By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Imagine a life this sad and lonely: Every day, people conspire to get rid of you. They stare contemptuously, plotting your demise. Will you be cut? Burned? Shot with a laser until you are incinerated in a sulfuric cloud of dust? You are excessive, unnecessary. You are unwanted hair.
With summer on the horizon, beachgoers are booking up slots at beauty salons to rid themselves of their uncomely winter fur. New technologies are constantly offered to ease the Sisyphean trials of growth and removal.
Companies like SoftLight promise the latest, allegedly most painless treatments. Customers get smoothed down with a cool, K-Ytype jelly (actually a carbon-rich light-absorbing lotion), after which a wand-wielding attendant zaps them with dime-sized pulses of laser light. Problem is, you have to keep going back. But there may be no need to blow all the margarita money on trips to the Vanishing Point. Newfangled hair wares are sharpened, revved, and ready for the living room.
Judith Stephens, a nutritionist in Dallas, Texas, has spent the past decade perfecting what she says is the country's only FDA-approved home electrolysis kit. After reading several plaintive Ann Landers columns about women with unruly mustaches, Stephens, who claims to be a distant relative of Thomas Edison, set to work.
The result: the Guaranty Hair Removal System. Instead of forcing you to jab yourself with icky electric needles, the GHR fries hairs using tiny high-powered tweezers. The skin is swabbed down with softening agents, and then the tweezers grip the hairs and send small galvanic currents right down to the nasty roots.
Stephens is not a customer herself; she says she's one of the few "weirdos" who don't have unwanted hair problems. But she says that GHR is popular with women and men. Also, she adds, her product is making waves with the transgender crowd. But post-op men might have trouble neutralizing their beards.
"Body hair is the easiest to kill," Stephens explains. "Beard and neck hairs are a bit more difficult because they come from the gonads." Come again? "It's a hormone thing," she says. "Gonads are functioning at a slightly higher level [than other hair-producing organs], which means it takes longer to kill your beard."
Right. Of course it's one thing to kill a beard; it's another to snip those hairs inside your nose. Because nasal infections have a clear path to the brain, plucking the little buggers can be deadly (if you survive, though, the head rush is pretty awesome). Once again, the gadget mecca of Americathe Sharper Imagehas come to the rescue, with the Turbo-Groomer: a stealthy and stylish power trimmer that blades your fuzz at 4000 revolutions per minute. There's even a built-in light to illuminate your blowholes on the sly (just the kind of ingenuity you've come to expect from the company behind the Electric Tongue Cleaner, "a fun item that does exactly what we say it does," says company spokesperson Lou Soucie: "It scrapes your tongue").
If the Groomer isn't practical enough, the Sharper Image has been touting its ionization technology, which obliterates stench in shoes, closets, or, yes, even your coif. Soucie says that one of the company's most popular items these days is the Ionic Hair Wand. The big steel brush looks just mod enough to have been squeezed into your back pocket in an early-'80s junior high. This battery-operated gizmo emits electrically charged ions that smooth the surrounding cuticles of hair strands, as well as remove schmutz and/or happy-hour smoke lingering in your hair.
Still, there are plenty of humans who prefer their grooming the low-tech way. Gary Flinn, the webmaster behind the Electric Shaver Page (iavbbs.com/gflinn/INDEX.HTM), has created a forum for power-razor enthusiasts. Here, connoisseurs reminisce about their first Norelco triple-head models or dis the biaxial cutting action of the Grundig Roltronic Pro.
After 70 years on the market, the electric shaver remains the most convenient way to shed foliage with the least amount of hassle, money, and blood, Flinn says. And the innovations keep getting better, as in some of the new high-end models, which, he says, "feature a blade arrangement so the shaving action is similar to that of an old-fashioned rotary lawn mower."
So be it. In the name of progress, I'm going to mow my face.