We’re loathe to call this a ‘guide to manscaping’. Because despite the fact that that’s exactly what it is, using the term ‘manscaping’ seems old hat. Too dated. Too patronising to men who’ve moved on from the idea that making a small effort to make yourself: a) more physically attractive, and b) less smelly, is in any way emasculating.
According to a survey conducted by Cosmopolitan magazine and AskMen.com, a whopping 95 per cent of men groom their body hair. So if you still think trimming your pubes is prissy, well, you’re on your own, mate.
But just because we’re cool with the idea of grooming our body hair, it doesn’t mean we always do it right. Which is why – given that a nick on your nutsack is a hair more worrying than one on your chin – we defaulted to the experts.
Behold, your no-holds-barred guide to grooming body hair.
One of the most defining features on a man’s face, the eyebrows prevent sweat, water and other debris sliding down your forehead and into your eye sockets. Not only that, but they’re also crucial in helping you communicate anger, sadness and surprise.
There are certain things you don’t want your brows to communicate, though. Like the fact that you take your grooming cues from Rylan Clark.
“The idea is to retain a masculine appearance but take some of the weight out of the eyebrows, removing any straggly hairs,” says Chris Beastall, co-founder of men’s grooming e-tailer Niven & Joshua. “Groomed right, the result is a tidier, younger-looking appearance.”
Beastall recommends starting your brow-grooming with a trim. Take a beard comb and drag through the eyebrows, combing the hairs upwards. “This will reveal any lengthy, out-of-line hair,” he says. “These can then be trimmed using a pair of blunt-ended scissors. Some men opt for a nose/ear hair trimmer, which is fine, but much less accurate in my experience.”
For any lone rangers, try plucking with tweezers. Beastall advises doing this post-shower, when pores are open and hair is temporarily softened by the steam. “Comb your brows upwards and grip any overly long hairs with a pair of good-quality tweezers – then firmly, but gently, pull from your brow,” he says.
It’s a particularly useful method for men prone to the monobrow effect. “But be careful to only remove hair between the two brows and not to ‘eat’ into the brows themselves; otherwise it could leave your nose looking more pronounced.”
Like three-day hangovers and forgetting your own children’s names, increased growth of ear hair is a by-product of ageing. While middle-aged men are the most affected, the especially follicularly talented might notice hair sprouting from ears as early as their twenties.
“I find tweezers work best for the [outer] ear area,” says Beastall. “Pluck longer, unsightly hairs at will using a pair of good-quality blunt-end tweezers.” Tweezing – as opposed to trimming with scissors or an electric trimmer – not only allows for greater precision in tackling unsightly hairs, it also extracts hair at the root, meaning they’ll take longer to grow back.
Unsightly inner ear hair, on the other hand, should be trimmed with a pair of scissors made specifically for cutting facial hair. “These are blunt to allow for safe cutting, and won’t nip any delicate skin,” says Beastall. “Position the blades’ tips slightly inside the ear and carefully cut any visible hair; try angling your head upwards and using a magnifying mirror for better visibility and a side-on view of the ear.”
Alternatively, take a trip to your local Turkish barber, who’ll swiftly torch the buggers.
A certain amount of nose hair is important: like an air filter in your house, it strains out the bad stuff, preventing bacteria entering the moist nasal cavity and wreaking havoc on your health.
There’s no harm in keeping stragglers in check though. Clearly visible nose hairs serve little purpose other than grossing everyone out and preventing you from getting laid. But cut (with blunt-ended scissors, as above), don’t pluck them – plucking can draw tiny amounts of blood which can lead to infection. Which definitely won’t help you get laid.
Another option is the electrical trimmer. “Ergonomic in shape – for easy reach – and gentle for the delicate nose and ear areas, they trim away excess hair with ease,” says Beastall. “But I’ve never found them to be as accurate as scissors – mainly because their sizes make it tough to see what’s happening while rooting around in the ‘dark’.”
Unless you’re a Chippendale, early noughties-era porn star, competitive bodybuilder or any combination of the above, then keep at least some of your chest hair intact.
“Removing all [your chest] hair makes sense if you are a swimmer, bicyclist or sportsman but in general [hair in this area] should be trimmed, not completely removed,” says men’s grooming expert Diana Schmidtke, who’s worked with the likes of Chris Hemsworth, George Clooney and Jon Hamm.
To keep your pecs in check, Schmidtke advises equipping yourself with a decent electronic trimmer like Wahl’s Peanut trimmer or Philips’ Norelco Bodygroom, trimming as and when required. “When used with a guard, these tools leave a little hair when you just want to trim, not remove completely.”
Exactly which guard you use/how much hair you want to keep is up to you. But it’s important to remember that, as with your beard – and this goes for every other bit of your body – you should eyeball your work as you go, adjusting your trimmer’s guards depending on the pattern of your hair growth and your desired finish.
Get rid. No, we don’t have any fancy survey findings to support this statement but we do have plenty of anecdotal evidence. Plus, have you ever met anyone that genuinely appreciates back hair? We rest our case.
Unless you have a (very) loving partner or a particularly bored flatmate, then a salon wax is your best bet. But if you don’t have the time or cash to spare, there are some at-home tips for temporarily stopping back hair in its tracks.
Trimming on the lowest setting produces pretty smooth results. “The ManGroomer do-it-yourself shaver is a great option, as it has an arm extension to help reach your entire back area,” says Schmidtke. “It also has a very gentle blade so you won’t cut yourself when pressure is applied.”
The ManGroomer won’t, of course, produce the same baby’s bottom-smooth results as a wet razor shave, but it also won’t have you contorting like an escapologist in front of your bathroom mirror.
If you’re after a smoother, less work-intensive approach, Chris Beastall suggests a hair removal cream like the one from Nad’s, which has been specially formulated for men. “Smear the cream on your back [again, for best results you’ll need to enlist the help of a very special assistant], leave for 5-10 minutes then wash off,” he says. “Both the hair and cream will rinse away.”
It’s important to confine your use to non-intimate areas though, as these equally hilarious and genuinely horrifying Veet product reviews prove.
Because who doesn’t want to stink less and look better? We’re not suggesting you shave your armpits entirely (that would be weird), but a slight trim every now and then comes recommended.
“Underarm hair is acceptable for even the most groomed of men, and the trend seems to be to keep it short, not completely shaven,” says Beastall. “Opt for a body groomer [like the Philips Norelco], notch the length gauge up a few levels [no lower than #2] and trim to a slightly shorter length.” Your bedmates, colleagues and fellow commuters will thank you for it.
It’s best just to trim armpit hair
Arms & Legs
For detail obsessives and the exceptionally hirsute only. “I recommend using something like the Peanut on the #1 or #2 guard so that you still look natural,” says Schmidtke.
Do you really need baby-smooth legs?
Below The Belt
Brace yourself. We’re going in…
There have been (shockingly) few serious scientific studies devoted to the correlation between a well-groomed pubic bush and pulling more but, again, our informal survey responses suggest you’ve got to trim it to win it.
A body groomer works best for the bush and upper parts of your legs. “These tools have special guards on them to help prevent nicks and cuts and follow the curvature of the body,” says Schmidtke. “It’s also important to pull the skin taught when shaving.”
For the love of god, don’t trim them. Taking any kind of electronic gadget to your gonads will only result in unmitigated disaster. (We may or may not have learnt that the hard way.)
Instead shave your balls using a sharp wet razor. Use lots of shave cream and plenty of slow, careful strokes (not that kind), taking care to regularly rinse hair from the razor.
We’d hate to say something typically reductively lad mag-y like shaving hair at the bottom of the shaft of your penis makes it look bigger, but shaving hair at the bottom of the shaft of your penis makes it look bigger.
For an instant illusory extra inch or so, follow the same method as detailed for your balls above, taking care not to shave too far into the bush itself.
Carefully does it
The Perineum AKA ‘Gooch’ AKA ‘Grundle’ & The Backside
You’ve got options down here. You can trim – albeit very carefully – with a body groomer on a low setting (and with the guard on), or for smoother results, get the professionals in and book a wax.
You could shave this area yourself with a wet razor, just like you could throw yourself off the top floor of a 10-storey building. Trust us, it’s not worth it. If a hair-free crack’s what you’re after, then leave it to the pros.
Leave it to the pros, and be prepared to wince. And then have it grow back after a couple of months. And then leave it to the pros again. If that all sounds like too much trouble for an arse smoother than Barry White’s voice wrapped in cocoa butter, then you could try laser.
“Waxing is an option for men who want to get rid of their body hair entirely, but it hurts, lasts for two-to-three months and will grow back,” says Schmidtke. Laser on the other hand, is a more permanent solution. “Does it hurt? Yes. But it also works and after just a few treatments your hair will be, and stay, removed.”
Here’s to a hotter, less hairy and fresher smelling you.
For more tips, including post-shave aftercare and avoiding ingrown hairs, check out our below the belt-specific grooming guide.