Manscaping: it's not pretty, but it's important. Every guy should spend a few minutes on upkeep every week, but you certainly need to know what you're doing—and perhaps more importantly, what not to do.
1. If possible, spend the extra money for really nice tools.
The quality of your tools will determine your results, so if you can afford it, choose products that are specifically made for body hair. You'll definitely need a decent set of trimmers, along with razors and scissors.
This should go without saying, but keep your face and body grooming tools separate. Your face, body, and groin have different types of bacteria (gross, but true), and mixing them up can lead to irritation, rashes, and other bad news.
When you're finished with your grooming products, make sure to keep them clean. Oil your trimmer blades to keep them sharp before storing them; most trimmers come with a small amount of clipper blade oil. When you run out, try to find another approved clipper oil—kitchen oils might not be hygienic for sensitive skin.
2. Know what skin care products to buy.
The scientific name for razor burn and skin irritation is pseudofolliculitis barbae, which also sounds like a great name for a psychedelic rock band made up of mostly barbers.
It's an inflammatory condition, and in many cases, you can mitigate the effects by using appropriate skincare products before and after your manscaping.
Use products that moisturize. Avoid ingredients like propylene glycol, which can dry out your skin; you want to have enough hydration to allow your skin to repair itself naturally right after you're finished.
Body lotions and body butters can be wonderful (and you can probably borrow them from your girlfriend). Products with silicone can also work well. Silicone ingredients often end in -methicone. Silicones can cause acne outbreaks for certain types of skin, so as with anything you buy for manscaping, it's best to spot test a small area before you add the product to your daily routine.
3. When shaving, know the correct process.
Shaving something clean? Don't go against the grain right away, or you're likely risking irritation and ingrown hairs. Instead, shave with the grain, then to the side of the grain.
By the way, make sure that you're using a high-quality razor. More blades doesn't mean "better," and some guys opt for old school safety razors, since these provide a sharper, cleaner shave, provided that you've got a good source for high-quality blades. Just make sure that you're only using one razor for each part of your body.
Oh, and just like with your face, the pre-shave is essential for keeping your skin comfortable. Take a hot shower to warm your skin before you start. You should also clean the area thoroughly, and if you're an especially hairy guy, use a little shampoo.
Warm skin allows for a closer shave, but keep your razor at room temperature—heating up the blade won't help you any.
4. By the way, you should also pull your skin taut when shaving sensitive areas.
Yeah, you know exactly what we're talking about here. Sensitive skin requires extra attention, and you'll need to pull the skin fairly tight in order to get at the hair.
This is important regardless of the tools you're using. Even if you've got an electric razor with a guard, remember that it's probably designed for the hair on your head—it's not foolproof, and it needs a smooth surface to work its magic.
If you do get nicked, don't panic. We'd recommend against styptic pens, as they're made with ingredients like potassium alum that can cause serious pain on sensitive skin. Instead, just rinse with cold water until the wound stops bleeding, or apply a small amount of unscented petroleum jelly.
Serious wounds require immediate medical attention, obviously, and you should apply pressure to the wound until you can get to a hospital. Go slow, though, and you'll have nothing to worry about.
5. If you're going much shorter, do it gradually.
Body hair can be a serious challenge for a trimmer. If an electric trimmer gets bogged down in hair, the blade can take on damage—or worse, the blade guard can get caught in your hair. Ouch.
If you decide to go with a much shorter cut, do so slowly. Work down from the largest guard you've got. You shouldn't be trimming more than a quarter inch or so at the time. For reference, a size 7 or 8 guard should leave about an inch of hair. That's probably going to be a bit much on your back, neck, or groin, but hey, you've got to start somewhere, right?
When you're using a clipper, your hair should be dry. Otherwise, your blade will quickly rust. After you're completely finished, brush the blades to get hair out, then apply some rubbing alcohol to disinfect.
Add in the oil, and you're ready to store your tool (yes, we're talking about the clipper).
6. Don't neglect the nose, ears, and eyebrows.
All of these areas deserve some attention during your manscaping ritual. For nose and ear hair, buy a trimmer (or a trimmer attachment) specifically made for the job. Don't trim your nose hair too short, as some amount of hair is important; it actually protects your respiratory system from pathogens, so you don't want to go clean and clear.
The good news is that you don't need much nasal hair, so trimmers should work just fine. Push your nose up with your finger as if you're imitating a pig, then use the trimmer to get rid of any super-long hairs. Be careful not to cut them too short, as they'll get quite sharp close to the base.
For your eyebrows, simply ask your barber to take care of any stragglers during your next appointment, as you don't really need to deal with brows too often.
You can pluck the area between your brows to avoid the dreaded unibrow, or you can shave it, but either way, be careful not to shave into your natural brows—they'll probably grow back, but there's no guarantee.
7. As for the back, go short, but not bare.
As you get older, you're going to have to confront an uncomfortable truth: Your back hair is pretty unruly, and you need to get it under control before it starts slaying local villagers.
Shaving your back is a bad idea—nobody wants back stubble. If you want to go hairless, consider waxing, but be prepared for an expensive spa visit, not to mention a pretty painful experience.
For most guys, a standard trimmer will do just fine. Get help from a friend or partner; there's almost no way to handle this on your own without ending up looking like a science experiment.
And in case you're worried about that one Seinfeld episode, don't be, because chest and back hair doesn't grow back any thicker after it's cut. Scientists say that this myth probably comes from the relative thickness of hair follicles at their base. If you want to cut, you're totally in the clear.
8. Looking to shave all of your body hair?
Maybe it's not typical, but many athletes opt for a completely hairless look, and we're certainly not judging you if you're going for that.
If you've never shaved your body before, here's the most important tip to keep in mind: Take your time. You're embarking on a long journey here, and if you're finished in under two or three hours, you're way ahead of the curve.
For best results, start by using an electric trimmer to shave chest, back, and leg hair down to stubble. Then you can work with your razor. Waxing is also an option, but it's not for the feint of heart.
We'd certainly recommend a professional, especially if you haven't done it before, but if you're feeling adventurous, get some baby powder to dry your skin thoroughly before you apply the strip wax. Good luck; it's gonna be rough.