Should women shave their body hair?
- The first razor explicitly marketed to women was Gillette’s “Milady Decollette” in 1915.
- A 2019 ResearchNow survey found that women will spend the equivalent of about 60 days throughout their lifetime shaving their body hair.
- A 2015 NYC Department of Consumer Affairs report revealed that women pay an average of 13% more for personal care products (like razors, etc.) that were analogous to men’s due to a disparity in gender pricing.
- About 25% of those who groom their pubic hair sustain injuries, according to a 2017 JAMA Dermatology investigative report.
Until the early 20th century, femininity was primarily equated with a woman's innate maternity and her moral character rather than her external physical characteristics. In America, a perceptual change in defining femininity resulted from persuasive ad campaigns that marketed new inessential hygiene/beauty products. Since the early 1910s, body hair began to be labeled by those marketing razors as 'objectionable' and 'unsightly.' Widespread advertising, aimed only at profit, normalized the shaving of armpit, leg, and pubic hair.
Additionally, since Gillette introduced lubricating strips in 1985, a new health hazard emerged from the shaving industry. Potentially carcinogenic chemicals and various synthetic dyes are listed as ingredients in most lubricating strips.
Aside from the ever-present reality of toxic chemicals in consumer goods, the act of shaving itself can be damaging to one's skin health. Shaving anywhere increases your risk of ingrown hairs, dry skin, and skin infections, as minor cuts in the skin allow room for bacterial and fungal growth.
Another negative side effect of shaving certain parts of the body is the loss of potential sexual function. Many scientists assert the evolutionary purpose of armpit and pubic hair is not only to serve as a cushion to prevent chafed skin but also a means to trap pheromones--chemicals that play a significant role in sexual attraction.
Finally, the popularization of shaving promotes an artificial perception of what a human female should look like. As a result, many modern women feel ashamed of the hair that grows on their bodies. To the detriment of half of the world's population, society is choosing an unrealistic and unnatural depiction of women.
Despite claims of women growing out their body hair during the pandemic, around 79.4% still groom themselves. Of these, 29.2% shave partially or completely, possibly because of the many benefits of removing body hair.
First, shaving counters the body odor produced when sweat mixes with bacteria naturally found on the skin. Body hair provides bacteria with a larger surface to cling to and traps the smell for a longer period of time. While deodorizers may help with the smell, using them is riskier than shaving.
There are also several diseases that can be caused by body hair. For instance, bacteria building up on hair follicles can lead to trichomycosis. Body lice and pubic lice also thrive in body hair, so shaving can be an effective preventative measure.
In addition to keeping diseases at bay, shaving exfoliates the skin. It gets rid of dead cells, allowing products such as moisturizers to work effectively.
Health benefits aside, removing body hair gives women more confidence. According to 50% of millennials, their body hair made them feel less confident or insecure. Those who didn’t remove their body hair were more put off by the time spent on shaving and thicker hair growth.
So, while women may be questioning whether to keep or remove their body hair, they must factor these benefits into their decision. After all, who doesn’t want a healthier body that adds to their self-confidence?