Smooth Operator

Whether you’re an avid lifter wanting to show off your hard-won pecs, a cyclist who wants to maintain a pair of aerodynamic pins, or you simply hate having hairy shoulders, chances are you’ll have dabbled in body hair removal at some point.

And if you have, you’re not alone. In fact, according to a survey by Braun, 62 per cent of men now manscape regularly, with those that do saying it makes them feel cleaner, sexier, and also enhances the appearance of their muscles.

What’s more, a third reckon it’s made them more popular with the opposite sex. Question is: do you wax, shave or sugar? Here are the pros and cons of some of the most popular body hair removal methods, along with a few tips to ensure you’re successful in getting the smoothest results possible:


The Pros

The main advantage of waxing is its long-lasting results: you’ll be hair-free for up to six weeks, and since hair is removed at the root, it’ll grow back with fine – rather than blunt – ends so you’re less likely to itch.

Though best performed by a professional, if you’re feeling brave you can wax lyrical (sorry, we had to) in the comfort of your own home too.

The Cons

Familiar with the expression ‘no pain, no gain’? It may as well have been invented for waxing. There are worse pains (toothache and your football team being relegated, for example) but make no mistake: this is eye-watering stuff.

The pain is fleeting, though, and you do get used to it after a while. Sort of.

Tips & Tricks

• The day before you wax, gently exfoliate skin with a scrub or body brush to remove any dead skin cells.

• Wax is best applied to skin that’s clean, dry and free of any body products. If you’re waxing in warm weather, and are a little sweaty, apply a light dusting of talc beforehand.

• To make things less painful, trim the hair back a little, but remember to ensure it’s still at least 1cm in length so that the wax has something to adhere to.

• Wax should be removed with one clean and swift movement. Be brave and just whip it off. Never peel away slowly.

• Always whip wax strips off in the opposite direction of the hair growth and remember to work in small sections. If you’ve trimmed the hairs back a little before waxing, it’ll be easier to see the patterns of growth.

• If you’re a home waxing virgin, try pre-made strips like Parissa Men’s Tea Tree Wax Strips, which are easy to use and mess-free. You simply warm them between your palms to activate the wax, apply to the offending fur, and rub firmly. Ask a friend, flatmate or significant other for help if necessary.

• To take the initial sting away, try tapping or pressing the skin lightly with your fingertips.

• If skin feels red and sore afterwards, gently press a cold, wet flannel cloth on the affected area for a few minutes to cool the skin. You’ll also want to avoid using alcohol-based fragrances and anything that causes profuse sweating for 24 hours afterwards; things like hot showers, exercise and – as much as we hate to say it – vigorous sex.

• As with shaving, how you look after skin post-wax is crucial if you want to avoid nasty rashes. Waxing, along with most forms of hair removal, can sometimes result in little spots forming one to three days afterwards; these are often the result of blocked hair follicles. To minimise the risk, try using a product like Outback Organics Post-Wax Spray, which is formulated to soothe and repair skin after hair removal. Elemis Tea Tree S.O.S Spray is useful too.

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The Pros

The simplest of all the hair removal methods, all you need is a razor, some shaving cream and a steady hand. You don’t need a great degree of skill either: if you can shave your chin, then you can shave your chest too.

The Cons

The odd nick and cut aside (bear in mind you’ll have to navigate nipples!), the biggest drawback of shaving is itchy regrowth and the risk of developing unsightly and painful ingrown hairs. Because you’ll be slicing the hairs off at the surface of the skin, within days you’ll also be left with chest, stomach or shoulder stubble.

Tips & Tricks

• Don’t attempt to shave any hard-to-reach places yourself! No good can ever come of this.

• Shave in the shower – the steam and hot water will plump up the hair shafts making them softer and easier to cut.

• As you would when shaving your face, use plenty of shaving gel or cream and always shave with the direction of hair growth.

• To make shaving easier, trim the hairs back as much as you can first using a beard trimmer, hair clippers or a body hair groomer.

• Minimise the risk of ingrown hairs by exfoliating skin with a body scrub twice a week afterwards. Or invest in a pair of exfoliating gloves like Menscience Body Buff Gloves.

• To soothe skin, use a post-shave balm afterwards, like you would on your face. Something like Anthony Logistics Ingrown Hair Treatment can be used to prevent annoying ingrown hairs.

• For a slightly more natural look, trim your body hair using a body hair trimmer instead of shaving it. Philips’ Bodygroom, Braun’s CruZer Body and the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler all come highly recommended.

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Depilatory Creams

The Pros

The beauty of depilatory creams like Veet For Men Hair Removal Cream, Nad’s For Men and Nair Men is that they’re so easy to use. You simply apply, leave for a few minutes and then wash off – along with the unwanted hair, which is weakened at root level by the chemicals in the cream and simply falls away.

They’re useful for areas like the shoulders that can be hard to reach with a razor. Good for chests, armpits and legs, too.

The Cons

The results aren’t as long-lasting as with waxing (hair will be poking through before a week is out) and some men are sensitive to the chemicals in the cream, especially if they’re left on for too long.

As with many forms of hair removal, creams can also leave skin spotty sometimes, so correct aftercare is crucial.

Tips & Tricks

• Do a patch test on the inside of your arm first to see if you’re sensitive to any of the cream’s ingredients.

• Always follow the instructions – to the letter! And don’t use on your nether regions; Google “Veet for Men don’t put on your” for some hilarious accounts of why you shouldn’t.

• Make sure you rinse skin thoroughly with plenty of cool water afterwards.

• Follow the same post-application procedure as you would if you were waxing: wear cool, loose clothing for 24 hours afterwards, avoid getting overly hot and sweaty, and use an antibacterial spray to fend off breakouts.

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The Pros

Sugaring is a hair removal technique that’s thought to be over 2,000 years old. This method’s results last for about the same time as waxing.

Using a sugar-based paste, it’s a technique that’s generally faster and less painful than waxing since it tends not to stick to the skin, so larger areas can be done at one time. Since it is water-based, it’s easy to wash off, and because it’s generally removed in the direction of hair growth, there’s less chance of irritation and ingrown hairs too.

The Cons

Less popular than waxing, it’s harder to find a professional who’s au fait with sugaring. You can have a go yourself though with products like Sugar-It Original Egyptian Hand Sugar or M4MEN Moom Pour Homme Hair Remover.

Tips & Tricks

• Apply a dusting of talc or corn flour to skin prior to sugaring to make the process easier.

• Pull in the direction of hair growth, not against it.

• Avoid using perfumed products or antiperspirants for 24 hours after sugaring and avoid prolonged sun exposure for 48 hours.

• As with other forms of hair removal, use a body scrub or ingrown hair treatment once skin has settled if you’re worried about irritating ingrown hairs.

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Laser Hair Removal

The Pros

Laser hair removal offers one of the longest-lasting solutions to unwanted hair, though unfortunately practitioners can’t guarantee the hairs are gone for good.

It works by zapping the cells that make the hair, and can be used to thin body hair as well as remove it. Especially good for the back, shoulders, neck or buttocks.

The Cons

This treatment is expensive and best done by a professional. It also stings a little and can be time-consuming, too, because in order for the process to work hair has to be in its growth cycle. This means it takes several separate treatments, over a period of months.

What’s more, for the laser to work properly, you need pale skin and dark hair with plenty of melanin for the laser to hone in on. This means most laser-based apparatus won’t work on grey, red or blonde hair. Advancing technology means some lasers can deal with lighter hair, but check whether your clinic has the technology first.

Tips & Tricks

  • •  Ensure the therapist conducts a patch test first to see if you have any sensitivity to the procedure.
  • •  Don’t have laser treatment if you have a recent tan as the lasers can sometimes target the pigment cells in your skin.
  • •  For the best results, don’t skip appointments during the course of treatment.
  • •  Avoid hot showers, baths, chlorine and scented body products or tight clothing for 24 hours after the treatment to reduce the chance of irritation.

Final Word

Whichever method you opt for, remember that, as with shaving, good preparation and aftercare are both crucial for solid results. Remember, too, you’ll need to maintain your look with regular waxing, trimming, shaving, or – in the case of laser removal – the occasional top up. Bottom line: effective manscaping is not for the low-maintenance man!

What’s your preferred way of dealing with body hair? Any tips and tricks to share?