red haired woman showing armpit hair

Why More and More Women Have Stopped Shaving Nowadays

The pandemic has created many changes in people’s lives. First, it trapped them at home. Their kitchen table has become their new workspace and their pajamas are their new uniforms. For many women, not going out means a respite from their usual regime. Who cares about hairy legs when you’re not going outside anyway? [1] However, some women have stopped shaving as a personal choice, pandemic or no pandemic. 

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Women Have Stopped Shaving 

Hair-removal used to be as vital for female hygiene as brushing their teeth and washing their hair. However, some women are scrutinizing this beauty standard and even abandoning it. And they are receiving major flak in return. 

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It’s been deeply stigmatized — it still is — and cast with shame,” said Heather Widdows, professor of global ethics at the UK’s University of Birmingham. “Its removal is one of the few aesthetic traditions that have gone from being a beauty routine to a hygienic one

Today, most women feel like they have to shave. Like they have no other option. There’s something deeply fraught about that — though perceptions are slowly changing.” [2] 

Many celebrities and influencers have embraced their body hair. For instance, actress Lola Kirke sported a strapless gown with unshaven armpits on the 2017 Golden Globes red carpet. Later on Instagram, she explains that she got death threats because of her bold choice.  

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A few years later, actress Emily Ratajkowski posed for Harper’s Bazaar while showing off her dark armpit hair.  

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“If I decide to shave my armpits or grow them out, that’s up to me,” Ratajkowski wrote in the magazine. “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. On any given day, I tend to like to shave, but sometimes letting my body hair grow out is what makes me feel sexy.” 

Some Women Have Stopped Shaving Their Legs

In 2019, “Bachelor” personality Bekah Martinez posted a photo of herself in a mini dress with unshaved legs at a red-carpet event on Instagram. “I’ve finally gotten to the point where I feel (almost) totally comfortable like this. 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...

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.” [3] 

The History Behind Women Removing Body Hair 

According to Rebecca Herzig in Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, the war against body hair began with Darwin’s 1871 book Descent of Man where he claimed that men were intended to be hairy but women were not. [4] Hairy women were considered deviant, and an 1893 study found that females with more facial hair were more frequently insane. These cases also tended to have “thicker and stiffer” hair similar to “inferior races”. If that wasn’t horrible enough, Havelock Ellis, a scholar of human sexuality, believed this kind of female hair growth was “linked to criminal violence, strong sexual instincts … [and] exceptional ‘animal vigor.’” 

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However, removing unwanted hair didn’t become widespread until the early 1900s where smooth skin became a feature of beauty. Especially as sleeves and hemlines grew shorter. “In a remarkably short time, body hair became disgusting to middle-class American women, its removal a way to separate oneself from cruder people, lower class and immigrant,” writes Herzig. 

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By 1964, 98% of American women shaved their legs on a regular basis. Many hair removal treatment back in the day were harmful and dangerous, such as sandpaper, shoemaker waxes, creams made from rat poison thallium acetate, and X-rays. At best, women were left with scabbed and irritated skin. Others suffered from muscular atrophy, blindness, ulceration, cancer, and even death from these treatments.   

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Overall, Herzig argues that stigmatizing female body hair can “produce feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability, the sense that women’s bodies are problematic the way they naturally are.” [5]  

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Tossing Out the Razor? 

To remove hair or not to remove hair is a personal choice. Some women might have kept their shaving or waxing regime throughout this pandemic because that’s what they prefer. However, others might bring their newfound laxness in hair removal into non-lockdown life.  

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Some women have stopped shaving as an act of self-love and acceptance. As Queerandcurious on Reddit said, “I stopped shaving probably about a year ago. I just decided to stop caring about what other people thought about my body hair, and I became much happier with my body. Plus, I get a lot of ingrown hairs and have sensitive skin, so not shaving makes me physically more comfortable.” 

Some women just may not have the time or patience to include hair removal as part of their beauty regime. Meanwhile, others sport their unshaven legs and armpits as statements. For some women, they are just protecting their bodies. Shaving can cause skin irritations like chafing, ingrown hairs, rashes, etc. and they prefer the hair to the infected skin. And some women just don’t mind the hair either way. 

Body hair or lack thereof is a personal preference that could change throughout our lives. Or it depends on whether or not we’re going out that night. The point is, the decision should be based on how you feel, not what other people think. 

Keep Reading: ‘Boys Can Be Princesses Too’ Photos Go Viral on Facebook: ‘We Can All Be Whatever We Want to Be When We Play’

References: 

  1. “Stopped Shaving During the Pandemic? So Has (Almost) Everyone.” Healthline. Charlotte Alice Moore. June 26, 2020  
  2. “Why women feel pressured to shave.” CNN Style. Marianna Cerini. March 3, 2020 
  3. “Why women are growing out their body hair and what razor companies are doing about it.” USA Today. Carly Mallenbaum. September 7, 2019. 
  4. “The History of Female Hair Removal.” Women’s Musuem of California. November 22, 2017 
  5. The Casualties of Women’s War on Body Hair.” The Atlantic. Nadine Ajaka. February 8, 2017. 
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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