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By Jessica Lothstein
You wouldn't keep a new car hidden away in the garage. You'd show it off, right? So why are you still hiding your hard-earned pecs and quads behind a bear suit? Have you not heard of body shaving and trimming -- aka manscaping?
"Hair really does hide muscles and obscure their definition," says Cynthia James, a former professional bodybuilder and a judge at the International Federation of Body Building. "A hairless body is the only way to show off the details of your muscles and physique and reveal symmetry."
The good news is you don't have to invest in any new products to manscape for bigger-looking muscles -- the tools you use to groom your facial hair will do. In fact, all you need is an electric trimmer, a five-blade razor, shaving cream, a full-length mirror and a nice long shower.
"If you're going to shave your body, you always need to prep it first with water and soap," says Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, a clinical dermatologist and skin care expert in San Diego and a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. "It softens the skin and hair so that you get the closest possible shave, and it helps prevent razor burn and ingrown hairs." A good rule of thumb: Wait until the end of your shower before body shaving. But if you have the time, try soaking in a hot bath -- it's much more effective at softening skin than is a shower.
Unlike your face, your body's unique bulges and curves require individual attention. Here's how to conquer them all.
Show off your:
Pecs and abs
First off, if you've really got the goods (a well-defined chest and a 21-pack or whatever), you'll want to lose all the hair (no need to keep the treasure trail when the real treasure is right there in view!).
As for your plan of attack, when it comes to chest hair, you want to shave with (not against) the grain of the hair. "Chest hair tends to be coarse and curly," says Benabio, "and if you shave against the hair growth pattern, you could accidentally shave the hair beneath the surface, causing it to curl up under the skin" (read: ingrown hair).
One more thing: Mind the nipples. You might even want to put round adhesive bandages over them before you shave. Sure, they're not the most manly of body parts, but fess up, you'd miss them if they were gone.
Show off your:
Quads and calves
Take out most of the bulk first with an electric trimmer or grooming scissors before you try to tackle it with a razor. Then use long, smooth strokes in a downward motion and let the razor lightly glide across the surface -- using too much pressure can cause nicks and razor burn. Pay attention to curves and bony areas, like your knees and ankles, and adjust the direction of the razor accordingly.
"You shave your face every day, so you're used to the contours," says Benabio. "It's like brushing your teeth, you get used to the routine. But when you're shaving in new places, you have to be more careful." One trick is to think of your razor as a paintbrush and use the same loose wrist motions that you would use when painting.
Show off your:
Biceps and triceps
Shaving your arms is a lot like shaving your legs: Trim first with clippers before you pick up the razor, then use long, smooth downward strokes.
But the tricky part is figuring out where to stop and start. If your arm hair is light in color and not too dense, you can probably just shave from your shoulder to your elbow and leave the rest alone. On the other hand, if your arm hair is dark and thick, you're better off shaving all the way down to your wrist for a more uniform look.
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Jessica Lothstein is a freelance writer and former editor at Best Life magazine. She writes on a range of subjects, including grooming and fashion.