I Tried It: My Very First (And Last) Chest Wax

It was great, except for the pain, the rash, and the stubble that grew up after.


The nipples. The nipples are where I think it all went bad. I can’t remember. It’s all just a foggy, pain-filled memory now.

Or maybe it all went bad before that — like at the precise moment I agreed to have my chest waxed in the first place. Take one look at me and you’ll pretty quickly discern I’m not really the kind of guy who gets a regular wax: I’m chunky, and recently ended a half-decade of freelance writing, so my wardrobe consists mostly of blue jeans and black T-shirts. My hair is generally trim and so are my nails, but I’m not at all fashionable — I don’t live anywhere near the Realm of Metrosexuality. Chest waxes? Those are for guys with extra cash to drop and a bit more style than I’ve ever demonstrated.

Still, when the call went out at Philly Mag for men to test local “manscaping” establishments, I volunteered. Why? A couple of reasons. First: The adventure — part of the fun of journalism is getting, occasionally to do and see things close up that other people either can’t or won’t do. I’ve been in police chases, presidential motorcades, and more. It’s more fun to say “yes” to new experiences than to fear them.

Right? One problem: Some experiences are meant to be feared.

Macho man

There may have been a bit of pure macho-ness involved. Like a lot of people, my only previous experience of “male chest wax” was watching Steve Carrell undergo the procedure in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Exaggeration, I thought. Hyperbole for comic effect.

I won’t name the Center City spa where I got my wax. Everybody was nice there, but it’s the kind of place more suited to tea-drinking Oprah acolytes than it is for manscapers. I was greeted, stretched out on the table, and my waxer went to work.

Thing is: The hairs on your chest? They don’t just grow on your body. They’re rooted in it. Have you ever weeded a garden? Do you know how tough it is to pull out a weed by its roots? This is the same thing, pretty much, only with hundreds. The wax was hot, and each rip a new master course in pain.

I didn’t curse. I looped my thumbs into my pants and gritted my teeth and tried not to cry. After about the fifth riiiip of hair from my chest, it became a spiritual experience, like walking on hot coals. I imagined myself a Klingon going through a pain stick gauntlet to prove my strength and ability to handle suffering.

And then, suddenly, it was over. The nice lady gave me some advice on how to handle the next couple of days, rubbed some soothing oil onto my chest, and I went home. Called my editor and left her a voice mail consisting mostly of me cursing.

That evening, per instructions, I took a warm shower and gently washed my chest.The next morning, I woke up with a rash: Thousands of angry red, pimply whiteheads where my chest had been.

It was not sexy. I thought the point of a chest wax was to be sexy, right?

Long story short, by the time the rash finally cleared up a few days later, the hair was already growing back: Less than a week after I’d waxed, my chest became awash in five-o-clock shadow. I’ve been itchy a week now.

Which means, ultimately, that I had just a couple of hours with a beautiful, freshly waxed chest. It wasn’t me. I poked and prodded my flesh; it felt like the fake skin of a doll more than it did my own skin. I didn’t feel groomed; I felt denuded.

I’d like to say I’m just too much a guy’s guy to really take to waxing, but I know better than that. What I also know: One adventure was enough. I’ll never have my chest waxed again.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.