Apr 292013

Hair removal is no longer the preserve of women. Hairy chests, once seen as very masculine, are no longer fashionable, having been replaced by stubble on the chin as a sign of masculinity. So how can chest hair be removed? You can either break it down chemically or pull it out by its roots.

Hair relies on sulfur-to-sulfur bonds for its structure and strength. Break these bonds chemically and the hair is weakened and becomes detached from its follicles and so can be wiped away once the chemical reactions have taken place. The chemicals that react and break the sulfur bonds are those with a high pH, such as calcium hydroxide, aka slaked lime, Ca(OH)2, or sodium hydroxide, aka caustic soda, NaOH. Some hair-removal creams are based on potassium and calcium thioglycolate which carry out the same chemical reaction.

The alternative method of hair-removal is to use a body waxing strip of the kind employed by women to remove hair from their legs. These consist of three components: (1) a wipe to clean and deaden the area to be depilated; (2) a gummy strip to remove the hair; and (3) a wipe to clean the skin afterwards.

The first step can also desensitise the skin if the wipe is impregnated with menthol (aka 2-isopropyl-5-methylcyclohexanol) which makes the skin feel cooler by triggering its cold-sensitive receptors. It might also contain kava extra which comes from a Pacific plant that contains molecules that have a numbing effect on the skin.

Then comes the painful bit, the waxing strip. This relies on triethylene glycol rosinate which is a tacky viscous glue to which hairs adhere strongly, and strong enough for them to be pulled from their roots when the strip is peeled off. It is manufactured from gum rosin, which comes from pine tree oil. The glue also contains anti-inflammatory chemicals

Finally there is the soothing and finishing wipe to remove traces of the glue. This will contain things like vitamin E, almond oil, and an antimicrobial agent such as BHT (aka butylhydroxytoluene).

Or you could just shave your chest as necessary, which now appears to be mandatory for men who appear topless on television.