Hair Removal for Men – Top to Toe Guide
Male hair removal is far from being a new phenomenon and has actually been around since ancient times for various reasons, which include religion, hygiene, looks and to improve performance in sport.
However there is no doubt that it has become more and more popular and socially acceptable for aesthetic reasons over the past few decades.
Body-grooming, also termed "manscaping" is now a booming market with many salons offering male hair removal services and literally hundreds of products available for home use.
So, if you are feeling bamboozled by the wide range of options available, look no further and read on for our top to toe guide:
Traditionally, a quick trip to the barber every 6 weeks or so was the norm for most men during the first part of the 20th century, with varying levels of utilitarian short back and sides, all done for a relatively low cost.
How things have changed!
Since around the mid 90's male hairstyle choices abound and are used as an expression of individuality and personality as well as looks.
Hair or Bare?
If you are blessed with abundant, thick and attractive hair, then you will likely be happy to keep it and experiment with various styles.
However, many men have fine, sparse hair or premature balding, and for these the best option is possibly a trendy short buzz cut or shaving for a completely bald head.
The Bald Head
The bald look is becoming more and more common and actually considered quite a turn-on for some ladies - much better than the old-fashioned and rather unattractive "comb-over" sported by many balding men in the past.
If you opt for a closely clipped or bald head, then you have the option to save money and time by doing it for yourself at home.
If you decide to take the plunge and go completely bald, there are a few things to bear in mind, particularly if you are thinking you will be quids in:
For more detailed information see our article top tips to care for a bald head.
If you favour a short, all over cut and don't want to visit a salon, then a good set of electric at home clippers are ideal.
Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to sort out your own hair relatively quickly and easily.
There are numerous electric clippers and groomers on the market but if you want a low-cost, dedicated, easy to use self-haircut kit that can be used cordless or corded, we would recommend the Remington HC4250 Shortcut.
For more options and recommendations, we have carried out a separate review with our top 5 hair trimmers and clippers for men.
Nasal hair serves an important purpose; that of protecting the delicate nasal membranes from irritants and particles and preventing them from entering the nasal passage and collecting moisture.
You should never attempt to pluck or wax them as, quite aside from the pain and damage you may cause, it is important for hair to remain there.
It is not necessary, however, for the hair to be long enough to be visible and so trimming the hair is the best solution.
This can be done using nose hair scissors, which are specially designed with rounded tips to avoid accidental injury.
All you need to do is hold one side of the nose closed with one hand whilst trimming off any visible hair with the other.
Alternatively, there are a number of electric nose and ear hair trimmers on the market which are inexpensive, very safe and easy to use, such as the Panasonic ER-GN30-K available for around $13.
Visible ear hair, often appearing or increasing in older men can be both unsightly and unnecessary.
The good news is that it can be safely and easily removed and there are a few options.
The easiest, quickest and safest way is to shave them off, which has the added advantage of being pain-free. Ideally, use an electric ear hair trimmer (some electric shavers have a special attachment for this) and which can also be used for nose hair.
The downside of shaving is that you will need to repeat the process regularly. However, if you are shaving every day in any case, it should only add a few extra minutes to your routine.
Alternatively, if the hairs are protruding from the ear canal, they can be trimmed down with a pair of blunt edged scissors (as with nasal hair). However, whatever you do, do not be tempted to actually insert anything into the ear canal.
Tweezing the odd strays is another method, however you do need to be careful - make sure you have a magnifying mirror and can see the area clearly.
Pull each hair individually, grasping as close to the base as possible, and don't go into the ear canal itself.
Use a good quality pair of sharp, slant-edged, well aligned tweezers - we would recommend you look at the Tweezerman range.
Waxing is another option, which can be painful and you need to be careful.
Ideally, we would suggest that you either have this procedure carried out professionally at a clinic or use pre-waxed strips that do not require heating.
If you are using hot wax, you must be careful not to get wax into the ear canal.
Both waxing and tweezing have the advantage that the results will last longer than shaving.
Laser or Electrolysis
If you want a more permanent solution and have a healthy budget, you could opt for laser or electrolysis, both of which would need to be carried out by a professional.
Laser hair removal is most effective for those with pale skin and dark hair, and will not work for grey, white, light blond or red hair.
Laser hair removal results in permanent hair reduction, and requires several treatments over weeks or months to complete.
Electrolysis results in permanent hair removal, and also requires several treatments.
We have published an article outlining fully the difference between laser hair removal and electrolysis, together with the relative pros and cons of each.
It may well be that you are happy to leave your eyebrows alone, and it is not an essential part of many men's hair removal routine.
However, if you have very thick, bushy eyebrows or brows that meet in the middle to form a "unibrow" and you are unhappy with the look, there are a couple of good options.
The main thing to remember is that you want your brow to look as natural as possible, whilst being tidy.
Tweezing is the most precise method as each hair is plucked out from the root individually, making it less likely that you will overdo it.
It is always best to start with caution as once a hair is removed from the root it will take several weeks to grow back. I am guessing that you do not want to be in the position of having to pencil in over-plucked brows!
Tweezing is quick and easy to do at home, but it may be best to have your brows done professionally for the first time. Then you will just need to pluck out the regrowing hairs as they appear to keep a good shape.
Here are a few basic tips for tweezing the eyebrows at home:
Tweezing is discussed fully in our Ultimate Guide to Tweezing Hair Removal.
Waxing is another option which as with tweezing removes hair from the root, the difference being that multiple hairs are removed in one go.
There are a number of small pre-waxed strips on the market, specifically designed for eyebrow use. Again I would advise a visit to a salon for professional shaping first!
The best use of waxing for this area, in my opinion, is for removing the monobrow, which can be quite thick with a lot of hair, so time-consuming to tweeze individually.
However, you will still need a pair of tweezers to "fine-tune" the shape and get rid of any odd strays that you miss.
Be very careful if using wax that you do not go mad and take off too much hair!
Quite possibly, all your eyebrows require is a trim to keep longer, unruly or particularly bushy hair under control.
To take length from the brows to stop them growing outwards, hold them out with the comb against your skin and trim with the scissors or trimmers to the edge of the comb.
Then brush the hair up towards the forehead and trim with the scissors to shape, finally brushing in the direction of hair growth so that they are nice and neat. Again, tweezers can be used to remove the odd stray.
Electrolysis and Laser
If you really want a permanent solution and are prepared to pay for and attend several sessions over a few months at a salon, then electrolysis is the best solution.
It is highly targeted and precise and does not present a risk to the eyes.
Laser hair removal is not suitable for shaping brows (other than above) due to the close proximity to and risk of damage to the eyes, although to remove the monobrow it can be effective.
You will need to talk through the process with the clinician and wear eye protection, and not carry out this treatment at home.
We appreciate that beards are very fashionable at the moment and we have a separate guide to growing and caring for your beard.
However, for many men daily shaving is the only answer for the smooth, clean cut look.
Clearly the first decision is whether to go for the traditional wet shave with a razor, or the speed and convenience of an electric shaver.
So, if you have chosen the razor option, the decisions don't end there.
There are a plethora of products available, from cheap plastic disposable, twin blade razors to more expensive models with replaceable multi-blade cartridge razor heads, double edged safety razors or even the straight blade "cut-throat" design.
Disposables have the lowest initial cost per razor, come in boxes of anything from 10 up to 100 + and are completely disposable i.e. the whole razor, including handle is thrown away when the blades become blunt.
Each one will last for 1 - 5 shaves depending on the thickness of the beard, some have a lubricating strip whilst others do not.
Whilst these razors are undoubtedly favoured by some for their cheapness and convenience, especially when travelling, if you have a eye on the environmental impact then they are the worst offenders.
These are also termed disposables, although with these razors it is the replaceable cartridge blade heads only that are thrown away and the handle is kept.
Cartridge razors vary greatly in price and features, with anything from 3 - 7 blade cartridges, with or without lubrication strips, flexible heads etc.
This type of razor is by far the most commonly used today, but again they have a very negative impact on the environment.
In fact, cartridge razors will give a close shave generally but are awkward to use around intricate areas, e.g. the nose, as the cartridge actually gets in the way.
Multiple blades are difficult to clean afterwards and often become clogged with shaved hair and cream, so that the blades become inefficient, leading to razor burn, ingrown hairs and a poor shave.
The more blades there are, the closer they are together and the more difficult they are to clean properly, so we would suggest that if you are going for cartridge shaving, you choose a 3 blade option e.g. The Gillette Mach 3.
Also, bear in mind the cost of replacement cartridges and the fact that each brand will likely only accept their own brand of cartridge.
It is worth checking this out before you buy your complete razor as they do vary considerably.
Double Edged Safety Razor
The double edged safety razor is by far our favourite option for closeness of shave, cost and environmental impact.
Although purchasing a decent razor involves a higher initial outlay, the low cost of replacement blades and the long life of the handle far outweighs the opposition in terms of value for money.
The main downside is that it will take a little practice to use, but once proficient you are unlikely to want to swap to the disposable options.
We have published a separate article outlining the relative pros and cons of safety razors vs cartridge razors.
If you want the ultimate close shave then the straight razor is the tool for you, but you will need a steady hand and plenty of practice to get a good smooth shave without nicks and cuts.
A straight razor, often rather frighteningly termed "cut-throat razor" is simply a blade that folds into its handle.
With a straight razor, providing you look after it and sharpen the blade well (known as honing or stropping) as required, it may be several years before you need to purchase a replacement blade.
There are some available now that take a replaceable blade similar to half a double edged safety blade e.g. the Parker straight edge razor.
Most good electric shavers are rechargeable for use wet or dry and it is worth paying as much as you can for a good quality shaver from a reputable manufacturer.
There are two types of shaving heads, rotary or foil and though we can make suggestions, which you opt for is ultimately down to personal choice.
Rotary shavers have circular blades that spin around and flex individually in the unit for easy maneuvering around the facial contours.
They can be used in any direction (circular, up anddown, side to side) so they are super easy to use and very versatile.
If you have thick, coarse hair and do not wish to shave every day then a rotary shaver may be the best for you as they tend to cope better with longer, thicker hair than their foil counterparts.
Foil shavers are straight-edged and have a very thin perforated metal layer (the foil) to provide a barrier between the skin and the blades.
The foil traps the hair and lifts it to provide a closer shave.
The advantage of a foil razors is that it can provide a precision finish to areas such as sideburns and mustaches.
If you have sensitive skin and/or like to shave daily and precisely then a foil razor is likely to be the best choice for you.
There really is a huge array of electric shavers to suit all pockets and preferences - for more information and help to decide see our guide on how to choose the best electric razor.
Male body hair is closely associated with masculinity, however keeping it tidy and under control can greatly enhance the appearance.
The smooth, hair-free look is also very popular nowadays, especially with younger men.
Now personally, I love a hairy chest - the more hairy the better! However, I appreciate that it is not for everyone, and if you prefer to bare all for the clean, smooth look there are a few options:
Shaving is the least expensive and probably most convenient method as you can include it in your regular routine.
However, the downside is that the results are short-lived and you will have to shave very regularly and possibly even daily to keep your chest nice and smooth.
The easiest way would be an electric shaver/body groomer, although as with the beard area, the very closest shave would likely be achieved with a razor.
Aside from being pain-free, one of the best things is that you do not need to wait for a certain length of regrowth between shaves.
Depilatory creams are another pain-free option, and will give slightly longer results as the hair is dissolved just below the surface of the skin.
It is very important that you carry out a patch test on a small area before you spread the cream all over your chest to check for adverse allergic reactions, as they contain strong chemicals.
Choose a cream that is suitable for male body use and never leave it on for longer than the recommended maximum time.
Easy to use, they can however be a little bit messy and you do need to make sure that you cover all the hair thoroughly so that you do not miss bits.
You will need to be able to see some regrowth, although it does not need to be a huge amount and it will not have the stubbly look and feel associated with shaving. You should be aware though, that you need to leave a minimum of 72 hours between treatments.
The downsides really are that you are using chemicals over a large area of your body, and the cost of regularly purchasing the creams will mount up over time.
Waxing will give you the longest lasting results, but requires a bit of technique to master and is certainly not pain-free.
You may like to visit a salon at least for the first time, so that you can learn the correct technique whilst getting used to the experience.
You have the choice of hot or cold wax, the relative merits and disacvantages of each are discussed in our article; Hot vs cold waxing.
One of the main downsides of waxing is that you do need to have at least 1/4" hair regrowth showing for the wax to adhere to for effective results.
On the plus side, regrowth will be finer and sparser over time as the hairs are repeatedly pulled out from the roots.
Also, as your skin becomes used to the process, the feeling of pain will reduce.
Lasers can be used to achieve permanent hair reduction over time, and are a good option if you really hate having a hairy chest.
Do be sure that you actually want the permanence - although it can be the case that once treatments cease the hair will eventually grow back, it certainly cannot be guaranteed, and it may not ever be as thick as it was prior to treatment.
You will need to be prepared to persevere over many treatments to achieve the results you require, as lasers are only effective on hairs that are in the actively growing stage (explained fully in our article how does laser hair removal work?).
Home laser/IPL machines have improved over the years and, although not as powerful as those used in salons, can produce good results.
These are not suitable for everyone and still work best on those with light skin and dark hair.
Home IPL machines are not currently effective for those with white, grey, light blond or red hair or for darker skin tones.
The options for removing back (and shoulder) hair are the same as for the chest, however are limited if you wish to remove the hair at home unless you have help.
There are extra long-handled razors designed for shaving the back, e.g. The Mangroomer Pro back shaver (pictured right) which is battery operated (rechargeable) and packed with helpful features.
Waxing, depilatory creams and laser can really only practically be carried out either at a salon, or by someone else at home.
The two most popular methods for male genital hair removal at home are shaving and depilatory creams, although waxing is also an option (if you can stand the pain!).
So, you may want to have a completely shaved, smooth look or simply to tame the bush by trimming.
If you just want a trim, then easy-peasy - you can use blunt ended scissors similar to those used for trimming nasal and ear hair or any one of an array of electric body groomers on the market.
You will also need a good magnifying mirror and good lighting so that you can properly see what you are doing.
Shaving will require a bit of time and close attention, it is a very sensitive area and prone to nicks and cuts if you are not very careful.
Depilatory creams are generally not recommended for the genital area due to the harsh chemicals that they contain.
However, many men use them and are very happy with the results, which last a little longer than shaving.
Whatever you do, make sure that you carry out a patch test on a small area prior to going for it!
It is a good idea to trim the area first so that you can minimize the amount of product that you will need and never use if you have sores, cuts or irritated skin.
If you are brave enough to go for the eye-watering waxing option, then you will get the best and longest-lasting results.
It is worth noting, though, that you will need at least 1/8" regrowth for the wax to adhere to and be efficient and if too long, the hair will need to be trimmed first.
If you can bear the indignity, it really is advisable to go to a salon for waxing "down there", at least for the first time or two.
There are home waxing kits available which come with full instructions, just be sure that you follow them exactly, paying particular attention to any recommended patch tests, precautions and warnings.
Laser or Electrolysis
Either laser or electrolysis are options for more permanent hair removal in the genital area, but for either you should go to a salon for proper, professional advice.