BODY & MIND

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Mowing Your Lawn: A Manscaping Primer

By Jack Hafferkamp

To manscape or not to manscape; that is the question faced by many gay men who hope to have another gay man see them naked in the not too distant future. "Why not?" may be the answer. Trimming or shaving your pubic hair allows for easier sexual access and may make your package look bigger and more visually pleasing to the beholder. You may also be one of the lucky ones who report increased sensitivity and sexual pleasure after removing some or all of the hair near your genitals. No matter what, just like the hair on your head, pubic hair will always grow back later—as long as you stay away from permanent hair-removal methods.

Women have been ladyscaping for years—it's a gift from the porn industry to American around the world. Trimmed and shaped or zipped, the nether regions looks good, and whether landing strip or Brazilian, it certainly makes it easier for her partner to find the trigger. Why should women have all the fun?

Caution Flag
But before you decide to depilate, there are a few issues you should consider. One of the good things about pubes is that they function to dissipate excess moisture—like sweat—by maintaining a layer of air between skin and underwear. They also provide cushioning for delicate flesh. Take away the pubes and you have the potential for some health and irritation issues.

You're also going to have to buy some new undies. If you take all or most all of your hair off, you will have to wear loose undergarments made from breathable materials such as cotton or silk to prevent irritation. And if you are prone to sweating a lot, you may have to get used to using cornstarch or other safe, talc-free powder. Also, while trimmed/shaved looks cleaner, some studies show that removing pubic hair can promote fungal infection of the genitals. And fungal infections are contagious. That's a pretty serious downside.

How to Begin
Despite the tonnage of web storage devoted to the subject and panicky questions on sites like Yahoo! Answers, it's not that difficult to trim/remove pubic hair. You can go to a pro or you can do it yourself. Either way it comes down to shaping and/or removing. And, whether you hire somebody or DIY, you use a limited set of possible methods:

  1. Shaving and plucking—the easiest, cheapest method
  2. Waxing—grown men do cry out
  3. Apply chemicals—you're not putting that hot salsa on my huevos
  4. Electrolysis—a needle does what?
  5. Lasering—blast your pubes away
SHAPE IT
Depending on where you live—and how progressive a place it is—you may or may not be able to find a professional who will work on you down there. Let your fingers do the walking to call up some local spas, or use try web searches on Yelp.com or spa-finder (the best thing about Yelp.com is the user reviews). Going to a spa to trim up your pubes can be kind of fun. Or not. It depends on your proclivities, pain threshold, and pleasure at being served at an intimate level. How nice the spa is matters, too. Costs can range up to $400 and beyond per visit.

If the spa seems too pricey or too social, there are easy-to-Google personal grooming products available for creating your testicular topiary all by yourself. A mustache trimmer will work. Of course, you'll want one with attachments or adjustments so you can vary the depth you want to leave behind. You can have some fun with this—the web even offers an amusing array of pubic hair stencils and designs (although, to be fair, we can practically guarantee that no gay man is going to find heart-shaped pubic hair hot).

If you're really loathe to invest, you can also use disposable razors, a pair of decent bathroom scissors, and maybe some tweezers. All you need to do is soften up the hair—much as you do to your face when you prepare to shave it. Best bet is to take a warm bath or shower first. Soak a bit. Use some soap and conditioner. Take your time. If your hair is long and/or coarse, first use the scissors or electric trimmer. Then apply your choice of shaving gel, foam, or—best choice—hair conditioner. Do final sculpting with a razor and tweezers.

But, wait! Listen up! Whatever you do, do not use your electric shaver or electric trimmer directly on your balls—unless the concept of mincemeat somehow turns you on.

REMOVE IT
The basic question here is how permanent do you want the procedure to be? Are you testing the waters or are you ready to really plunge in?

Shaving it: If you don't want to go for permanence, the budget DIY version is pretty simple, safe, and effective. You just keep on with the same process for trimming until there is very little or nothing left. You can buy a gizmo shaver, but a plain, new disposable safety razor will work just fine. Just don't be in a hurry; take off a little at a time. Having a mirror helps. So does a helpful partner.

Pick out a small area. Gently pull the skin taut with one hand and glide the razor across your skin with the other. First go the way the hair grows and then stroke against it. Clean razor and rinse with cold water; repeat process. Pat dry. You will likely experience irritation the first few times you trim or shave. A moisturizing lotion can be very satisfying. If you notice immediate reddening, use an ice cube to cool it off.

When the hair begins to return it may itch some. If you have problems with ingrown hairs, think about scaling back to a trim rather than full removal—or else stepping up the removal process to something more long lasting. One other issue with shaving: You have to do it fairly regularly. Like facial hair, it grows back quickly.

Waxing it: Some people prefer waxing; it lasts longer—usually two to four weeks—so there is less maintenance. On the other hand, there is more pain. Lots more pain, in fact. Who hasn't seen Steve Carell bleed in The 40 Year Old Virgin?

On the upside, the more you wax the less you probably will have to do it over time, as waxing eventually results in less hair production. Waxing, too, can be done at home, and not just with hot wax, which carries some risk of burning. A little web research will turn up at least one recipe for a make-your-own sugar-based solution that does the same thing.

Melting it: Liquid or cream chemical depilatories remove hair by dissolving the keratin in it. Your skin also has keratin in it, so there is definite potential for damage when using these—especially in places where you really don't want damage. Chemical depilatories are best used to finish up around the edges—definitely not on your genitals.

Zipping it: It is the one "permanent" method. Like chemical depilatories, electrolysis is another great idea for most areas of the body—just not necessarily for the genitals. That is, it's for hair only outside the bikini line—not down deep in it. That's because basically in electrolysis, a needle is inserted into the hair follicle and literally applies a zap of electrical current to the area. It's not safe on penis or testicles. And even at that the whole process depends on the skill of the practitioner. Poorly done, it can cause scarring and spread infection.

And electrolysis should be considered only by those who know for sure they're ready for this step—if for no other reasons than it is expensive and the process is slow and laborious. It can cost $1,000 to $3,000. Treatment time can last anywhere from two to 12 hours, and it causes much more discomfort than laser hair removal, though still not as much as waxing.

Zapping it: The New York Times reports that dermatologists and aestheticians say that laser removal of pubic hair is one of their most popular procedures. One good reason is that laser treatments generally do not cause cuts, razor bumps, rashes, or ingrown hairs, which can result from shaving and waxing. Lasers work their magic by blasting hair follicles with heat, which causes hair to fall out and reduces new growth. Lasers can be used in places where you wouldn't want electrolysis happening. A series of laser treatments can permanently reduce hair by 80 percent or so.

The good news: Treatments takes about two to three minutes, and are generally painless—at least less discomfort than electrolysis or waxing. And it is FDA approved. But the big downside of laser treatments is price. Doctors charge $250 to $750 per pubic area treatment. Three to 12 sessions may be needed for permanent hair reduction, plus follow-up treatments once or twice a year. It could easily cost you up to $2,000 or way more for basic pube removal.

Note: A new personal hair laser removal product called Tria has recently launched that promises the benefits of expensive laser hair removal in a less costly $995 do-it-at-home product. That said, the product is new, so you may want to wait until more reviews have come out before you consider this option.

Another important consideration: Lasers work best on dark hair and light skin. If your skin is darker or if your pubic hair is lighter, lasers may not be for you. Laser can't tell the difference between dark hair and dark skin. And in addition to burning, the process can change the skin color for months.

Decision Time
So there you have it, the menu of manscaping choices, and the good and bad of each. Best bet: If you want to experiment, do it yourself with one of the temporary methods. Just do it carefully—scabs are not attractive and are prone to infection. It won't cost much and if you don't like the results, your hair will grow back.