A BD History of Body Hair

Skin Care

File dealing with body hair under “men could never.” Women will go to great (and often painful) lengths to appear as a naturally smooth, hairless person, but we all know the truth behind the razors, tweezers, wax, and lasers and, most of the time, it isn’t cute. We self-inflict razor burn, ingrown hairs, and hot lasers being shot at some of our most private areas in the name of appearing more “ladylike” for society, but why? Body hair is natural, no? So, when and why did we start doing everything we could to get rid of it?

Today on Beauty Disclaimer, we’re taking a mini deep dive into the brief history of women’s body hair to understand when this prickly subject became a cultural norm.

In the stone age (like, real stones. Not pumice stones), men and women would whittle said stones down to razor-like blades with sharp angles, which they would then slide down their faces to remove the hair. Ouch, right? Thousands of years later in ancient Egypt, the sugaring method (yes, the same one that so many of us are familiar with today) was developed as a much less painful method, and then all bets were off for body hair. In fact, the icon Cleopatra herself had all her body hair removed from her to head to her toes to signify social class, and everyone followed suit. Back then, all body hair (and especially pubic hair) was considered dirty and unhygienic, therefore people with it were seen as uncivilized, less-than individuals. Even men of war removed their body hair as to not give the enemies something to grab onto during battle.

This “body hair is for the birds” way of thinking found its way into the Roman Empire, even showing up via Greek statues of women who were sculpted hairless, save for their flowing locks on top. The Roman Empire being the savvy, innovative culture they were introduced early hair removal tools like razors, tweezers, pumice stones, and hair-removal creams (like Nair, only much different and probably pretty dangerous).

As we headed hair-first into the Middle Ages, Queen Elizabeth set yet another trend by insisting on removing her own facial hair, including every last one of her eyebrow hairs. This trend picked up serious steam and prompted women of the time to pluck their eyebrows out entirely, even shaving their hairlines back to create a more “childlike, youthful” look and elongated face, proving that women have been determined to look younger since forever. Eventually, our body hair got a brief break from being pulled, yanked, and burned during the same era but it was short-lived. For a brief period, hair removal became less common amongst women because it was associated with prostitution and promiscuity. But this was a blip, and by the Victorian era, removing underarm hair was the hot new thing to appear even more refined and hygienic.

By the early 1900s, both men and women being clean-shaven had become the gold standard for hygiene because of the breeding ground body hair created for bacteria, odors, lice, and more. This trend in being as hairless as humanely possible lasted a long time until our sisters in the 60s and 70s challenged traditional beauty standards and promoted body hair as a symbol of female liberation during the Women’s Rights movement. Going au naturale was the groovy thing to do; after all, we had actual freedoms and rights to be concerned about instead of having perfectly shaved legs for a date.

But in the 1990s, a game-changing method came along that would disrupt the body hair industry forever: laser hair removal. MIT graduate, Richard Rox Anderson, discovered that, when set to a certain wavelength, laser pulses were capable of damaging hair follicles permanently, therefore preventing hair from growing back. By the start of the 21st century in late 1999, laser hair removal was the third most popular cosmetic procedure in the U.S. and continues to dominate the methodology behind hair removal for women.

Our body hair has been through a lot over the past thousands of years. When it comes to what stays and what goes, it’s really nobody’s business but your own. Whether your inspiration is a hairless cat, you feel empowered by letting nature do its thing, or you enjoy keeping things groomed in a particular way, it’s your body, baby, so it’s your call!

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