The Byrdie Boy's Guide to Body Hair Removal

Man shaving his leg in the shower.

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Few grooming trends have taken hold quite like "manscaping." Fuelled by an abundance of super-smooth celebs and sportsmen, what started as a fad a decade ago is now firmly embedded in men’s everyday grooming regimens. There are lots of reasons you might want to remove your body hair. Maybe you feel cleaner, cooler, and fresher without it, or maybe you just like the way a smooth body looks and feels.

Manscaping isn’t mandatory, of course: If you love your body hair just as it is, leave it be. But if you are looking to say farewell to your fur, we've got you covered. Read on to discover which hair removal method is the right one for you, with a little help from experts Enrique Ramirez, Christian Karavolas, and Dr. Stephen Antczak.

Meet the Expert

  • Enrique Ramirez is a licensed massage therapist, esthetician, and waxing expert, and the founder of Face to Face Spa in New York City. His clients have included Ellen DeGeneres, Cardi B, and Neil Patrick Harris.
  • Christian Karavolas is a laser hair removal expert and the founder of Romeo & Juliette Laser Hair Removal in New York City. He currently serves as president of the New York State Association of Laser Hair Removal Specialists.
  • Dr. Stephen Antczak, Ph.D., is a chemistry teacher, former cosmetic chemist, and the author of "Cosmetics Unmasked."
01 of 06

Shaving

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Shaving is the perfect DIY solution for unwanted hair. After all, you can shave pretty much anywhere, from your chin to your shins.

The pros: It’s the simplest and cheapest of all the hair removal methods for men; all that’s required is a razor, a dollop of shave cream, and—depending on the area—nerves of steel. The results won’t last as long as other methods, but it can be done at home, and until you get regrowth, your skin will be super smooth. 

The cons: As with your face, the biggest risk is nicking the skin, so more sensitive areas need careful navigation. Since you’re slicing the hairs off at the surface rather than pulling them out, itchy regrowth is a risk, as are ingrown hairs. “Remember, too, that shaving can cause irritation, razor burns, and discoloration, and makes the skin prone to breakouts,” says Ramirez.

Trimming hairs back with a beard trimmer or hair clipper before involving your razor, shaving in the direction of hair growth, and using a post-shave balm or razor bump lotion afterward (such as Jack Black's Bump Fix, $27) can all help.

Best for: Armpits, chests, stomachs, legs, and the pubic area. Shaving your arms, toes, buttocks, knuckles, and shoulders isn’t a good idea because it can leave unsightly, not to mention itchy, blunt ends.

Painful?: Only if you rush things, use blunt blades, or slip with your razor. Always shave sober is all we’re saying. If you’re shaving your genitals, splash with lots of cold water first to get a tighter, smoother surface—and make sure to go slowly.

Cost: The price of a razor and some shave gel. Gillette’s Skinguard Men's Razor ($10) is a good option, as it’s made for sensitive skin.

02 of 06

Trimming

Want to reduce, rather than remove, your body hair? Then arm yourself with a trimmer.

The pros: You’ll be able to trim hair as well as remove it, allowing total control over its appearance, and it'll be easier to dodge ingrown hairs and skin irritation. You can maintain things at home and experiment with different hair lengths, too. On top of that, trimmers are a cinch to use and many are waterproof—so you can groom in the shower and make less of a mess. They’re cost-effective, too, especially if you buy a multifunctional one that can also be used on the head and beard. 

The cons: Results won’t be as close as with a wet razor and won’t last as long as waxing, depilatory creams, lasering, or sugaring.

Best for: Armpits, chests, stomachs, and the pubic area.

Painful?: Today’s body grooming devices are designed not to nick or cut, even when you’re tackling the most intimate of areas. Don’t get too overzealous, though—care is still needed. 

Cost: The price of the device. We like the Philips Norelco OneBlade Hybrid Rechargeable Men's Electric Face & Body Trimmer ($50).

03 of 06

Waxing

One of the most popular and effective forms of hair removal, waxing involves warm wax being applied to the hairs with a spatula before a therapist rips the wax off, along with the hairs. Sounds worse than it is.

The pros: “With waxing, skin stays smooth for about four weeks, whereas with shaving or creams it’s only smooth for a few days,” says Ramirez. “Plus, it leaves a silky smooth feeling which men are now fond of.” What’s more, since hair is removed from the root it grows back with soft and fine ends rather than blunt ones, so there'll be less itching. Waxing’s a good option if you’ve thick hair and lots of it.

The cons: Can be eye-watering (see below). You can do it at home but it’s much better done by a professional, which takes time and money. You’ll also need to avoid anything that causes profuse sweating for 24 hours after.  

Best for: Pretty much anywhere. Ramirez says the back and pubic areas are the most popular choices for his male-aligned clients. 

Painful?: You’ve heard of the expression "no pain, no gain?" Well, that may as well have been coined for waxing. There are worse pains, but make no mistake—it’s eye-watering stuff. The pain is fleeting, though, and everyone has a different threshold. “Believe it or not some men fall asleep during their waxing treatments,” says Ramirez, who suggests you resist the urge to trim the hair back before your wax, thinking it’ll make things less painful. “If you trim too much the discomfort will be greater because I’ll have to go over the area several times to get the hair from the root.”

Cost: From around $50 for chest wax to $300 plus for a full-body wax.  

04 of 06

Sugaring

One of the oldest hair removal techniques (it’s thought to have been popular with ancient Egyptians), sugaring involves the use of a sticky paste made of sugar, water, and lemon that adheres to hair and is pulled off in a similar way to waxing. 

The pros: Since the sugar doesn’t stick to the skin it often causes less irritation, making it great for guys with sensitive skin, and since the hair is removed from the root it’s ideal for men with curly hair who are prone to painful ingrown hairs. 

The technique also allows for larger areas to be done at once, and since it’s water-based it washes off easily, too. “The benefits are similar to waxing except that the sugar used is pure and organic, and men often prefer that to the warm wax or the fast rip,” says Ramirez.

The cons: A more specialized technique than waxing, it’s best left to a professional—and it’s crucial to find one who knows what they’re doing, as badly executed sugaring can burn the skin. “It’s also a slower process than waxing and tends to work best if the hair is light,” adds Ramirez.

Best for: Armpits, chests, legs, the pubic area, backs, buttocks, shoulders, arms, toes, and knuckles.

Painful?: Sugaring is generally considered less painful than waxing, but hair is still being pulled out by the root... so it’s certainly not painless

Cost: Since it’s a more specialized treatment than waxing and there are fewer practitioners it’s often more expensive, and costs vary depending on the salon. As a guide, MPM Hair Removal Studio in NYC charges $45 for armpits, $60 for a Boyzilian, and $80 for a chest and belly sugaring. 

05 of 06

Depilatory Creams

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Hair removal creams have been around since the mid-1800s, though thankfully they no longer use ingredients like arsenic and quicklime (and you thought parabens were bad). “They work by dissolving the protein structure of the hair, allowing it to be rubbed away at skin level,” explains Antczak. 

The pros: Fast and easy to use (you simply apply, leave on for a few minutes, and then shower off) depilatory creams are great for areas razors can’t reach, and there’s no prickly regrowth. Creams are also inexpensive and deliver results that last longer than shaving.

The cons: Hair removal with creams won’t last as long as waxing or sugaring (the hair will be poking through after a few days), and the creams can cause skin irritation for some men—especially if you leave them on for longer than the instructions say. (Antczak recommends doing a patch test on the inside of your arm before using.) Crucially, you can’t use them on privates.

Best for: Armpits, legs, arms, toes, knuckles, shoulders, backs, chests, and stomachs. 

Painful?: Only if you don’t follow the instructions on the packet or are allergic to any of the ingredients, which is why it’s important to do that to patch test first. 

Cost: One of the least expensive forms of hair removal, a tube of Nad's for Men Hair Removal Cream ($8) cost less than you'd even tip for a waxing.

06 of 06

Laser Hair Removal

A more permanent form of hair removal, this method uses a laser to zap the hair follicles that produce hair, destroying it and, when successful, the follicles’ ability to produce new hairs. It can be used to thin out body hair as well as remove it.

The pros: “Laser hair removal, when administered properly, can offer permanent results, whereas waxing and shaving are temporary and can cause irritation and ingrown hairs,” says Karavolas. It’s also good for trans people seeking permanent hair removal. “We treat many teens who are transitioning at the clinic,” he says. Since you’ll no longer need all the paraphernalia that goes with shaving, there’s a sustainability angle, too. 

The cons:  Along with the cost and the fact that it must be performed by a professional, several sessions of laser hair removal may be required. Plus, it’s not suitable for everyone. “Laser hair removal works on all skin types but will not work on light hair such as blonde, red, or gray, because the laser is attracted to pigment and melanin in the hair,” says Karavolas, who advises doing your research before committing to treatment and trying a test patch to see how it looks and feels first. It’s not suitable for tattooed areas either. 

Best for: All areas except the inner eyebrows due to the close proximity to the eye area. Karavolas says more and more men are coming in for removal of hair around the trunk line and buttocks, though do remember that what you take off generally stays off with laser treatment—and trends being what they are, we could all be sporting much more body hair this time next year. 

Cost: Average price can be $300 per session for the back or chest to $700 for full legs.

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