Being the highly-prepared expert adventurer you are, you wouldn’t just whack your way through a forest’s uncharted territory without devising a sound strategy first. The same should apply to clearing the treacherous path to your private parts. That thick thatch of hair is sprouted atop some very sensitive terrain and even the slightest misstep can send you into a world of hurt.
In fact, emergency room-worthy injuries sustained whilepubic hair have spiked five-fold over an eight-year period, according to a study in the Journal of Urology. These injuries included painful things like cuts, rashes, scrapes, and abscesses.
Before you take the plunge into your pubes, follow these tricks to safely groom your own crown jewels.
1. Don’t multitask with your tools.
If you’re trimming, use a pair of scissors designated solely for your short-and-curlies. That means the pair you employed to snip a stray hair on your head — or, even worse, to cut lettuce in the kitchen — must not venture below the belt.
“There are certain bacteria and yeast that live in your groin area, and you don’t want to spread these to other parts of your body,” says Anthony Rossi, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Otherwise, this can cause fungi, like jock itch or ringworm, to spread.
Before you start snipping, wipe down your scissors with rubbing alcohol and give both your hands and your manhood a good scrub down. This will help create a sterile environment so you’ll be less likely to develop an infection.
2. Lay the groundwork.
Nearly 50 percent of women prefer their partner to be either totally or partially hair-free, according to a 2014 study from Indiana University. If you want to take the plunge yourself, it’s important to set the stage the right way.
You don’t want to start by taking your razor directly to your lush, luxurious bush — that wouldn’t be a pleasant experience, says Dr. Rossi. Whacking back an untamed hedgerow can cause skin irritations like razor burn, itching, or stubble. And when long, stubborn hairs snag on your razor blade, it can cause seriously painful cuts.
“If your hair is long to start, trim before shaving using clippers,” says Dr. Rossi. “Since pubic hairs are coarser and have more curl to them, it’s easier for the hair to curl back into the skin and cause an ingrown hair.”
Trim to a short length, but not at the skin surface. Try about 1/16 of an inch. This will allow you to keep your hair well manicured easily with clippers and avoid potential ingrown hairs.
Philips Norelco Bodygroom 3100
This affordable and well-reviewed razor from the reliable, genius minds of Philips Norelco is worthy of getting all up close and personal with the family jewels. It’s made for body grooming, so it can handle even the densest of forests, especially if you exfoliate and prep the pubes beforehand. At less than $40, it’s almost worth the cost of castration.
3. Get wet — and hot.
Shaving your pubes when they’re dry is a bad idea. Instead, wait to manscape until after you’ve taken a hot shower. That will make the process smoother and less abrasive, meaning you’ll be less likely to cause some nicks, says Dr. Rossi.
Shaving after a shower is helpful because the warm temperature allows your skin to soften and loosens dirt and oils. Plus, the water will help naturally lubricate the area and prevent hairs from pulling, Dr. Rossi says.
But lathering up with your regular old bar soap won’t cut it, either. You need to use a shave gel, which is more moisturizing. Look for alcohol-free gels that contain aloe, Dr. Rossi says. These can help prevent irritating your delicate parts.
NIVEA FOR MEN Sensitive, Shaving Gel 7 oz (Pack of 3)
Ditch the regular soap or harsh shaving cream in favor of a shaving gel. This one from Nivea is particularly useful for sensitive skin – and let’s face it, the skin below the belt is about as sensitive as skin can get.
4. Shave the right way.
If your grooming goal is to get smooth, you’ll need to shave in the direction of hair growth, not against the grain. Look which way your hair is pointing toward and shave smooth, even strokes that same way.
This will help you avoid the dreaded after-shave stubble and trapped ingrown hairs. The method is also less likely to cause irritation or bumps, since your razor won’t be tugging hairs in a direction they aren’t used to going.
5. Use extra caution on your balls.
It’s no surprise that taking a razor to your balls requires a little more TLC. Your scrotum and shaft in particular are prone to many skin folds and grooves, which can easily be nicked or cut.
In fact, those areas have been proven to trap huge amounts of bacteria. When you shave them, even a minor cut or laceration can cause bacteria to get inside there, says Brian Steixner, M.D., Director of the Institute of Men’s Health at Jersey Urology Group in Atlantic City. This can very easily cause cellutitis, abscesses, and something called Fournier gangrene. (You really don’t want to look this up. Trust us.)
You’ll want to be extra careful down there. Use your non-dominant hand to pull your skin taut before you go to town with razors, trimmers, and scissors, Dr. Rossi says. This will smooth out the area and make a slip less likely.
And to be sure you’re hitting all your tricky angles, try standing over a portable mirror in a well-lit bathroom.
6. Clean up a cut.
Even if you’re super careful, you can still get a nick down below. In fact, according to a 2012 study from the University of California at San Francisco, cuts were the most common injury sustained during pubic hair grooming that sent people to the emergency room.
If you accidentally slip up, don’t panic. “Make sure to clean the area thoroughly with soap and warm water, as well as alcohol,” says Dr. Rossi. If you’re dealing with just a superficial cut, apply pressure with a damp piece of toilet paper so your cut can clot. Hold firm pressure on the bleeding area for 10 to 15 minutes without peeking; this should stop all minor bleeding.
If bleeding doesn’t stop after 15 minutes or if blood appears to be pulsating from your cut, call your doctor. A deep cut may require stitches to close the gash.
FUR Ingrown Concentrate
If you suffer from the dreaded annoyance of ingrown hairs, FUR’s natural, skin-softening oil is made to calm irritated skin and soothe the pores after the trauma of the big chop.
7. Finish the the job with moisturizer.
It’s common to feel irritation or a must-scratch-it-now! sensation after shaving. “That’s caused by the sensitive nature of the skin down there, as well as the curved nature of the hair follicle,” explains Dr. Rossi.
You can prevent that prickly feeling with a good dose of post-shave moisturizer. Look for a soothing lotion that contains aloe or camphor—this will help reduce the itching and ease irritation, he says.
But if those problems persist for several days or more, you might have folliculitis — an inflamed hair follicle — or a bacterial or fungal infection. Visit a dermatologist who can ID your condition and prescribe possible treatments like steroid or antibacterial creams.
Vaseline Intensive Care Body Lotion
As Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology, it’s very much necessary that you moisturize your balls. Unscented, gentle lotions like this one from Vaseline will immediately help soften and heal the area after hair removal.