If you’re reading this, then you think about your body hair. And chances are you even like your body hair—to a degree.
You just wish there wasn’t so much of it. Or that your chest hair didn’t connect to your beard. Or that your thigh hair wasn’t so bushy that it makes wearing a swimsuit questionable. You’re not the kind of guy who’s going to wax it, but you want to take things down a notch. And that’s where the trouble begins. How short should you go?
It’s just like buzzing your head: once you’ve started there’s no turning back. And while “chest hair” is a thing many people like, “chest stubble” is not. So before you run a weedwhacker through your precious garden, let’s plan how we’re going to do this.
Find Your Ideal Length
First things first: we’ve found that women like body hair. The key is to keep it “in check.”
So let’s unpack that. “In check” means that your chest isn’t sprouting over your collar. But it also means that when you take off your shirt, you should look like you were conceivably born with this amount of chest hair. Avoid the “plucked chicken” effect.
Start with your chest, use a clipper, and choose the right guard.
In barber speak, clipper guards are denoted by numbers: 1, 2, 3… and so on. Each corresponds to an eighth of an inch. So a 1 is 1/8, a 2 is 2/8 (also known as 1/4)… you get it. Rule of thumb, don’t start with anything less than a 4 (1/2 inch). You can always go shorter. You can’t go longer.
In the end, you want hair that feels soft and looks natural on you—not stubble that prickles.
Test on the Margin
Don’t—we repeat: don’t—start by running the buzzer right down the middle of your chest. You might regret it as soon as you see the landing strip between your pecs.
Instead, start on the margin, like around your collarbone where you might want the hair to fade out anyway.
Another good chest tip: the more ripped your pectorals, the more hair you can afford to lose. If you have a flabby chest, shearing is going to make it more obvious, not less.
Tailor to the Body Part
Not all your body hair is the same length or same texture. Once you have your ideal chest setting, you shouldn’t just buzz your whole body with that same clipper guard.
Your armpit hair should be longer than your chest hair. Your belly hair should be shorter. Keep it in proportion by going up or down a buzzer guard for each area.
And unless you’re a competitive swimmer or a Yeti, don’t bother trimming your arms or legs. Take care of any noticeable groin fur that protrudes from your swimsuit and move on.
Take More than One Pass
Once you’ve committed to an area, and selected the right clipper guard, take multiple passes in different directions. Up. Down. Side-to-side. Even the best clippers available to you at home aren’t usually barbershop quality, and they can miss things.
This is especially important in the groin area, where there are many different angles and surfaces. You don’t want to spend a lot of time on the most visible areas and then have your summer crush discover a stray patch of long curls on your grundle.
Soothe the Itch
The shorter you go, the more likely you are to face a couple days of itching. (An itchy chest is worse when you wear a shirt, so if you’re headed to the beach anyway, great.)
If you have a moisturizing aftershave you like, apply some to the areas you’ve just groomed. For instance, this one from Kiehl’s uses menthol oils to soothe the skin (Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion, $18, kiehls.com).
Final word: sunscreen. Especially if you were rocking some Steve Carrell-level mohair until now, your flesh is about to meet sunshine for the first time. What’s worse than a plucked chicken? A scalded chicken. Don’t get burned.