I was eleven when I began to notice the swimmers—teenagers on the team at my local pool. They had a ritual before big meets: The girls would grow out their body hair, and then, the night before all-county or state championships, they’d gather with the boys in one locker room and shave one another clean. The idea was that they’d race faster once the hair was all stripped off. I understood that logic, but what struck me with the most force was the thrill of the ambiguity. One day, you’d glimpse a strong, furry thigh poking out beneath a towel and not know whom it belonged to; then, post-meet, you’d find yourself startled by the gamine smoothness of the boys’ skin, their muscular chests gleaming like polished marble.

I’ve been thinking about the swimmers a lot lately. Down that peeks out from underarms and covers legs seems to be going mainstream. Gender fluidity, and its embrace by the many designers now blurring lines between menswear and womenswear—and swapping clothes between male and female models on their runways—has certainly been a catalyst for the new hirsuteness. In September at the Maison Margiela show in Paris, for example, designer John Galliano made it nearly impossible to tell whether the snake-hipped models wearing his spring collection were boys or girls. You’d see a slim, shaggy calf emerge from a pair of iridescent Mary Janes, and assume boy. And then you’d question that assumption, because millennial women don’t seem all that fussed about body hair.

“I stopped shaving completely about five years ago,” says 28-year-old artist and model Alexandra Marzella, who walks for Eckhaus Latta and poses for Calvin Klein campaigns when she’s not posting au naturel selfies on her Instagram account. “Now I shave occasionally,” she says, “if I feel like it”—a laissez-faire attitude that is resonating with young stars such as Paris Jackson, Amandla Stenberg, and Lourdes Leon. Taking cues from her famous mother, Madonna, who has long declined to shave, Leon arrived at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund awards in a sleeveless white Luar minidress that revealed her own razor rejection. Cheers from the online throngs ensued.

This kind of back-and-forth relationship with body hair is new. When Harriet Lyons and Rebecca Rosenblatt published their 1972 manifesto “Body Hair: The Last Frontier” in the inaugural stand-alone issue of Ms. magazine, they introduced an anti-shaving stance that brooked no compromise. Either you were a shaggy feminist or you were a pawn of the patriarchy, goaded by the pink plastic shaving-industrial complex into spending your money and your time maintaining a key feminine ideal—an ideal of relatively recent vintage. Shaving one’s legs just wasn’t a thing when women wore skirts that swept the floor. It required the broad commercialization of the easy-to-use safety razor, circa World War I—followed by the introduction of King Camp Gillette’s Milady Décolleté razor, a gold-tone tool that came packaged in an imitation ivory box with colored velvet and satin lining—to begin to make it so. According to Rebecca Herzig, the gender and sexuality studies chair at Bates College, in Maine, hairlessness wasn’t firmly established as a beauty standard until after World War II, in that Leave It to Beaver era when American society found it useful to re-entrench gender distinction as soldiers returned home to start families, and to take back the jobs women had held in their stead. “By 1964,” Herzig writes in Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, “surveys indicated that 98 percent of all American women aged fifteen to forty-four were routinely shaving their legs.”

Contents

10 Women Get Candid About Why They Stopped Shaving Their Body Hair

Photo: Natalia Mantini / Refinery29 for Getty Images

There’s still a stigma surrounding women and femme-identified folks who don’t shave, but 2018 has seen a movement toward body hair-pride that’s gaining momentum.

Peppered between #fitspirational post-workout pics and smoothie bowls, hair-proud pictures with hashtags like #bodyhair, #bodyhairdontcare, and #womenwithbodyhair are likely popping up on your Instagram feed. This summer, women’s razor brand Billie aired an ad featuring actual body hair for the first time ever. (Seriously, ever). A hairy-pit picture of Julia Roberts from 1999 re-emerged on social feeds after Busy Philipps asked Roberts about the now-iconic Hollywood memory on her E! talk show, Busy Tonight. And other celebs like Halsey, Paris Jackson, Scout Willis, and Miley Cyrus have taken to the internet to give body hair some love, too.

What’s the point? No, it’s not just to save cash on razors. “By acknowledging and celebrating that all women have body hair and that some of us choose to wear it proudly, we can help stop body-shaming around hair, and have more real representations of real women,” says Billie cofounder Georgina Gooley. (Sounds like another part of the body-positive movement that we can certainly get behind.)

With that in mind, below, 10 women with body hair pride IRL share why they don’t remove their body hair anymore and how that choice has influenced their relationship with their bodies.

“It makes me feel beautiful, feminine, and strong.”-Roxane S., 28

“I stopped removing my body hair when I was acting as a man in a play some years ago. I didn’t mind the hair at all! Which made me realize I had been shaving because I felt pressured to. Occasionally people will make comments to pressure me to shave, but I haven’t allowed it to influence me. I love my body hair and myself as I am. It makes me feel beautiful, feminine, and strong.”

“I felt liberated and more confident in myself.”-Laura J.

“I grew out my body hair for a performance as part of my drama degree in May 2018. There had been some parts that were challenging for me, and others that really opened my eyes to the taboo of body hair on a woman. After a few weeks of getting used to it, I started to like my natural hair. I also started to like the lack of uncomfortable episodes of shaving. Though I felt liberated and more confident in myself, some people around me didn’t understand why I didn’t shave/didn’t agree with it. I realised that there is still so much more for us to do to be able to accept one another fully and truly. Then I thought of Januhairy and thought I would try it out.

I have had a lot of support from my friends and family! Even though I had to explain why I was doing it to a lot of them which was surprising, and again, the reason why this is important to do! When I first started growing my body hair my mum asked me “Is it you just being lazy or are you trying to prove a point?” … why should we be called lazy if we don’t want to shave? And why do we have to be proving a point? After talking to her about it and helping her understand, she saw how weird it was that she asked those questions. If we do something/see the same things, over and over again it becomes normal. She is now going to join in with Januhairy and grow out her own body hair which is a big challenge for her as well as many women who are getting involved. Of course a good challenge! This isn’t an angry campaign for people who don’t see how normal body hair is, but more an empowering project for everyone to understand more about their views on themselves and others.”

“It helps me feel sexier and more alive.”-Lee T., 28

“I actually stopped removing my bikini and leg hair, so I’m currently going au naturel everywhere. It makes me feel so me… like I’m not trying to be somebody else. I feel sexier, more alive, and more confident in my skin than I did before when I was trying to box myself into society’s expectations by shaving, waxing, etc.

It’s not for everyone, and I don’t necessarily preach armpit hair. Everybody should do what they want with their bodies. But not all have the privilege-I recognize it is a privilege for me to wear this hair in public without my safety at risk-though I do get judgment, criticism, mean comments, and I even lost 4,000 followers when I posted my body hair on Instagram. It just made me that much more sure that I was making the right decision to wear my body proudly, however it looks!” (Related: Why Body-Shaming Is Such a Big Problem-and What You Can Do to Stop It)

“To let the razor burn heal for good.”-Tara E., 39

“After decades of causing daily irritation to my underarms from shaving my armpits, I decided to let the rash and razor burn heal. Why had I been doing this to myself? Did I think scabby armpits were sexier than hairy ones? I made the choice to love and accept my body as it is. Also, razor blades are expensive, so I’ve been enjoying saving money.”

“Because body hair is natural.”-Debbie A. 23

“I stopped shaving my body hair because it is a part of who I am. Society has told women for so long that their hair is gross and improper. To me, it’s natural and everyone has it, so why would I not love it? I’m a relatively low-key person and razors are a hassle, plus, I am susceptible to ingrown hairs which hurt…a lot. It’s been years since I bought a razor-and my wallet, the earth, and my body thank me for it.”

“To make a statement about beauty standards.”-Jessa C., 22

“Women are constantly being told to buy products and treatments that reinforce the belief that to be hairless is to be beautiful. We are told that our natural(ly hairy) bodies are not good enough. That’s why it’s important to me to fight for the right for women to grow out their body hair (or not!) and to be comfortable rocking their hair however they choose. For instance, I thread my eyebrows but don’t wax my upper lip, pluck stray neck or chin hairs, or shave my underarms or legs.

At the end of the day, what we, as women, choose to do with our bodies is our choice. And if we choose to rock a little stache or hairy limbs or wax or shave it off once a week, that’s for us to choose and not for society or opinionated folks to dictate. Through my body hair choices, I am hoping to slowly rid myself of the scared little girl inside of me who was taught to be terrified of someone noticing the extra hair on my body.” (Related: Cassey Ho Created a Timeline of “Ideal Body Types” to Illustrate the Ridiculousness of Beauty Standards)

“I stopped shaving when I came out as queer.”-Kori O., 28

“I started to grow out my body hair right around the time I came out to my friends and family as queer five years ago. Once I became comfortable with my sexuality, I started to become comfortable with my body and sense of self. I think being a queer woman of color and being comfortable with who I am is what I need to do. Younger impressionable people (like my 6-year-old sister) can now recognize that I am not like other women my age and that’s OK! (And TBH, she’s way more accepting of it than anyone else in my family!) I feel like a confident grown woman with my grown body hair.”

“It started as a No-Shave November challenge.”-Alexandra M., 23

“I actually started growing it out for No-Shave November because I thought it would be fun. And, honestly, for me, it hasn’t been easy. Once my hair got longer and thicker, I found myself wanting to shave it off every time I stepped into the shower. We are conditioned from a young age to see hairless and smooth as the standard, as what is beautiful, so I struggled. But I still haven’t shaved because I want to confront the societal beauty standards that have been ingrained in me since I was young and change the way I see beauty in myself.”

“It makes me feel self-assured.”-Diandrea B., 24

“I haven’t shaved in years because it makes me feel sexy, confident, and self-assured. It’s that simple. Choosing not to shave can be a polarizing choice. My family has opinions about it (which they share) and so do some of my acquaintances from childhood-but this is a choice I can stand behind. And I won’t date anyone who can’t stand behind my choice with me (or who doesn’t find my hair sexy, too).”

“Because it’s my choice.”-Alyssa, 29

“My body hair simply is. And, for me, that’s the point: existing in my body, proudly. Whether I leave my hair be or get rid of it entirely, it’s my choice. Having it, not having it, that doesn’t change how I feel about my self-worth. Ultimately I care more about that than unrelentingly strict beauty standards.”

  • By By Gabrielle Kassel

7 Celebrities Who Don’t Shave Their Legs And Aren’t Afraid To Show It

In winter months, it can be especially tempting to skip your shaving routine. These celebrities who don’t shave their legs and aren’t afraid to show it might just convince you to rock a little fuzz 24/7! Who says no shave November should end after one month?

While not shaving arm pit hair was definitely a craze in 2015 (anyone remember Miley Cyrus dying her armpit hair pink?), skipping on legs seems to be less popular. This makes no sense to me, as I find shaving legs to be a way bigger pain and ordeal than pits.

In fact, I generally don’t shave my legs between December through February unless I’m wearing a very specific outfit that will involve a lot of leg. I’ve even preached all the reasons you should skip shaving in winter right here on Bustle!

If your razor is weighing you down and bumming you out this season, seriously just step away. You’ll obviously be in good company if you choose not to shave this winter thanks to all of the body positive celebrities that were willing to be caught in public with less than silky smooth skin. Viva la womanhood and fuzzy body parts!

1. Mo’Nique

Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Actress Mo-Nique bravely revealed her full on fuzz legs at the “Precious” movie premiere and simply declared she was “a hairy woman.” Go girl.

2. Amanda Palmer

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

A fellow non-shaver, Palmer stood in razor-free solidarity with Mo-Nique after the actress received some media backlash for her legs. Palmer is all about challenging feminine beauty standards, so it makes sense the star would celebrate hairy legs and arms!

3. Lindsay Lohan

John Phillips/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Lohan has been spotted more than once strolling through Hollywood with shaggy legs. I don’t admire everything the celeb does, but definitely celebrate her for confidently strutting shave-free!

4. Mayim Bialik

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

“The Big Bang Theory” star and ardent feminist blogged a thought-provoking question on Kveller when asked about her shaving habits. She asked, “If we never told girls to shave, would they? If we modeled a cultural acceptance of our body hair, would they spontaneously feel the need to remove it weekly, monthly, or daily? If we all wore bathing suits that covered our natural forms instead of the form that only hairless young girls who have not birthed babies can wear, would our girls and boys have a more or less realistic notion of what the human body ‘should’ look like?” Serious food for thought.

5. Tyra Banks

Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The supermodel told Life & Style, “I don’t have to shave my legs. The hair is so faint, you don’t even see it.” While she wouldn’t have to shave her legs even if her hair was darker, I dig the gender norm defying action happening here.

6. Alicia Silverstone

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

As revealed in The New York Times, the charming and talented vegan hippie was even so bold as to attend a Los Angeles store opening event with beautiful, hairy legs. Rock on!

7. Celine Dion

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Dion fearlessly rocked an amazing concert in Tokyo back in 2008 with all kinds of hairy legs. The star received a ridiculous amount of media criticism, but she held her head high. Breaking gender molds can be scary, and I admire Dion for bravely doing so.

Things have come a long way since 1999, when the actor Julia Roberts hit headlines globally for wearing a dress that exposed her unshaven armpits. These days, Gen Z pop stars, from Amandla Stenberg to Miley Cyrus, are regularly seen with body hair. Brands are cottoning on, too. Last year, Nike and No7 ran advertisements with models showing body hair (underarms and upper lip respectively). Even the ubiquitous advert trope of a woman shaving an already shaven leg was challenged by the razor company Billie, which had marketing collateral that showed underarm, leg and pubic hair.

In real life, however, the sight of a woman in public with body hair remains rare, although norms are slowly changing (almost one in four women under 25 no longer shave their armpits, compared with just one in 20 in 2013, according to the market analyst Mintel).

One campaign that is helping to continue this trend, and normalise body hair on women, is Januhairy, an initiative that encourages women to grow their body hair for the month of January and share images of themselves online. Started by students Laura Jackson and Ruby Jones in 2019, the campaign hashtag has now attracted thousands of posts from women across the world. As the end of this year’s Januhairy approaches, we meet the movement’s founders and others taking part to talk about how embracing their body hair has changed how they feel about themselves and their bodies.

Laura Jackson: ‘Make sure you’re making the choice for you.’ Photograph: Instagram/Januhairy

‘When I see my body hair now, it reminds me of my love for myself’

Laura Jackson was a student at Exeter University when she first grew out her body hair. It was May 2018 and she was working on a one-woman stage show she had written and would perform in. “It was about the pressures put on women to abide by these beauty rules to feel accepted,” she says. “As part of the show I grew out my body hair for the first time. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have that incentive.”

Girls are often introduced to depilatory products and techniques by relatives, borrowing razors and trying to imitate their mothers. Jackson recalls a conversation with her older sister: “I was in the back of the car and she saw my hairy legs and said: ‘Oh, it’s time you start shaving.’”

She recalls a family holiday shortly after this, when she was in her early teens. “I was with my mum and we were in our swimming costumes and I saw some pubic hairs poking out of her costume. I was so horrified. I thought: ‘That is disgusting. How dare she not shave?’”

But for Jackson, growing out her body hair forced her to rethink her relationship to it. Soon she “felt liberated” and wanted to embrace it. “When I see my body hair now, it reminds me of my love for myself.”

She is keen to point out that Januhairy is not about shaming women who choose to remove body and facial hair. “Shave whenever you want to, but make sure you’re making the choice for you,” she says.“We have people who support Januhairy and shave, we have men who support us. It’s not just about hair, it’s about building a conversation around the subject.”

‘This movement has allowed me to reclaim what I was ashamed of as a kid’

Sonia, like many women of south-Asian heritage, has “grown up conscious of body hair my whole life”. Darker hair is more visible and requires more work to achieve a hairless look.

“Another beauty standard for south-Asian women is the focus on fair skin. I have black hair, so having dark body hair makes my skin look darker. Those two are linked. If you’re fair, you’re beautiful. Just look at Bollywood; all the actresses are fair.” When she was younger, school friends and relatives would often point out her body hair, with comments or offers to remove it. “Even as a baby I was really hairy,” she says. “People called me ‘mouseling’. My mum told me that my grandma performed a treatment on me using atta which she massaged all over my body and then removed to remove the hair. It would have been painful and I would have cried a lot, but it probably has removed a lot of the hair I would have had.

“As a teenager I had really low self-esteem,” she says. “I would spend time at home looking in the mirror, noticing hair in different places, such as my belly. I remember that when I was in year 9 one of the boys asked if I was doing Movember. That hurt because he went out of his way to say it.”

This is Sonia’s second year participating in Januhairy. “I’ve come to a point where I’m so much more comfortable in my own skin and in my own natural state,” she says, although she admits she still has her moments. “After last year I still wasn’t comfortable with my facial hair. I’m still not, but I’ve been trying to keep up with just growing it out. I found out that some of my boyfriend’s housemates were making comments pitying my boyfriend and saying they feel sorry for him, which was extremely upsetting.”

Despite this, she says: “This movement has allowed me to reclaim what I was ashamed of as a kid.”

Part of that growing acceptance is the increasing circulation of alternative images of women that campaigns such as Januhairy have helped to encourage. “Last year, most of the pictures were of underarms, but this year we’re seeing pubic regions and chest hair and other parts of the body.”

The importance of beauty is something she has been grappling with, though. “The body hair images we see are often still quite glamorous. And I wonder why is it that for something to be accepted and normalised, it has to be glamorised and made to seem beautiful. But maybe movements like this reframe what is beautiful.” She hopes that in the future women won’t have to toil so much to feel good about themselves.

Crystal Marchand: ‘I carry the spirit of Januhairy with me throughout the whole year.’ Photograph: Veronique Desaulniers/Instagram/Januhairy

‘I’ve become a lot more comfortable in my body through this process’

This is also Crystal Marchand’s second Januhairy. “The first campaign made a major impression on me. Now I carry the spirit of Januhairy with me throughout the whole year.”

Marchand is a transgender woman living in Montreal. She regularly posts about her journey, “to get visibility for the community and to try to inspire others”.

“I don’t speak for the trans community,” she says. “We all speak for ourselves – but I didn’t see any other trans girls participating. I felt embraced by this campaign and I embraced it right back.” Before her transition, she felt pressured not to remove her body hair to fit into a male world. Transitioning prompted her to think deeply about how she felt about the politics of body hair. “I asked myself: ‘What do I actually want? What is the social pressure? And do I care? Do I agree with it?’”

For Marchand, as a trans woman, having visible body hair is something that has led to her being abused. “I have been harassed online and in person; people would swear at me, people would call me really derogatory things. People would misgender me: I got taken for male, female, nonbinary, all in one day. So there’s a social pressure to blend in. It can be dangerous. If I get misgendered too much, it can really mess with my moods and my self-image.”

Now, she says she has “become a lot more comfortable in my body”. Last year, on the last day of Januhairy, “when my body hair was the longest and I had facial hair, I went to the community pool. I’m a swimmer, I love to do laps. So I put on my first ever bikini.” She describes the event as “anticlimactic … I just did my laps, came out, everything was fine. The point is, we’re all the odd one out. We’re all different.

“That’s why the campaign appealed to me; it’s not about saying I have to shave or not. It’s just about becoming more comfortable with your body and to do it with all these other people in solidarity. Everybody’s on their own unique quest and journey of self-discovery. And I think it’s really beautiful.”

‘It’s about self-worth and love’

Boo has been growing out her body hair for several years but this is her first year posting online as part of Januhairy. “I’m an energy healer, and my ethnic background is Indian and West Indian, so I have always been obsessed with tribal cultures.” Her belief is that hair is an extension of the nervous system. “It’s protecting us. It’s baffling that we remove it.”

Boo says she was motivated by a realisation of how body hair removal is ingrained in society and how images circulated through media entrench this. “I believe people will accept what’s presented, but all you see through media and entertainment is one image telling people that’s what they should adhere to,” she says. That’s why she was inspired to join Januhairy and send out alternative images.

“I’m not saying every woman shouldn’t shave. I just want women to make informed decisions and ask themselves why they do it. It’s about self-worth and love. I don’t want there to be women shaving because they think they’re disgusting if they don’t. The fact that we’re making decisions based on toxic ideals really saddens me.”

But Boo’s relationship to body hair is also informed by losing her mother to cancer when she was 14, after a six-year battle. “On a subconscious level, I think another reason I grow out my hair is that I watched my mum lose her hair – and her eyebrows – twice. I just thought: ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’

Boo’s father, she says, is “the biggest free spirit I know. He looks like he’s walked straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. We used to joke about who had the longest head hair and now we joke about the hair under our arms.” Boo says that having this male presence in her life has meant she never frets about the judgment of men about her body hair. “If I meet a man not as open- or high-minded as my father, I know that’s just that one man’s opinion.” Boo’s boyfriend has also been hugely supportive. “I know women fret about what their partners think, but if your boyfriend doesn’t accept you with hairy armpits, then get a new boyfriend.”

Day to day, Boo says she hasn’t had many issues since growing out her hair. The only difference she can tell is that she occasionally catches people staring. “But I don’t mind. I like to make people think.”

Ruby Jones: ‘We are programmed to believe that others find body hair disgusting and repulsive.’ Photograph: Theodore Clarke/Instagram/Januhairy

‘Now I use my energy on other things that make me happy’

Ruby Jones is the co-founder of Januhairy, and teamed up with Laura Jackson in 2018 after the pair attended a panel talk discussing the politics of body hair. That same year, Jones developed a cerebrospinal fluid leak, which caused agonising pain every time she sat or stood. “Despite this, I used all my energy making sure I was smooth and hairless, even though I was barely leaving my bedroom.

“Going to the salon and getting my waxing done was so physically draining,” she says. “But I didn’t feel as if I had a choice.” Being open to having body hair has changed her life. “Now I can use that energy on other things that make me happy,” she says.

After the first Januhairy, Ruby went on to remove her body hair. “Straight away I missed it, and so decided to grow it out again.”

Mostly, people have been wholly accepting, including the people she is dating. “We are programmed to believe that others find body hair disgusting and repulsive, yet from my experience it’s really not a big deal at all.” She is nevertheless conscious of her own privileges as a young white woman, living in the liberal environment of a university. “You get the occasional comment online, one of the most notable was: ‘Being disabled is cool and all, but you really should shave your armpits, it’s very unhygienic. Do you even shower?’ Those comments are just one in a sea of positivity and love.”

One criticism of Januhairy is that it is a navel-gazing exercise that does little for vulnerable women and, as a movement, is quite individualistic. Jones does not agree. “Januhairy is both individualised and a mass-movement. The act of growing your hair is a very personal experience and each woman is going to have their own challenges. But in doing it with a group of people around the world, you stand in solidarity and become part of a community. I feel so proud of the women taking part in Januhairy who continue to make their own choices surrounding their bodies. It is a radical act to rebel against these pressures.”

The Only Body Hair Conversation Women Ever Need to Read

Share on PinterestAll photos courtesy of Billie

It’s the year 2018 and for the first time ever, there’s actual body hair in a razor commercial for women. What happened to all the hairless legs, smoothed armpits, and ‘perfectly’ photoshopped bikini lines?

Well, these ads still exist (just as blue tampon ads still do), but realistic body image is right around the corner, and we’re here for the time when all bodies are appreciated.

“No one has body hair in the media. You grow up thinking that’s normal and easily attainable.”

After we reveled in the newness of Billie’s razor ad, we also wondered: How has body hair shaped us and why does it bring such visceral reactions from the masses?

Maybe the answer, like many cultural answers, is in history — body hair removal can be traced back for centuries.

The history of body hair removal

According to the Women’s Museum of California, hair removal in Ancient Rome was often seen as an identifier of status. Wealthier women would find different ways to remove their body hair, including using pumice stones.

The first relatively safe shaving instrument was created in 1769 by French barber Jean-Jacques Perret. This initial hair removal tool was incrementally refined over the years in an effort to create a safer instrument that would be utilized by the masses. William Henson added his contribution by creating the “hoe-shaped” razor, the design most of us are familiar with today.

Fahs’ results revealed that most women were disgusted by the idea of body hair, both of their own and the idea of other women allowing their hair to grow out.

However, it wasn’t until a traveling salesman named King Camp Gillette combined the shape of Henson’s razor with his desire to make shaving easier that the first disposable double-edged blade was invented in 1901.

This effectively eliminated the need to sharpen shaving blades after each shave and possibly reduced the likelihood of skin irritation.

A few years later, Gillette created a razor for women called Milady Décolleté

This new women-friendly release and the rapid change in women’s fashion — the sleeveless tops, shorter skirts, and summer dresses — influenced more and more women to remove the hair growing on their legs and underarms.

During the 1960s, some movements — often hippie or feminist in nature — encouraged a more “natural” look, but most women of that time were opting for hair removal wherever they saw fit.

Over the years, pop culture and the media fueled this hairless trend as the acceptable standard by constantly portraying perfectly smooth bodies.

“I make it clear to the women I date that I love body hair. On me. On them. It actually turns me on.”

In a 2013 study, scholar Breanne Fahs conducted two experiments surrounding women and their relationship with body hair, specifically what they thought of hairiness.

Fahs’ results revealed that most women were disgusted by the idea of body hair, both of their own and the idea of other women allowing their hair to grow out.

The second part of Fahs’ study challenged participants to allow their body hair to grow for 10 weeks and keep a journal about the experience. The results revealed that the participating women thought obsessively about their body hair and even refused to interact with others during the experiment.

And like Fahs, we were also fascinated by the relationship between those who identify with womanhood and their relationship with body hair, so we did our own research. After all, at the end of the day, it’s a personal preference.

What 10 women had to say about their body hair, removing it, the stigmas, and themselves

On how body hair affects their actions and interactions with others

“When first dating someone, I make it a point to make my body hair visible. If she reacts negatively, then I discontinue relations with her. When we have sex for the first time, I similarly gauge her reaction; nonchalance and awe are the only acceptable reactions.”

“I try to hide my body as much as I can when I’m hairy. In the summer it’s so hard to constantly shave and I lag a lot since I had a baby so I end up with long sleeve tees or long pants a lot more than I should!”

“I used to always wax/Nair when I had new partners, but now I really don’t care. I definitely still get rid of underarm hair for going sleeveless, especially in work and formal settings. I feel pressured to do so and I’m too exhausted to convince people that my body is indeed mine in these spaces.”

“It doesn’t. At least not right now. It’s a me thing.”

“Not even a little bit. I make it clear to the women I date that I love body hair. On me. On them. It actually turns me on.”

“I may avoid sleeveless clothing if my underarm hair is very long. Everything else is the same.”

On removing body hair

“I don’t shave my vagina — except to trim for ease of access during sex — and I infrequently shave my armpits. I don’t do these things because 1. they are tedious and time consuming; 2. if men don’t have to do it, why should I; and 3. I like the way my body looks and feels with hair.”

“Yes, but ‘regularly’ is a loose term. I do when I remember to do it or if it’s going to be necessary for me to show a certain part of my body. I have really fine and sparse leg hair so I often forget to remove it until I see an embarrassingly long hair. I’m more regular with removing the hair under my arms.”

“Yes, oh my goodness yes. Since pregnancy my hair has started coming in course and fast! I can’t deal with all the stubborn and thick hair growth.”

“It’s become a habit and I’m used to my mostly hairless body.”

“I don’t regularly remove my hair. I only resort to shaving my pubes when I can’t stop fiddling with it.”

On preferred method of body hair removal

“I’ve always used a razor. I guess I was only introduced to this method and it seemed to work for me. I’ve since learned what blades work best and how to take better care of my skin. I’ve considered waxing but it seems more invasive and painful. I shave several times a week. Might be obsessive about it.”

“I prefer a chemical hair remover because shaving and waxing have negative effects on my sensitive skin.”

“I like waxing and using Nair. Waxing because I don’t have to do it as frequently and I use Nair in case of home ‘emergencies.’ I remove hair far less frequently than I used to because it bothers me less now.”

“Shaving. It’s the only method I’ve tried thus far. Every three to four weeks for underarms if I don’t visit the beach before then. I haven’t actually checked how long I usually wait in between doing my bikini line and I don’t shave my legs.”

On the way body hair is portrayed in the media and the stigma surrounding it

“It’s bulls—t. My body was literally made with all this hair on it, why should I spend time removing it when it’s not putting me in danger? I don’t knock or shame any woman who does, of course, but I personally think that the social pressure on women to remove hair is yet another way of trying to infantilize her and make her conform to a beauty standard that men don’t have to adhere to.”

“We have issues, man. I will say I hold some of these stigmas and it’s bothersome to me. For instance, I think women (and men) who have bushy underarm hair are less hygienic (and bra burning feminists). And while I know this is completely false, my first thought lands there.”

“No one has body hair in the media. You grow up thinking that’s normal and easily attainable. I also feel like I grew up in a heyday of female razor marketing — I think the Venus razor came out in the early 2000s and suddenly everyone needed to have it. But you also needed whatever newest scent of shaving cream was out. At the time, I think it felt like a way to ‘modernize’ hair removal for the new millennium (it’s not your mama’s shaving and all), but now it’s clear they just wanted us to buy more products.”

“They’re exhausting and expensive. Honestly, we should just let women live however they want.”

“We need to stop policing what people do with their bodies or how much hair they keep on any part of their bodies. I think the media has made some strides in moving away from perpetuating the stigma attached to body hair. Articles are being written on body hair positivity and that’s amazing.”

On the relationship between body hair and their feminism

“I think people should do what they’re comfortable with. Being a feminist doesn’t have to be synonymous with being hairy.”

“It’s integral to my feminism, though I don’t know that I would have said that before. Feminism is the freedom to choose and define yourself for yourself. I think social expectation for removal of body hair is just another way women’s looks and bodies are controlled, and so I push back against it.”

“My body hair doesn’t factor much into my personal feminism because, while it’s directly linked to body autonomy, it’s not a large part of what would play into my personal liberation and fight to end patriarchy. I do, however, think it’s very crucial for feminists and I do support any work to end the negative ideas we have about body.”

“Personally, I don’t make that connection. I don’t think I ever will. Maybe because I haven’t been placed in a position to have to carefully think about the choices I’m making with my body hair.”

“Even though it would be great to not feel uncomfortable in a spaghetti strap top with hairy underarms, it’s not where I think we should be focused in the fight for equality.”

“I don’t know if I’d connect my body hair to my feminism, but I do think about the pink tax and how products are marketed towards me. Because I almost exclusively Nair and use a men’s razor (four blades = closer shave) when I do shave, I don’t often need to go down that aisle in the store. But when I do, I’m really struck by how pastel it all is. The products seemed designed for visual appeal (on the shelf and in the shower) more than how well they work.”

On whether they’ve had negative experiences caused by body hair

“Yes. As a teen you’re constantly made fun of for everything. To be made fun of for a little (skin) darkness was life or death. depends on where you live, where the negative stigma of hair is for women. I lived in and everyone is well-kept. Now that I’m in Seattle, it’s no big deal who has hair on their body!”

“Not really. I’ve only learned to wear underwear that doesn’t trap heat or moisture because that, coupled with my ‘Afro’ tends to give me folliculitis pimples.”

“Sometimes I won’t post a picture to social media because there’s visible body hair in it.”

And there you have it, the view on body hair is as complex as it is simple

As one of the women we spoke to very elegantly put it: “It really hurts me when women shame other women for this. I believe in the freedom of choice. And my choice is to not remove hair from my body because I like it where it is.”

Removing your body hair or letting it grow doesn’t have to be a statement, but it does exist — and like the first body hair positive razor ad of 2018, we should openly acknowledge that.

Stephanie Barnes is a writer, front-end/iOS engineer, and woman of color. If she isn’t asleep, you can find her binge-watching her favorite TV shows or trying to find the perfect skin care routine.

How do you stop unwanted hair growth?

Share on PinterestSome hair on the body is natural for both men and women.

Hormones called androgens are the main reason that body hair develops. Doctors refer to androgens as male hormones, though both men and women produce them.

When the female body produces too many androgens, it may develop more body hair than is typical. Several medical conditions can cause the body to produce too many androgens.

PCOS is the most common cause of excess body hair in women. PCOS is a hormone imbalance that causes the body to produce too many androgens.

According to a 2012 study in the journal American Family Physician, PCOS accounts for 72 to 82 percent of cases of hirsutism in women.

Doctors do not fully understand the causes of PCOS, but people can manage the symptoms with birth control pills or other hormonal treatments.

Less common causes of excess body hair in women include the following:

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is a rare group of disorders that affect the adrenal glands and can cause severe symptoms. The body may produce too many androgens when the adrenal glands do not work correctly.

Doctors screen for conditions that cause adrenal hyperplasia, but mild cases may not be possible to diagnose until puberty.

Tumors

The 2012 American Family Physician study mentioned above found that 0.2 percent of hirsutism cases are due to a tumor that releases androgens.

The body hair appears rapidly in these cases and may include other symptoms, such as a mass in the stomach or pelvis.

Medication

Some medications can cause additional hair growth. A woman who notices new hair growth after trying a new prescription drug should tell her doctor.

Some drugs with links to hirsutism include:

  • antidepressants
  • some antibiotics
  • sleeping medications
  • hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, plus drugs that alter hormone production

Hyperprolactinemia

Hyperprolactinemia is a condition that causes the body to produce high levels of the hormone prolactin.

Prolactin is primarily responsible for producing breast milk in breastfeeding women. Women with this condition may lactate even if they are not nursing.

Some people with hyperprolactinemia may experience infertility or not have their periods.

Thyroid disorders

The thyroid produces hormones that help regulate metabolism and body temperature. When the thyroid malfunctions, it may create an imbalance of hormones that may cause excess body hair.

Other causes

Sometimes hirsutism has no obvious cause, and doctors can find no clear evidence of an underlying disorder. When a condition has no clear cause, a doctor may refer to it as idiopathic.

Idiopathic hyperandrogenemia is a condition where the body produces too much androgen for no apparent reason.

Idiopathic hirsutism happens when the body grows more hair than is typical with no obvious underlying cause.

When the cause of hirsutism is unknown, it may be genetic.

About Ella Mendoza

Share with your friends

I remember growing up, I was a big fan of the TV show “That 70’s Show.” It had a catchy intro and featured a group of teenagers, one of them even a migrant like me! In one episode, one of the characters went ring shopping for his girlfriend. The store owner tried to help him choose a ring by putting it on and pretending to be her. However, the boyfriend was “thrown off” by the store owner’s knuckle hair.

I recall staring in the mirror and wondering if I had the same effect on people. Would others be “thrown off” by me wearing rings that drew attention to my hairy knuckles? Should I not wear rings? And was my chin maybe in need of a trim too?

Later that year I purchased my first pack of razors. I shaved my knuckles, my arms, my legs, my toes, and my armpits. I was fourteen years old, had just been separated from my mother, and was looking for a sense of control in my life.

My relationship with shaving has been on and off since then, from my very first Nair mishap in my late teens to throwing away a handful of razors as an adult. It has now been about two years since I last shaved. None of the TV shows I watched growing up had prepared me for the world I grew into, a world in which in order to survive I had to choose to love myself, daily and unapologetically. By choosing to stop shaving, I’ve chosen to stop policing my body, and though I understand that others are empowered by shaving, I wasn’t.

Here are eight things that happened when I stopped shaving and instead chose to dig deeper into my radical self-love.

1. My body has become even more hypervisible

By choosing to no longer shave, my body is seen by others as “other.” My invisibility cloak is gone, and though I’ve always been an outsider in a city that is mostly white and conservative, choosing to grow my body hair places yet another layer of difference between me and my neighbors.

More Radical Reads: Black in Maine: 4 Ways Black Folks Take Care of Each Other in Majority-White Communities

2. Those close to me express their discontent

Having a hairy body in my hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah means having a different body. As my neighbors and family have noticed this, my body has become a topic of conversation.

As someone who is curvy and curly, I’ve grown up listening to my family’s comments about my weight and the state of my hair. Adding my body hair to the mix made my mother particularly uncomfortable. One Christmas night, she begged me to let her trim my chin hairs before we went out to eat with our family. That night, I wore long pants, a shirt with sleeves long enough that they covered my armpits, and the necklace she had brought me back from Peru.

Camouflaging myself to put those around me at ease got old really fast.

3. Nonetheless, I’ve grown more confident

As I explored my choices, and my personal reasons behind them, I became more and more confident about these choices, as well as my appearance. Once I’d made the decision not to shave, there was no going back for me. I knew that the person in the mirror was the femme I’d been waiting for all these years.

My family and friends eventually got used to it, and I did too. It stopped being weird and became something I’m now proud of. I love my body hair. I love my hairy armpits and my hairy legs.

4. My fashion choices are freer

I’ve started wearing shorter skirts, as well as dresses and shorts. Outfits that I never would’ve worn as an insecure teenager have now become my fashion staple as a confident adult.

5. Getting ready to go out has become easier and faster

I used to have a ritual before heading to work, school, or even grocery shopping. In my head I would make up an image of what was acceptable at home and what was acceptable outside.

It took me years to realize that I wasn’t comfortable unless I complied with these expectations. I’d look in the mirror and feel comfortable with my face without makeup, my breasts without a bra, but never my body with hair, despite the fact that this was the most natural of transitions.

I couldn’t stop my body from growing hair, just as I couldn’t stop myself from feeling ashamed of it — until I was able to re-evaluate my priorities and work on my self-worth, of course. Now I’m able to leave the house without undergoing that mental ritual or shaming myself.

6. I feel healthier

When I stopped shaving, I stopped having random cuts and rashes on my legs. My skin felt softer and less dried out. This wasn’t an overnight change for me, but looking back, I can’t help but cringe over how much pain I would go through on a weekly basis just to have those tiny little hairs gone from my legs.

I remember ex-partners telling me how much they loved my legs, but nowadays I have lovers who touch my hairy legs and say those very same words. It feels different, in a good way.

7. My sex life improved

As I started loving every hairy part of my body, as well as every part of my partners’ bodies, my sex life changed for the better. Sex became less about a performance and more about spontaneity. I found myself with newfound confidence.

More Radical Reads: The Truth Can Get a Little Hairy: Reflections on Body Hair, Feminism and Trans* Identity

8. My art, and my self-worth, were transformed

Choosing to love my hairy body changed my art. I started drawing thick femmes, hairy femmes. And in so doing, I found myself falling in love with my body, as every drawing became a poem to this new self.

And at the same time this “new” self wasn’t new. Choosing to no longer shave felt like coming home, like turning back time and taking all of my childhood back. As a survivor of border trauma and various forms of abuse, this is tied to my healing process.

Growing up as an immigrant, I was taught to assimilate and blend in as much as I could. To be able to do this was tied to my survival. And though I’ve had my immigration status be up in the air, I’ve still made choices that made me feel safe. In a world in which the legality of my body is questioned by politicians and lawmakers on a daily basis, choosing to love my body is its own testament to freedom.

I wake up in the morning, surprised at this new life that I’ve been building. I feel my body, and touch the soft parts, the bulgy parts, the fat and hairy parts, and it all feels so good.

I make late breakfast and eat as much as I want. I bicycle to work, singing about falling in love, and when I come home, I feel safe. I feel confident. I feel happy.

These changes have come gradually, and through many different choices, one of them being to no longer shave. But the most important one has been simply to love myself as I am.

It’s still difficult for me to practice this form of self-love. I am still unlearning to see myself through the lenses of those around me. But by being intentional about manifesting love in everyday actions that are important for my health, I am practicing self-love. And this makes my body happy, and healthy, in every way.

TBINAA is an independent, queer, Black woman run digital media and education organization promoting radical self love as the foundation for a more just, equitable and compassionate world. If you believe in our mission, please contribute to this necessary work at PRESSPATRON.com/TBINAA

We can’t do this work without you!

As a thank you gift, supporters who contribute $10+ (monthly) will receive a copy of our ebook, Shed Every Lie: Black and Brown Femmes on Healing As Liberation. Supporters contributing $20+ (monthly) will receive a copy of founder Sonya Renee Taylor’s book, The Body is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love delivered to your home.

Need some help growing into your own self love? Sign up for our 10 Tools for Radical Self Love Intensive!

Hairy Situation: 13 Reasons To Stop Shaving

Society tells us to shave. Apparently, hair on women is evil. I’ve never heard any stories of women’s body hair hurting anyone, have you? I hate shaving. Why do we put ourselves through that? We think it makes us more attractive, but guess what? Women didn’t always do it. They just stayed hairy. They got to enjoy all the perks of not shaving. I think it’s about time we did, too.

You have time for more important things. Think about how much time you spend in the shower shaving. I could so use that time for some extra sleep, fixing breakfast, catching up on my DVR or pretty much anything else. Honestly, everything is more important than scraping a blade across my legs, pits, bikini line, etc.

No more razor burn.

If you’ve had it, you know what I mean. It hurts like hell. It’s even worse when you have to shave over it again the next day. Not to mention, can’t the shaving companies make some sort of aftershave for women that doesn’t burn?

Forget about painful nicks.

I don’t care how careful you are, you’re going to cut yourself. Don’t you just love the feel of a cut on the back of your knee as you walk? Wait, you don’t? Yeah, me either. Stop shaving and eliminate those nicks that occur in the worst possible places.

Extra warmth in the winter.

Why do you think we have body hair to begin with? Just like any mammal, it’s there to help us better regulate our body temperature. Why do you think most guys seem warmer when it gets cold? We could be warmer too if we just eased up on the shaving.

You save so much money.

Have you ever thought about how much you spend on razors, shaving cream and post shave lotions? I could buy something useful with that money, like chocolate or that dress I keep ogling but can’t afford. Shaving’s expensive. That’s why shaving companies hair shame you all the time.

No more confusion over razors.

Do I need 4 blades or 5? How large of a moisturizing strip do I need? Can’t I just use a guy razor instead of this pink monstrosity? Yeah, it’s confusing out there. I don’t know what I really need. I just hope for the best.

Fewer ingrown hairs.

The more you shave, the more you damage the skin. This leads to painful ingrown hairs. You don’t even realize they’re there until it’s too late. Then you have to pick out the hair (which hurts by the way) and deal with an open wound for a few days. Some even get so bad you have to get them professional removed.

Hide annoying leg flaws.

Have a little cellulite or random scars? If you stopped shaving, your leg hair would hide those. Sure, it might seem awkward having hairy legs at first, but you’re happy and comfortable, so it doesn’t really matter. It’s much easier than cramming your legs into hose all the time.

Eliminate superficial guys.

Believe it or not, all guys aren’t freaked out by body hair. They find women attractive regardless of whether they’re hairy or not. Wouldn’t it be nice to snuggle up with a guy who isn’t going to push you way for being a little fuzzy? Try not shaving and you’ll quickly eliminate any superficial guys.

You realize a healthy body image isn’t about hair.
Women place far too much weight on body hair when it comes to body image. It’s your body and the hair on it doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t have to spend hours and days of your life getting rid of hair. You’re beautiful just the way you are (and yes, I did just do a shameless Bruno Mars reference).

Fewer skin infections.
Every time you shave, you’re leaving behind tiny tears on your skin. You might not even notice them. The problem is these tears are prone to any bacteria you come in contact with. It’s no wonder women who shave tend to have more random skin infections. Hence the irritation, redness and even pus filled places that happen all the time.

No more stabbing yourself with stubbly legs.
I can’t be the only one who wakes herself up by stabbing myself with stubbly legs. You roll over after not shaving for a few days and it feels like you’re being stabbed with a hundred tiny needles. It makes you want to get up and immediately shave. That all stops when you just don’t shave at all.

You don’t itch all the time.
Razor burn and skin irritations make you itch. I envy guys sometimes. If they need to adjust themselves or scratch, they just do it. Of course, we’re disgusting if we try it. So, if you don’t shave, you don’t have to fight the urge to scratch down there in the middle of the street. Wouldn’t that be nice?

So why are you still shaving? If you’re not ready to embrace the hair just yet, at least find a less painful and annoying way to get rid of the hair.

Sponsored: The best dating/relationships advice on the web. Check out Relationship Hero a site where highly trained relationship coaches get you, get your situation, and help you accomplish what you want. They help you through complicated and difficult love situations like deciphering mixed signals, getting over a breakup, or anything else you’re worried about. You immediately connect with an awesome coach on text or over the phone in minutes. Just click here…

Januhairy: What I learned when I stopped shaving

Image copyright Laura Jackson Image caption Laura Jackson said she had been overwhelmed by reaction to her Januhairy campaign

Women all over the world put down their razors and wax strips to grow out their body hair for Januhairy. While some were praised for helping to promote body confidence, others were branded disgusting. This is what four participants took from the experience.

‘Telling people seemed intimidating’

Image copyright Sonia Thakurdesai Image caption Sonia Thakurdesai feels more comfortable in her own skin after taking part

Sonia Thakurdesai was “quite hesitant” about announcing her decision to grow her body hair.

“I remember seeing a lot of tweets around the time Januhairy was getting popular, from both men and women, bashing it saying it’s disgusting.

“Despite being happy to take part, the task of posting on social media and telling people seemed intimidating.

“Body hair has always been something I have felt self-conscious about. I always felt people would see me as dirty or gross if I did open up about it.”

The 19-year-old, from Heckmondwike in West Yorkshire, said despite the negativity and initial fears, the campaign has improved her confidence.

“It has opened up the topic for discussion – women across the world are sharing their experiences and it is challenging those who feel they have to remove their body hair to think why that is.

“It has made me feel more comfortable in my own skin and accept my body in its natural fuzzy form.”

‘I’m not doing it for approval’

Image copyright Sabine Fisher Image caption Sabine Fisher said that her body hair is beautiful

Sabine Fisher was shocked when those close to her expressed disgust at her participation in Januhairy.

“I have had a couple of people tell me its ‘disgusting’ and ‘unnatural’, which made me feel hurt and confused as they were close friends, but now I’m OK with people not liking it.

“I’m not doing it for them or their approval – I’m doing it for me.”

The 18-year-old from Rotorua in New Zealand said some cultures had been “brainwashed” into thinking body hair is “wrong and weird”.

“I think body hair is so beautiful, but when people see my armpit hair they won’t make eye contact with me, or they stare at it.

“I don’t know if it will be a thing I continue to do forever, but for now it feels good and right.

“My beauty and self worth have nothing to do my body hair – or what other people think about it.”

You might also be interested in

Bralet boom and why the underwire is under fire

‘I was married and divorced in my 20s’

The gamer who spent seven years in his dressing gown

‘I felt feminine’

Image copyright Crystal Marchand Image caption Crystal Marchand, 32, said one interaction caused her to shave off her hair

Crystal Marchand is transgender and decided to grow out her body hair for the first time since her transition last year.

“I was called horrible names. I was cursed at in public. Some stared, others wouldn’t look at me.”

One abusive interaction, halfway through the month, caused her to shave off her facial hair.

But in spite of the negative reaction, the 32-year-old from Montreal in Canada said she learned more about herself through the process.

“There is some danger in pushing the boundaries and that risk worried some of my loved ones.

“But I discovered I could feel feminine despite all my body hair, which has troubled me since its arrival.

“Other people’s perceptions of my gender are not as important to me as my own self-awareness, self-acceptance, and my ability to love and express myself freely.”

‘Less of a monster’

Image copyright Laura Jackson Image caption Laura Jackson has received many messages of support

Laura Jackson never expected Januhairy to blow up like it did. The 21-year-old campaign founder had one simple aim – to encourage women to embrace their body hair while raising money for Body Gossip.

She said one woman, who has a beard caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thanked her for making her feel like “less of a monster”.

“I couldn’t believe someone could say that about themselves,” the Exeter University student said. “It made me tear up a little.”

Laura also described how a 13-year-old with excess body hair on her arms and legs contacted her to say the campaign had made her cry and helped her realise she is “not alone”.

“It gives me a lot more confidence in humanity and the changes this generation can bring to the world.

“But it’s not just about me. Women have been inspiring other women with their stories.

“This needed to happen, and I’m just grateful to be a part of it.”

Why women are growing out their body hair and what razor companies are doing about it

Here’s a question many young women have asked lately: “Do I really need to remove my body hair?”

This summer, a growing number of millennials have found their answer: “Nope.”

As beauty trends have gradually become more inclusive — with makeup offered in more natural shades than ever before and bras made available in an expanding number of custom sizes — women are also giving themselves more leeway when it comes to personal grooming.

Body hair has been embraced by celebrities who speak proudly of their unshaven underarms and influencers who post unapologetically about their visible leg hair. The movement has especially taken off on Instagram and even affected the marketing of a product that once had ads labeling leg hair “objectionable”: razors.

Some ‘hate’ the idea of hairy women

Photographer Ashley Armitage has made body hair one of the focuses of her Instagram account, which includes portraits of feminine women combing their wispy underarm locks. Her interest began more than five years ago, when she noticed her friends were letting the hair on their armpits and legs grow. It made her question her own hair-removal habits.

“I was grappling with it: ‘Why do I have to shave?'” she says. “Why do I have to deal with these terrible razor burns under my armpit and also get a five o’clock shadow?’”

Armitage, 25, started to share imagery among friends that she thought was missing in the media: photos she took of women she knew with armpit fuzz, happy trails and unshaven bikini lines. A photo of the latter subject went viral a few years ago. Online, trolls attacked the image, and Armitage.

“There are people in the world who hate (the idea of hairy women) and don’t want a woman going outside of the (hairless) beauty standard,” Armitage said. “There were people who were sending death threats.”

It may sound extreme, but women who have had their body hair visible in photos on the internet are all too familiar with trolls yelling from a computer that they ought to shave. Actress Lola Kirke (“Mozart in the Jungle”) wrote on Instagram that she, too, got “death threats” after having “awesome” hairy armpits on the 2017 Golden Globes red carpet.

For Armitage, the negative reaction was outshined by fans commending the photographer for giving confident, hairy women more visibility. Almost overnight, she went from having a few hundred Instagram followers to garnering 10,000. Today, she has 132,000 followers and a mission to push for more body hair visibility.

There are certainly still negative commenters, but the angry cohort of mostly men outraged at the sight of female body hair below the neck has quieted some and “now I see body hair on Instagram pretty regularly,” Armitage says.

Celebrities embrace body hair, too

Years after Kirke had furry pits on the red carpet, actress Emily Ratajkowski became one of the loudest voices to celebrate body hair this summer when she shared a personal essay in the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar. She posed for the magazine in a black bralette with her dark armpit hair on display.

“If I decide to shave my armpits or grow them out, that’s up to me. For me, body hair is another opportunity for women to exercise their ability to choose — a choice based on how they want to feel and their associations with having or not having body hair,” she wrote. “On any given day, I tend to like to shave, but sometimes letting my body hair grow out is what makes me feel sexy.”

“Bachelor” personality Bekah Martinez also shared her thoughts on body hair last month, when she walked a red carpet with her brown leg hair showing under a minidress.

“I’ve finally gotten to the point where I feel (almost) totally comfortable like this,” she wrote in an Instagram post about the event. “I stopped shaving my legs and armpits about a year ago as a practice of self-love. I grew up HATING the hair on my body.” She continued: “It’s not about ‘not believing in shaving’, it’s about believing I AM BEAUTIFUL, ATTRACTIVE AND “FEMININE” NO MATTER WHERE I HAVE HAIR ON MY BODY.”

Actress Amandla Stenberg, YouTube personality Ingrid Nilsen and musician Maggie Rogers have also talked about body hair and delighted in growing out their own.

Can shave companies smoothly adjust?

The famous females aren’t alone: A growing number of women are relying less on razors these days. According to market research company NPD Group, the beauty industry category “shave body” has dropped 5% in sales over the 12 months that ended in June. Meanwhile, the category “skincare” is up 8% for the same time period. Body haircare company Fur Oil saw revenue grow three times per year since starting in 2016.

Razor company Gillette has clearly taken a hit. Though the brand primarily sells men’s razors, it’s also famous for selling Venus razors with ads of shiny-legged women singing the Bananarama lyrics “I’m your Venus // I’m your fire, your desire.” Gillette saw a 3% drop in organic sales in the last quarter. Meanwhile, women’s razor startup Billie, which launched in 2017, has raised $35 million in funding. The brand is known for its pro-body hair message. Counterintuitive, no?

“We wanted to be a body brand for women, and we sell razors, but we didn’t want to tell women that they had to be hairless,” Billie co-founder Georgina Gooley tells USA TODAY. “I think that has been the consistent message for over 100 years to women.”

To her point: Christine Hope writes in “Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture” that razor ads starting as early as 1915 told women that body hair was “superfluous,” “unwanted,” “ugly” and “unfashionable.”

Ads for razors starring women with body hair

One of Billie’s videos — both of which Armitage directed — features a diverse group of women on the beach in bathing suits, with varying levels of body hair. The models aren’t frolicking like the white-swimsuit-clad women in the Venus ads of yesteryear. They are boldly standing on the sand, sitting spread-eagle on chairs and lying on floats, with some hair peeking out from their bikini bottoms and underarms.

The first Billie video of a similar style, published in June 2018, went viral with “24 million views across 23 countries,” according to Gooley. Gillette released their own video with hairy models of different ethnicities, a voice-over about not “conforming to conventions,” and new song lyrics “I’m a Venus” months later, but the commercial didn’t catch fire in the same way.

This summer, Billie’s new beach video “got 1.4 million views in 24 hours, and 2 billion impressions,” Gooley says.

It’s a trend about choice, not politics

The move to embrace body hair today isn’t so much the political statement it once was, Armitage says. It’s more about women’s desire to feel in control of their own grooming habits and definitions of beauty.

“It’s less like the 70s wave of feminism where you’d have to burn your bras,” she says. “It’s more about choice and ‘I just have a casual and loose relationship with my body hair.’”

Nilsen puts her thoughts on body hair this way in a video about not shaving: “Now when I look down in the shower, instead of being grossed out by my body hair … I think, ‘I did that, my body did that and that’s pretty cool.’ That’s a huge shift for me and that feels like a real personal accomplishment.”

Millennials Aren’t Shaving Their Pits and Here’s Why

Millennials are the originators of a lot of trends, be it a signature shade of pink or skincare lines targeted at fine lines from squinting at your iPhone. As the most of-the-moment generation, there is one habit that they’re starting to phase out, however: women shaving their armpits.

According to a report by The Telegraph, which compared data from two separate surveys in 2013 and 2016 done by Mintel, a trend forecasting and marketing company, the number of ladies ditching the razor is growing (pun intended) — in fact, the number is as high as 25 percent. That’s one out of four ladies who are daring to bare hair. Where 95 percent were once taking part in the grooming ritual, we’re now down to 77 or maybe even lower. Leg-shaving isn’t too far behind either, with numbers dropping from 92 to 85 percent.

So what gives? Mintel’s Associate Director in Beauty and Personal Care, Roshida Khanom, says it’s a number of factors, including our initial guess of female empowerment. “There’s … some pushing back about what women should look like,” she said.

The trend has only gained momentum, with celebrities adopting the practice for even red carpet appearances, as Lola Kirke did. The actress thanked her fans’ support after baring her underarms at the Golden Globes. (“Ok! Now I’m really ready. Thanks to all you beautiful people who didn’t send me death threats on account of my #awesome #hairyarmpits! You rule,” she wrote in an Instagram.)

HAHAHHA NEVER https://t.co/kZ6AfjIM84

— bella thorne (@bellathorne) December 12, 2016

While not armpit hair, Bella Thorne also clapped back after being shamed on Twitter for not shaving her legs on the red carpet (her Twitter response of “HAHAHHA NEVER” was applauded by fans).

But other contributing factors include “free from” and “clean eating” movements. As Khanom explains, “Clean eating is behind some of those changes. They’re worried about causing irritation from their skin because of these products.”

All these explain why the industry is also seeing declining sales numbers in shaving foam and hair removal creams. The Telegraph reports that sales have dropped by as much as five percent between 2015 and 2016, with young women turning to all-natural options instead.

We’re certainly not mad to hear that the policing of women’s body hair is letting up. Do you, you strong, empowered women!

What’s your take on the no-shave trend? Sound off to us over @BritandCo.

(h/t Teen Vogue; Photos viaVincent Sandoval/Getty, Getty)

Leg hair on women

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *