Noticeably absent from this list: lasers and waxing. “I think in the long run, DIY lasers are showing improvements, but the speed and quality of results in office is much better,” says Dr. Fromowitz. “This makes it hard to justify the at-home approach.” Waxing, similarly, opens the door to many problems, since it's hard to do on your own, and it aggressively rips each hair and follicle from the skin, leaving the pores exposed to germs and grime—particularly from sweat. Just head to the pros to get it done properly, and follow their advice for post-procedural care.
Now, here are the options you should consider for removing back hair. Just follow the doctor’s orders, unless you want to be the guy wearing a t-shirt on his beach vacation.
According to Dr. Fromowitz, blades are the likeliest candidate for redness, rashes, ingrown hairs, razor burn, infections, and the like. Since the pores on the back are often covered and prone to sweat, they’re likely to get infected, especially when you’ve dragged a bacteria-ridden razor across the skin.
But he does note that improvements in manufacturing have brought us "sharper multi-blade options and metal coatings that minimise razor burn." Another advancement, though less scientific, is the razor extender. Dr. Fromowitz says that some of his patients use the device and report that it is good on its claim—to help you shave your own back, that is—but it’s still a razor at the end of the day, sans the precision and dexterity of a scrutinising hand. (And where’s the device that applies aftershave lotion to your entire back?)
If you still want to go with a razor, Dr. Fromowitz suggests you use Gillette Mach 3 disposables . One note: Don't reuse a razor on your back, per risk of infection. Just treat the whole procedure the same as shaving your face: warm water first to relax the pores and hair. Shave, rinse with cold water to close the pores, and then apply a disinfecting aftershave to cleanse and nourish the skin.
Considering all the ways you can irritate yourself with the other methods, it’s a no-brainer that most irritation-prone guys stick with an electric trimmer. Sure, you’ll have some stubble on your back, but it’s unnoticeable for the first week or so. More importantly, Dr. Fromowitz notes that, since you don’t break the surface of the skin, you’re only dealing with the hair and leaving everything else unscathed. You might notice some redness from the clipper being dragged over the skin, but that’s just your blood vessels responding to the pressure. (It’ll subside quickly.) So, while a trimmer might require the most frequent maintenance, it’s a fair tradeoff given the lack of skin ailments that follow.
Dr. Fromowitz sees consistent success with hair removal creams, which dissolve the hair’s protein structure just below the surface of the skin. You get the smoothness of a wax, with about three or four days before the hair starts to resurface. Like waxes, Dr. Fromowitz says creams should be tested on a small patch of skin—first to gauge your skin’s reaction, but also to test how long the cream should set before you rinse it away. If you don’t leave it on long enough, it won’t be effective. If you leave it on too long, you can get a nasty rash on your neatly manicured skin.
If done properly—read the specific instructions on the brand of the cream you purchased—then you should have little to no problems with irritation or redness.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health