The business of ‘manscaping’ in York County: ‘Guys are vain, too’

Originally published on Page A1 of the York Daily Record/Sunday News on Sunday, February 27, 2011.

By LAUREN BOYER 
Daily Record/Sunday News

In the mirror, Thomas Arendt cringes at his crow’s feet and the creases around

Thomas Arendt of Spring Grove has Radiesse injected under his skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles at Lebo Skin Care. © 2011 York Daily Record/Sunday News -- Kate Penn

his lips. Over time, they’ve deepened, like cracks in the road.

“Frown like you’re angry,” Bethann Mallon, an aesthetic registered nurse, instructs Arendt before frosting his cheeks with cream to dull the impending pain.

He doesn’t flinch as Mallon pierces his skin one-by-one with syringes filled with wrinkle-reducers — Radiesse, Botox and Juvederm. “I don’t have pain,” Arendt tells Mallon, insisting that the cream isn’t necessary. “You’re going to make me beautiful.”

But there’s no red carpet in Arendt’s future. No catwalks. No cameras.

He is a 74-year-old Spring Grove retiree — a proud grandfather two times over. He works behind the counter of a Tom’s convenience store.

“It’s vanity, I guess,” Arendt says, reclining into a beige chaise at Lébo Skin Care Center in York Township. “Guys are vain, too, whether we admit it or not.”

This same narcissism, once reserved for Hollywood heartthrobs, is jumping off the pages of GQ and into the Average Joe.

The industry shift has more York County men tossing out the “sissy” stigma and heading to places like Lébo, where men account for more than 30 percent of the patient base compared to 5 to 10 percent 11 years ago when the office first opened, said the business’s president, Hillary Lebouitz-Schaefer.

“Every year we get a little bit more,” said Lebouitz-Schaefer, a medical aesthetician. “The media is showing it’s OK for a man to take care of himself. It’s not just a woman thing. It’s an important part of health.”

Most male clients come to Lébo for tattoo removal, she said. But Lebouitz-Schaefer has other clients who seek services ranging from microdermabrasion to spider vein removal, called sclerotherapy.

For procedures unfathomable to previous generations, men unbutton shirts — and occasionally drop trousers — in the name of “ manscaping,” meticulous bodily hedge-trimming.

A daring few remove spare hair down there. It’s called a “Brazilian,” and it’s no longer just for women, said Theresa Haggerty, owner of bare Skin Care & Laser Center in Penn Township.

Haggerty targets this emerging hair removal market. A handful of men gathered to sip beer and learn about her company’s services at her first “Guys Night Out” event on Jan. 27.

“It’s embarrassing,” she said. “Men want to feel free to take their shirts off and not feel intimidated by a jungle of hair.”

Worth the cost

Popular culture reveals a different scene 30 years ago. In the 1980s, bushy bods epitomized manhood, popularized by famous follicles including those of “Magnum, P.I.” star Tom Selleck.

But the early 2000s brought shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” which ushered in the era of the “metrosexual,” a heterosexual man willing to drop hard currency on fashion and excess grooming.

And beauty isn’t cheap.

In Arendt’s case, a face-full of youth could cost about $2,600, Mallon said. Injections on forehead creases alone total between $300 and $400, she said.

One of Haggerty’s clients, Ray Wenzel, 65, of Hanover, spent $500 for three laser sessions to remove brown liver spots from the tops of his hands, which he said, looked like “rotten bananas.”

But the grandfather, a retired Russian linguist for the U.S. Department of Defense, doesn’t view cosmetic procedures as treason against masculinity.

“It was about vanity. What have I else? It wasn’t for health reasons,” Wenzel said. “I acknowledge what it is. It is purely ego.”

According to Haggerty’s website, one laser treatment session can cost $55 to more than $400, depending on the region being zapped.

Laser treatments use variable pulsed light, which interacts with melanin, a pigment found in hair. The light heats the hair and damages the entire follicle, eliminating its ability to grow back.

It is the answer to Jesse Plushanski’s prayers. More than $1,000 later, the once-hairy 41-year-old from Westminster, Md., is “just tweaking things here and there,” he said.

A chef in Gettysburg, Plushanski spent his tax refund last year on five treatments to remove the back hair that’s slowly thickened since he turned 16.

“It just makes me feel better,” he said. “I can go outside without scaring the neighbors. I can walk around without being Sasquatch.”

Shaving, he said, didn’t cut it. “I needed someone to get my back,” he said. “I’m not a contortionist.”

The laser, he said, felt like hundreds of snaps with a warm rubber band. But it’s “worth the discomfort,” added Haggerty, who carved out a permanent mustache on her husband Scott’s face.

He was tired of daily shaving. She was tired of “prickle,” she said, adding that “it interferes with romance.”

‘More styling now’

It’s evident — now more than ever — that beauty is a unisex business, said Angela Watson, spokeswoman for Empire Beauty Schools, an 80-year-old institution that operates 102 locations in 21 states.

The change is reflected in Empire’s slight climb in male enrollment from 8.4 percent in 2008-2009 to 9.6 percent today, Watson said.

In fact, more salon chains, like the athletic-themed Sports Clips, are geared toward male clients, she said. The Pottsville-based academy recognizes the industry’s gender shift in its “Masters of Beauty” program, which helps licensed cosmetologists update their skills for changing fads.

Empire partnered with former TLC network’s “What Not To Wear” hairstyling pro Nick Arrojo to update cosmetologists’ skills, including more and more popular men’s cuts.

At Impressions Hairstyling Salon and Tanning, male clientele has increased from 25 percent to about 40 percent since the shop opened in 1990, owner Lisa Carr said.

Carr doesn’t “color” men’s hair. “Men don’t like that word,” she said. “I call it blending instead.”

She earned her cosmetology license in the 1980s, when many male styles, like fades and clipper cuts, weren’t taught in school, she said.

“There’s more styling now,” she said. Men are learning that appearance means a lot.

A regular at Carr’s salon, Stan Bunsick of Hellam Township isn’t there to get his ears lowered.

The 62-year-old office equipment salesman visits, typically twice a week, to catch some rays — “warm my bones,” he said.

“It makes me feel good,” Bunsick said. “When you feel good, you’re more alive.”

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