Body hair is weird. Most people come from a veritable grab bag of genetic backgrounds and, depending on which part of the body we’re talking about, hair grows in at different speeds, thicknesses, colors, and textures.
While of course body hair is a natural and beautiful part of being human, so is the want or need to manage it occasionally. Sometimes we just want to make everything look more uniform in length and thickness; Sometimes we want to go for the sleek, smooth look. And whether you’re manscaping at the request of that special someone, so you can look better in a banana hammock at next Saturday’s pool party, or for improved aerodynamics, it’s important that you use the correct tools for body grooming as well as follow these basic guidelines in order to prevent discomfort and, worst of all, a bad trim job.
Neck & Chest
Option 1: Electric trimmer. Even if you want your chest to look smoother than a marble countertop, it might be a good idea to avoid the razor in this area due to the irregular grain of the hair that grows there. It’s also very time consuming. I bought a Wahl Color Pro hair clipper set a while back, which comes with a variety of colored length-adaptors, and it’s served me well in these situations.
Shave dry, then moisturize afterward to prevent redness. If your hair is really thick, start with a larger adaptor and work your way down to shorter lengths to avoid clogging and painful yanking. Otherwise, buzz the chest without any guard, trying to follow the grain as best you can.
As for general aesthetic guidelines, try to make all areas of the chestal region about the same length and thickness, tapering off gently as you get into areas where there isn’t any hair. You can also factor in the amount of facial hair you currently have; a more hirsute face warrants a more hirsute torso.
Option 2: Cartridge razor. We know, we know. We hate cartridge razors around here. However, a cartridge razor is almost always better for body grooming than something like a safety razor or a straight razor–just because there are so many more safety do-dads on it.
Most importantly, though, most modern cartridge razors have flexible, pivotable heads, which are great for all the weird curves on the typical dude’s bod.
If you’re going to shave your chest, we recommend a shaving gel. Why? First, chest hair (well, most body hair) is often thicker than facial hair, and shaving gels tend to have lots of glycerin. Second, you need a bit of extra thickness because passes are often super long because your’e shaving a larger area.
Here’s the basic steps of shaving your chest with a cartridge razor:
Hop in the shower; it’s just too messy otherwise
Get nice a steamy to soften up that manboob bush
Apply some shaving gel
Use your fingers to tighten whatever patch of skin you’re shaving
Tricky part: Shave with the grain whenever possible
Rinse and apply moisturizer
The most difficult part of that process is going to be shaving with the grain. Chest hair tends to grow in lots of different directions, so you’re probably going to have to take a long, hard look at your pecs to get it right.
It’s not a huge deal if you don’t, though. The worst that can happen is that you shave against the grain, which can irritate your skin (remember, you can’t shave your body like you shave your face; it’s shaved much less often, so the skin is more sensitive).
If you’re able to shave your own back, congratulations! You might be an octopus. Really, though, that’s kind of the bad news about shaving your back: you can certainly try all kinds of different contraptions to do it yourself, but it’s just a million times easier to have some help.
So if you have a significant other or a really friendly roommate, try to recruit them for a fun afternoon of hair removal. If you don’t, you can always find a good esthetician in your area.
Like with the chest, you can use either clippers or a cartridge razor. Since clippers are pretty straight forward, here are some instructions you can give to your significant other or strangely cool roommate:
Let my back hair get nice and soft from a good steam
Apply shaving gel generously over the whole thing
Shave straight down in slow, even passes about six inches long
Pay special attention to the thick patch above my ass
Overall, the back should be fairly easy, since the hair usually grows in one direction. So enjoy!
Arms & armpits
Even if you’re a guy who likes being generally hairless your arms and armpits are usually the areas you can leave alone if you want to.
But who knows: it may be worth your while if it’s super thick, or if you have tattoos in that area you’d like to show off or something. Plus, I haven’t confirmed this, having less hair can also cut down on getting deodorant all over your shirts, as you don’t get any extra bits that fall out of the hairs later. Having less hair can also reduce odor (not a ton, but some) if you’re a smellier chap.
Pro tip: Use a lady razor for your pits. Your arms can pretty much be shaved with anything, but your pits are usually going to be much, much more sensitive than nearly any other part of your body. So, we’ve found that the best course of action is to buy a razor mean for a woman’s legs (yes, one of us actually shaved his pits for this article–thanks, Cam!). These razors are built for thicker hair, more sensitive skin, and long passes.
Since armpit hair is usually thinner, you don’t necessarily need to shave your pits in the shower, but it’s probably still easier. You probably will, however, need to trim them first. You can do that with timers or scissors; doesn’t matter much. You just want to trim before shaving so you don’t pull any hairs, which is super-duper painful in this area.
The most important thing to remember about shaving your pits is that the skin is sensitive, so all of the same rules for sensitive skin apply: (1) pre-shave oil will probably help, (2) go slow and be careful, and (3) moisturize like your life depends on it.
Finally, you’re going to want to wait at least an hour after shaving your pits before you put deodorant on. Ideally, you’ll want to be able to wait a bit before you even put a shirt on. So plan ahead!
Some prefer the low-maintenance full-bush look, some prefer a little cloud cover, and some prefer no hair at all. However, if you do keep your chest or legs trimmed, it’s a good rule of thumb to at least keep your underwear region at the same length as the surrounding areas.
Option 1: General trim. Even if you don’t want to sculpt your secret garden into the perfect pubic portrait, if you just give the boys a general trim, you’ll be way out in front of the competition. And this is really easy.
You use any pair of barber shears. Just make sure they have a long guard. In fact, let this service as a public service announcement: never shave your Christmas bells without a guard. All you have to do is set the guard at a reasonable length and give yourself a once over. Doesn’t take any time at all, and your partners will appreciate it big time.
Option 2: Close trim. For a close trim, you’re going to need some more specialized tools. Usually, you’ll need two kinds of tools: a trimmer with adjustable guards and a body groomer with a foil-covered blade. There are plenty of them out there.
The idea here is to use the trimmer to get down to a reasonable stubble, and then use the body groomer to finish ‘em off. Warning: This method is safe, but you run a serious risk of cactus balls. That’s when you’ve got stubble on your nuts instead of having a smooth surface, which typically happens when your hair starts to grow back out. Ask any girl you know: that’s not the most pleasant thing in the world.
Option 3: Cartridge razor. Be careful. I want to say that before anything else. Be very, very careful. Shaving your cherry tomatoes with an actual razor is dangerous. The skin tends to be wrinkly, and that area tends to bleed a lot.
Here are the basic guidelines:
Steam ‘em up
Use lots of shaving cream
Make sure your skin is pulled super tight
If you do nick yourself, stop, pinch, apply a small square of tissue until it stops
This is also one of the areas that you may want to tackle yourself, so, like we’ve said before, there are plenty of professionals out there if you want to go full-Brazilian.
The idea here is to get it to be more uniform in length with the crotch and chest regions, with no sudden lines or tufts. Don’t want to look like you’re wearing a mismatched hair suit at the beach.
So, if you’ve trimmed everything else, you might want to trim the legs, too. If you’ve gone 100% body-bald, you’ll want to shave those legs, too, which is totally cool; it’s 2014, afterall.
If you want to trim, you can use whatever you used on your back, chest and peanuts. If you want to shave ‘em clean, you’ll want to go with a lady’s razor and a good shaving gel here, too. And you certainly want to moisturize like a mofo when you’re done.
How & Where to Get Professional Help
Drastic times call for drastic measures. Maybe you want it done quickly and professionally, maybe you can’t reach everywhere you want, but in any case, you can always make an appointment with your local esthetician to get waxed, which appears to be an increasingly popular hair removal route for men these days. Experts suggest that you take Advil an hour before your appointment, and to not apply any sort of lotions onto your skin the day of the wax.
You could even hire an electrologist to perform electrolysis on areas where you want hair permanently gone. www.webmd.com describes the process as “A small needle or thin metal probe is inserted into the opening of the skin where hair grows (small sacs beneath the skin called hair follicles). Next, a low-level electrical current passes through the needle or probe into your skin and destroys the hair follicle. Hair is unable to grow back in an area where the follicle has been destroyed.” So if you’d like to get rid of those hard-to-reach back, neck, or shoulder hairs once and for all, electrolysis might be an option for you.
Do what feels right to you, but if you’re not sure what feels right, shop around! In American culture, body image is so often dictated by social standards that often contradict one another or just plain don’t make sense, so experiment with different styles, have fun finding out what works and what doesn’t. It’s just hair!