Manscaping is, we would like to establish right off the bat, a kind of ridiculous word. But the concept of manscaping—as in, body grooming—is a perfectly reasonable one. It’s just not one that gets discussed all that often. You were probably taught how to shave your face back in the day, maybe by an elder guy in the family or by intently watching guys shave in movies. People talk openly about shaving their faces. But what about…everything else?
Manscaping is, you know, not a real word, so it doesn’t have a clear-cut definition. But let’s develop a working one right now: It’s basically any sort of grooming you do anywhere on your body that isn’t your face. We’re talking back, chest, arms, stomach, legs, and your ah, shall we say, bikini line. You can tweeze, wax, shave, sugar, and laser. The options are endless! So we called in some experts in the area to help break down the manscaping process. Here’s where to start.
What does manscaping mean?
Manscaping can mean whatever you want it to mean. You could just shave or tweeze areas at home, or you could (and maybe should) go to a professional. The back and chest are the two major ones hair-removal chain Sugared + Bronzed sees, according to founder Courtney Claghorn.
Like any sort of body hair removal, you never really have to. It’s something you should do only if you want to. Claghorn says men often come in for similar removal purposes: discomfort with chest hair poking out of a T-shirt, hair-covered abs, or because their partner prefers whatever body part groomed.
Aesthetics might be the main reason, but they’re not the only reason. Athletics are often a driving factor, too. Noemi Grupenmager, founder and CEO of Uni K Wax, says athletes in certain sports, like swimming, boxing, bodybuilding, and cycling, are required to have body hair at least groomed.
How do you best groom all that body hair?
The most common is an at-home process, which is largely fine. For the best results, get a body-friendly trimmer that can handle wading through thick hair. You could also opt into tweezing to cut down on the overall amount without having to take a blade to it. Of course, this works better on areas you can reach and see yourself. But for your back, shoulders, and even the upper part of your chest, it can be helpful to call in reinforcements.
There are a few ways to professionally get manscaped, but the main three are waxing, sugaring, and lasering, which all have their own benefits.
For waxing, one of the most mainstream ways to groom, you can go pretty much anywhere on the body for a pretty minimal cost. The wax is used to pull hair at the root, which gives it a much cleaner finish than shaving does. Grupenmager says the results from a wax last between four and six weeks. Going regularly means it’ll never get too out of hand, making all subsequent waxes easier. At somewhere like Uni K, prices range from $50 for arms and hands, to $300 for a full body. Of course, you can get anything in between done too, like your knees, toes, and feet. If you’ve never been waxed before, it hurts. It hurts a lot. But the pain is pretty quick, and good places will apply something cooling (like an aloe) afterwards, to minimize the pain.
Sugaring is the same idea as waxing—pull hair out at the root—but it uses a different application process. They’ll use a sugar paste, which is usually sugar, lemon, and water. It’s removed similarly to waxing, so they’re yanking that hair right out at the root. It’ll cost you about $100 for full back removal, and it’s best to go once a month. Sugaring also hurts. The feel of the sugar concoction itself might be a little easier to take than wax, but the actual pulling of the hair is essentially the same feeling.
Last—and most permanent—is laser hair removal. It’s the most expensive, but it’s also the most effective. If you’re looking for true removal, laser actually hits the follicle and prevents hair from growing there. To completely remove hair, you’ll generally have to go about eight times, and the time during and in between sessions depends on the area size and the thickness and color of the hair. To get a real read on it, it’s best to research local spots that have the most up-to-date technology, which will in turn have the most effective (and least painful) laser.
You can also get laser hair treatment to thin hair out, says Christian Karavolas, owner of Romeo and Juliet Laser Hair Removal in NYC. For specifics, you’ll need a consultation. But generally, if the goal is thinning out, you’d have to go fewer times and with a less intense laser. This is good for guys who have thick body hair they don’t like the look of, or ones who are prone to ingrown hairs. Without killing the whole follicle, you can stop some of it from growing back so rough.
But be warned: Lasering hurts. Even the ones that say they don’t hurt? They still hurt. It’s a different hurt than waxing or sugaring because it’s targeted rather than pulling on the skin. The laser hits the follicle and essentially feels like it’s burning single follicles at a time. Don’t be alarmed if it smells like burnt hair, either.
How often should you manscape?
Shave as regularly as you would your face. Wax or sugar every four to six weeks. Laser every other month or so, depending on what you want. If you’re just thinning hair out, you’ll go fewer times than if you’re going for a more permanent route.
What do you do before and after a wax or sugar?
Claghorn says it’s helpful to avoid stimulants (no coffee or cigarettes) for a few hours before heading in. You can use a numbing product 15 to 30 minutes before going, too. It helps to exfoliate your skin to make sure all the hairs are easily accessible for the weeks leading up, but you should stop a few days before to avoid having extra-sensitive skin before the appointment.
After, leave hair alone. Shaving or tweezing in between waxing or sugaring mucks up the process, so your hair removal the next time around isn’t as evenly distributed. Make sure the hairs grow back nicely by regularly using an exfoliator and a moisturizer, which will prevent ingrown hairs and irritated skin. For the best results, have some patience and go regularly.