My relationship with body hair ebbs and flows depending on the season. As a South Asian woman, I grew up incredibly hairy. I was teased as a kid for my unibrow and had to wear long pants during gym class. When I was 10, I begged my mom to take me to the waxing salon, only to ask the woman to stop halfway because it hurt so much. We grew up hearing beauty is pain, but when and why did hairlessness become synonymous with womanhood?
As a kid, I blamed my hairiness for my insecurities. Rather than society, for its unrealistic expectations for women, egging our bodies to turn quickly from friend to foe, something that needs fixing, to be picked at and prodded.
Now, in my early twenties, I consider my eyebrows my strongest feature, while the body hair was lasered away. Sometimes I feel like I sold out by getting laser hair removal, but never having to worry about hair showing through the slits in my jeans is a personal blessing. I am, however, incredibly happy to see the shift in mindset these past few years regarding body hair. Now we see shaving commercials showcasing real body hair and photos of Rihanna with visible leg hair. My kids will hopefully not have to worry about going through painful hair removal techniques in a desperate attempt to assimilate the way I did.
I spoke with five women to get their take on body hair removal. What is everyone doing nowadays? Does anyone still care? Does age play a role in how they feel about their hair? Keep reading down below for the answers to questions that are often too taboo to ask at work happy hour.
Q: What are your thoughts on body hair?
Iman Hariri-Kia, Sex and Relationships Editor at Bustle: I believe that when you’re a Middle Eastern ex-pat — or, as I’ve come to understand, any kind of American immigrant — body hair is inherently political. It sets us apart; it differentiates us; it speaks for us before we have the opportunity to open our mouths. I think that the decision to remove [it] is an act of assimilation, and the fact that we associate hairlessness with beauty is a testament to how much that western standard has been ingrained in us from an early age. Of course, this is an intersectional issue. To examine it properly, you’ll also have to consider gender, class and more.
Joanna Simon, Influencer: I think body hair is a totally natural part of the human body. Some people have darker body hair, while others have light hairs that are barely visible. No matter what kind or how much hair you have, it doesn’t make you any less beautiful.
Allie Melnick, General Manager at Flamingo: I’ve had a pretty long and complicated relationship with my own body hair. It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable with my body — I asked for laser hair removal for my birthday for years. But in building Flamingo, I found that having an open conversation about where I had hair, where I didn’t want it, where I did, and what my routine looked like, I started to feel a lot more comfortable with myself.
Mickie Woods, Sex and Dating Blogger: I believe we should erase what society expects of us and do whatever we want with our body hair. In the same way that all different types of hairstyles on our heads are accepted, so should body hair! A person not shaving doesn’t mean they are unkempt or dirty; it just means they are a person who doesn’t shave.
Rebekah Martinez, Influencer: It’s really interesting to me that women are expected to have a stance or explanation for the choices we make with our body hair. Men are generally never questioned about their body hair grooming preferences or even facial hair preferences. Imagine DM’ing or commenting to a man on social media asking, “Why don’t you shave your legs?” or “Why do you shave your face?” or even, “Why do you shave your chest and not your armpits?” It sounds ridiculous, but it’s something I have to constantly deal with as a woman who doesn’t remove certain areas of body hair.
Q: If you remove body hair, what is your motivation, and what method do you use?
IH: I’ve tried every single type of hair removal known to man! Plucking, shaving, waxing, threading. You name it. Nowadays, I only shave my legs, crotch and underarms. My motivation is complex: I understand the implications of my actions, and yet, its removal has been routine for me for so long that I crave the feeling of being smooth. My hair comes back so fast (thanks to my Persian blood), and I find that letting it grow out feels itchy and uncomfortable.
JS: I personally prefer to use laser hair removal when I want the hair gone. In my opinion, it’s the best alternative to shaving because I’m never left with razor burn or ingrown hairs. My motivation behind my body hair removal is that sometimes I enjoy the clean, hairless look. But also, there are times where I like being able to grow my leg hair out long and wear shorts to show it off. One of the perks of laser is that it doesn’t make the hair stop growing completely; it usually just grows back thinner after a few months.
AM: Flamingo’s wax strips changed my life. We visited factories around the world in search of the right formula (found it in Spain!), and we’re the first brand to bring soft gel wax to the US. The strips take about ten minutes to use and have saved me many trips to the salon and a lot of money since we got our first samples in. I like the feeling of smooth skin, and I don’t like regular maintenance, so wax is a great product for me.
MW: I used to do all my own waxing (mostly armpits and Brazilians). I’ve decided I will never wax again. It’s just not worth it to me — the ingrown hairs, irritation, pain, cost, etc. Now, if I remove my body hair, I mostly just trim. Keeping the hair low allows me to exfoliate properly. It’s also just easier to keep my bush tamed since it can get pretty wild down there!
RM: For a long time, I shaved and waxed virtually everything from the neck down. My motivation was internalized shame about being hairy, embarrassment and self-hatred. I convinced myself that it was my personal preference, but the truth was that I personally preferred removing my hair because doing otherwise made me feel dirty, disgusting and “masculine.”
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Been blonde for a little over a year now and can confirm that blondes do, in fact, have more fun. And that bleaching your hair does not have the power to take away from your racial or cultural identity! I’m still Persian af y’all! Just check my constant need for attention and the hair I have all over other parts of my body 🙃🙂
A post shared by Iman Hariri-Kia (@imanharirikia) on
Q: As you’ve gotten older, do you care more or less about hair?
IH: A little over a year ago, I decided to dye my hair platinum blonde as a social experiment. And ever since, I’ve found myself drawn to identifying my racial identity quickly in conversation because of the guilt I carry for white-passing. It’s a very strange, complicated issue, but for that reason, I’ve begun to embrace my body hair more and more. I feel as if it connects me to my larger cultural heritage, which is a sensation I crave now more than ever. Obviously, I can only speak like this from a place of privilege, and that has to be acknowledged. But as of right now, the hair that coats my arms, face, roots all feel like separate threads of a great tapestry, one that I’m honored to be a small part of.
JS: Growing up, I used to be so self-conscious of hair anywhere on my body. I would get made fun of for having hairy arms, so I started shaving young. Now that I’m a bit older and surround myself with people who don’t make me feel insecure, I never worry about leaving the house without my whole body freshly shaved (or lasered). I think it’s important that we’re normalizing body hair on women because it’s something so natural and beautiful.
AM: I had a baby over the summer, and it’s really changed how I think about my body. While I was pregnant, I started to grow hair in new places, and lose it in others, but still felt more comfortable with my body than I did when I was younger. It’s become less about how I look, and more about how I feel.
MW: As I get older, I care less and less about my body hair and who does or doesn’t like it. I used to wax religiously for the men in my life and for me to feel better about myself when I was with them. Now, I let men know upfront that I won’t be getting rid of my bush for them. To my surprise, many men love this about me. Shaving isn’t something that I allow myself to get lazy about only once I get comfortable with someone; it’s something I’m lazy about all the time! I shave when I want to shave, and it’s never for another person. Additionally, as I get older, I love my body hair more and more, and it is fun embracing something that my body naturally does.
RM: Definitely less just because of the steps I’ve taken to get myself used to it.
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