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Tips for Waxing Newbies from Chicago’s First Male Esthetician

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When Julio Mendez graduated from Pivot Point International beauty academy nearly 17 years ago, he was the first male in Chicago to ever receive an esthetician license. In November, he finally realized his dream of opening a salon for and by men—a rare gem in an industry that is still dominated by female practitioners. “It takes a special person to pop pimples and rip hair off people,” says Mendez sitting inside his polished and buffed Wax Man Spa.

“It’s a seemingly feminine job to do facials and waxing; most men, if they’re in the field of beauty, will choose to specialize in hair or cosmetics,” Mendez ruminates, describing how, while attending advanced skin care coursework, even today he’s still often the only male in the room. “They often just stare at me,” he says of the other students. No doubt, a couple of popular YouTube videos have made him even more well known.

Mendez grew up in a beauty business family (his dad and three aunts are all hairstylists and his mother was a former Maybelline model), and it seemed natural Mendez would follow a similar path. What was novel was seeking out an esthetician degree, which was a rather new field at the time. “I wanted a job that was fun,” Mendez says, divulging that he gave up a career in computers to pursue his new passion. So, he enrolled at Pivot Point at 17, took two trains and a bus to get to school every day and watched as his teacher Ms. Sylvia, a French woman who happened to be blind, first taught him how to wax.

In the end it all paid off, especially with a growing demographic of male clients Mendez has amassed over the years working at various salons. He plans to bring them with him to Wax Man Spa, where he’s joined by three additional staffers—all male.

“In the past six years, I’ve seen more and more men coming in for services,” Mendez says, attributing the popularity to the rise of well-groomed celebrities. “There’s this obsession now with being youthful, ‘green,’ gluten-free and just healthy overall. Even if you’re not actually healthy, you can look it with grooming,” he says, laughing.

The most popular services at Wax Man? Back and shoulder hair removal, followed by Brazilian waxing. The spa also offers hair cuts and color, massages, and facials—and they won’t turn away female clients. “In fact, we get a lot of requests for couple’s services,” says Mendez. “And a lot of people who bring their men in to get cleaned up.”

What Wax Man Spa does differently, though, is providing a comfortable environment that won’t scare men off with an over-the-top “beauty spa” presentation or time-consuming robe service. “A lot of men come in having seen The 40-Year-Old Virgin and are terrified! But that’s not what it’s like here,” he says. “Often, men are more comfortable with another man doing the work.” Some clients have found that women practitioners will even turn them away when requesting something like a Brazilian, according to Mendez. “As a man, I know how they want to look.”

For all of you first-time waxers, male or female, Mendez provides these tips to prepare you for the experience.

1: Come in for a consultation first: “There are many differences in hair amounts from client to client; this will help us give you an idea of what the process will be like.”

2: Shower before your appointment and exfoliate your skin. “This makes hair removal easier.”

3: You don’t need to trim beforehand; it will be taken care of during your appointment.

4: After the service is done, don’t plan on going to the gym right away. “Sweat clogs pores, and you’ll want to keep your skin and body hydrated.”

5: Don’t schedule an appointment right before a special occasion, as your skin will be sensitive and may get a little red.

6: Be prepared to schedule appointments every four to eight weeks if you want to maintain the look.

7: Lastly, Mendez wants you to know that hair does not grow back thicker after waxing. “Waxing damages the follicle, so you will actually have thinner, lighter-colored hair within two to three sessions.”