Whether you're Sasquatch furry or just looking to lose the knuckle stubble, here's a complete-body guide to fighting fur.
AREA TO TRIM: EYEBROWS
Best Way: Fine-tipped tweezers (Tweezerman.com has a wide selection). The sharper the tip, the greater your control over the tool will be and the less it will hurt when it comes time to yoink those hairs out. Do your plucking after a hot shower. The heat opens up pores, allowing hairs to slip out of the skin more easily. To minimize pain, pull each hair as quickly as possible and use an aloe gel after tweezing to further soothe the skin.
"If it's your first time plucking, consider going to a salon at least once to have your brows shaped by a professional," says Leon Kircik, M.D., medical director of Physicians Skin Care in Louisville, Ky. If you take this route, ask a female co-worker the name of her favorite shop—tell her you want to buy a gift certificate for a "friend"—and schedule your visit for the a.m., mid-week. That way, the only people you'll run into are little old ladies looking to lose their moustaches.
AREA TO TRIM: EARS & NOSE
Best Way: Blunt-nosed tweezers. The medical equivalent, called a "needle holder," may be the best-kept secret among male doctors for removing unwanted nose and ear hair, says Stuart H. Kaplan, M.D., a Beverly Hills dermatologist. The smooth, non-ridged grasping surface of the instrument allows it to grasp many hairs at once and remove them, pulling them out from the root of the hair shaft. It doesn't hurt nearly as much as you'd think. This, Kaplan says, is better than trimming, which only removes the portion of the hair that is above the skin surface.
AREA TO TRIM: CHEEKS & NECK
Best Way: Shaving cream and razor. But don't just slap on the cream and start slicing skin. You need to let the white stuff sit awhile to be effective, says NYC dermatologist Karen Burke, M.D., Ph.D. "The hairs in your beard are as strong as a thin wire," she notes, "but if you leave your shaving cream on for at least two minutes and 45 seconds, the hair becomes softer and easier to cut."
The best shaving cream? Any that contains the ingredient benzoyl peroxide. "If you get razor bumps after shaving, they'll generally go away after using benzoyl peroxide for just a few days' time," says Burke. Once your beard is soft, shave slowly, stopping frequently to rinse the blade. If you're prone to ingrown hairs, Burke recommends exfoliating the skin and taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C a day. After shaving, splash cold water—not aftershave—on your face. The cool H2O will close your pores and soothe your skin. Then apply a moisturizer, like Gillette's Complete Skincare.
AREA TO TRIM: BACK
Best Way: Lasers. Here's how they work, Chewbacca: Light from the laser is drawn to the dark pigment in a strand of hair. The more light the hair is exposed to, the more it heats up—just like a black shirt on a sunny day—until, eventually, the hair follicle self-destructs. Unfortunately, up to half of all your hair follicles can be dormant at any one time. Meaning, it may take four to five treatments to achieve true Dr. Evil-level hairlessness. The most important things to keep in mind, according to Jeffrey Dover, M.D., a professor of dermatology at Yale University, are the type of laser being used for the procedure and the qualifications of the person using it. "It's generally best to go to a boardcertified dermatologist," says Dover.
"You'll get better results and will be less likely to suffer side effects such as skin discoloration." Dover recommends going to a doctor who uses n assortment of lasers, but if you want to get specific, ask your doctor if he uses what's called an Nd:YAG laser. "It's the safest and most effective for a wide variety of skin tones," he says.
AREA TO TRIM: ARMS
Best Way: An electric trimmer. When your arms look like the sleeves of a King Kong costume, you might assume that laser hair removal is the best option.
But think before you get zapped.If the laser treatment isn't done well, you can end up with spotty patches of hair on your arms that will look even worse. Instead, you can get your buzz with an electric buzzer. Find one that adjusts from supersheer to just short of shaggy.
AREA TO TRIM: CHEST
Best Way: Scissors or ab sculpting. If you have a hairy chest but don't feel like sporting the '80s-Travolta look, scissors can do the trick. Stand in your shower (to keep cleanup easy) and simply cut away half the length of each hair—enough to leave you looking groomed, though not like a prepubescent boy. But if you're looking for a more permanent option, you may consider something called ab sculpting. The procedure is a form of laser hair removal. Instead of getting rid of all the hair on your chest, however, only a portion is removed. The rest of your chest hairs are thinned and shaped, helping further define your existing six-pack (imagine a topiary bush above your abs).
"The technique relies on a type of optical illusion," says Dana Elise, director of Laser Solutions, a Beverly Hills-based skin-care center. "To create the appearance of abs, we use the laser to leave more hair in the center of the abdomen, and then feather the hair outward, creating the appearance of toned muscle," she says. But even the appearance of abs doesn't come cheaply. Each ab-sculpting session costs around $350 to $400, and you'll need five to six treatments to achieve that ab-fab look.
AREA TO TRIM: LEGS
Best Way: Wax. The hot sticky stuff isn't just for women, says Jacqui Stafford, director of style for Shape, MF's sister magazine. Whether you have an injury that needs to be taped or are looking to shave a couple of hairs off your breast-stroke time, waxing may be the best way to do it. First—as is the case in a job interview or first date—don't pour it on too thick.
"A thick layer of wax isn't as effective for pulling hair as a thinner layer," says Stafford. "Make sure your skin is clean and dry. Then apply the wax in the same direction your hair grows, press on the cloth strip, and rip it off in the opposite direction." You can use home waxing kits that you heat up in the microwave or in boiling water. Stafford also recommends what's called a "sugaring" kit. "They work just like wax but stick only to hair, not skin," she says. Look for her favorite at moom.com.
To keep the waxing from becoming too painful, take two aspirin beforehand to reduce inflammation, and wash with an antibacterial soap afterward to reduce the risk of folliculitis— tiny razor-burn-like bumps.
AREA TO TRIM: KNUCKLES, TOES, SHOULDERS & ANKLES
Best Way: Depilatory cream, such as Nair for Men. The gunk is easy to use and is more effective than shaving, because you're breaking down and dissolving the strand of hair, rather than just slicing it off at skin level. Plus, it's ideal for small areas, where it would be easy to nick or cut yourself, or where razor stubble might seem a bit too, uh, weird. Take a warm shower before slathering on the cream and avoid rubbing it into your skin or roughly scrubbing off the cream after use— both actions can increase your risk of painful ingrown hairs.
See Also: Is Hairless More?