Grooming & Style

Manscaping: The Art of the Body Shave

Whether your back resembles the Amazon or you just think below-the-belt topiary’s cool, here’s what you need to know before you begin.



Remember that guy in middle school with all the back hair? He probably had a nickname like “werewolf” or “yeti.” And he had no choice but to learn the art of body shaving, better known as manscaping, at an early age (or it’s possible that he was so scarred from the locker room jokes that he turned into a recluse and didn’t bother).

Now that you’re older and pumping out more testosterone than when you sneaked into PG-13 movies, the subject of body hair isn’t quite as funny. Whether or not to shave -- and where -- is entirely personal. But being clean and tidy is definitely in.

“It is one of those things that men are finally comfortable talking about,” says Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist. “Many men are acquiring a more tailored, less hairy look.”

Successful manscaping without nicks or ingrown hairs involves somewhat different strategies than those used for shaving the face. Here are tips for clearing hair -- all the way down to the groin, where it can sometimes be hard to spot the lion in the tall grass.

Anywhere
Always manscape after or during a shower so the skin and hair is completely softened. To get an even smoother shave, shear any long hair with an electric trimmer or scissors, says Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, a dermatologist and skin care expert. Then apply shaving gel or cream and use a razor that adjusts to the shape of your body. Rinse it often.

Armpits
Remember the cardinal rule of shaving: don’t apply pressure with the razor. To avoid nicks and ingrown hairs, let it glide across the skin. When you’re finished, avoid an alcohol-based deodorant for a while: It’ll irritate.

Chest
Sure, women shave against the grain on their legs, but don’t follow their lead, especially on the chest, where the skin is softer. Glide the razor mostly downhill except around the nipples -- you’ll need to be extra careful here. (Losing a nipple would make for lots of stares at the beach -- not the good kind.) Follow the hair’s varying directions and be sure not to nick the coarse skin.

Back
Don’t try this alone. The person shaving should merely follow the advice above (shave with grain, let razor glide, etc.). A few more words of wisdom, though: don’t ask a girl to do this on your first date.

Groin
Again, cut the hair short first. Then use a fresh blade, pulling the skin as taut and flat as possible. Use only light, short strokes. These last tips are especially important when clearing the brush around the tree, so to speak. There’s no real danger to hitting any veins or lopping anything off in this, um, especially sensitive area.

Still, nicks are easier to get if you’re not meticulous. When you’re done, use moisturizer or else the area could itch for days and result in ingrown hairs -- the manscape from which there’s no escape.


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Greg Melville is a former Men's Journal editor who has written about grooming for several publications, including Men’s Health.

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