By the mid-20s, men will know their back hair destiny: barely there, a few tufts, or full and bushy. Is yours a magnet for women? Or a throwback to the Stone Age? If you want to tame the shag, laser hair removal can thin back hair or remove it all, and the results are nearly permanent. Cheaper options include waxing, hair removal creams, and razors, with results that last up to a few weeks.
You don’t have to drink beer to get a beer belly. Men are more likely to gain fat around the waist, so anything fattening can pad the paunch. Unfortunately, belly fat raises the risk of heart disease, especially if your waist size is more than 40 inches. But there is good news: If you follow a weight loss plan, belly fat is usually the first to go.
Men have a higher “sweat output" than women. That's a fact. But if you always need to wipe your hands or often sweat through clothes, it may be more than a “guy" thing. It could be excessive sweating, called hyperhidrosis. Emotions or heat — or nothing at all — can trigger the downpour. It usually affects the armpits, palms, or soles of the feet. Effective treatments are available through a health professional.
Now here's a hair problem that affects men of all ages. The same hormones that make your beard grow can make eyebrows so thick and bushy that they meet in the center. “Unibrow" is the most common reason young men get electrolysis. This procedure uses tiny electric shocks to permanently destroy the hair follicles. Waxing is another way to shape brows, but it must be repeated every four to six weeks.
You work hard for that close shave. So it can be exasperating when small bumps mar otherwise smooth skin. Razor bumps form when hairs curl back on themselves and grow into the skin. They're most common in African-Americans and men with curly hair. To keep the bumps at bay, take a hot shower before shaving. Apply a thick gel, and always shave in the direction your beard grows.
Maybe it's not embarrassment that's causing all that blushing. Rosacea is a condition that causes the face to flush, and symptoms tend to be worse in men. The nose may become thick, red, or bulbous. Pimples and tiny red lines can appear on the cheeks. Alcohol can trigger a flare up, but the distinctive, red nose of rosacea can occur in a teetotaler. Medications can prevent it from getting worse, so be sure to discuss symptoms with a dermatologist.
The painful truth is most guys have noticeably thinner hair by age 35 and significant hair loss by age 50. The pattern usually begins with a receding hairline and may progress to bald spots on the top of the scalp. Hair restoration surgery offers a way to reduce bald patches. Or you can talk to your doctor about prescription medications for hair loss. But beware of other products that promise the moon.
Color blindness usually does not mean seeing the world in black and white. The most common form makes it difficult to tell red from green, a problem that affects about 10 million American men. The way the condition is inherited makes it far less common in women. There's no treatment, but most people can learn to work around the color confusion.
Face the music: Snoring is a surefire way to disrupt your bed partner's sleep, and men are more likely to be the perpetrators. In most cases, snoring is not harmful. But snoring regularly can chip away at the quality of your own sleep. It can also be a sign of a more serious problem called sleep apnea. If you feel snoring is disrupting you or your partner's sleep, consult a doctor.
Burping may not be the picture of politeness in American society, but in some cultures a hearty belch shows appreciation for a good meal. In either case, burping a few times after eating is normal. It's the body's way of freeing the air that you've swallowed. Frequent burping combined with other symptoms, such as nausea or belly pain, could be a sign of a digestive disorder. Check with your doctor if the problem continues.
Perhaps no bodily function has inspired as many jokes as gas. While the sound and smell can be embarrassing, passing gas is harmless. It's nothing more than air moving through the digestive tract or gas from the breakdown of food by bacteria in the gut coming out — well, we all know where. Gas facts:
- Most people pass gas 6-20 times a day.
- Beer, soda, beans, and many fruits and vegetables are all likely to gas you up.
- Foods that cause gas differ for each person.
Whether you're working hard or playing hard, any strenuous activity can result in strong body odor. The culprit is not sweat itself, but the bacteria that use sweaty skin as a breeding ground. You can fight the bacteria by showering regularly with soap and using antiperspirant. Also be sure to wash workout clothes often. If body odor persists, try avoiding smelly foods like garlic and onions.
You don't have to be a pro athlete to get jock itch. This fungal infection spreads easily at your local gym — or from another part of your own body. Hands, towels, and stepping into underwear are common culprits. The symptoms include a patchy rash on the groin or inner thighs, along with the telltale itching. It's treated with nonprescription antifungal creams. Keeping the area dry and avoiding tight clothing helps to avoid a repeat engagement.
When the fungus that causes jock itch targets the feet, you have athlete's foot. Walking barefoot in locker rooms or near pools is the most common way to pick up this infection. Symptoms include itching, burning, blisters, or cracks on the feet and toes. Athlete's foot is treated with antifungal cream. If you have both jock itch and athlete's foot, be sure to treat them at the same time.
Grooming nails may not be the highlight of your day, but it's worth your time to get the job done right. Clumsy nail trimming is the top cause of ingrown toenails, which can cause pain, swelling, and infections. The most common mistake is trimming the nails too short. To avoid this, check the drugstore for nail “nippers" that are shaped to follow the natural curve of the nail.
You probably know that smelly foods and smoking can sabotage breath. But the most common culprit is bacteria. When you brush teeth, brush the tongue as well to banish the bacteria that thrive there. If good hygiene doesn't sweeten your breath, see your dentist and doctor. Gum disease, dry mouth, or acid reflux could be part of the problem.
Men may not be eager to discuss sexual troubles, but nearly a third of guys experience problems. This may include a sagging libido, premature ejaculation, or erectile dysfunction (ED). ED means a man is unable to develop or sustain an erection. Risk factors for ED include diabetes, heart disease, neurologic conditions, smoking, circulation problems, and some medications. Talk to your doctor if you have ED or other sexual problems to help evaluate the problem and recommend treatment.
Men are more likely to experience hearing loss than women, and noisy jobs may contribute. Think miners, carpenters, and soldiers. But any loud or continuous noise can damage delicate ear structures, including music piped in through ear buds. On the job, use special ear protection. Keep personal music players at or below 85 decibels (dB). Most can crank up to 105 dB, louder than a motorcycle, wood shop, or snowmobile.
Along with wrinkles and gray hair, an enlarged prostate is an unavoidable part of aging for many men. The medical term is benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, an enlargement of the gland that surrounds the urethra. This growth causes symptoms in about half of men over age 75. As the prostate grows, it may squeeze the urethra, making you feel nature's call more often. There are strategies and medications to help reduce the symptoms.
- American Academy of Dermatology web site.
- American Academy of Family Physicians web site.
- American Hair Loss Association web site.
- American Osteopathic College of Dermatology web site.
- Archives of Otolaryngology, May 2010.
- Bruce Katz, MD, director, Juva Laser and Skin Spa, New York.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site.
- David Goldberg, MD, director, Skin and Laser Surgery of New York and New Jersey.
- Emedicine web site.
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute web site.
- Lemar, M.S., Dermatologic Surgery, February 2003.
- Medical College of Wisconsin web site.
- Michelle Serniuk, Beyond Day Spa, Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey.
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute web site.
- National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders web site.
- Patsy Kirby, MA, CPE, executive director, American Electrology Association, Bodega Bay, Calif.