, you get your lotion out (not aftershave!) and you’re done. It’s pretty simple, painless, and it honestly only takes about five minutes.
And Now, Onto The Wax
So after I’d done this a few times, my wife noticed as the hair grew back and because of my cycling bibs that I was experiencing a lot of ingrown hairs and recommended waxing. She goes to one of the newer places, Sugar Me, that does sugar-based waxing, which basically means they use no chemicals or additives. It’s as simple as sugar, water and lemon, and I nodded I would do it and so she set up the appointment for me. To say I had trepidations would be an understatement as I had no idea what to expect going in. Basically, all I could see in my head were scenes from the 40-Year-Old Virgin and YouTube fail videos complete with ripping off huge swatches of hair from my body. I waited a bit until some of the hair had regrown from shaving so there was a pretty solid surface to work with and went into the appointment.
When I got there I really felt out of place as there was definitely a more feminine vibe going on. Things were very floral and there were lots of women’s underwear, so I was intimidated to say the least… That being said the aesthetician was very friendly and talked me through it the entire process. First, she had me remove my shirt and lay on the table. With sugar based waxing, everything is done in very small segments where they apply some wax, let it dry for a few seconds, and then remove it using a glove. I likened it to playing with Elmers glue as a kid and getting it all over your fingers and then peeling it off later. It is warm, but it is not scalding hot, so it’s not like it burns you.
The pain however, is very real, and especially in your most sensitive areas. Particularly, I noticed it on my belly and that’s probably because I still have a little layer of (ahem) protection, not rocking that six pack just yet. It definitely was very sensitive though and thankfully because she kept chatting with me, it took my mind somewhat out of it. I was definitely not all the way out of it and I could imagine my voice changing as I was talking to her, definitely funnier in hindsight. No amount of willpower is going to make you overcome it because they’re literally ripping the hair out of your body at the root. The entire session only took about 15 minutes, like I said I’m not very hairy, and when I was done she applied a coconut oil based lotion to soothe any residual pain. She also recommended exfoliating the area repeatedly over the next few days to keep ingrown hairs to a minimum. Visually it looked exactly like after I had shaved, and felt about the same. So a really solid experience.
One fun byproduct was when I woke up the next morning to a chest covered in small red blotches. I thought it might be a reaction to the coconut oil, but turns out it was because of my skin reacting to having the hair follicles removed for the first time, it happens to most people. It took about four days for this to totally subside and I kept on track with cold showers so as not to increase the redness or response. I would say the real payoff came a week later, and then two weeks later, where the growth had started but was very, very slow. By this time I would’ve had to shave at least 4 to 5 times to maintain the same level, but I haven’t done anything. So in that sense it was really good and worked out pretty well.
Wrapping It Up
Now to the question of whether I would do it again…. I think the answer is yes, but with some caveats. It’s way more expensive than shaving, so the convenience needs to be outweighed by the cost. A normal waxing for your chest will cost you between $50 and $75 at a decent place. So you need to ask yourself if that’s worth the three or four extra shaves you may need within that same timeframe. It’s hard for me to justify that. That being said there is also the zero ingrown hairs, nicks and cuts, etc and that’s a huge benefit.
So in the end, yes waxing hurts quite a bit, especially on the sensitive spots, and I have a newfound respect for all the women who do it. It does lead to some amazing results and I do feel baby soft. I will continue shaving in the meantime because I find that to be the quicker and simpler solution, but I would definitely go back for a wax again. I’m not sure I would go to a non-natural waxing location though simply because I do worry about the junk that’s in their wax and the heat. Oh and lastly, it makes your legs look awesomely buff so at least get those done.
Also, I feel faster already 😉