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sexpert

I’ve heard a lot about “manscaping.” What is this, and should I be doing it?

- Lookin’ Hairy

Hi Lookin’ Hairy,

Thank you for your question! Manscaping refers to male-identifying folks waxing, shaving, or trimming body hair. While women were traditionally those to whom services or products to trim or remove hair were geared, today, people of all sexes have moved towards managing their unwanted hair, thus the emergence of the term “manscaping.” This term encompasses altering of the hair anywhere from eyebrows and ears, to chest and back, to the pubic region. According to a 2014 survey, 39% of men aged 18 and older report “manscaping” and 2017 study found that 50.5% of men report grooming “down there” regularly.

It is important to note that by no means should you feel forced to alter your body hair — whether implicitly by advertisements or magazine articles, or explicitly by a partner or someone else’s demand. Body hair is a natural occurrence, and plenty of people leave it to do its thing. But if you do want to shape, trim, or remove it, there are many methods to choose from depending on your preference.

Waxing pulls the hair out from the follicle and slows the reemergence of the hair. Over time, waxing can also permanently make your hair thinner and less noticeable. Experts recommend that you go to a certified, reputable, and clean waxing salon to wax your hair to prevent infection and injury. You can also use at-home waxing kits, which are cheaper but also carry more risk of user error. Be sure to read and follow all of the directions that accompany your waxing kit. Some considerations if you are thinking of waxing your pubic hair: some professional salons require parental consent for people under 16 years old. If waxing at home, be extremely careful around your genital area, so as to avoid burns or tears of the skin.

You can also choose to shave, but be sure to use shaving cream or gel and a sharp razor to prevent cuts and irritation, and shave in the direction of the hair growth. Shaving leaves the follicle of the hair in the skin, which means that the hair will grow back faster than waxing and may seem darker and thicker due to the blunt end caused by the razor (the hair is not actually thicker). If the hair is long, trimming beforehand to about one-fourth to one-sixteenth of an inch can make shaving easier. 

For some people shaving is not ideal, as it will sometimes irritate the skin, cause razor bumps, and put you at a higher chance of having ingrown hairs (where hairs grow into the skin instead of out of the skin). Both shaving and waxing will sometimes result in a couple days of itching after removing hair, as the hair begins to grow back. When shaving pubic hair, pull skin taut and shave with light, gentle strokes. Using a portable mirror can help you see what you’re doing.

If you wish to just trim your hair but not completely remove it, you can use scissors or invest in an electric trimmer. Both will allow you to control how much hair to remove. When using scissors, make sure they are clean (wipe them down with rubbing alcohol beforehand) and you don’t cut too close to the skin. For electric razors, there are all kinds of attachments that help trim ear and nose hair, or select the length of hair that remains. If trimming your pubic region, take care not to trim too close to the genitals.

Lastly, you can also choose to use a depilatory creams, such as Nair, to chemically remove hair. These chemicals loosen hair from the follicle. These creams can cause allergic reactions or breakouts. If you choose to use this method for removing pubic hair, make sure you use products formulated specifically for sensitive areas. Using creams is the most dangerous way to remove pubic hair due to the risk of chemical burns or severe skin irritation. Be sure to read and follow all directions accompanying the cream if you decide to use this method.

After-care also matters! Use a gentle astringent like witch hazel or alcohol-free aloe vera gel on the area. If you do experience any minor cuts, wash thoroughly with soap and warm water and hold pressure with a damp piece of paper towel or toilet paper to clot for 10 to 15 minutes. Cuts that bleed for longer might require medical attention. For any more injuries or infections, do not hesitate to contact a health provider, even with just questions.

With trimming and maintaining pubic hair becoming more mainstream, your options have grown drastically! Remember to do and proceed with what you are comfortable, and feel free to explore! The good news with all of these methods is that if you get a “bad haircut,” it’ll grow back.

Best,

The Sexpert

Sources:

American Journal of Men’s Health

Go Ask Alice! Columbia

Multisponsor survey

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