Removing It All

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by Anila Yoganathan

Hair removal can be a constant struggle for women, and society has created immense pressure for women to remove all body hair except from their head. The list of places on a woman’s body that are expected to be hairless continues to grow: underarms, arms, legs, bikini area, pubic area and face. The different processes to remove all this hair each have their own drawbacks and work differently for each woman.

This constant pressure needs to stop. Women should be accepted for removing or not removing their body hair. The stigma against women’s body hair is pushing women to take time out of their day, and allocate money and energy towards a task that will inevitably need to be repeated in the future.

According to Salon, 99 percent of American women voluntarily remove their body hair. United Press International states that a survey of American women indicates that a woman can spend up to or more than $10,000 on hair removal products in her lifetime. Waxing, specifically, can be up to $23,000.

The stigma against female body hair is best showcased in a BuzzFeed list, that lists 19 reasons women should shave their body hair. Every single one of the reasons say body hair is gross, disgusting or unhygienic, and this is false. There is hair on the human body for a reason. It might be uncomfortable and unpleasant at times, but it serves a purpose.

A study from the BMJ Journal on Sexually Transmitted Infections, revealed that there is a high correlation between those who wax, pluck or shave their pubic hair with having STIs. In addition, removing pubic hair through waxing or shaving can cause pimples and ingrown hairs. Hair removal creams can prove effective, however, they can burn if not used properly. They can also be smelly.  

This is not to say that there aren’t benefits to grooming the pubic area, and that women should not do so, but they should not feel pressured to. Grooming the pubic area can feel more comfortable and prevent problems such as pubic lice. Women who consider grooming their pubic area should do so out of their own wants and needs, not because society believes it to be gross when it is not groomed.

Facial hair removal has become another trend, with various solutions spanning from battery-powered blades and threading to bleaching creams. A mustache on a man is acceptable, but there is a sense of embarrassment and horror that women can feel when seeing their own upper-lip hairs.

But facial hair removal is not limited to the upper-lip area, but also to the eyebrows, and even to the cheeks. Women can’t help if they have facial hair, and shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed into removing it, especially when removing it requires proper maintenance. Eyebrow hairs normally grow back, so they require constant upkeep, but if done too severely, the hair follicles can be damaged and the hairs won’t grow back at all.

Underarm hair grows back quickly. For women who want to have bare underarms, the upkeep necessitates daily removal. And while there are creams and deodorants that can help stunt underarm hair growth for a short time, they also cost money and don’t always work. Growing this type of hair out is often related to hippies in the 1970s who refused to shave their under-arms, but women who choose not to shave aren’t necessarily trying to make a political statement. It just may be more comfortable not to shave.

Removing the rest of the hair on the body has its own set of problems. Ingrown hairs are painful There are multiple remedies towards getting rid of them, but that is the risk of hair removal. There is always the risk of chemical burns from removal and bleaching creams.

Shaving can easily cut skin which not only burns, but also can cause infections. It can also make the hair coarser, so for women who shave often, new hair growth can be painful and itchy, requiring them to shave once again. Laser hair removal has proven to work for some women, but not all. It is also expensive, and if it does not work, it may not be worth the time or money.

Body hair is natural, and serves a general purpose. It’s not gross or unhygienic. How women choose to maintain it is their own decision. They should not be shamed or pressured into removing it when it costs so much time, energy, money and effort. Whether a woman decides to invest herself into hair removal is her business, not society’s.

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