Ask A Doc: Should You, Uh, Lighten Your Saber?
A man is reclined on a swanky clinic bed, his legs spread under blankets, as a dermatologist tends to what’s in between with a laser machine wand. So goes the lead photograph of BBC’s viral reportage on penis whitening, the newest grooming trend in beauty-obsessed Bangkok.
You don't have to do it. Honestly, when it comes to grooming, you should think about using sunscreen more. If you’re worried about what your partner thinks, even in the age of the dick pic, proper hygiene and just knowing how to use your saber has more impact.
But for those who are still so inclined, let’s get right to it. We talked to Dr. Windie Hayano of Skin Inc. Dermatology and Laser Center to shed light on this important matter.
Things In The Dark Get Dark
“Just as skin color varies in different races, genital coloration simply follows,” Dr. Hayano says. In tropical Bangkok, a fairer complexion is a cultural ideal, inferring anything from beauty to social status.
But race is not the only thing that determines the shade of your stick. “During puberty, an influx of sex hormones (estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone) leads to increased pigmentation on the nipples and groin area because it causes a concomitant increase in MSH (Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone). Any surge in sex hormones (like what happens in pregnancy in women) can lead to higher levels of MSH,” says the doctor.
This change is physiologic and completely normal, but any darkening after puberty could also be a sign that you have an underlying clinical condition. “Cushing’s disease and Addison's disease may lead to hyperpigmentation," she says. "A velvety hyperpigmentation affecting the neck, axilla, and the groin (acanthosis nigricans) can be an indication of Type 2 Diabetes. Hyperpigmentation can also be due to an inflammatory condition or an allergic reaction to a product.”
We’re all about the loose trouser here at Esquire, but here’s another reason to look into it: “Mechanical friction is also a very common cause of hyperpigmentation. Very tight clothing, constant rubbing from sports, and even body scrubs can cause friction that leads to darkening of the groin area. While we are talking about skin, the genital region has a higher affinity to sex hormone receptors and is susceptible to mechanical friction.”
That’s why down-there lightening treatments, through a dermatologist’s perspective, are really gender-blind. It can apply to both sexes.
These Hi-Tech Lasers Can Do Wonders
Lasers are your best bet. The doctor recommends the Q-switch Nd Yag laser (Spectra XT by Lutronic and Revlite are examples) or a copper bromide laser (Norseld Dual Yellow) or the Alexandrite laser. These specifically target melanin pigments to safely—and less painlessly—lighten the skin.
Other variations of lasers like LASEMD increase the penetration of active ingredients (melanin-busting tranexamic acid, tretinoin, growth factors) into the skin. You can even bring home this specific serum for maintenance.
“In general, lasers are safe and specific but settings do matter and obviously, it is best when trained doctors administer the procedure. The Spectra XT, for example, has non-ablative tips that can lighten skin, and is relatively painless even on thin areas like the eye area. It actually feels like a very mild sparkler or a tapping sensation.” If you’re really scared, a topical anesthetic may be applied or a nerve block can be administered.
How Do You Feel About The Peel?
The doctor also mentions the more affordable option of peels, but like the name implies, your member’s surface will literally flake off and it can take a while. “The patient may feel a mild sting, redness, and swelling. In most cases, the concentration of the peeling agent is rather low, so treatments are frequently spaced every week or two weeks and will require multiple sessions.”
And if you don’t need all that, here’s a low-key popular treatment mature men have been squeezing in. “Scrotox,” Dr. Hayano says. “To smoothen the texture, botulinum toxin can be injected into the scrotal sac. This also has an added benefit of lessening sweating and even smell. Some men like the wrinkle-free sac, because they think that it can make their balls look bigger. When you inject that area, the scrotal skin relaxes and drops the balls like in Times Square.”