Why do I remove hair?
Removing hair is one of those tricky decisions that can plague us when starting out. Personally, I don't like body hair. I just don't like the look of it and I've never enjoyed having hair.
At school as an adolescent, hair growth was one of those markers of manhood that made changing rooms such a challenging environment. Being considerably younger and smaller than my classmates, I didn't develop hair growth until much later. It's just one of those things I was picked on for. Maybe I came to resent hair as a result but to me it's more of an aesthetic consideration these days.
To my mind, smooth skin looks better than hairy skin. Having an opportunity to remove hair was always a cathartic experience but today it's pretty much routine for me. So let's talk about that routine.
What type of results do you want?
When you are deciding on hair removal options, a lot will depend on what you are trying to achieve. Are you looking for something very temporary or longer lasting results? Deciding how permanent you want this to be is an important first step.
Very Temporary - Best advice is to trim hair rather than remove it. You'd be surprised what a difference it can make to use clippers and shorten your existing hair
Temporary - Shaving is the best option here. Hair regrowth starts immediately or rather it never stops so you'll get a couple of days out of this method. Great for a photoshoot or a weekend away.
Short Term - Waxing and epilating will remove the hair by the root and give you a couple of weeks before regrowth begins. The hair needs to be long enough to grip so you have to regrow before the next treatment. Great for holidays.
Longer Term - Shaving is an obvious daily maintenance activity but I've had success with IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) as well. Can give you up to 8 weeks according to claims but see my observations below...
Tried it, didn't like it...
When it comes to hair removal there are many choices on the market. I've tried a few of these and I'll try to cover off my favourites while also running few some of my less successful attempts below:
Buffing (Temporary) - I fell for this once. It's basically a minature sander that 'buffs' off the hair leaving you wonderfully smooth, except it doesn't work. My hair is far too coarse to be buffed away and this was a total waste of money.
Epilating (Short Term) - For a man with dark hair, epilating is a horrific activity. Incredibly painful, takes ages and makes a hell of a mess with hairs scattered all of the place. I couldn't advise against this strongly enough.
Veet / Hair dissolving products (Short Term) - These do work but given the thickness of my hair, I often got leftover hairs that refused to budge and needed a second application. In addition, it smells strongly and you need a ton of it to cope with legs, chest etc..
Waxing (Short Term)
Waxing is something I tried and moved on from fairly rapidly. In my early days, waxing was useful if I was going to remain relatively hairy for most of the year and only remove hair for specific periods when I have an opportunity to dress a lot.
The problem with waxing is that they hairs need to be long enough to grip. This means you have to be able to plan your outings really well if your intention is to only ever wax. This alone turned me off the whole process.
I used Veet wax strips a few times and I found the results pretty impressive on small / specific patches but if you're trying to do legs, chest etc. in one sitting it's a really long, messy and expensive process.
The strips themselves are easy to use but I did find that the edges tended to leave thin sections of wax on the skin with the hairs still attached. This basically meant you had little sticky areas that needed to be thoroughly cleaned off before you could address them again (or just pluck out the remaining hairs).
Post-wax legs do feel great but if like me you want to be ready to go at any moment, a more flexible option is better.
Shaving must be the default option for most male crossdressers since we are guaranteed to have all the necessary equipment to hand and it's not something that causes any purchasing anxiety.
That being said, there are certain processes that can enhance the process and these are my recommendations.
Razor not Shaver - I never use an electric shaver for any part of my routine. They are fine for guy-mode etc. but they simply don't do what I need for crossdressing.
Good for the face = good for the body - I use the same Gillette Mach3 handle that I bought 20 years ago. There is no noticeable difference between 'female' razors and 'male' razors, just use what you're used to.
Circulate your blades - I have two Mach3 handles. I use one for face and the other for body. After 3-4 shaves with the face blade I switch it to the other handle and it becomes by body blade. The old body blade is then discarded. This way I always have a sharp blade for my face and I find that an older blade works fine for the rest of me.
I have two routines that I use, one is for regular, normal use and the other is for occasions when I will be bare legged and want to make the most of things.
General routine - Every other shower or so I will give myself a quick tidy up with a razor. See the IPL section below to understand how / why I can do this. I don't use gel or foam and simply trim up any hairs that are noticeable.
'Legs Out' routine - If I'm getting my legs out in the summer and I want to look my best I will do the following:
Exfoliate - I use exfoliating gloves to clean up the skin and lift any flat hairs that may otherwise be missed.
Gel - Standard Gillette shaving gel which I use for my face is applied to legs, arms, chest, basically anywhere that needs it.
Blade - swap over my blade to make sure I have a newer one to use. Shave as usual.
Exfoliate again - pop the gloves back on for a quick scrub up
Aftercare - I use Nivea cream on any shaved areas but particularly the exposed arms and legs to moisturise and give a nice sheen to the skin.
There are a number of possible issues with shaving which it's good to be aware of:
Irritation - When I first started shaving, I found that I would get rashes or spots where I had recently shaved. There could be some itchiness as well. All I can say is that for me this all went away eventually and I get no such issues today.
Ingrowing hairs - I've rarely had this, maybe a couple of times but it's possible. I more often find that a few hairs are just under the surface of the skin but this is easily taken care of by exfoliating.
Nicks - Cutting yourself is an occupational hazard, however, I try to be very careful around any odd shapes body parts, e.g. ankles, wrists, knees etc.. Cutting a slice up the back of your achilles is something you can't appreciate until you've done it.
IPL (Longer Term)
Using my IPL machine
I use my IPL machine a couple of times every 6 months to maintain my current results. I've details the range of results I get further below.
Coverage - However, the IPL machine has a fairly small aperture which means that it's going to take a while to cover your entire body. I'd estimate at least 2 hours and 3-4 full charges of the machine. Essentially allow 30 mins and 1 charge per leg...
Accuracy - One of the problems is that legs are thicker at the top than at the bottom so if you try to apply the treatment in straight lines you will get all round your ankle long before you've gone round your thigh. My instruction manual suggests drawing tramlines onto your legs to ensure you're following a defined pattern but I tend to wing it.
IPL or Intense Pulsed Light is a treatment which concentrates light directly onto the follicle and stunts or stops growth for up to 8 weeks (according to Philips).
I've used a Philips Lumea for the last 3 years (about once every 6 months) and this has a huge effect on slowing or in come cases, stopping hair growth. This is what lets me do a quick shave in the shower and head out without having to tackle every part of my body.
Your reaction to using one of these machines could be wildly different to mine and they are expensive so it isn't a risk-free investment. All I will say is that this has made a huge difference to me and it's one of the reasons I'm able to dress regularly will a little less hassle in my life.
Where to use and results
I've pretty much used my IPL machine everywhere and had at least some positive results. The manual advises not to use on the male face although apparently it's fine for women to use on their top lip?
All I can say is that I have used this to stunt hair growth on my neckline and under my chin and it works fine. If in doubt always check the manual of your machine.
Is it any good? My experience of these machines is that they achieve results between 'nothing at all' and 'permanent hair removal'. I've used this machine repeatedly on hairs that simply will not stop growing and then I've used it a couple of times in one area and the hair has never come back.
In general I would say that using the IPL stops 90% of my hair growth for at least 8 weeks. It's not enough to go without shaving but it's enough to make shaving a simple activity rather than a chore. The fact that I don't have to rush to shave any more is probably the key factor as to why I don't seem to cut myself shaving these days.