Reader Request: On Body Hair

An anonymous commentor dropped this one into the suggestion box:

Wondering if you’ve ever thought about/written about body hair. I’ve noticed that, despite my inclination to be completely fine with it, I’ve changed what I will/won’t wear in the summer to hide the fact that I don’t shave my armpits. Last year, I bought several short sleeved sweater/shrugs to wear over sleeveless dresses even though I usually internally bemoaned the fact that we’re an anti-hair society. Also, I go back and forth about leg shaving and if I’m supposed to hide it or own it.

Reader Erin responded in the comment thread by linking to this post from Manolo for the Big Girl, which I think is absolutely stellar. Miss Plumcake is hilariously candid, and covers a lot of bases in terms of her personal grooming and body hair-related routines. Do check it out.

As for me? Well, brace yourselves, kittens, because I’ll lay it all out for you. Possibly more bluntly than you’d expect. Or prefer.

I have a gorgeous, healthy, thick, curly mop of hair on my head. I’m incredibly grateful for it, truly I am. But the same genetics that gave me that gorgeous, healthy, thick, curly mop of hair on my head also gave me copious body hair. Everywhere. Like most women, I’ve got in my pits, on my legs and arms, and on my upper lip. Like some other women I’ve got it on my chin, my knuckles, and my fuzzy, fuzzy Hobbit toes. Like relatively few women I also get giant black hairs on my areolas, a thick swath of hair on my lower abdomen, and a few stubborn interlopers on my breastbone.

In addition to having a large amount of body hair and having it virtually everywhere on my body except my nails and eyeballs, I have incredibly sensitive skin that hates the very hairs that spring from it. If I shave more than about once per week, I get ungodly painful razor burn. If I let my body hair grow long, my skin becomes intensely itchy and eventually a good percentage of the hairs become ingrown. I’m sure that many of you have dealt with similar problems and have suggestions for me to try. But I’ve already tried them. I’ve tried them ALL. Potions, lotions, exfoliating, creams, waxing, waiting it out, combinations thereof … they all make me raw, itchy, or otherwise miserable.

Now, body hair is a hot-button feminist issue. Has been for decades. And I realize that what I’m about to say may sully my reputation as a feminist and as a body image warrior. But I’ve got to be honest. And having struggled with my body hair for my entire adult life, I have made my peace with this particular bit of hypocrisy.

I respect every woman’s right to leave or remove her body hair. And that goes for pits, privates, and everywhere else. But I prefer to keep my own hair to a visible minimum for grooming, aesthetic, and comfort reasons. And yes, those reasons are undoubtedly influenced by male-dominated notions of female attractiveness. I’m sticking to my guns on this one regardless. I will not shove half-inch-long leg hairs into my tights and suck up the discomfort in the name of ideals. I will not embrace my natural unibrow. I will not bear my chest and chin hairs proudly as a badge of my all-encompassing self-acceptance. I will not allow my toe hairs to undulate in the summer breeze. I will not grow out my armpit hair and flash it proudly in the name of feminism. My body hair irritates and annoys me both physically and aesthetically, and I will deal with it accordingly.

Does this mean I’m dissatisfied with my genetic lot? You’re damned right it does. Does this mean I’ve spent a lot of time and money and energy honing my personal hair removal routine. Indeed, indeed. Does this mean I’m willingly bowing to the patriarchy on this issue? I guess you could see it that way. But if the argument is that feminist bodies should be loved exactly as they are naturally and left entirely alone, here are some other related hypocrisies: Deodorant, haircuts, bras, cosmetics, belts, shoes that aren’t 100% flat, and absolutely any article of clothing that alters the appearance of a body. Everything we do to change how our bodies look, feel, and smell is a nod to societal norms. And I’m willing to nod occasionally.

Do I think you should all keep yourselves hairless from neck to toes? Not unless you want to. Do I think you should all allow every hair on your person to grow and prosper in peace? Not unless you want to. As in all things style-related, I trust you to make your own decisions. Your body, your choices.

But I think you’re all aware that Western society has very little tolerance for body hair on women. If you choose to go completely au naturel you will have a tough road ahead of you. If you feel strongly about your right to natural body hair and believe that the pressure to shave it off constitutes a form of oppression, grow it out and be proud, but prepare to be questioned about your choices. If you – like the commentor who asked this initial question – grow out your body hair only to hide it from view, you might want to consider your dedication to the cause and your personal priorities. I believe in picking your battles, especially when it comes to issues that affect your self-image, overall happiness, and personal comfort. If you wax and shave and bleach like me, you are not a villain. You are NOT. Just as you get to choose your clothing, your hairstyle, and your grooming routine, you get to choose how you deal with your body hair.

Before I open things up for comments, several points must be made:

  • If you feel strongly about body hair one way or another, express your views respectfully and civilly or they will not be published.
  • Be courteous and kind to each other when responding to remarks from other readers.
  • If you believe you have the answer to my own body hair woes, please be respectful in your suggestions. When I say I’ve tried everything, I am not exaggerating. Any comments that scold me for overlooking some grooming technique or shame me for not trying hard enough to accept my body hair will not be published.
  • If you are interested in knowing how I actually deal with my body hair, let me know. The reader’s question pertains to the philosophy of body hair removal, so that was my focus today.
  • K

    As a pale-skinned, dark-haired lady who does have some hair on her stomach and knuckles (and toes…), I’d be interested to hear of your more successful strategies! (Similarly, if you have solution to the dotty appearance after shaving on legs, that’d be peachy keen too… the only solution I’ve come up with so far is fake tan, but I like being pale and don’t really want tanned legs…especially since the rest of me won’t be…)

    • kristy k

      I completely agree – would love more info on successful hair removal and dotty appearance on legs. I really don’t want to fake tan, either!

      • http://www.theplacebeneath.blogspot.com Saralyn

        As another “hair endowed” woman, I second the motion!

        • http://pacificrain.blogspot.com sarah

          thirded! I was actually so miserable and itchy yesterday (after shaving my legs on Saturday morning, and with several ingrowns left to deal with) that I sat down for an hour and plucked my legs, digging out the ingrowns and plucking out the stubbley bits my crap razor missed. Yes. I will pluck my legs with tweezers. It takes a stupid amount of time, but I gotta tell ya, what a relief not to have itchy legs today!!

          • Becca

            If you want to pluck all the hairs on your legs quickly, try an epilator. It is like automatic tweezers. It does sting a bit, but I didn’t find it intolerable on my arms and legs. Of course, anywhere more tender (underarms or bikini area) I can’t even pull out a hair with tweezers without drawing blood.

          • A

            Try this for the itchy/ingrown hair problem (I believe it helps with the dotty appearance as well):

            In a sealable jar (I use an old toner bottle) Take a couple of uncoated aspirin (the cheap kind they sell at Walgreens for $1) and dissolve in 1/4 cup water. You may have to shake a little. If you want, add a few drops of glycerin (I found this at Whole Foods for about $10) – or just follow with a moisturizer. Use this like a toner each time you shave/wax/whatever and every day after until the threat of itchiness/ingrown hairs has passed. I keep this solution for about a week and then toss it and start over.

            Unless you’re allergic to aspirin (in which case, DON’T do this!), give it a try. It is seriously the only thing that has worked for me.

    • Natasha

      “As a pale-skinned, dark-haired lady who does have some hair on her stomach and knuckles (and toes…), I’d be interested to hear of your more successful strategies!”

      Ditto from another pale-skinned dark-haired gal. :)

      • Kaitlin SB

        Yes! I want to hear your strategies too – especially on your face. I get pimples when I try waxing my chin and I hate the chemical stuff and it doesn’t even last long before the stubble shows up. Tweezing is such a pain (literally and figuratively) and I always miss spots anyway. Tell us your regimen, please!

        • Aik0

          I use a depilatory on my face, Nair for face. On my upper lip (I have black hair that grows pretty thickly, but not like a full blown mustache) I use it once a week or every other week. I’ve done that for YEARS and the hair is lighter and thinner now. The cream also doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin and takes 10 minutes

    • Silvia

      For years I used hot wax. It was very effective but had two mayor drawbacks that made me stop: 1) you need the hair to be somewhat long so the wax can pull it… so every three weeks my legs showed tiny but very noticeable hairs. 2)It’s expensive in the long run.
      Then I tried shaving, but after a few years I went back to the wax. It was just too much work (too often) and it irritated my skin horribly. It was hairless but covered in red spots.

      My father gave me the no!no! as a gift and I really tried to make it work. Long story short: not as good as advertised, the burnt hair odor is pretty annoying and it never quite makes your legs look hair free.

      I was pretty afraid to try an epilator, having tried one my mother gave me when I was fifteen. That thing was loud and hurt ten times worse than hot wax. Turn out things have changed and they are much better now. For starters I can use mine underwater and a warm bath makes things almost painless. I have to exfoliate my legs very often to prevent ingrow hairs, but even buying a lovely body scrub every few weeks I’m not spending more than I ever did on razors.

      • Silvia

        Also, as a funny tidbit, I’m a doctor currently working in Spain. At least half of the men under 30 wax their chest, legs and arms and the few times I’ve asked they just told me “It looks cleaner that way”. To think I used to stress about my legs…

    • Andrea

      Laser hair removal. Can’t recommend it enough. My mother and I are both “blessed” to be quite fair with dark hair. This also happens to be the perfect combination for laser hair removal. We’ve used it to much success; everywhere from upper lip, to chin, to bikini line, underarms and legs. Barely have to shave at all anymore. Just make sure you find a reputable professional and stay out of the sun during your treatments.

      • lynn

        ditto about laser.
        don’t believe when they say it doesn’t hurt. it hurts a looooooot!!! but it is sooo worth it. i got too the ingrowns, the redness, the itchyness, the dryness, the almost-like-sunburn-feeling and it was horrible. then i started laser and it got way better.
        i had seriously 3 days of grace before the dark hairs showed up in my milky armpits. now i have a full month of sleevelessf bliss.
        is kinda expensive, it takes years, it hurts but in the long term, it helps a lot!

        • D

          I know I’m replying a little late, but if you’re finding the cost of laser prohibitive and you live in or near a fairly large city, look for beauty schools and colleges with aesthetics programs. They often offer laser at a significantly reduced price because it’s being done by a student; but they’ll have a professional supervising to ensure you’re safe.

  • Lapin_malin

    I’ve never had the occasion to try it but blond girls just have no visible hair on their skin, so i still wonder if decolorating (english ?) them could be a solution.
    It’s less painful but doesn’t work everywhere !

    • Aik0

      Yeah, bleaching (I like decolorating, though!) only works on really fine hair. I had a teacher who bleached her upper lip, but it just looked like a thick blond mustache.

      • Paige

        lol thick blonde mustache <3

  • http://shybiker.blogspot.com Shybiker

    Valuable post. I agree with your point that we should feel free to decide for ourselves which way to go. I am also naturally hairy and, these days, I prefer to remove it all. I haven’t, however, always felt like that and recognize the comfort of just letting it grow. I’m interested in hearing what your other readers have to say.

  • http://www.relatablestyle.blogspot.com Lili @ Relatable Style

    Yep, agree. Everyone should do as he/she pleases when it comes to body hair :-) Although I have to admit nature went easy on me here, thin light blonde hair is a breeze regarding this topic.
    One other thing got me thinking: Don’t the Eastern societies (or at least some of them) take body hair a lot more seriously, and even historically so? Correct me if I’m wrong here ;-) I was just thinking didn’t the ancient Egyptians remove all body hair? And the Indians (as in “from India”)? I think so, and don’t they still do it nowadays? I remember one conversation with an Egyptian friend who was surprised we preferred the razor. She said they’d get waxed every few weeks. Granted, we only talked about legs, being 15-16 at the time… And she was far from getting married (and as a strict Muslim living in Egypt, she wouldn’t have sex before that I believe). Question is, where did the hype come from in our societies… Did it evolve on its own or did we copy it from them? :-)

    Relatable Style

    • Jeanne

      You’re somewhat correct. Many Indian women remove their arm hair and facial hair, but leave their legs and armpits as nature intended. Many of them also use topical skin bleachers, as lighter skin is a desirable aesthetic.

      I’m blessed with being half-Indian/half-northern European, which gave me thick awesome hair on my head, blonde arm-hair and black hair EVERYWHERE ELSE. I found using the Mach 3 razors with a good quality shaving cream took care of the shaving issues, but I second some of the other commenters – Laser Hair Removal. Awesome and totally worth it.

  • http://tallgirlblogging.wordpress.com Allison

    Thanks for this post Sal. I have spent years figuring out how I feel about how I feel about my body hair :P
    My skin is extremely sensitive and prone to ingrowns – with or without hair removal intervention. The one thing that has brought me some comfort is laser hair removal. It hurts, yes, but my skin is happier for it and as a hair removal method, it works like a charm :)

  • http://newvintage.wordpress.com Andrea

    I seem to have the very same issues with skin and body hair. There are some areas that I haven’t quite embraced, but have accepted. My upper lip is always quite hairy because waxing,plucking and shaving leaves me with angry, red bumps that last for a week. On the other hand, I pluck my eyebrows within an inch of their lives and draw them in a fine line with a pencil. Have you tried laser hair removal? I’m tempted but I have heard that it’s not always permanent. I don’t want to go through the pain and expense if I have to keeo doing it every few years.

    • Aik0

      Try Nair depilatory cream for your upper lip! NO pain (a little itching & irritation if you leave it on too long, but you can avoid that with trial and error) and it works like a charm! It also lasts about a week for me (I have medium thick black hair)

      • Laura

        Ah! Scary! ANY depilatory cream I’ve ever used left me with really raw, burned skin. I’m talking such a bad reaction that I basically didn’t actually have any skin left, and people kept asking me what had happened! Since I didn’t really want to go the route of, “I was using Nair to get rid of my ridiculous amounts of arm hair” I think I just said something like, “I had an allergic reaction to a lotion I used.” But definitely no depilatories for me. :-(

    • jennie

      for me it was not permanent, unfortunately :( i had it done on my legs, arm pits and bkiniline. it worked perfectly, hair stopped growing. after going for almost a year i didnt grow any heair. after i stopped going, slowly the hair crept back in and now -3 years later – im back where i started. i wonder whats wrong with me, since others seem to have permanent results :(

  • widdershins

    Dear Sal –
    I also struggled with the ‘am I buying into the anti-feminist credo when I shave my legs’ thoughts. What it came down to for me is that hairless legs have become part of my personal aesthetic preference. Yes, of course that’s influenced by male thinking, but I’ve decided that on this issue I’m OK with that. I also shave my pits because otherwise they get stinky – basic hygiene – and frankly, wish men would do so as well. And I shave my bikini area when in fact wearing a bikini. Again, a choice I feel completely comfortable with. I don’t believe these things make me anti-woman or anti-feminist, I believe they make me a thinking woman capable of picking and choosing across an array of styles and statements.

    I hope you and everyone else feels completely comfortable in whatever hair re-arrangement scheme you choose!

  • Tina

    This really hit close to home! When I was twelve, I begged my mother to let me shave my legs because I was (am) so hairy! She said I was too young–so I was too embarrassed to wear dresses. I wore pants every day when I would have preferred a skirt. I shave my legs every day but I hate shaving my pits because they itch so much ( I do it anyway!). I use a hair remover cream for my upper lip hair and pluck errant hairs from chin. I don’t even have a beautiful crop of hair on my head to compensate!!!

  • http://blog.threegoodrats.com threegoodrats

    Actually, I AM interested in how you deal with body hair, especially since you have tried everything – I’d love to hear your thoughts on different hair removal methods.

    I find body hair to be an intensely personal issue and it makes me absolutely livid when people comment on another woman’s body hair/lack thereof/whatever. Hair removal is neither quick nor easy and nobody should be pressured to spend their valuable time, money or energy on it to make other people happy. Personally, I’m sort of middle of the road. I am not a high maintenance person by any means (at the age of 38 I still haven’t learned how to apply makeup properly, but someday I will) but prefer the look and feel of less hairiness. I did stop shaving my legs for a while but the first time I wore tights and felt the discomfort that you described above, I re-thought that and started shaving again. I’ve never found a good solution to the bikini line conundrum though I rarely put on a bathing suit. Maybe I’d go to the beach more if I knew how to groom myself without irritation and itchiness. It’s all a struggle, and ads that try to shame women into prepubescent-style hairlessness don’t help at all.

    • T.

      Get a skirted bathing suit. That’s how I solved that pesky bikini-area problem!

      • http://www.coxhomestead.org Amanda

        I second that. I got the cutest 1940s style swimsuit with a teensy skirt and that’s taken care of the bikini-area issue.

    • Tabithia

      I third the skirted swim suit, however, if you don’t like that look those new bikini trimmers aren’t a bad option. I get annoyed by my skirt floating in the water so I bought a Venus one at Walmart for only $10 and despite my extremely sensitive skin it is actually quite painless for me and leaves no signs of irritation.

      • http://blog.threegoodrats.com threegoodrats

        I’ve seen some very cute skirted suits – not a bad idea! I have a bikini trimmer that I bought a couple of years ago and it doesn’t seem to work very well, but I may try one of the new ones and see if it’s better. Thanks!

  • JennyDC

    Body hair, specifically leg hair, was the one thing about my body that always bugged me. So I have some cellulite, big whoop, my belly sticks out a bit, whatever, but the dark leg hair on my very pale legs, argh. I could shave in the morning and have a 5 o’clock shadow by afternoon. Your previous hair post mentioned something about shaving in the shower, a breeze hits your legs and sproing! Hairs pop up as if you hadn’t even shaved. That was me.

    I say “was” because I started doing the laser hair removal thing a couple of years ago. It can be expensive, but I got a really good deal (like about $700 for the whole process for both legs below the knee) since at the time, the economy was total crap. It’s worked pretty well for me because I had very high contrast between my dark leg hair color and very pale skin color. It’s not for everyone – pricey, can be painful – but it’s totally changed my life. I shave once or twice a week, so it’s not complete hair loss, but it’s SO much better. The hair that grows back seems to be much finer and lighter too, I hope it stays that way.

    I’ll happily accept a lot of things about my body but this was one thing that really bugged and I certainly don’t feel like I’m giving in to The Man or something by having it removed. My legs seem less itchy, too, since doing the laser treatments.

  • VAMarcy

    Wow. Being one of those who doesn’t have significant body hair, all of a sudden I appreciate this aspect of my body more…having not really given much thought to it over my 53 years. All it takes is a little perspective, and we can find lovely things to appreciate about our bodies–the things we don’t have to contend with become just as important as the things we wish we could change. Thanks, Sal!

    • Eleanorjane

      Me too! I have quite thin, whifty hair on my head (which is a pain), but I have appreciated the thin and sparse body hair. It really doesn’t hurt to wax my legs and it lasts ages ‘cos I just don’t have that much hair.

    • http://throughkseyes.dreamwidth.org KL

      Definitely this post and the ensuing comments have made me count my blessings, too. I am Asian and have naturally very fine, near-invisible hair on my arms and legs, which I don’t shave at all. I do shave my armpits in the summer, but only like once a month.

    • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/ Allie

      My mom is blessed with very little body hair – she only shaves her legs once a week or so, hardly needs to shave her underarms and has never trimmed her bikini line yet can wear swimsuits without any issue. She can’t understand my issues with hair, thinks I am being dramatic to say I sometimes need to shave twice a day. Definitely got my genes from my dad!

      • Aik0

        Me too! My dad’s arm hair is a curly jungle! Luckily I’m not quite as bad, but I DO have awkward sideburns, an almost mustache, chin, chest and neck hairs (argh!), and belly hair in addition to the normal body hair.
        I love it when fall comes and I can wear pants EVERY DAY.

        • Cecy

          wow! I honestly thought i was the only one with those annoying neck hairs, how do you get rid of them i tried nair but have to wait a couple of weeks for the hairs to grow back before id do it again. Once i waxed but that gave me an awful reaction with little bumps all on my neck when i only have a little patch. i have sadly stuck to tweezing those hairs but they come back pretty quicky and leave little red bumps (sigh) i can deal with my hairy arms and legs and the side burns but not the neck hairs :/

  • Anat

    This is actually one point where genetics have been kind to me – my body hair is relatively sparse and quite neat. So I remove the few hairs from my armpits, and from my lower legs, tweeze a few from my eyebrows, and thankfully, that is it. I feel fine with doing it, and agree with your point of view completely – this in not a feminist battle I am prepared to take on.

  • http://teachingdays.tumblr.com Laura

    Sal, thanks so much for your thoughtful post on this topic. I think you are right on the mark — you can make your own choices about how to groom, dress, and otherwise maintain your very own body. And while these choices do not happen in a vacuum, ultimately every woman gets to decide whether or not she wishes to expend the not-insignificant energy that it takes to challenge our social/cultural norms. I, too, am a proud feminist and also a hair-remover.

    One suggestion that you may not have heard of (though I do not doubt your thorough exploration of hair removal options) is a product called Magic Shave. It’s a depilatory cream (or, in some cases, a powder that you make into a paste by adding water) designed for African-American men to use on their faces. Because it’s meant for the face it is a gentle formula, and the whole point of it is to avoid the ingrown hairs that can occur after shaving curly/kinky hair. I have not tried it myself, but I know women who swear by it for their bikini lines. (Although I would NOT recommend trying to create a full Brazilian treatment with such a product.)

    I always look forward to your posts and to the great discussions that occur in the comments. Thanks for creating and maintaining this space in the style blogosphere!

    • Did

      I have used the magic sheen shaving powder. It does work remarkably well, but it smells TERRIBLE. It has a very strong sulphur smell, but takes care of lots of coarse hair quickly, in about 5-10 minutes and is not expensive. I found it at CVS, but it took some looking in the store.

      • Courtney

        How long does it take for the smell to go away?

  • Dani

    Thank you so much for this post! The aversion to body hair on women in Western society is so pervasive that I rarely hear anybody actually truly *discuss* it—the pros, the cons, the whys, or the why nots. Years ago I ran into a situation with one of my sisters who was dead-set against hair removal of any kind. She would actually berate and judge ME for choosing to go hair-free and for “bowing beneath the dictates of society.” After bowing beneath her judgment, I let my hair grow free for almost a year, to see what it was like on the other side. I’m with you—I didn’t like it and won’t ever do it again. After my return to a hair-free lifestyle, she was derisive. I respect her decision to eliminate razors from her life but wish she had been able to show the same respect for my personal choice. Strangely enough, when our other sister got married and it was time to decide on whether the bridesmaids dresses would have sleeves or not, my anti-hair removal sister tried to insist on sleeves because she didn’t want people to see her hairy armpits. It was strange to me that she wouldn’t just be loud and proud with the decision she normally had no problem advertising. And if she was going to hide the pits, why not just shave? In the end, we had sleeveless dresses, and she shaved of her own free will.

  • Kylara7

    My personal body hair habits change with the seasons. In the summer, when I’m wearing tank tops and shorts and swimsuits quite often, I shave my pits and legs frequently, as I have dark hair that is immediately visible as it grows. In the winter I let it go to a certain extent because I’m covered up in sweaters and long pants, though I don’t let it go completely…just shave less frequently. I also pluck my thick eyebrows into a thinner curvier shape because I think they frame my eyes more attractively that way and I really like my eyes. I do wax my pubic area sometimes, other times I just edge the bikini line with a razor…it really varies with my mood and tolerance for body maintenance, though I do take input from my partner (and he takes input from me on his personal grooming as well, so it’s a two-way street). I don’t have to deal with upper lip hair but I confess to plucking the couple of stay dark hairs that grow around my nipples, because I don’t like them but really there are only about 8, which is just annoying!

    I think body hair and personal grooming is such an individual issue and tends to vary not only between individuals but each individual probably goes around in cycles of high and low levels of dealing with it. Viva le difference, I say! And for every message that “women shouldn’t have visible body hair”, I swear I know a male friend who really likes female body hair and is hoping the hair-free trend turns around soon (as these things tend to do!).

  • http://www.luxebytes.com LuxeBytes

    I thought the point of feminism was that you get to make your own choices for what’s best for you, rather than follow the dictates of others? Seems to me, then, that one’s grooming choices are just that: one’s own!

  • http://khelikarma.blogspot.com/ Kelly

    I look at this issue like I look at all others, COMFORT. I, too, have thick, dark, curly hair all over. But, I like how my legs feel right after I shave them and I love getting my brows and upper lip threaded (hurts much less than waxing!). It is more about MY comfort than anyone else’s. I have never liked my unibrow, so why not alter it? My personal grooming choices make me feel good, clean and neat. If I had the time and $$$, I would even persue a more permanent option such as laser. Good subject and great essay! Thanks!

  • M

    Posts like this are always such a breath of fresh air. Being half-Mexican, I’ve always been extremely hairy; I also have an unruly mop of hair on my head, but I also have many of the “unusual” scragglies you mention. Unibrow? Check. Mustache? Oh, yes. Toes? Um. Breasts? OMG, what’s wrong with me? I thought I was a freak of nature when these random hairs started bursting out in my late-teens. I pluck and shave to make myself seem normal, not understanding at the time that many other women (young and old) were doing the same. I still do, but with a more understanding approach. Rather than crying quietly to myself and wondering why I’m being punished when discovering a ridiculously long and curly hair on the underside of my chin, I think “Oh, you again — back again so soon?” and quickly pluck it. It’s acceptance of a certain kind, I guess. I accept my body’s habit of growing hairs in unfortunate places, but that doesn’t mean I have to live with them. Thanks for the positive post!

  • Janice

    Well said!!

  • http://iwonderandiwander.wordpress.com Kris

    Humans are complex beings, so it is no wonder we have such contradictions. I appreciate the thought and honesty you put into this issue and all your posts. Personally, I think that sometimes feminism taken too far can pigeonhole us nearly as much as oppressive or patriarchal societal expectations. It’s good to think about our preferences and ideas of beauty so we can consciously choose what makes sense for us, but I don’t think one has to eschew all aesthetic norms to be a feminist or a model of acceptance.

    Also, I am one of those relatively few with the black areola hairs, despite the vast majority of my body hair being pale and fine. Annoying mutant hairs…

  • Katharine

    I go back and forth on my body hair. I’m not as hairy as you are, Sal, and I tend to like, on others, the furry hippie-girl aesthetic. My leg hair is neither very dark nor very thick, and my armpit hair is nothing very exceptional, and I DID spend a couple of summers boldly walking those into work, sometimes in sleeveless dresses no less, and nobody seemed to notice.

    (Where people DID notice? In the gym. I still had a membership, back then — I’ve since decided that the process of gym-going is way worse than the actual working out, and do all my workouts at home or on the streets — and boy. I’d come out of the showers wrapped in my towel, doff the towel to change (yes, I’m one of those; I don’t stand about naked blow-drying my pubes, but I’m also not going to construct a Changing Tent out of towels draped over my locker door) and — cue the sound of women’s Outside Voices. “Omigod, look at her pits! That’s so GROOOO-OO-OOSSS! Ew!”)

    I let my body hair roam free every winter, and delight in revealing it to the select few during life classes (I work occasionally as a studio model). I never shave above the knee, never have (and boy am I ever glad). The hair on my thighs is blonde and invisible, and sometimes I wistfully wonder whether the calf hair would’ve stayed like that too if I’d left it alone instead of deciding at thirteen that I had to be like everyone else and NO ONE WOULD LIKE ME if I didn’t shave (and get a bra for my then-nonexistent bosom).

    However. However. I apologise for this, but here it is: part of the reason I feel more uncomfortable with my hair these days is I am fat now. When I went forth waving my filaments proudly, I was skinny. Now, I wonder whether, instead of seeing me as a somewhat androgynous but still inoffensive alternachick, people will instead ALL judge me the way the women at the gym did — “hair+fat=disgusting and SURELY smelly, and I bet she doesn’t bathe!” Which I do, always did, but yes. There’s my current, unreasonable block.

    And then, on the other cheek, there is my little moustache, and the dozen or so long, wiry beard hairs sprouting from my chin. My granny on my dad’s side had a full-on wispy beard round the outline of her face by the time I met her, and OH DEAR ME NO PLEASE. My armpits can do whatever they like; I stalk the facial hairs obsessively. I’m not yet at the point of feminist freedom where I’ll grow out my mini-goatee and put beads in it. No. Uh-uh.

    • Emily WK

      I cannot believe that grown women would say that to you! How awful.

      I didn’t shave my pits or legs in high school, and even though I was… not very popular, I never got shit for it directly. One girl even said that she wished she could get away with it because it is probably warmer in the winter!

    • BD

      Katharine, it’s like you’re reading my mind! Like you, I feel that my fatness and my hairiness are a one-two knockout punch of offensiveness. On the days I had the temerity to wear sandals, complete strangers have loudly asked whether I ever shaved my toes. Guess they assume I can’t reach my feet over my lardy-lard-lard belly.

      • Anonymous

        That is terrible! I can’t believe they would ask such a thing.

  • Kristina

    This post made me laugh. As if we don’t have enough to worry about in this crazy world, we’re going to worry about someone else’s armpit grooming?

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      As you can see from many of the comments below, some people clearly DO pay attention and criticize others for their body hair choices.

  • Damla

    Hi Sal,

    I’m Turkish and I will try to bring a somehow (but not too much) cultural-specific approach: We actually talked about this over lunch with friends. One of us was wearing black tights and when I asked if she wasn’t hot, she said she was but the hair on her legs wasn’t long enough to wax yet. And shaving isn’t an option: apparently all of us were amazed at the way American and European women (some collegues here) choose to shave their legs most of the time. Razors for ladies is a relatively new thing here in Turkey. My mum’s generation would advise against razors because they make the hair harsher after a while- they give you “men’s hair”. In Turkish, we have three words for hair – one is for the one on your head, one is for the regular body hair, and the last one is rather artificial: Women’s body hair is called, very, very usually, “feathers” in Turkish. See how language associates women with fragility/grace?

    Here in Turkey, waxing and electic tweezers are the most favorite options. True, there are many women who prefer modest/Islamic clothes and I don’t know what they do and how they do it. But the rest of the ladies (Most Turkish women have dark hair and pale skin, so all the more an issue.) Interestingly, waxing is still a discreet thing (wax brands don’t give a lot of ads on TV), while there are so many ads for electric tweezers, usually in a ‘Sex and the City’-like tone, in all hours of the day on TV. Brazilian wax is a very regular process (I think not so much in USA & Europe).

    I found a solution in laser depilation for my armpits and my privates. It’s really expensive, but worth it. I feel simply liberated now that I don’t have to think twice or plan ahead before I wear a tank top. I can’t wait for the day I’ll save money and start the process on my legs, which always have roots, redness, ingrown hair. I don’t know how models and actresses do it – do they shave every part of their bodies twice a day and then put bottles of oil to shine; or are they just genetically lucky? (This is not a rhetorical question – I do wonder.)

    For facial hair, I could also recommend threading. I don’t know if it’s a widespread process in the US. This has to be done with someone else – a professional or a friend. I guess there are some instructional videos on YouTube.

    The language I use is so non-feminist (liberated, worth it, etc.) and I am aware of it. And I never mentioned the pain you have to suffer in the above processes – I guess I consider it natural now (how wrong!). But I wanted to be honest because I feel that the pressure is so huge. It’s not only the men that judge you, but also the women, if you have “excess” or “unwanted” hair on your legs or armpits or upperlip. And that pressure is growing day by day: I don’t recall many guys considering forearm hair a big problem a few years ago, but now it’s like all guys started to mock girls about that. Just where did they come from, who inspired them to do this? (FYI – I’ve started to bleach my arm hair after years of waxing.)

    Lastly, I seriously don’t think the obsession with removal of body hair is exclusive to women, by the way – some Latino actors do sport , but incidentally, Western culture does, in a less visible way, advise men to be hair-free, too, at least partially. For one thing, body hair is associated with b.o., something else that Western culture detests. Also, the famous young dudes that teenagers look up to (male models and male teenage singers for girls; male pornstars and male basketball players and swimmers for boys) are all hair-free, smooth, healthy and, well, “clean”.

    Sorry for the long post but hope my perspective helps. And yes, I’d actually be interested in knowing about your own preferred methods – there’s never enough advice on this topic.

    • Katharine

      You can learn to thread your own face. When I pay attention to my eyebrows, which isn’t that often, I thread them. I learned — from an instructional video on YouTube. Aside from one unfortunate incident when I zipped a neat bare line through my right one by mistake, I find it fairly easy and uncomplicated, and faster than tweezing.

      My experience of the Brazilian was hideous. I had a few done when I was competing in bodybuilding. One, it cost a hundred dollars a pop. Two, on me, it lasted all of a week before the first stubble would appear. Then I’d have to wait two to three weeks for the regrowth, and pay another hundred dollars. Three, the ingrowns were horrible. So, stubbly, lumpy, infected hamster — WHY IS THIS ATTRACTIVE AGAIN?

      I now leave my Private Garden strictly alone. Fortunately, I’ve never encountered one of the men who seem to proliferate on the Internet, and who think that’s disgusting, and the hair there is also restricted to a fairly confined patch.

      Sal, I had some success in reducing the hideousness of the ingrown hairs with a strong salicylic acid exfoliant. The one I used was this extra-strong “Smoothing Gel” from Sage (http://www.zerozits.com/miva/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=SSC&Product_Code=SmG-ah8&Category_Code=A). (Please note, I do not otherwise recommend Sage skincare products AT ALL. They were recommended to me as something that might work on my very sensitive and princess-like face, and they caused an outbreak of cystic acne that left me scarred for several years. But I had the Smoother still sitting around after that incident, and the internets recommended exfoliant for ingrowns, and I tried it, and it helped.)

  • Courtney

    Thank you for posting about this! I too struggle with having significantly more body hair than I am comfortable with, plus the pale skin/dark hair combination. Even when my legs or pits are freshly shaved, you can see the hairs under my skin. Arms, hands, knuckles, happy trail from hell, feet & toes. Some on my upper lip, though the hairs have remained fine in that area. So far, I haven’t seen any chin hairs, but my mom had a heavy white one that kept coming back (so I figure it’s just a matter of time.) No idea how long the hairs on my areolas would be, because I pluck them as soon as they are visible.

    Both sides of the “body hair is political” debate really piss me off. Chiding someone for how (and why) they deal with their body hair (or don’t) is just another form of body policing, like fat-shaming. I also get tired of the idea that to be a “real” feminist you can only subscribe to one “correct” set of actions in your life. The feminist movement was developed to give MORE choices to women, not less. Patriarchy tells it’s most privileged citizens that “you can be anything you want to be,” and the central goal of feminism is to challenge the societal structures and cultural attitudes that make that statement untrue for the rest of us. Picking on each other about clothes and grooming habits just holds us all back.

  • LinB

    I was so proud when I was age 9, and my mother taught me how to shave my legs and armpits. It was a real rite of passage. As a teenager, after years of razor knicks and itchy stubble, I envied my 90-year-old grand-aunt her age-related alopecia: she still had head hair and eyebrows, but had no hair left on her legs, arms or armpits. (I never asked about her genitals, it was too embarrassing.) Now, at age 50-something, I find my own legs less and less hairy. And I don’t have to shave my aureoles anymore.

  • http://restingmotion.typepad.com Mardel

    Great article and I firmly believe that everyone should make their own decisions concerning their own bodies, and respect other people’s decisions as well. I am dark haired with fair sensitive skin, and although I am fortunate that the hair on my head is thick, but not so much on the rest of the body, I do have issues with finding the right balance between hair removal and reactions on my sensitive skin. I too would be interested in specific information on what works for you and why.

  • another jenny

    I’m a redhead with mostly blonde body hair – a lot of it. I LOVE how my moustache glistens in the sunlight…yeah, right. Waxing gives me a horrible rash, and that combined with rosacea makes me want to hide. I’ve started selectively plucking with a tweezers and for me that makes it a little better. I’m kind of starting to accept the fact that I’ll always be hairy. My grandma has big, long hairs sprouting everywhere, and I’m a little afraid that will happen to me. My husband knows that it’s his job to let me know if I have any crazy hairs growing out of my chin that I’ve missed. I wanted to do laser, but was told it probably wouldn’t work very well because of the lack of pigment. I also have my eyebrows tinted about once a month. As far as pits go, I don’t like seeing hairy armpits on either sex. I’m pretty good about shaving legs in the summer, but in the winter I tend to let it go a little.

    I have a friend who doesn’t shave her legs at all, but she normally wears pants. For some reason I’m always a little embarrassed when I see how hairy her legs are. I’m not sure why.

  • Sara

    Before I tell you my own little story, I have to say that I love your voice. Not the sound of your voice (but that’s nice, too!) but the way you express yourself. Many times people preaching acceptance can sound hokey, or pandering, and you never do.

    Ok, my own hair problem. I’m pale with dark hair, like you are. For the most part I’m not too hairy overall, I think, but my underarms were a nightmare. I’d grow 2 or 3 hairs per follicle, and no matter how much I shaved, or how, or if I waxed, or used creams, or whatever, I always had a 5 o’clock shadow.

    It got a bit better when I started waxing, but never went away. Frankly, it was embarrassing. I was teased for it by everyone, even grown adults. Once, when I was about 23, a former boyfriend was feeling particularly cruel, caught me at a vulnerable moment, and had me in tears.

    Then I got this wonderful NEW problem; skin discoloration. Yay? It could have been from waxing, or more likely from being on birth control, but there it was. Large, dark, and slightly greenish. I loathed my underarms. I bought clothes to hide them, and tried everything I could to lighten it, including some creams of a decidedly questionable legal nature. It would lighten a bit (or perhaps I imagined it) and come back.

    And then, I had laser hair removal. Us dark-hair-on-pale-skin chicks are the BEST candidates, and I have to say it was the best investment I’ve ever made in myself. PLEASE know that I am not suggesting that you or anyone reading this get laser removal, I just want to say what worked for me.

    I have had 5 of my 6 treatments, and the difference is incredible. I grow maybe 6-7 hairs every 2 or 3 months. They are fine and light. If I shave every 3 weeks, that is a big deal. I can grab anything I want to wear, and I don’t have to worry about not being shaven. I have a completely renewed confidence. To borrow from an 80′s ad campaign, I’m “Sure”.

    If anyone is considering it, and wants help, or advice, or just to know what the experience is like & what to expect, shoot me an e-mail. tgwtss(at)gmail(dot)com. I strongly recommend vetting whatever organization or method you choose; I consider this a medical procedure.

    So there’s my two cents. For the record, whatever anyone wants to do with their hair, head or otherwise, is cool by me.

    • http://pacificrain.blogspot.com sarah

      Sara, just had to say – wow, until now, I am the only person I know who grows 2-3 hairs per follicle! =) My husband and I actually laugh about it, because he’s 31 and still can’t really grow a beard.

      I am still fussing about with plucking and shaving and yada yada yada, but just a voice of solidarity to say I’m glad you got to a place where you are comfortable – and that you’re not alone!

      • Laura

        My underarms and pubic hair frequently grow more than one hair per follicle. My legs aren’t quite so annoying, but maybe just because the follicles are farther apart, so even if I go a day or so without shaving my legs, they aren’t as stubbornly SPECKLY as the rest of me. And with multiple hairs coming out of the follicles, regrowth is ITCHY. And it drives me CRAZY when one or two hairs grows parallel to the surface of the skin and just gets longer and longer, and is clearly visible, but nowhere I can tweeze unless I sit there and dig at it. And who really wants to make themselves bleed just to expose a stubborn hair?

        I deal with body hair by springing for more expensive razors (I actually use the same Mach razor all my guy friends do, since it’s intended for thick hair and sensitive skin), but I also care a lot less now than I did as an awkward post-adolescent with new body parts that had people paying a lot of attention to me.

        And one thing I’ve noticed about guys is that they’re too busy being excited that you’re naked to care if you’re a bit furry. I feel like much of the hair or no-hair controversy is fully at the hands of our fellow ladies.

  • http://www.madam0wl.blogspot.com Sandra, aka madam0wl

    I recently grew out my leg hair for about 4 – 5 months, as a little self-challenge because I’d never done it before… I said I’d shave it once I’d run my first 5K. That was in late April, when it was just starting to be bare leg weather. I’d had to brave flashing my hairy legs a few times in skirts and dresses by then, and it was daunting. Really you couldn’t see it from far away, you would have needed to be in my personal space to see it. I both loved my hairy legs and hated them. Sometimes I proudly when bare, other times I wore knee socks or longer lengths to minimize exposure. My husband did not like them either, but it didn’t stop him from giving me attentions… he’d just prefer them shaved.

    The crappy thing about finally shaving them? Having to continue shaving them. I had forgotten what a pain the upkeep was. Also there was the oddest little slightly pleasant feeling of having the wind/breeze blow through the hairs as I walked.

    I’ve never grown out my pit hair though and likely won’t. I do tweeze the hell out of my chin line though, and get a perverse thrill out of doing it.

    • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/ Allie

      I grew out my leg and pubic hair when I got pregnant. I felt it was more natural and with time it became very difficult to manage. I thought… if I grow it out maybe it will get soft and not be so dark and obvious. Nope, it was dark and obvious. A friend came over one day after my daughter was born and I was wearing a dress and she noticed it from across the room. I put my leg up to my husband’s… and it looked like my husband’s. I asked him honestly, he said he didn’t care either way but it was pretty noticeable. I went back to shaving.

  • Samantha

    Fabulously said. I don’t personally believe that how I look (or choose to look) has anything to do with my values or my belief that all people were created equal.

  • Tara

    I am definitely in the pro-body hair removal camp for myself. I’m pale skinned and not overly hairy, but I hate that the skin on my legs shows the dots where the hair grows no matter what I do. Faux tanner helps, but I like being pale and would love a solution that doesn’t involve tinting my skin. Does anybody have suggestions? I’m intrigued by laser removal and glad to hear it has worked for some of you.

    I give zero thought to whether any of my style/grooming habits would be frowned upon by “feminists”. A true feminist does what makes herself happy in regards to her own body, which is exactly what I do.

    Great post, Sal!

  • Jill

    I in no way mean any disrespect and this is just a question- could the stigma against body hair be based more on personal views of hygiene rather than male imposed ideas of beauty? I’m not one of them, but I feel like some people view unshaved women as “dirty” or “smelly”- like body hair is equated with a lack of cleanliness. I honestly don’t give a hoot what anyone else does- it’s kinda like criticizing someone for wearing glasses instead of contacts.

    My personal views on body hair are based more on laziness than feminism. I do prefer to shave my legs and pits, and have my eyebrows waxed, but that sort of falls apart in the winter. I also often forget to shave when I’m in the shower.

    I also have a few hairs that sprout on my big toes. I just clip them with the nail clippers while giving myself a pedicure. TMI?

    • http://www.icyviolets.com anna

      i definitely think there is an element of hygiene to it – you are right, unshaven women ARE viewed as dirty or smelly by plenty of people. the only thing is, that unshaven men generally are not viewed in that way. so sex/gender definitely does play a role.

      hairy men don’t always get a free pass, there are still hygienic associations with them too. but lets face it, beards have made a fashion-resurgence in the past few years that i can’t imagine hairy women ever enjoying.

  • http://louisehornor.com Louise

    Reading all your stories and comments is so interesting and enlightening; thank you to everyone! No one else talks about nipple hairs.

    I was struck by one way that most women are lucky: at least we can usually put on clothing that temporarily covers up any unwanted hair. I feel a little sorry for men who must shave their faces every day or risk looking unkempt/unprofessional/unclean in our culture. Human hair is fraught with expectations and meaning for all of us. Good to be reminded of what we have in common!

  • Heather in Oregon

    Pale skin, dark hair, and unruly brows here. But… shaving and waxing leaves my skin irritated, itchy, and quite often painful. This doesn’t matter how, where, what, or who is used. I do shave my legs in the summer and when I’m going to wear lighter colored tights because I find it more aesthetically pleasing but I also have to compensate by using a new razor blade every time (which I find obscenely wasteful) and slather on aloe and lotion like crazy or my legs actually look worse rather than better. I have not shaved my pits in over ten years and am not about to start for any societal reason. Do I start to smell a little sooner if I’m not wearing good deodorant? Probably. Does it look odd according to our American standards to see hair when I’m wearing a sleeveless top? Probably. Do I care? Nope. As for down under, I keep it trimmed but not shaved or waxed. When I was working, I made sure not to wear sleeveless tops without something over when I was in the workplace but this was more to cover my tattoos than to cover the fact that I don’t shave. I’ve honestly experienced far more pressure from other women about this from any man . My husband says he really doesn’t care, although he’d rather feel a smooth leg or totally unshaved leg than one that only gets shaved occasionally, but that’s because he hates the prickles. While I find our societal obsession with getting rid of female body hair a little on the extreme side, I respect the fact that people have the right to make their own decisions about these things. I guess I just wish that women would quit judging each other based on these things and see beyond it a bit. Although I am guilty of sometimes feeling immediate kinship with another women when it becomes clear that they don’t shave their pits and are also not the stereotypical “hippie”.

  • ParisGrrl

    Ugh I feel the collective pain…my SO has mocked me in the past for trying every thing/method/product in this category. Philosophically I feel it’s every person’s right to choose, although I *would* send up a happy flag if men shaving their underarms ever came into vogue…especially in the Metro in the summer! In France, female hair removal is the norm, although it’s acceptable to go naturale if you wish…and the wonderful blend of cultures and influence of hammam traditions here has led to some wonderful services and products. For those lucky enough to have access I’d like to give a shout out for Laurence Dumont’s Bio Cire au Sucre product. That’s an organic paraben-free sugar wax that does not require any heating, and is designed for super-sensitive skin. It’s just a great product.

  • Amber

    I have relatively light (in growth and in overall visibility) body hair–it’s dark brown, but it’s not thick and the overall hair population is not as dense on me as it is on other people, I’m sure. I honestly don’t mind the feel of leg hair, I guess because I don’t have an entire forest growing on my legs like some people do. (I know some women are turned off just by the feel of the hair on their legs.) So I’ll shave my legs once every two or three weeks in the summer and *never* in the winter–I tell myself that the leg hair is an extra layer of warmth. :O)

    As a sweaty pit gal, though, I shave the pits on a regular basis, and I prefer the smooth pit look when I wear sleeveless clothes.

    Even in the summer, I prefer smooth legs if I’m wearing something that bares my legs, but it’s not a necessity for me like it is for some people. With smooth legs, I can put on lotion on after I bathe, and they seem to shine more and just look better overall if they’re smooth. I know. That’s totally shallow, but true.

    I seem to have arms that are hairier than other people’s though…but I’m not bothered enough by them to actually remove the hair (since my arm hair is blonde), but I do get a little jealous of smooth arms.

    I struggle with the pubic area, in that I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with it. Dang.

    • Sara

      Since we’re all being TMI here, I’ll venture the upkeep of my nether regions. I’ve done everything, from nothing at all to a full on CB at Completely Bare in NYC, which is exactly as much fun as it sounds. Also? VERY intimate!

      I find that I prefer to keep the dugout trimmed and no grass at all on the playing field, but that’s just me. It feels cleaner to me, and I prefer it. Happily, so does the hubs. I plan on getting laser there, too, when I can afford it. Try a few different things, and see if any feel good to you!

      One thing that kinda depresses me: I work with some young’uns, about 18-22 and I learned not too long ago that these boys think it is “DISGUSTING” for a girl to have any pubic hair at all, and as such all of their girlfriends are bare. I’m hoping this is a regional, and passing fad. I’m all for doing whatever you want, but not for being pressured into it.

      • Marsha Calhoun

        Just for curiosity’s sake, do you happen to know if the teenage boys who aren’t happy with girls having pubic hair shave their own? Most men do have hair down there as well, or so my experience suggests. This is a real question, because I know that younger men are developing many of the same body insecurities that plague women, and I wonder if this is one of them.

        • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

          I can’t weigh in myself, but am curious, too. Anyone know?

          • Sara

            Of the group of boys I was talking about, none of them shave down there, though they do “manscape”. Most of them DO shave their chests, though, and 2 of them do everything above the waist.

          • Maddie

            As a young’in myself, I can tell you that most of the boys I have had..run-ins..with down there have been shaved. For me it can be sort of a dilemma because I like to be very trimmed but not bare, but if he is completely shaved, I feel like I should be, too. And honestly, I have no qualms about male body hair–love me some manly men– and wish they would drop us a little bit of the same courtesy!

        • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/ Allie

          My mom substitute teaches in high schools and the other week told me the guys were all talking about techniques for chest waxing and manscaping and she wanted to know what manscaping is.

          Always reminds me of a story my husband told me; he went to a strip club with his dad once and his dad said, “What’s up with all the Dorito chips?” Husband asked what he meant and it was the shape of the pubic hair on the strippers (who still had hair); he had never seen a woman groomed in such a manner. How quickly trends and times change!

      • http://www.icyviolets.com anna

        this trend, and the intensity of the disgust on the part of some males, scares me too. it’s one thing to shave down there because you and your SO prefer it, but it’s entirely another to have that sort of painful, expensive, and high maintenence (depending on how often you do it and by which method) procedure foisted upon you.

      • Courtney

        Ugh. Yet another reason I prefer men my age or older. Honestly, I just assume that any guy who has an aversion to pubic hair on a woman has very little real life sexual experience and an overexposure to porn. I’m certainly not going to waste my time with that. I do feel for women in that age range though!

      • Amber

        I’d like to tame the whole ball field some, just to the point where I could have more options when I’m buying a bathing suit. I don’t mind the turf growing wild, but it’s just a practical matter that I don’t want others to see it when I’m wearing a bathing suit, you know? I think I just don’t know *how* to do it. I grew up hoping Teen Magazine would have a step-by-step tutorial with pictures, and they never did, so I was lost. I guess I should just experiment.

    • Anne

      For about the last ten years I’ve been wearing board shorts with my swim suit. I could absolutely kiss who ever started that trend. They make me feel a little less exposed and jiggly during water sports (I was pantsed once during a water ski fall.I had to go diving for them.) they also take the bikini grooming issue off the table if you don’t want to deal with it. You can find them as long as bermuda length. I buy mine from Athleta.

  • http://www.quirkyknitgirl.com Ivy

    I agree with a number of other commenters — as a pale skinned lady with lots of dark hair, I’d love to hear your strategies.

    I must admit, I can be somewhat lax about my body hair. I live somewhere temperate, so I don’t often wear shorts or sleeveless tops, and I’m not in a relationship so nobody is going to be seeing it…I’ll go quite some time. Just because I hate the pain that goes with shaving so much. I do manage my eyebrows and upper lip with waxing, though.

    My attempt, at the moment to achieve balance. To keep up on dealing with hair more because it does affect how I feel about myself, but to also not stress if I noticed say, I missed a small bit when shaving. Or stress about the shadow look under my arms, that comes from the dark hair under the skin. I am a human woman, I should not expect to look like a magazine cover that’s been extensively edited. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

  • http://departmentofcolor.blogspot.com Ms. M

    I’m a hairy girl. Before I figured out how to tackle the facial hairs, I could really relate to Frida Kahlo.

    My parents came from a very strict Christian background where body hair was not talked about. I guess it and the act of shaving/waxing was considered too sexual. I was not given razors, or any advice on controlling my body or facial hair. So I never learned how to deal with it until I was living on my own. (And thank God for the Internet, where we can talk about these things freely and share techniques and not feel so alone!)

    I got used to wearing pants all the time, not because I didn’t like dresses, but because I needed to hide my dark leg hair. It’s weird, but even now, in my 40s, I have to consciously remind myself to shave, because it wasn’t ingrained in my personal hygiene routine as a young person.

    I prefer to keep my legs and armpits shaved, and I tweeze my face. (It’s the only non-irritating solution I’ve found.) Everything else, I decided it’s not worth the time. I do kind of resent the fact that my body requires so much maintenance just to achieve the “norm” that other less-hairy girls barely have to think about.

    My one act of hair-related defiance: I refuse to go along with the relatively new idea that hairless forearms are more attractive than fuzzy ones. I mean, really, do we need to add another burden to our list of personal maintenance chores?

    • Eleanorjane

      Amen to that! (the forearm bit)

      • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/ Allie

        Hear hear! I like hair on my arms, I think it looks natural. I am not a plastic mannequin. However when I was younger and more paranoid about body hair I would use Jolen Creme Bleach on them to lighten. these days… notsomuch :)

        • Laura

          I’ve shaved my arms since high school, and while I am completely game for everybody else on the planet to have hairy arms (seriously, I don’t care even a little about anybody else’s arm hair…) I am flat out not comfortable with my own. It might be residual teasing from when I was nine or so and my teenage brother’s friends referred to me by a cruel nickname (pertaining to my body hair), but given how little I care about leg hair, I think it’s probably not. I prefer how my arms look without any hair, and I prefer how clothing feels with no hair rubbing against it, and the lack of arm hair allows me to keep a much closer eye on some suspicious moles. I guess it’s a blend between convenience and aesthetics that makes me take that extra minute in the shower every couple days to shave super quick.

  • Becky

    Having spent time in social circles where furry-hippie was the way to go, and time in social circles where the general aesthetic could be defined as “either shave it or curl it,” I mostly think of how people treat their body hair as a social marker much like clothing choice. Visible leg or armpit hairs tend to go with flowy skirts, ankle bracelets, and bare feet, whereas shaved legs tend to go with pencil skirts and heels.

    I dated a couple of guys who like body hair on women; so I have never associated shaving with “pleasing a man.” I tend to see it as an aesthetic choice – some people like a very groomed look (depilated, nail polish, makeup), others like an organic look. Some people are insecure enough that they want to impose their preferred look on others.

    The only thing that hurts me is when someone associates hair removal with shame – the idea that women are supposed to pretend they don’t happen to *have* body hair at all. I think that’s weird. As if women are actually — children? Ew.

  • http://appleadayproject.wordpress.com/ Apple A Day

    Aaaah! I have the exact same body hair issues! I was naturally born a sasquatch. I had a mustache and goatee by the time I was in 6th grade. It isn’t fun to date in high school when you are hairier than all the boys.
    I finally got laser hair removal in my early 20s. Painful, but worth every penny. I’ve wondered if it made me a bad feminist but honestly, I wouldn’t trade not feeling like I had to hide my face from the world for ANYTHING. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. More power to women who make other choices, but this one is mine. I’ve also not removed body hair for long periods of time (like when I was a cavewoman in a play) and felt totally OK with that to.
    Oh, and if you have any tips for dealing with a sensitive yet hirtsue bikini line that doesn’t respond well to razors or wax… DO TELL!

  • http://sweetandsage.blogspot.com/ Sage

    Oh my gosh!!! I have hair in EVERY place you mentioned. I’d like to say it’s good to know I’m not alone, but I understand what a pain it is to have so much body hair, so I feel for you.

    I’m secure in my decision to shave, but something I struggle with is self-tanners. I’m insanely pale, and people make rude comments to me about it. I want to feel OK with the shade of my skin, but it feels like society wants women to be tan or else they’re not beautiful.

    This one is definitely in the running for my favorite Already Pretty post. Thanks for (over)sharing. –Sage

  • http://soapbox.lunsh.net/ Stephanie

    Hmm. I haven’t shaved for years, I’m in my early 20s, and I haven’t had people comment on it since high school. I assume sometime when I become a ‘real’ adult and have a real job and start meeting people outside of my very liberal social group someone must start commenting, or else I don’t know what this post is about. Unlike you, I felt much more uncomfortable when I shaved than when I did it. My legs were so itchy and covered in scabs. I never ever want to go back, and besides, showers take long enough washing my extra-thick hair to begin with. So I’m glad that you’re doing what makes YOU feel comfortable and respecting that I’m doing what makes ME feel comfortable, but I don’t know what the fuss is about. As someone’s mentioned already, wasn’t feminism supposed to be about opening up more choices, rather than pressuring us all to conform to the opposite of society’s standards?

    • Sara

      I want to move wherever you live! I get comments on EVERYTHING, starting with the color of my skin (not as pale as they seem to imply) right down to the contents of my uterus (WHY haven’t you had a baby yet?!). Strangers play with my hair, friends comment on my boobs…..I seem to be fair game to anyone with an opinion and the lack of sense to keep it to themselves.

      I don’t think I’m being particularly approachable, either! I’m pretty sure I have Resting Bitchface, and I know I exude my natural NY attitude, so I don’t know what gives!

      • http://soapbox.lunsh.net/ Stephanie

        That sucks! Strangers should NOT be commenting on your body like that. I don’t know, I have had a feeling that all my life I give off a “don’t mess with me” vibe, and maybe that helps. But I also definitely stay in liberal circles, since that’s what I grew up in.

  • Abby

    Hi there — I’m Abby. I was so surprised to see this post today because it was MY question that I sent quite a while ago and forgot about! Thank you for writing such a thoughtful response to this. I also really loved reading the comments, especially the one from the woman who said she feels kinship with other hairy-pitted ladies :) However, I did want to address one thing you wrote as it might add another layer to the discussion:

    “If you – like the commentor who asked this initial question – grow out your body hair only to hide it from view, you might want to consider your dedication to the cause and your personal priorities.”

    Though I realize in rereading my question that it is not terribly clear about the reasons I don’t shave, I do want to clarify that not shaving my armpits is not about dedication to a cause, but about my personal priority to not have rashy and uncomfortable pits all the time. After years of shaving and dealing with the side effects of it, I just decided to stop. Perhaps being a feminist empowered me to walk around with hairy pits, but it was not feminism that compelled me to grow it out in the first place.

    My philosophical struggle, which I guess is what prompted me to write you in the first place, was based on the fact that I was working, at the time, in a corporate job where hairy pits hanging out during the day wouldn’t go over well whether my decision to have them came from a place of fighting against hair norms or because of health/comfort concerns. That’s where my beef with hair-removing norms came in. Fine as I am with having hair — and in my personal life, I go about my business without regard for what people are thinking about me, should they even have occasion to notice the hair, I did/do resent that I knew how it had to be in my job.

    Thanks again for reading — and focusing this post on my question!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Abby, I’m glad you clarified! Hope you didn’t feel I’d misrepresented or misinterpreted you …

  • http://nosignposts.blogspot.com The Waves

    I sometimes ask myself why I shave, and I like to think it’s just because I don’t like extensive body hair on myself. Yes, it might have something to do with the way we associate body hair with poor hygiene, or what patriarchal traditions have you… but I still like to think it comes down to personal choice. So yes, I shave. My skin doesn’t like it one bit though, but it is the least uncomfortable method I’ve tried (oh, the things waxing does to my skin, I don’t even want to think about it). And since this seems like the right place to say this, I am going to confess that there are times when the only reason why I am wearing a maxi skirt or dress is so that I don’t have to deal with shaving every freakin’ day.

  • http://readinginskirts.wordpress.com Mia

    Oh, body hair! I love that this has prompted so many people to share their stories.

    I’m definitely on the lazy side of things, and I try to get away with not shaving for as long as possible. That said, I do like the feeling of a freshly shaved leg, and as long as I slather lotion (I use Cetaphil) all over the shaved areas right after my shower, I find that I don’t get too much irritation.

    My bikini area is another thing entirely–I’ve tried shaving and depilatories (even the sensitive-skin ones), and both give me razor/chemical burn like you would not BELIEVE. Ow ow ow ow. But my boyfriend gave me a revelation with the trimmer on his electric razor, and now I trim away happily. I can cut it quite close and only get a few ingrown hairs (that, TMI alert, I have fun digging out anyway) instead of the field of red sadness that I did before.

    It’s funny that you talk about body hair, as I was just thinking about head hair and the politics of short vs. long hair for women in the workplace. I’d love to try shaving my head, just to see what it’s like, but my boss would have a conniption, because women aren’t allowed to shave their heads (or otherwise be bald) unless they’re sick or are supporting someone who’s sick. “I wanted to” is not an acceptable reason, somehow. (I realized how strongly I feel about this the other day, so I’m going to have to write a whole blog post about it myself! I’d love to hear what some other folks think sometime.)

  • Jess

    I like this post…I have a friend who wants to show her daughter that women are beautiful with all the hair grown naturally, but she confesses she does not feel beautiful with hairy legs and arm pits. To me this seems silly…shave/remove what YOU want. Decide for yourself. I have to admit I’m kinda lazy about legs and arms I leave hairy, because I am very blonde, but I cannot stand itchy hair arm pits…

  • http://sewstorebought.wordpress.com sewistafashionista

    Why should I as a woman feel guilty about removing my body hair? It is MY hair.

    I went to a feminist college and know what a hot button this issue can become. The thing is legalism can swing both ways. In the past it has been demanded of women to remove all kinds of “unsightly” body hair, but in some feminist circles it can become just as rigid in the no-removal policy.

    As an artist and a person I like diversity. I enjoy seeing novelty in another person. If I demanded everyone follow my own personal aesthetic there would be no diversity and some of the joy of life would be sapped.

  • Dionne

    Another wonderful post, Sal. Count me in as someone who can’t get too worked up about other womens hair choices.

    And like another commenter already said, sometimes it’s helpful to learn of parts of my body I can be appreciative of: the hair on my arms, thighs and upper lip is sparse and blonde, and I don’t pluck my eyebrows at all – I once had an esthetician express envy at their natural shape. I do have to pluck hairs out of my chin and my lower legs have that dotty appearance I’d like to get rid of without resorting to tanning, real or otherwise. But definitely lots to be grateful for.

    Something else that has helped on the gratitude front as well is discussions I’ve had with my niece. In the last couple of years she’s inexplicably developed the extreme form of alopecia, and the doctors are stumped. She has no hair at all, like ANYWHERE. She’s shared with me the icky things she’s taken out of her eyes because there are no eyebrows or eyelashes to prevent them getting in, and all I’m going to say about the hairs in our noses? Yeah, we really need them. Just some food for thought.

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      A friend sent me a link to the blog of a woman with alopecia just this morning, as a response to this post. Talk about getting some perspective … yeah, nipple hairs suck but land sakes I’m grateful for my eyelashes.

  • fraublucher

    Thanks for posting this, Sal. It’s so nice to hear just a reasonable, rational discussion of this topic, that lets everyone have their own choice. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? If we start accepting each other, then maybe the rest of society will also, who knows! I shave and everything, but I try to leave my bikini area alone unless I have to wear a bathing suit, which is very infrequently. I have medical issues that have left me reluctant to cause any irritation whatsoever in that area. Sometimes when I change at the gym I am a little embarrased, but figure no one really is looking at me.

    Something I haven’t seen mentioned here yet is forearm hair. I have it, it’s definitely noticeable, but I don’t do anything with it. I don’t know if anyone really thinks that much about it when they see me, but I am definitely conscious of it. I was teased about it as a kid. My husband does not care at all, so that helps alot. I waxed it for my wedding because I didn’t want to look at it in the pictures, but the aftermath was painful ingrowns. In the scheme of things, it’s not as much of a burden as facial hair, I am sure. Even so, the media does not depict women with visible forearm hair, models, actresses and such definitey do not have it. I have more than some men! I wonder if I should be ashamed, should be trying to find a way to deal with it? I’d rather try and accept it, but sometimes it’s hard.

    • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/ Allie

      I don’t know if my forearm hair has lightened over time or I am less aware of it but I used to bleach it with Jolen Cream Bleach (avail at drugstores and very gentle). It seemed more natural than going completely hairless, but made it less obvious. :)

  • pope suburban

    I’m pretty fair-haired, so it’s a less pressing issue for me. I only bother with legs, armpits, and eyebrows (just get ‘em cleaned up a bit). I do that because I just plain like how it looks, and it’s more comfortable. It feels neater to me. I can’t say as I even think of body hair on anyone else, though. Where I live, a lot of people are really big into natural living, so it’s not at all weird to see totally unshaven women. It’s a norm here and really, I think that’s how it should be. We’ve got men who wax their legs for competitive road biking, women who have never touched a razor, and everything in between, and no one cares. That’s pretty great. I can’t imagine telling someone why they’re “really” making a personal grooming choice; the thought makes me cringe. I just hope that everyone around me has picked their grooming routine because it is comfortable and good for them, rather than because they feel pressured to do whatever it is they do.

    • Erin

      Best login name ever.

      • pope suburban

        D’aww, thanks. It came to me while reading a book on medieval history and made me giggle like the nerd I am. Any time I can do that for someone else, I consider it a success. :D

  • http://weightbgone-court.blogspot.com Courteney @ Not a “Diet” Blog

    As someone who is naturally blonde I would like to state that I still deal with the body hair issue. It may not show up as clearly but I know from experience how disgusting hairy toes can be when wearing a beautiful pair of sandals. With that said I am glad to see I am not the only one who has issues with body hair. One tip I have found useful is to use a small pair of manicure scissors to trim my eyebrows. Its painless and the tiny curvature of the scissor blade gives good shape and makes it easy to get strays. In the winter I shave maybe once a month because no one can see it though. In the summer its much more often. That’s just me.

    • zora

      @Courteney – Um, can you not say hairy toes are ‘disgusting’?

      I haven’t shaved my legs or armpits since college, and I am perfectly happy with my choice every day. But, I have to say, an awful lot of the commenters keep equating not shaving with ‘fighting that particular feminist battle.” I feel like that’s just reinforcing exactly what we’re talking about! Please don’t characterize it as a battle. I stopped shaving because I am lucky enough to have fine, light colored body hair, and my skin is extremely sensitive. I was just done with having itchy, red, uncomfortable skin All. The. Time. I decided I was just done, and I was going to stop doing something that hurt. There, done. I do what I want to do for me, and it makes me happy.

      If another woman wants to remove her hair, that’s great, go for it! I’m not hairy to make some kind of a statement or judgment on you, i’m just doing it for me. Seems like a few of the statements here sound the teensiest bit defensive. But please be more careful about how you talk about those of us that don’t shave, and assigning motives to us.

      • http://weightbgone-court.blogspot.com Courteney@Not a Diet Blog

        Okay let me refrase. Hairy toes is disgusting to me, but that’s just my opinion. If you can rock it, go for it! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shaved over a toe and ended leaving the bath tub looking like an episode of CSI. Its my personal preference to shave it off though, scars and all :-).

      • http://soapbox.lunsh.net/ Stephanie

        Thank you for this.

  • Jennifer

    I do not have very dark or thick hair on my head… it is a shade something between light brown and dark blode and naturally very fine. I don’t have COPIOUS amounts of body hair, but I do have hair in all the places you mentioned (except the breastbone). I have wiry ones that pop out randomly on my chin (and upper lip, to a lesser extent) which I obsess over and pluck as soon as they peek out of my skin enough to do so. For whatever reason, THOSE hairs are so dark that they are nearly black. My arm hair is very fine and blonde, and has never been an issue for me. My pit hair isn’t over abundant, but is dark, as is my leg hair (at least from the knees down… my thighs have blonde hair, like my arms). I also have long blonde hairs that grow on my big toes. My biggest body hair peeve is probably the “happy trail” of dark hair that runs from my navel to my lady parts (said lady parts randomly have reddish hair).

    Like I said, I obsessively stalk and yank the hairs that grow on my chin. But the rest? I’m not nearly as neat about all that. I do shave my armpits and legs, but ONLY if I am going to be wearing something that shows off those parts. And when I do shave my legs, I only shave high enough so that the exposed parts are hairless. I don’t worry about my arms, and I usually ignore the toe hair too (it is blonde and only visible when the light hits it just so). As for my lady business and happy trail? I will occasionally shave the tummy hair, but in general I just let it be.

    90% of this grooming laziness is because I have sensitive skin, like you. Growing the hair out doesn’t irritate, but shaving does occasionally. Worse is the day AFTER shaving, when the stubble starts poking out. That is when I become terribly, horribly itchy. I don’t have the time to shave every single day, and I also don’t have the financial resources to buy enough razors/shave gels to do so. So it is a vicious cycle of shaving, itching, and shaving again once the itching is gone. The reason why I do not take care of the lady areas is because while I can tolerate itchy legs or pits, I will not abide having more personal areas on burning, itching fire.

    In the winter I turn into a complete hairy beast, I do not shave much (if at all). I don’t see the point if no one is going to see it.

    I’ve tried many alternative options, and they all irritate. So I would be interested to hear what your routine is, if you’d be so kind as to share. :)

  • Molly

    My hair is fairly fine and not especially visible on my legs unless you’re looking for it or it’s glistening in the sun. I shave my legs when I’m going to be wearing shorts and skirts a lot, and I usually shave my armpits, but honestly that’s mostly to avoid stares/comments. I never touch my pubic hair. I shower daily and don’t smell any more than anyone else, including when I have pit hair.

    I’m one of those people who feels strongly about hair removal, but I don’t care what other individuals do, I’m just really resentful of the expectation that women can and should alter our bodies for other people. I remember sitting around a table with some other women at a party–all seemingly smart, interesting people with cool lives–and having the conversation turn to how gross it is when women don’t keep their pubic hair trimmed/shaved/waxed. I didn’t say anything, and I’m not sure what I would’ve said, but it was just such a depressingly anti-feminist moment. I wish we didn’t have to defend our (clean) natural bodies or modification choices.

    • http://layla-night.tumblr.com/ Layla

      Yes, I definitely agree with this. It’s fine to choose what you want to do and what makes you comfortable, but when it comes to criticising others or having an expected amount of hair that it’s a problem.

  • http://debutantemedia.com Hayley

    Sally, I absolutely agree with you. If one refused to do any hair removal for feminist purposes, yet is ashamed about it/hides the body hair, there is no point. If a shaved/waxed self is a proud one, then go for it.

    I love the way you handled this reader’s question. I think body hair removal is a sticking point for some, but I don’t really see why. Just because one shaves does not mean that person is submitting to society and men.

  • Abby

    Thanks Sal – it’s all good! Really happy to be thinking about all if this. Also, wondering if you’ve tried threading? I had my eyebrows done and thought it was a great experience. The lady who did it said wax on the face contributes to discoloration and wrinkles. I’d never done anything to my eyebrows but received this threading as a gift. I’m personally pro-grooming for everything but armpits. Also, an electric shaver seems to help me not get so many ingrowns in case anyone is interested. Thanks again!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      WHEW! Oh good.

      And I just had my first experience with eyebrow threading a few weeks ago. Super effective, but MAN did I break out afterwards. For days. Not worth it for me!

  • http://www.coxhomestead.org Amanda

    While my grandmother is one of those lucky women who doesn’t even have to shave her legs or armpits, I definitely do. For eyebrows, I tweeze them myself or get them threaded- there’s no unibrow issue, thankfully, and they’re not ever on an Archbishop of Canterbury level. No facial hair, chest hair, etc. I have gotten Brazilian waxes several times- two were hellish involving bleeding, torn skin, and me practically needing therapy afterward but the rest were very smooth and easy (I’d continue having them but the shop’s website had unwelcoming language toward people with STIs and that make me uncomfortable).

    I’ve read a few remarks on forearm hair though and feel like that’s my line. Are we really expected to shave/wax/etc forearm hair?!?

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      As someone with loads of dark forearm hair, I’ve never felt pressure to get rid of it. I know others definitely have. Maybe it varies by region?

      • Sara

        I’ve been suprised to read that so many women do shave/wax/etc. their arm hair. I only recently even became aware of my forearm hair (it’s getting darker and longer – not quite as furry as my husband’s, thankfully) and began using our electric hair trimmer to cut it down. When I was younger I remember seeing a woman with shaved arms for the first time and wondering why she would do that – most of my family has light hair and skin, so they don’t worry about hair removal much. Now I know we’re just lucky!

    • Denise

      Oh, Amanda! I’d completely forgotten about the A of C! Yikes! I couldn’t focus on anything but his eyebrows when he was in the frame!

  • http://layla-night.tumblr.com/ Layla

    I don’t totally agree that it’s a “feminist battle” you enter into by not removing body hair and the suggestion that you can’t be a feminist and shave. I think the extreme views that women should remove all of their hair, especially around the bikini line, can get a bit too much into porn film territory and effectively makes women look like pre-pubescent girls and that’s a bit worrying and sexist. But doing enough or as little as you want to make yourself feel comfortable I don’t think should be considered as feminist/anti feminist either way.
    I consider myself a feminist but my primary feminist issues are much bigger ones than whether I have body hair or not. Personally I only shave my legs about once a week – I am quite hairy but have sensitive skin and tend to wear trousers most of the time anyway. I shave my armpits but that’s mostly because hair there makes them sweatier and less hygenic and I’d have no issue with men doing the same. I trim my bikini line, that’s all. I have my routine to be what I’m comfortable with and I’ve never had a boyfriend have an issue with it if I can’t be bothered to shave my legs sometimes – usually they haven’t even noticed!
    I do question women who spend hundreds of pounds on bikini line removal or undergo pain for it, but then I respect their choice, and if doing that means we/they can focus on the more important feminist issues without worrying about the minor ones then all the better. I think it’s when we spend all our time worrying about how we look that it becomes a feminist issue.
    :)

    • Anna

      I was also thinking that cultural norms regarding body hair doesn’t really have to do with feminist issues. Men have body hair too and there are very few places on this planet where it is culturally ok for a man to let his facial hair grow completely wild. Many men in western societies have to shave their face twice daily to fit into the cultural norm of grooming. I think people have always had different approaches to hair …. remove, trim, color. Personally I do not have much body hair and I deal with it in a slightly lazy manner, wax sometimes, use my epilator or shave. I am much more picky about my face, cannot stand any stray hairs on my chin and I want my eyebrows neat and well kept. Interesting topic !

  • Kate K

    I’m blonde and most of my body hair is light and it doesn’t grow very quickly, so in theory, I’m one of the lucky ones. However, my skin is ridiculously sensitive so my underarms get really really irritated no matter what I try and my bikini line gets really irritated with no rhyme or reason–no matter what new techniques I try, there’s irritation and if for some reason, I don’t get irritation, I can’t recreate those results. It’s frustrating because in theory, I should have it easy. I don’t have to shave a lot but when I do, it’s awful. I feel really uncomfortable wearing sleeveless shirts and any time I know that I’ll be wearing a swimsuit, the shaving session is always really stupidly nerve-wracking.

    As for the feminist aspect of body hair, I always thought that I believed that whatever was right for you was the best decision. That’s always been my belief about modern feminism–we’ve fought for the right to make choices. We’ve fought for our right to stay at home with our kids or go to work or have multiple partners or just one or shave our body hair or let it grow. However, recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and up popped a huge bias that I didn’t know I had. She is in the process of getting laser treatments for her pubic ahir and after the treatments are done, it will be gone. All of it. Forever. She has very good reasons for it, including ease, cost and, quite frankly, sexual satisfaction. However, I know she’s planning on starting a family with her husband and my big thought was “What if you have a girl?” I was, and honestly still am, concerned about what type of message that will send to her daughter. When her daughter goes through puberty and starts getting pubic hair, is she going to be confused or ashamed? Will that affect her view of herself? Feeling this way makes me feel like I’m a bad feminist and again, I think that women should do whatever makes *them* happy but it’s still problematic to me.

    • Elizabeth

      I’m like you!
      I have very little body hair but when I try to remove it my skin becomes VERY irritated. So I’m ashamed of my underarms, not because they’re hairy but because they’re terribly rashy and painful looking. I don’t know what it would be like if I let the hair grow out because I can’t stomach the look. Sorry. I’m a feminist but I’m also a Western woman and a product of my times.

      For the bikini area – I bought some swim shorts from target and now I just don’t shave there at all.

      I wish I could figure out something for my underarms. I’ve tried waxing, shaving, numerous creams. I just have INSANELY sensitive skin. Sigh.

      • Kate K

        Elizabeth, I’m glad I’m not alone! :D I, too, have tried everything and it’s still just really painful, especially for the underarm area. (It also doesn’t help that I’m extremely pale so those red bumps stand out even more.) I’ve really considered laser hair removal on my underarms. It’s expensive and painful but at least it’s also permanent?

        • Elizabeth

          My skin reacts to EVERYTHING so I’m not going to mess with laser removal. Sounds like scalding. With my luck I’d develop scar tissue from it which would be worse. (Not kidding, I have big scars from even small cuts.)
          I have found that the delicate skin under my arms is better if I don’t use antiperspirant – only deodorant, and then only the rock crystal kind. I’m allergic to everything and can’t even use normal shampoo. Sigh.

        • Elizabeth

          Also I don’t think it’s truly permanent. I think it lasts for a number of years but then eventually the hair may come back.

        • Nadine

          I’ve posted a comment below about my stress-inducing fussy armpits. SO glad I’m not alone!

          • Kate K

            Elizabeth, we might be twins. I bruise easily and scar even easier. Good point about laser hair removal. *sigh*

  • Sara

    Just want to add that I am loving this discussion today! I think body hair is generally a sort of taboo thing for women. I know some ladies who are loathe to talk about it, so this frank discussion has been eye-opening.

    Maybe some of us won’t feel like they’re the only ones “interlopers”!

  • http://ejegmama.blogspot.com/ Stephanie

    I’m with everyone who thinks people should be able to do as they please. Personally its only the bikini area hair that really bothers me. Without being way too graphic I’ll just say that without weekly waxing I have top pick my swim bottoms to hide this area. I really want to get laser hair removal for that particular region but haven’t yet. Other then that I shave my legs and arm pits but let the rest including my rather thick eyebrows go. I’ve done eyebrow plucking and waxing but it hurts and it just doesn’t matter that much to me.

  • http://lazysubculturalgirl.wordpress.com Andi

    I have a few friends who are “crunchy” and don’t shave or do much in that way. I adore the way they look, but I can’t emulate them. I just don’t feel comfortable in the hippie, granola style and I feel like unshaved hair naturally places you in that category. My own style is more….groomed?

    I’m also one of those people who finds their own body hair itchy. I grow hairs in weird places, and I HAVE to shave because the itching is ungodly. I even shave my facial hair — I used to bleach it, but then found that it just gave me a blonde mustache which wasn’t much of an improvement. When I started shaving, it seemed like those hairs grew back sparser and blonder so that is the way I roll.

  • Sarah

    Hmm I find the forearm hair thing to be particularly interesting.

    I always disliked mine and nearly shaved it off a few times, but last summer I noticed my mother has the exact same pattern of dark to light forearm hair as I do, and I thought I never noticed it on her before, so why should I care? Now I’m kinda proud of it as something I share with her.

  • http://CharismaU.com CarolAnn Edie

    I think it’s silly that we’re choosing between feminism and looking/feeling good.

    To me, feminism is about equity, and as long as no one is forcing me to look or act a certain way, I don’t feel as though my rights are violated. It’s my choice to do with my body hair as I will. And (gasp) I don’t believe that you have to look a certain way to believe that women and men should both get what they work for.

    That is all. Feminine power!
    Love,
    CarolAnn

    PS. I’m giving away self help confidence reports in a contest on my blog!! Check it out…
    http://CharismaU.com/lets-celebrate/

  • http://seamstress-stories.blogspot.com poet

    Same here – the genes that gave me robust long hair on my head also did the same for my legs (though luckily not my toes or torso)… and I have the same issue with it. I don’t find it aesthetic, so I shave every 2 – 3 days – even in winter – but at the same time I feel annoyed that I do. I don’t think there’s really a solution to the dilemma, so I try to stop bothering with my hypocrisy :)

  • Mel

    Sal – what a great essay! It’s been great fun reading the comments. I had NO idea so many other women struggled with this hair thing (I thought we were few and far between.)

    A commenter above mentioned that she loves your “voice”. That’s something that I adore about this blog. Your essays are so well thought out, articulate, respectful. I can feel your inner glow.

    I was just refering another blogger to your site….I was rather horrified by one of her essays (and going back in her history it turned out this wasn’t the first time she’d done this) where she was complaining about some member of the public staring at her as she took her daily fashion photo.

    (What did she think was going to happen when she’s out in public, taking photos of herself with a timer????)

    I was thinking that who wants to read about someone complaining when you can come here and read about things that make you think, that inspire you to be better.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I LOVE your blog. I can’t wait to read it every morning.

  • rb

    I do all the usual shaving and plucking, but I pretty much leave my downthere alone. I mean I trim and do some bikini line shaving but that’s it.

    I have a 10 year old daughter and I find it skeevy to say the least that her natural hairless state has become the sexual ideal. I’m not buying into it.

    • http://www.amidprivilege.com Lisa

      Exactly.

    • Sara

      Your last 2 sentances – yes, totally. That trend creeps me out for this reason precisely.

  • anne

    Oh Sal, this is indeed a issue with me. I remember a man I’ve slept once or twice with telling me to get a Brazilian, like the modern girls do these days. In my defense i dumped him soon afterwards. I used and still use electric tweezer for my legs ( not so painful every 2 weeks) and razor for my armpits. I individually tweeze my upper lip ( like every month or so, and wax at the salon when i have time) . My eyebrows love waxing but I’m cheapskate and tweeze:) . BUT i’m soo afraid to wax/tweeze my ladybits. I usually trim it, and shave the bikiniline. But sometimes I get all body conscious and shave. And then ofc suffer the next week. My boyfriend got mad at me once and told me : <> and i realized i’m not that brave. I’d rather suffer from time to time to keep up with an impossible social standard. But I try to become more relaxed about the issue

  • Diana

    OK, so I do not have very much body hair at all, but I do shave my armpits and wax my lower legs (at home). My body hair is sparse and almost invisible in most places except the above; I actually regret ever shaving my legs when I was a teenager because I’m sure if I hadn’t the hair would be much finer and probably virtually invisible like it is on my thighs (which I never shave or wax). I am pretty lax about it though and definitely do not get stressed about going bare-legged when I have visible stubble or whatever.

    I am actually curious about how you remove your body hair too, despite having probably 1/10 of the amount of hair you do, because my legs in particular have become for some reason super sensitive to shaving to the point where they get super itchy every time a razor touches them (hence why I wax them, but I’m not really satisfied with that either).

  • paisleyapron

    Thank you, Sal, for initiating such an interesting discussion. Actually, it’s quite comforting to me to know that we all in some way or another have to find what works for us. I, like others, was never given any education on hair removal. It made for some pretty painful experiences–soap and an old razor are items of torture. I felt great relief when I spent the summer in France as a teenager and was introduced to all kinds of hair removal products…in an atmosphere of love and friendship, not “you have to do this or you will be gross.” Now, I have my tried-and- true ways of hair removal for the various parts of my body…but not the pubic area. Profuse, wiry hair and super-sensitive skin has thwarted removal, so I just trim. However, I want to wear a higher-cut suit this summer and would love to hear how you remove at the bikini area.

    P.S. I really think that the kind education of girls about hygiene and beauty
    options is so key to feeling beautiful as an adult. I never had any until I was older and it can be confusing and disheartening to try to figure it out on your own because people are making stupid remarks about how your eyebrows need to be fixed ( that comment I got in college from a self-absorbed gay man) so then you react out of feeling something is wrong with you, not because you want to look a certain way. Oh the damage that does to your self-confidence.

  • Megan Leigh

    I was blonde as a kid (now closer to brunette but not quite there yet) so my body hair is blonde with the exception of my pits and pubic. I don’t really remember when I started to take an active role in removing any hair, but I do remember when a classmate (a boy) of mine in 7th grade made a not-nice comment on the state of my armpits. It’s surprising that that has stuck with me for so long, but there you have it. That is really the only hair I am constantly removing. I do shave (or rather use depilitory cream) my legs somewhat regularly, but that’s mostly with the seasons. I’m lucky enough to have a combination of blonde leg hair and somewhat tan skin so it’s difficult to notice the hair that is there unless you’re really looking for it. But when it’s warm out and/or I have a reason to wear a skirt, I like to have bare legs. It’s just a preference of mine that I don’t (won’t) attribute to a patriarchal viewpoint.

    As for other more personal hairgrowth, my husband tells me on occasion he would prefer if I kept my nether regions more well groomed. Not completely bare, but cleaned up so it’s a little easier for him to *ahem* take care of things…. I don’t think my choice to groom that area because he asked is bowing to a that same viewpoint but rather in acknowledging that it’s probably a good thing to try to help keep my husband happy to help keeping me happy.

    besides, isn’t the point of femenism is to be independent and be free to make our own choices and not from a larger society?

  • Sarah

    I HATE armpit hair. Hate it. Hate it on women. Hate it on men. (My bf actually trims his now because he knows I certainly don’t mind and it helps him nto sweat through his shirts or be less of a swamp when he works out.) I would remove it permanently, I hate it so much.

    The only thing stopping me is the thought of having to explain to a hypothetical daughter one day why I don’t have armpit hair and she does. I wouldn’t want her to internalize the thought that women don’t have armpit hair and that she is weird for having it. I’d prefer for her to see that yes, women have armpit hair, and in the service of personal choice and/or aesthetics and/or the patriarchy, removing it is an ongoing process. For me (and for me alone!) I’d rather model on a regular basis the notion that hair removal is a burden we place upon ourselves (again, for whatever reason), and not the default state of the human body. That said, that’s some big talk from me because shaving my pits takes, what, a minute, tops? Maybe I’d be more open to permanent hair removal options if I didn’t have blond leg hair that let me go a few days between leg shaves in the summer while still wearing shorts and skirts.

    I recently asked my bf if, given my preexisting viewpoint, I could get my pits lasered or electrolysised (uh, sic) if I only had sons. To which he replied: “You don’t care if your SONS think that women magically don’t have armpit hair?” Touche, bf. Touche.

    • Kate K

      Yes! I talked about this above after learning my friend is using electrolysis to get rid of all of her hair-down-there. I don’t even know if I want to have children but I do worry about what the choices that I make towards my body today will say to my children in 10, 15 years. (The idea of not having to worry about my underarm hair, though, is extremely tempting.)

  • Lisa

    I have olive skin and black hair, and hirsutism to go with it. I have a beard, and while I tweeze every day, I also shave it off when I go out because it’s the only way I can remove all the hair. I started to get laser treatments, but it’s expensive. I also have thick hair on my stomach and covering my butt.

    I don’t shave much during the winter. The only hair I’m self-conscious about is the hair on my face because I *hate* the feeling, and I know that people notice, though mostly sympathetically because having a beard isn’t the most common thing among women, not even to mention the forests south of the border. :-D

  • Elizabeth

    As soon as I started reading this post, I knew it would generate a lot of comments! It’s exciting to see how many women feel able to share their feelings and experiences on your blog, Sal. That’s one of my favourite things about it (that and the daily outfit posts, the cats, and your sense of humour).

    So I’ll share: I’m not especially hairy, and in the cold Canadian 8 months of Fall-Winter-Spring I generally wear nylons or pants so I forget to shave for weeks at a stretch. My boyfriend will teasingly remind me sometimes, and I sometimes heed his reminders, but those cold 8 months build up a pretty comfortable non-shaving routine… now it’s warm and lovely out, and I’m in a skirt with hairy legs, high heels, and an important meeting this afternoon. Meh! whatev. I honestly don’t believe anyone is looking at my legs anyway. and my dear boyfriend, despite the reminders, loves me like mad anyway.

    As for the nethers: i give a trim with scissors just to keep the area relatively comfy. It’s better in the heat. And I find it’s better in bed, too. But maybe that’s just me… so I’ll most likely maintain my absent-minded non-routine where body hair is concerned, happier for having one less thing to bother with. And as for what other women do about it: sharing on the blog is fun, but really it’s none of my business so I’ll never judge. Enjoy your summer, everyone! Love, Elizabeth

  • Elizabeth

    sorry – did I say 8 months… I meant 10! haha!

  • Cait

    This is definitely an issue close to my heart!! I’m Irish-Italian. I look 100% Irish (pale, pale skin, freckles, light eyes) but was blessed with Italian girl hair. I’ve got thick, dark, wild hair on my head, but for some reason very little hair on my legs. I credit waxing for several years in my young teens for the lack of leg hair. However, I’ve also got stray nipple hairs and the most unsightly bikini line you’ll ever lay eyes on. It’s horrendous and has been a huge source of embarrassment for me- I used to lifeguard and teach swimming lessons, so I’d have to shave every single day which would lead to painful razor burn and bad ingrown hairs. Eventually I switched to waxing, which is much better, but expensive on a student budget and still causes the occasional ingrown (not to mention having to deal with that awkward period of growth in between waxes). I’m doing laser removal this summer, only because I got an excellent price on it. I know it’s not permanent, but I’m hoping it will make my bikini line more manageable- because there is absolutely NO WAY I am willing to go au naturale. I personally think it’s gross and unsightly, and in addition to grooming the sides, I also trim to keep things neat and tidy down there. I like the way my body looks when it’s hair-free and although I’m not a “shave every day” kind of person, I do keep myself well-groomed throughout the year. Having said all that, though, I will not be jumping on board the Brazillian wax trend any time soon. I’m too germophobic.

    • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/ Allie

      I am an ex-lifeguard as well and I feel as though it scarred me for life regarding body hair. I can recall being at my certification renewal, a beautiful girl was to be the unconscious body that we had to save from the deep end. When being lifted onto the body board her suit moved and out popped a good inch of her public region… and hair. This girl, who was being ogled by all the guys in the class was suddenly getting snickers and people whispering how gross she was. That experience stuck with me, and not until I got pregnant could I handle going to the OB/GYN without a perfectly trimmed pubic region – I even wanted to get waxed before trying wedding gowns since I knew I could possibly end up in a fitting room with a stylist I didn’t know while I was in my underwear.

      Sal, SO glad you did this topic!

  • dcamy

    I’d be interested in your strategies. I didn’t realize that people did anything with the blond-ish upper lip hair, but now the last three times I’ve gone in for eyebrow waxing, the tech has asked if i’d like to wax the lip. I’m not enthusiastic, so other options would be welcome!

  • http://wendybrandes.com/blog/ WendyB

    Electrolysis for small areas and laser removal for large ones! Ten years ago I did my (extremely fuzzy, 5 o’clock-shadow-producing) underarms via electrolysis. It was a long process but it’s held up to this day and was probably the best money I ever spent. My sense of freedom is unbelievable. Even after all this time, I still think at least once a week — “I’m so glad I did that!”

    I used the numbing cream Emla and it wasn’t that painful. Much less painful, IMO, than waxing. Any temporary irritation was for a good cause — a permanent effect!

    Soooooo happy with it.

  • kathy

    Didn’t get a chance to read all of the comments but I agree with pretty much everyone else that this is a great post and it’s a personal decision. One thing that does upset me is that some men want women completely hairless in their nether regions. It’s just creepy to me, like they’d rather be with a prepubescent girl than a woman.

    The one thing I hate? Men shaving/waxing/whatever anything but their faces. I love me a hairy man and hate that every male model doesn’t have a chest hair to be found!

    • Nadine

      GO the hairy men! :)

  • http://pacificrain.blogspot.com sarah

    wow, Sal, SO many comments.

    my frustrations with body hair began as a preteen. I was mocked for having bushy eyebrows at 12/13. I started plucking. At 14, I was mocked for the hair on my upper lip. At the time I didn’t have depilatory cream and didn’t think to ask my parents for something like this. Instead, I tried to bleach it and ended up giving myself a chemical burn. Hard lesson to learn at 14. I use depilatory creams now, but less and less frequently. When I was 15 or 16, a blonde girl that I knew but didn’t like much decided to tell me one afternoon that I needed to shave my pits. I told her, “I’m a brunette.” She looked at me blankly. I said, “I shaved this morning. I shave every morning. This is what it looks like at 4pm. You don’t understand because you’re blonde. Your hairs don’t show. This is what it is like to be a brunette.” (and in my head I probably finished every sentence with “you bitch” because, by that point in time, I was getting pretty sick of this shit.) In college I met girls who shaved their upper arms. I’d never heard of such a thing. They would croon enviously over my forearms, where the hair is so delicate and fine that it is almost invisible. I thought they were nuts, to be honest, but the more I hear about it now, the more I guess it’s a “normal” thing.

    These days, I’ve made my peace with it. I pluck, shave, use creams when necessary. Totally interested in hearing what works for you, yes! But honestly, if a woman came up to me today and told me I needed to shave, I probably would tell her to go to hell. I’m tired of other people telling me what to do about my body hair. Seriously, one does wonder – don’t these people have better things to do with their time? It must be just awful to be so insecure that you spend your time picking at other people.

  • http://hellopetunia.blogspot.com hellotampon

    I have dark hair, but I don’t think it’s *that* bad. I shave my armpits and legs. I’m not religious about it, but I’m definitely more diligent during the warmer months. And I clean up my bikini line for bathing suit season. I have dark peach fuzz below my bellybutton and someone I work with recently pointed it out to me, like I didn’t already know it was there (wtf?).

    I went through a phase in my early 20s where I didn’t shave at all and I have to admit that I felt self-conscious about it a lot of the time. The leg hair looks fine at first, and then after a few months it starts to look like a dude’s hair. I just wasn’t comfortable showing my legs when they were like that. And armpit hair is so hot and it gets stinky after a while… mine wasn’t long and wavy, like I pictured it– it was more like a short, stiff brillo pad. I have this bias that the only ladies who can get away with not shaving are tall, thin, braless earth goddesses with flowing hair who fart rose petals. Not short frizzy girls with glasses and big boobs like me. I couldn’t reconcile the way I actually looked with body hair to the vision I had in my mind when I started growing it. At least when you don’t have body hair, no one notices. When you have it, it’s like this constant presence. I felt like I had to build my outfits around it… certain things didn’t “match” with my hairiness.

    One thing that sticks out in my mind is how much anxiety I had about pubic hair when I was around 13 or 14. The burning question was, “am I supposed to shave it or not?” Not knowing what I was “supposed” to do was terrifying. There was this message board everyone at my school used. Most of the topics were like, “Who are the 10 most popular girls in grade 9? Who are the cutest boys?” but there were always threads about whether or not girls should shave their pubes and of course everyone said they did. To this day I don’t understand what the big deal was- my parents were very strict and no guy would ever have the opportunity to find out what I was doing down there until I was at least 17 years old (and by then I’d realized that it doesn’t matter). At the time though, in my mind, it was a very serious yes or no question and either choice was certain to have a horrible outcome. And I agonized over it!

  • LE

    I wholeheartedly agree with the comments that the “no pubic hair” sexual ideal is creepy because it looks child-like. That said . . . I have a large patch of long, dark pubic hair on my thighs, and I have pale sensitive skin. Waxing or shaving leaves me with ingrown hairs or stubble, and so no matter what I feel very, very self-concious wearing a bathing suit (or even short shorts!) Not because body hair is “gross” but because I feel immodest and uncomfortable exposing my pubic hair. I’ve taken to swimming in shorts . . . I think I will eventually invest in laser treatment, but it’s not possible right now. Like others said: worth it to feel comfortable.

  • http://baldgrrrl.tumblr.com Dina

    Interesting to hear the other side of the hair issue. I am completely hairless! And while I have never had to worry about shaving or waxing, I have my share of issues to confront. Hair and gender identity are linked. Be grateful for the beautiful locks on your head. I miss mine!

  • Cyndi

    I have dark hair on my stomach too, and would love to know your advice for dealing with it, preferably at home; I’ve tried shaving, but then I end up with an actual bare patch where the thicker hair was surrounded by the finer dark hairs over the rest of my torso that wouldn’t have been noticeable otherwise.

    As a general rule, honestly, I enjoy shaving; there’s something kind of rhythmic and soothing about the physical act of it and leaving a smoother nicer surface behind, the same way painting a wall or my nails or mopping the floor is soothing. Or is that just me?

    • Nadine

      Like ironing! :)

      • Cyndi

        Oooh, yes, exactly!

        Though for a second I thought you were recommending ironing my body hair and was SO CONFUSED. Whoops.

        • Nadine

          Hahahaha! Almost had a laughing-related hot soup accident! (Southern Hemisphere represent!)

  • http://www.geekthreads.blogspot.com Audi

    Sigh. Just wait until you find the first *gray* hair on your areola. That is a sad day. I’ve got a whole arsenal of tools to fight body hair: 2 different epilators (one regular one, plus a small one for upper lip and such), waxing kit, razor, and of course several pairs of tweezers. Which one I choose depends on the time of year, how much time I have, and how thorough I feel like being. Next up I want to try laser removal, for bikini and pits at least. I’m personally much more comfortable being hairless, but I’ve seen plenty of women go au naturel and I don’t think it’s any big deal. I certainly wouldn’t criticize anyone else’s choice, and I’d never DREAM of commenting on it. The nerve!

    As an aside, my shitty ex-bf repeatedly encouraged me to get a Brazilian (I never caved in, thankfully). I’m now convinced that for women everywhere, that’s a sure sign he’s not the one.

    • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/ Allie

      I found my first gray aerola hair while at Bonnaroo last week and I was sans tweezers. I think I spent 10 minutes trying to yank it out with my fingers, which just caused it to mock me by curling up!

      • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

        Oh lady, you should know better. The finger-yank only EVER results in that infuriating curling action! ;)

    • Elizabeth

      ugh… agreed!! any man who is that preoccupied with “improving” his partner’s genital aesthetics has to rearrange his priorities. Or get out. Note the use of cautionary quotation marks!

    • Cait

      Yup, I fell harder than ever for my now ex-boyfriend when he told me he liked my pubic hair just the way it was and that he’d hate it if I was totally bare. Unless the guy I’m dating is willing to have hot wax poured all over his junk, I won’t be doing the same for him.

  • http://www.amidprivilege.com Lisa

    I’m 54. When I was your age, we were allowed to have hair. Then I went off and had kids. When I came back, the whole hairless thing had happened. I go along with shaved underarms and legs, because that’s in the public domain and I don’t want to fight the battle of my values on this field. But the rest of me is my own business and I am quite annoyed that America has decided body hair is the devil.

    • C.Thia

      “I go along with shaved underarms and legs, because that’s in the public domain and I don’t want to fight the battle of my values on this field.”
      Thank you! This is my feeling exactly. I do whatever feels most comfortable for me on the body hair front, which may be hairier than the norm, right up until I am exposing pits or legs for public consumption. Then I conform to the standard just to avoid having That Discussion or otherwise drawing attention away from my personality or competence at my job or whatever. It’s all so arbitrary and it doesn’t take much time if I am only flashing leg or pits once a month or so.
      It sucks that this is an expectation that has to be met, but I’d rather concede this fight and spend my time and effort fighting greater injustices.

      • sisty

        I’m about your age, Lisa, and it’s my feeling exactly, too. I’ve been married for a long time, so worrying about what potential lovers might think about it isn’t an issue for me, but I’m grateful that at the time we came of age body hair was “allowed” — and that men and women alike were a lot more accepting, it seems.

        I shaved my bikini line (on the leg openings, as I don’t wear bikinis) a couple of times but wound up with razor burn. Now, I just tuck the hairs in and figure if a stray shows from time to time that no one will care. I certainly don’t.

  • http://anti-glob.blogspot.com/ Priscilla

    I would LOVE some advice on this. I have hair all over, too, and shave my legs and armpits and tweeze my upper lip and chin, but with the exception of what grows around my mouth, all my hair is fine and pale. My daughter, on the other hand, got my half-Hungarian genes plus her father’s 100% Hungarian genes, and so has been like a little monkey since birth. Now she’s a teenager, and troubled by the hair on her lip, bothered by the hair on her legs (that she hates to shave or maintain because, frankly, it’s a pain in the ass). She’s got one of those little rubbing-thingies that basically sands the hair off your lip, and it seems to work pretty well, but if you have any suggestions for other removal methods that don’t burn your skin and maybe hurt like @&^$^!* hell, I’d super appreciate it.

  • http://honeybeeglue@gmail.com Melissa

    I used to have razor burn and red bumps that came from ingrown hairs.
    After I shower, shave using soap, then rinse, I slather Amlactin, 12% lactic acid
    on my legs. It has worked Wonders for me…No more red bumps or ingrowns.
    It’s about $12 for a bottle at the drugstore. My Costco also sells it.
    Hope this helps someone out there:)

  • Tracy

    “I will not allow my toe hairs to undulate in the summer breeze. ”

    But… but… now you’ve made it sound so lovely!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Hahahaha!

  • Catherine

    As another coarse, curly, dark-haired with very pale, VERY sensitive skin, I’d LOVE to hear your solutions – particularly to underarms. I hate that I can only shave them once a week, since they start growing back by the evening of the first day! However, if I shave more than once a week I get ingrowns – lots of them. It’s just as good-looking as it sounds, and I’m mortified and frustrated all the time. Help a sista out!

  • Tess

    What an interesting discussion. I’ve been reading through all of the comments and thought I’d add another hairy case.

    I have a mole on the back of my left hand from which protrudes a long black hair. I’ve gotten comments on it before and sometimes am pressured to get rid of it because some people think it’s gross. I used to think it was gross too but it is really painful to pluck because the root is so deep. It continues to throb days afterwards.

    I realized that I only had to change the way I perceived it and I wouldn’t have to be bothered with the hassle and pain of removing it. I’m starting to appreciate its uniqueness and in a strange way it’s kind of cool.

  • http://interrobangsanon.wordpress.com Katie, Interrobangs Anonymous

    I never knew anyone who didn’t shave their legs until I started grad school. There was a girl in my program who didn’t shave, had no qualms about showing off her legs, and what was so fantastically refreshing (and, I’ll admit, unexpected) was that NO ONE CARED! Seriously, you noticed it and then life went on. Seeing that make me a lot more comfortable about my own grooming choices.

  • Michelle

    Funny this topic should come up today. Yesterday as I got out of the shower, my 2-year-old stood next to me, pointed at my thigh and said, “Mommy has pretty whiskers!”

    And you know what? I do.

  • http://kristenjpenwell.blogspot.com kristen

    I feel like the issue here isn’t hair at all, but whether being a “feminist” means blindly rejecting all ideals of a male-dominated culture, or recognizing that we are the only ones capable of deciding what is proper, beautiful, fulfilling, etc. for a woman. I firmly believe that a woman should be able to choose if she wants to shave her legs or work outside the home or get breast implants or what have you, without being shamed by someone else – regardless of whether that someone is her husband or a vocal feminist! We don’t have to burn our bras and let our pit hair grow into dreads to embrace the strength of womanhood.

  • Bubbles

    Sal, what a fantastic topic! I can completely relate, I am going to be graduating with a women’s studies degree and I constantly go back and forth on whether I should just leave my hair alone or go through so much trouble to be hairless. Like you and other women my body hair goes above and beyond what most women deal with. I think my situation is actually worse than most, I am a caucasian female with very dark and curly head hair. I have excess hair on my stomach and fingers and toes and I am also cursed with fine dark back hair. My hair removal is extensive, I shave or wax my legs, underarms, fingers and toes, nether regions. I also shave my face and bleach my back hair. Not to mention eyebrow tweezing and nose hair removal. Am I nuts or just conforming (or both)? As for personal advice on hair removal I would suggest never tweezing/waxing hair from your stomach, chest, upper lip and chin. These areas are controlled by hormones, so the old tale about removing hair and having it grow back darker and more course actually applies to those parts. Also, laser hair removal is probably the best solution for permanent hair removal, it is expensive, but is it more expensive than buying razors or paying for waxes year after year?

  • Nadine

    OK, this is awesome. YOU are awesome, Sal. I am SUPER-interested in this topic, but I don’t feel comfortable talking about it in real life. Armpits! Oh, the armpits! What to do? I am fairly hairy but blonde, BUT pale-skinned, so my pit hair looks ‘dirty’. Here’s the kicker – I’m a dance teacher, so my pits are on display every day! And I shave them every day. But I have very very sensitive skin and I am allergic to every deodorant I’ve ever tried! (We are talking MAJOR unsightly red blemishes.) So I am stuck with clean-groomed yet whiffy pits. It sucks! (I’m also allergic to most types of sunblock, but that’s a whole other kettle of problems . . . )

    • Elizabeth

      Woah. I’m allergic to sunblock too. It’s the benzophenones. Try Vanicream’s sunscreen. Works well. Also – if your skin really is the same as mine – don’t dye your hair either. Many people who are allergic to benzophenones are also allergic to PPD (main ingredient in hair dye). Also – NEVER get a black henna tattoo.

      • Katharine

        You can also find sunscreens these days that use only physical blockers — fine particles of titanium and zinc. The technology has improved so that the particles no longer give you that ghostly white “veil” look.

        I am also sensitive to most sunblocks, and didn’t wear it for years. (Not allergic, but they make me break out something awful.) I can tolerate the La Roche Posay formula with Mexoryl, in the chemical vein, but right now I’m using one by Cliniderm for sensitive skin, which uses only the physical blockers.

  • Sasha

    Great topic. I kept reading the comments hoping beyond hope that someone had a great, painless solution I’ve never heard of or tried.

    I would love permanant hair removal but I’m much too cheap to invest. Maybe someday, for now it will be on my wish list.

    I am a completely bare girl, not because of the trend but because it is my preference. I remember seeing a naughty magazine once entitled Big Bushes and it scared the hell out of me as I have always hated the amount of hair I would have if left alone. Waxing is too expensive and impossible as I have such fast growth so I shave. After awhile it just becomes habit and it’s easier if you don’t let it get away from you. I shave almost daily to maintain. This can be done in the shower but if you are going to shave heavier “stubble” (ewww that sounds gross) then I have found soaking for a bit in the tub helps. Also never go at it with a lot of hair. Get out some trimmers or sissors first.

    As I have sensitive skin on my legs and elsewhere. I’ve discovered that I can not use cheap or disposable razors. I have to use the expensive blades and replace them at least once a week. Lately I’ve discovered that using a mans razor and shaving cream works so much better than a womans brand. I hope it’s all right to say a brand but I use the Fusion Mens razor (nope don’t work for them). The shave is much closer and it eliminates the five o’clock shadow. Today I even wore a dress without shaving this morning as I had shaved yesterday. This never would have happened with my womans razor.

    No one has mentioned the infomercial product, it looks like it sands off your hair basically. Has anyone tried that? I would imagine they would be harsh on sensitive skin.

    • Sasha

      Oops, I forgot to add in my prior comment. It’s not a teenage boy but the person in my life shaves completely and it’s much appreciated by me ;-)

  • Deirdre

    Wow! An incredible number of comments. I have a lot of dark hair on moderately pale skin. After years of shaving and waxing I decided to invest in laser treatments for my upper lip and full leg. After 2 years of treatments, my upper lip is clean and I shave my legs every 2 months. It was a time consuming and expensive process but it was well worth it. I am now considering laser for my underarms. If I had a daughter I would give her laser treatments for a gift for graduation from high school. I did not find the laser painful. The only side effect for me was a plucked chicken look that last 3 to 5 days after each treatment. Another time I had a spot that looked like someone burnt me with a cigarette but again that quickly disappeared. Thanks for the post. I really enjoyed reading the comments on this intensely personal issue. When I tell people I had my legs lasered the reactions are extremely varied, from awe to repulsion. Each to their own. Everyone needs to do whatever works for them. You can not know or understand until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Please accept rather than judge another’s personal choices.

  • Nathalie B.

    Seeing as I’m certain that my comment will get lost in the somewhat unexpected sea of response, I want to say “YEAH, I AGREE!” I’m sorry, but body hair is just uncomfortable to me. Womp womp. I am more satisfied if I remove it, it is truly the bane of my existence. Don’t judge me. I’m not judging you.

  • Blue

    I wield a razor on a frequent basis. Arm pits are done daily. Leg shaving is also pretty frequent, mostly in summer because I wear skirts a lot. Less so in winter (hooray for boots!). I also shave my bikini line when it starts getting a bit overwhelming. Unlike most people here, I also shave my arms once or twice a week, depending on the season. I love the smooth feeling :) I only know one other person who removes arm hair.
    Eyebrows are taken care of by a combination of depilatory cream and plucking.
    Of all my hair, I’m most self conscious about my eyebrows.

  • http://www.sundayofsummer.blogspot.com candice

    I read this post when I got up this morning and I’ve thought about the feelings it left me with all day. It’s odd: body hair seems like a pretty straightforward topic on the surface. But it is (like so many things in life) so much more than the presence of hair.

    As a young girl, my mother did not talk with me much about body hair. She gave me a razor when I hit puberty (at the tender age of 8) and explained that there are two areas a woman should shave on her body: underarms and calves.

    I stuck with this routine until I hit my teenage years. Then, as judgemental, ignorant, bratty teenage boys came into the picture, it became clear that my level of body hair was simply unacceptable, sexually. Like the eating disorder I adopted to please one particularly controlling boyfriend in high school, my body hair became a source of extreme control, obsession and pain for me.

    When he would comment on the (in his loudly-stated opinion, disgusting) hair on parts of my body other than my legs and armpits, I would die from shame and rush out the next day to buy some crappy home waxing kit. At one point, I did such a half-assed job trying to wax my lower back that I ended up with rows of giant, puss-filled scabs which lasted for several months.

    When I broke up with one boy, he literally spent his time methodically going around the school and informing everyone about the location of my body hair. I didn’t understand why he thought this was such a potent weapon until I began to hear it whispered behind me in the halls.

    After I hit my twenties, I gained (among other things, namely: cellulite) a lot more body hair, in even weirder places. But I also met a really thoughtful, kind guy who is totally fine with every part of me, including the cellulite, stretch marks and yes, body hair. When we’ve talked about body hair in the past, he has asked me why I think it would be an issue, since he is covered in hair and never even thinks about removing it.

    He also explained how he shaved certain areas on his body when he was a teenager. He felt like girls would be repulsed if they saw body hair, since it didn’t match the Hollywood ideal they were used to seeing everywhere. We’ve shared more than a few stories about the sometimes awful and sometimes funny consequences of trying to remove hair in sensitive places.

    This post hit home for me because it made me realize how something so seemingly simple can actually be tied to so many deep, personal, identity-forming aspects of life. Sexuality, attractiveness, self-worth, personal control: all of these words (and more) come to mind when I think about my body hair. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

  • http://www.sundayofsummer.blogspot.com candice

    should say *tender age of eight, in my last comment. :)

  • Cathy

    Fabulous post. I thought the point of feminism was choice. The choice to work, the choice to have children, the choice to live life as we want to – hair free or not.

    For me, brown hair, pale, sensitive skin but not an abundance of hair, I like shaving my legs and arm pits. I like what it feels like, I like the way I feel. I was shaving more delicate areas before I met my husband and although he expresses his appreciation for that, it’s my choice. I go weeks without shaving there because I want to and then I’ll be religious about it for 6 months.

    On the flip side, when we were first dating, I made a (drunken) suggestion that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. So he does a lot of trimming himself now – both because I made the suggestion, but mostly because that’s what HE likes for HIS body.

    I remember in university seeing someone wearing a kilt from the back, looking mostly at the kilt/legs. I thought it was a guy and I thought, bravo, way to make a real fashion risk as a guy. Then she turned around and I thought, oh…. hmm, bravo, way to rock your legs as they are and own the look. Good for you. It’s her choice to do what she wanted with her legs and present herself to the world the way she wanted to.

  • nsv

    I’m in agreement with the posters above (somewhere) who talked about the double burdens of being fat and having lots of visible body hair. Sometimes one constant battle at a time is all we can bear. That said, I had hairy legs and pits when I was thin AND fat, but when extremely tough financial times hit my family, I had to give up some of my expensive grooming and body care habits. I realized I was missing that sense of care I gave myself, and started shaving my legs and pits from time to time. I dress pretty modestly, so one sees them except my husband (who, I’m thrilled to say, doesn’t seem to mind one way or the other) and the folks at the gym, who come in all shapes and sizes and degrees of hairiness and tatooedness and other interesting looks. But shaving does somehow put me in touch with parts of my body I don’t pay much attention to – and I totally get the ironing analogy. Actually, I like to think of it as “weeding my body,” just like I weed my garden.

  • http://www.takingbacksingle.com J

    It’s really awesome and brave that you wrote about your “hairyness”! A lot of women wouldn’t want to talk about that. I too have spent a lot of time worrying about unwanted hair, but when I was able to just stop worrying I realized that I’m not not nearly as hairy as I thought. If you look close, most women have some hair on their lips, arms, etc. It’s just that we pay so much attention to ourselves but others rarely look at us so closely.

  • http://ccscheapchic.blogspot.com CC

    Wowie! What a loaded discussion. I guess (as with so many of your thought provoking discussions) what I don’t get is why anyone would feel they had the right to comment negatively on another person’s appearance. I just don’t get that. I was raised with the ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’ standard and I guess it really stuck with me. Frankly, how I feel about how you look shouldn’t matter to you. How you feel about how I look certainly doesn’t matter to me. That said, it is appalling to think that people believe they have the right to degrade you because of the way you look, whether you are pale or tan, hairy or bare, blonde or brunette or purple or green haired. Your beauty belongs to you and if you’re happy, no one else has the right to judge.
    Personally I like being bare pretty much everywhere. My hubby likes it too. Of course he is also perfectly content with me being hairy because he loves me. So, while I keep the legs shaved pretty religiously because I cannot stand the feeling of hair on my legs – it itches – I shave the pits when I’m going sleeveless and go back and forth between completely bare and not bare in the nether regions depending on my mood. That’s my choice and no one sees me but my hubby. If you had the bad manners to comment on my hair or lack thereof, I (being a totally Southern bred lady) would freeze you with a look and walk away without a response because you don’t deserve one. :)

  • Eliza

    Oh good lord, so glad for this post!!! I hate, hate hate body hair and yep, partially because it is seen as “unacceptable”, but how much do we, as people, hate seeing imperfections on ourselves? Little black hairs standing out on pale skin look defective. I do an electric razor on the bikini line, always grows back rather badly, but loads better than waxing (I will never do this again, the ingrowns look like my ‘gine has severe acne) and wet-shaving and depilitories. My fantasy is to be able to get electrolysis on that area and also on my “happy trail” which I primarily shave in the shower, but always gets scattered ingrowns which I tweeze, but the skin is so thin and sensitive, it breaks half the time when I do. Sigh. I feel like I look like a meth head that’s picking at themselves. Seriously, fuck body hair. I feel like it’s designed by God to give us “humility” because it sure doesn’t keep me warm, that’s for sure. I’m just starting to get wispy dark hairs on my face and neck (GRR!!!!). Thanks, though that my arms and legs sport white blonde hair. WHEW. My husband calls me his “furry little Jew princess” and that really doesn’t help either.

    • Cyndi

      Hey. :( For the record, compulsive skin picking is a mental health issue. It’s an anxiety thing for me, and I know other people who associate it with OCD or self-harm, but I had never heard it as a symptom/stereotype of drug addicts before. I’m not too self-conscious about the scars, but I hate that I keep catching myself reaching down the back of my shirt and digging at myself in public. (Not to mention all the shirts I’ve ruined with little spots of blood on the back and sleeves.)

      I’m resigned to people probably thinking the picking itself is disgusting, but have strangers and classmates just been assuming all this time that I’m a junkie? D:

      • Tess

        I have the same compulsion and also had never heard of it as a stereotype for those who do meth (until I read Dermatillomania Diary). You would think it would be enough to have the compulsion to pick and not have to be stereotyped too (but of course that’s not the way it works).

  • Marsha Calhoun

    Okay, just to keep us all on track – are we are meaning the same thing when we refer to a “bikini line”? I ask because, in the years when I wore bikinis, the line could be considered either the top of the bikini bottom, or the leg holes of the bikini bottom – above or below which hair can exist, I believe. My OB/GYN referred to my bikini line when he showed me that the incision he proposed to rectify an ectopic pregnancy (and save my life) was below the top of my pubic hair, and therefore below the top of a bikini, as if I would forbid the operation if it might give me a scar that would show. My question here stems from my thinking that if the top of a bikini bottom is so low that it reveals pubic hair, then the answer is to get a larger top or buy a one-piece, but that wouldn’t help if the hair is below the leg holes. Can anyone clarify?

  • http://candimandi.typepad.com Mandi

    Oh, I’ll be reading all of these comments with my morning cup of coffee! :) But I wanted to pop in with my quick two cents. Why is it that the general (vocal?) feminist public will denounce things like this, when feminism is, in part, about women having the right to make their own decisions?* So, if you want to remove your body hair, that is your decision, and you shouldn’t have to defend it. I fee the same if it were a man who did the same.

    I count myself lucky that it is socially acceptable for me to shave my armpits, because I just love having smooth skin. If I were a guy, it would make more sense, in the American culture, to warrant a defensive statement backing up such hair removal. :)

    *at a quick glance, I see other commenters have mentioned this idea. Glad to see that! :)

  • Donna

    This is an interesting post. Going through puberty, I was always taught by my mother that shaving was unnecessary and that it would only make things worse; that my hair would grow back “as thick as a gorilla’s” and that she’s never ever shaved any part of her body.
    Honestly, I don’t think she can comment on my body, because she’s a petite Asian lady with zero body hair. My father, on the other hand, is a werewolf of Northern European descent. Guess which genes came out on top? Chest hair, toe hair, knuckle hair, facial hair of all sorts… you name it, I’ve got it.

    I prefer the feeling of shaved bits, since my hair comes in in thick spikes and then catches on every item of clothing ever (so irritating!).I can feel the softness and smoothness of my skin after I’ve shaved, which is a nice confidence boost. A lot of times I just let my shaving routine lapse, but it’s definitely time to shave again when anything gets too long (anyone else able to comb their legs?)

  • Sonja

    Hi there, I started to read all the comments, but there were so many of them and I was itchy to contribute, so sorry if I repeat things that have already been said.
    What I want to comment is less on the philosophical side …I’m dark-haired and hairy, and after having shaved my legs and used an epilady for some time, about 10 year ago the ingrow started. I started to squeeze and scratch and had little wounds and scars on my legs the whole time – so I wore long pants the whole year long. Then I got some money from an inheritance, started laser depilation – and could not be happier. Yes, I do feel much more feminine now. I’m even wearing more skirts now – although that might have something to do with other changes in my life as well.
    I’m a bit obsessed with body hair, I suppose that really has to do with social pressure and the fact that I’m a perfectionist, but I just love the neat look and soft feel.
    The one area I like hairy is the pubic zone – I trim the edges, but I tried to shave it totally once, just to try, and I felt naked and child-like, as if I was not really a grown-up woman.
    I also go to let the sparse hairs on face, neck, décolleté and belly be electrically removed. It`s a slow and painful process, but worth it for me.
    I would like to pass on some advice that I learned from the beauticians there: if you pull out those hairs with tweezers, you usually don’t pull out the roots. The zone gets irritated, the blood flow in the zone is stimulated to prevent inflammation, the roots get nurtured by the blood – and grow out more hair … Sometimes stronger and darker, sometimes even more than one hair from each follicle. So the advice would be: Don’t remove those with tweezers, just carefully cut them with nail scissors (more gentle than shaving!) if you can’t or don’t want to pay an electrical depilation.
    Also it’s interesting to see the cultural differences when it comes to this topic: I’m German, so I come from a country where many women are blond, and where you are heavily covered during many months of the year due to the cold. Hair removal isn’t such a big thing there, at least for people of a certain age, and you don’t really talk about it. My mom even thinks that shaved pits are disgusting (!!) because she considers them unnatural. Now I’m living in Spain (dark, mediterranean types), and here women of all ages have always waxed everything there was to be waxed, and it’s considered very normal to do so and to talk about it in public.

  • Kathleen

    As a fellow dark-haired, pale girl with extremely heavy hairgrowth and very sensitive skin, all I can say is that laser therapy (not IPL) is a miracle! A miracle, I tell you! After years of intense frustration, pain, embarrassment, never daring to go swimming, scars, etc etc. now I can wear skirts or a bikini all the time. I don’t even think about it anymore and feel so much more feminine, instead of like an urangutan…. This was one of the easiest things which has has increased my body image and happiness tremendously.

    Conclusion: best money EVER spent!

  • Tara
  • Jea

    I shave my legs, arm pits and chin almost daily, but not because I want to “please” any man, but because of what other women say.
    I never heard anything about this issue from a man but women tends to bring it up quite often.
    This bothers me, why are women the ones putting pressure on me to look a sertan way that’s said to “please men”?

    About removing hair in the lower regions, I would never do that myself and I had to ask my BF to stop doing it because he gave me a rash ^_^

  • http://spidersilkstockings.blogspot.com/ Cel

    I remember when I was 15 I was hanging out with a gang of people looking at a tattoo magazine. There was a woman with a stomach tattoo, who happened to have a very fuzzy trail of dark hairs circling her belly button and going down to the waist of her pants. Someone in our group said “Ew, that can’t be a real woman, women don’t have stomach hair!” and I literally felt myself go pale, thinking about how hey I have that same dark hair on my tummy, does that mean I’M WEIRD?!

    It’s rather unfortunate for me because while my head hair and the hair nearly everywhere on my body is fine and blonde…. my pubic hair is dark and thick and evil and I am plagued by ingrown hairs, no matter what I do. As someone who seems to have tried everything, is there something you can recommend for super stubborn ingrown hair?

  • http://brightsidedweller.blogspot.com/ Chelsea S.

    First of all, you are cracking me up in this post. “I will not allow my toe hairs to undulate in the summer breeze.” So poetic and magical, that sentence there, and I relate to it!

    I love your message about this matter. Basically do whatever the hell you want with your body hair (or makeup or clothes choices… etc.) that makes YOU happy, and whatever that is, you do not deserve to be judged for it, since it is all about YOU! Sure I work hard to accept my body and celebrate it, but I also love makeup and coloring my hair. I don’t think this makes me a hypocrite and you’ve helped me to articulate why.

  • http://www.fool4thecity.com Laura Elaine

    I couldn’t possibly add anything new to this discussion. I just wanted to say, that even though I’ve never even really given much thought to hair removal and don’t have strong biases one way or the other, your post made me love you that much more. For something I didn’t really want to read about (or groan about again), this made me think, laugh and metaphorically fist pump. You are a true gem, Sal :).

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Oh lady, THANK YOU!

  • Elizabeth

    Gene Weingarten, a columnist for the Washington Post, has been angling for years to do an online feature about women’s personal grooming habits. He wants to poll men and women about their habits and preferences. He suspects that not as many men prefer hairless lady parts as women believe. The Post, being a traditional news outlet, won’t let him go there. Although I’d be curious to see the results I am kinda happy because there’s a dirty old man side of him, too. Anyway – this is a much better place for such a discussion, but we are missing the male viewpoint. You’ve been careful to say that women should address their body hair in a way that makes them comfortable. But I wonder how many do it to please their sexual partners? (Even worse, fictional, future partners.) I’m pleased to be in my 30s and happily married to a guy who grew up in the 70s and 80s like me and has no expectation of brazilian-style waxing. Many people blame porn for the rise in waxing in the US. I wonder if it’s true?

    • pope suburban

      I really think porn’s role in the equation is going to vary. My boyfriend and I both grew up in the 90s and early 00s, so well after the more natural aesthetic had phased out and high-maintenance grooming had come in. We grew up looking at Clueless and boy bands for fashion guidance, which is a decidedly processed aesthetic. And yes, he has seen his fair share of porn. When I mused about getting a serious bikini wax to see what everyone was on about (It’s popular here, and I don’t find waxing painful, so why not?), he was immediately horrified. He said it would freak him out and it wouldn’t look good. The thing is that in porn, it’s set dressing; it’s artificial and everyone knows it. In real life, it would just remind him too much of a pre-pubescent kid. I hadn’t even really thought about it that way since I am pretty obviously not a kid, but he was so scandalized I figured it would not be worth it, since it was a whim anyway. So I think mileage on that will vary, since what one might like in porn is not necessarily what one likes in real life.

  • rea

    It WOULD be a post on body hair that makes me de-lurk! I’ve been loving this discussion. As a woman who is growing out her body hair AND choosing to cover it up, I had to chime in. I used to religiously de-hair everything but my arms and ladybits, but about a year and a half ago, I decided to stop shaving my stomach. I liked it, so I stopped shaving my pits. I really liked them hairy; I even resumed shaving them for a bit, but missed the hair, and stopped again! Then I stopped shaving above the knee . And so on, now seeing if I can grow out the lower leg area. I definitely have hairy toes and the areola hairs–I really don’t think those are rare.

    Anyway, right now this growing out my body hair thing is a personal experiment, and one I don’t think I’m obliged to share with the world unless I decide to make it a permanent part of my life. Perhaps not even then–when a woman gets a tattoo on a part of her body that is usually not visible, no one advises her to examine her Tattooed Person Pride priorities. Was this experiment prompted by feminism? Certainly partially–once I realized I didn’t HAVE to shave, I wanted to see if I really WANT to. On the other hand, I don’t care if my friends shave, and don’t go around volunteering info about my body hair status, bc while I want to see how hairy I can get, and to examine my feelings about that, I really don’t feel obliged to discuss it before I’m ready. I also still pluck my eyebrows. It really doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Just as it’s freeing to realize that if I ever have children, I can choose to stay at home, work, or some combination thereof, I find it freeing to know that I can remove my body hair, leave it be, or some combination thereof. And most importantly, that I’m ALLOWED TO CHANGE MY MIND.

    Love this blog, Sal!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Sally. Have you tried Lucas Paw Paw ointment? We get it here in Australia and I’m sure you can find it on the Internet. It is the only thing that stops ingrowns and rashes after I shave my legs. I just rub it into my legs after I have shaved in the shower. It has the texture of Vaseline, however, and rubbing it in is a bit tricky, but it really works.

  • erin

    Thanks for the shout out, Sal! Another great post. And I bet you aren’t actually part of a relative few women with interloping hairs in strange places…happens to the best of us!

  • Rachel

    I leave my body hair au naturel, and always have*. I’m aware, though, that I am “passing” due to my very blond body hair (especially on my legs). Would I still be willing to defy society’s expectations in the name of my convenience and comfort if my hair were dark? It’s a very good question.

    *Every once in a while I get one super long hair springing up on my face, usually right under my eyes, and lately I’ve started tweezing those. Mostly because they’re a bit distracting when they float into my peripheral vision.

  • Alyssa

    I find it interesting that many comments have defended their preference for hairless legs while condemning those who remove all of their pubic hair- “creepy”. Personally, I prefer being bare; I feel cleaner. I experimented with trimming, the “landing strip,” whatever, but I’m happiest with no pubic hair. I hate the look, texture, and feel of my pubic hair, so I wax it away (at-home, I do fine with the sally hansen kits), which is the most effective/affordable method for me now, though laser hair removal is a fantasy for when I can afford it. If this brings to mind a hyper-sexualized child for some, that’s fine by me, I’m not going to change though (nor will I show up at your door to convert you to my hairless ways).

    As to the rest of my grooming, I’m fortunate (in my mind) to have minimal to moderate leg hair. I shave every couple of days, occasionally only once a week, depending on whatever god controls the rate of hair growth that week. I tend to shave below-the-knee more frequently than above, regardless. None of my hair above my knee is really visible- I just really like the feel of my bare skin, and my leg hair is just a tad not soft and fine enough for my tastes. I have fine arm hair that bleaches blonde with sun and has never offended me, but if I had thick or dark arm hair, I’d probably get rid of it too. I shave my pits daily just because. I have very manageable brows-if anything, I once in a while wish I had a teeny bit more or darker hair- and pluck the stray hairs as they occur. I don’t like the look of body hair on myself. I went to a hippie college; I’m a big fan of the “live and let live” approach- one of my good friends was firmly against hair removal of any kind for herself, but didn’t preach. Her legs did not offend me.

    As to the “what guys think”… I’m a twentysomething, and I have never, ever had a guy friend tell me that he finds pubic hair on women to be a turn-off (“so long as it’s not a jungle,” according to one), and I have heard several protests against the all-bare look. One guy I hooked up with was pleasantly surprised- but surprised nonetheless- by my grooming habits. I’d say some level of trimming is common, though not the overwhelming majority, among my male friends.The only body hair I am apt to go on a rant against is beards/facial hair on men- for one, I want to see your face, I do not find your ability to grow a mass of fur attractive (again, hippie school, lots of beards/where is this cultural norm about being clean-shaven?), and two- facial hair, even scruff, irritates the crap out of my skin. Aragorn was hot on screen, but that’d be a legitimate problem for me in real life (once I was seeing a guy whose face got irritated if he shaved too frequently…that was an interesting issue: “I wanna have clear skin today” “No, I WANNA”…yes, we were/are both actually five-year-olds crossed with the teens in the acne commercials).

    Anyways, that’s my two cents. And excessive tmi, but I wanted to join the club =) Sal, I adore your blog and, as mentioned by others above, your voice.

    • Tess

      If you don’t mind my asking, I’d be interested to know where you went to college.

  • Anonymous

    wow! so many comments! I’ve read them all (just to make sure I wasn’t repeating something already mentioned). Now that I see that it hasn’t, I just gotta share: My latest revolution is sugaring (http://www.ehow.com/how_4748097_perform-sugaring-hair-removal.html) The process is like waxing, but less painful (so I hear; I’ve never waxed). I love that it’s 3 simple ingredients, that I can cook it up at home, do my armpits & bikini line twice a month and never look back. I used to wear skirted bathingsuits & shorts because I just couldn’t deal with the discomfort and unsightly ingrowns. Sadly, I haven’t found that sugaring works on my leg hair, so I still shave there. As to the rest, I figure I’m average. Blonde arm hair, but dark, slavic hair in other spots. I pluck a few stray hairs (yep, I too have them most of the places you’ve listed). I refuse to touch my darker toe hairs. I plucked and shaved a few times in my adolescent haze, and the results were again worse than the problem so I leave them alone. I keep the lower area trimmed and while my partner does appreciate it (which of course is an incentive for me to do it), but he’s certainly not allowed to make demands. You want to get invited back to party, you don’t start insulting the hostess’s furniture! One final thought, I remember my college days and for a phase I stopped shaving my legs. I liked it–fuzzy & soft. Until one day a friend saw me in shorts and laughed saying, “you look like a girl up top and a boy down bottom.” I don’t think she meant any harm, but the comment sticks with me to this day. Too bad that I wasn’t saavy enough to reply: “hairy or not, they are girl’s legs because I am a woman and because they are mine.”

  • Polly

    I just want to say something that struck me as i read the comments. many have said they shaved/waxed/used laser removal for the aesthetic value. Whose aesthetic value? What kind of aesthetic sense is that which demands women torture themselves on a regular and ongoing basis basis? Is it not rather perversion or sadism?

  • Isabelle

    What a fantastic post! I’ve thought bout this issue for many years as well. I totally agree that body hair management is no more, no less conformist than wearing a bra. I also don’t accept that comment from anyone who has less hair than me!!

    I don’t have thick hairs anywhere, but I am totally covered with dark peach fuzz. My routine is:

    * I bleach my hairline, neck, entire back + bum, stomach, at times also my chest.

    * I either Nair or tweeze my upper lip, and tweeze my one thick chin hair, and toe hairs.

    * I shave my armpits and entire arms/legs, but when my skin is too sensitive I use an electric shaver, which has been a lifesaver many times. You’d be surprised how close a shave you get with those. And no irritation/ingrowns!

    I NEVER wax any part of my body because I get 80% ingrowns, and I also tried everything under the sun, nothing works to prevent them.

    When shaving, I find that shaving every day helps prevent ingrowns because it keeps on removing that top layer of skin. But that only works if your skin is not too sensitive.

  • Another hairy woman

    The problem, as I see it, is that society dictates that a woman can’t be hairy AND feminine or beautiful. Crock. To combat this misguided view, we need beautiful women (and style bloggers among them) who will ditch the razors, epilators, et al., so that others will feel comfortable expressing a preference for a hairy aesthetic without being labelled hair fetishists or hippies (neither of which is inherently bad, but stereotypical). As long as most women continue to defend their costly, time-consuming and oftentimes painful grooming methods, nothing will change. Many – a majority, I believe – still feel pressured into shaving, because the alternative isn’t much of one. It is convenient to continue shaving because society reprimands those who don’t. Role models are few or non-existent, so it is a lonely, tough path to tread.

    I say all this not as a feminist (I am not one), but a humanist.

    Nevertheless, kudos for a thought-provoking post. Yes, we all have a choice in how to groom our bodies, but how many are aware of it? And among those who are, how many are afraid of repercussions such as being deemed (doomed) a lesser woman, dirty, or unattractive to the opposite sex?

    • Jane

      How can you write such a commanding feminist post and not consider yourself a feminist? Anyone can be a feminist. It’s NOT a bad thing.

  • Brie

    Hi Sally, since this post I’ve been thinking a lot about being a mammal. My husband doesn’t care a bit about whether I shave or not (anywhere), but interestingly, my sisters make a huge deal about it–telling me how gross long leg hair is, etc. I tend to cover up when I’m not in shaving mode, but I typically don’t care if it gets long enough to feel the breeze when I’m riding a bike. I will shave, wax, or Nair if I have to wear a dress or skirt. Whatevs.

    Along the lines of this post, though, I saw a GREAT video for a hilarious song. Not safe for work, y’all, but not graphic.
    http://www.spin.com/articles/amanda-palmer-fights-pubic-hair-freedom

    PS she’s a gorgeous hottie with hairy pits. So there.

  • Bekka

    I’ve been lurking for quite a while now, but wanted to THANK YOU so much for this post. Thoughtful and well-written, and also, I’m always strangely grateful to find out other women get breast hair. I shave my legs and pits haphazardly in the shower, and don’t worry about it too much. But I pluck the chest hair obsessively with tweezers, even though very few of us will see it.

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  • http://www.daisyparade.blogspot.com Lauren

    What an interesting post! All I have to say is do what makes you feel comfortable and accept other women for their choices.

  • Sharon

    This reminds me of a post a couple of months back about recalling a particular moment causing body insecurity. I commented with my memory of a boy in 7th grade pointing out my mustache and hairy arms. His comments didn’t cause me to feel insecure about my hirsuteness, but certainly deepened it.

    I am also fair with dark hair and it is so comforting to be reminded that I am not alone in this. The best treatment is definitely electrolysis! I look at it as an ongoing present to myself. Laser hair removal seems illogical to me…why spend all that money when the hair still grows back? Even if it’s finer and you don’t have to shave as often. Electrolysis, though more time consuming, probably costs about the same in the long run and really is permanent. Though, my electrologist uses a special method that entails a wire instead of a needle, which is supposed to be better for the skin. I highly recommend seeing if such an electrologist is in your area. I’ve been having my arms, hands/knuckles, and stomach done–no regrowth. This is especially a good option for anyone with random stubborn dark hairs. It’s also probably on about the same pain scale as laser.

    I would love to research the history of hair removal over time and among different cultures. It’s interesting…and also sad how things have evolved. I’m 23 and a couple of years ago a blond and luckily body hair free friend and I got into this discussion. She recalled that as a teenager she overheard some guys saying that they would never be with a girl who didn’t clean up down there and from then on she decided to shave. This only deepened my own insecurities with the thought, “my god, if it’s not even ok to have pubic hair, then it really must not be acceptable to have hair anywhere!”

  • http://esmenoir.com esme noir

    great discussion of hair! i have struggled with the same issues my whole life too. finally, in my 50′s, i had laser hair removal on my legs and bikini—life-changing (if expensive, painful, and not completely perfect)! have used electrolysis for areas where hair is just not considered acceptable on women (face, breasts). tried to grow out my leg-hair in the ’70′s but couldn’t deal with the stares!! truly an issue that affects one’s self-esteem. check out my post on “why don’t humans have fur” at http://esmenoir.com.

  • Soni

    I’m Indian and this means I’m cursed with being extremely hairy, Its ok though since I shave everyday and it doesn’t seem to bother me except i cant wear sleeveless clothes because my armpits are way too dark and may make others uncomfortable. Anyway I wanted to suggest something as an experiment for you guys. My mom and her sisters, when they were younger, would apply turmeric and sandalwood powders mixed with either yogurt or besan (gram flour) to their faces and arms and legs almost every time before they bathed or a few times a week. I noticed they have NO hair on their arms, legs and face even now (my moms around 50 years old) and they dont get sun burned much either. I never did those things since i grew up outside India and it just wasn’t so comfortable to do everyday. But once in a while when I use a face mask with turmeric, i realized my facial hair would not grow back as often after i’ve removed them. But you have to do it often and wait n see till you’re body gets used to making lesser amount of hair or maybe it lightens it i dont know… But PLS fairer skinned ladies, beware that turmeric leaves a yellow stain so maybe do it at night n it would’ve faded by morning. I realized since I use it with yogurt, it doesn’t leave a stain but then again im a brown so maybe it didnt show much. hope it helps!! thanks for your amazing posts Sally! tc

  • J.B.

    This has nothing to do with anything, but it cracked me up. My sister, the radical anarchist (and also drop dead gorgeous and super confident), is a proud non-shaver. She lives in Texas, and one day she was biking and witnessed some douche in a car do something illegal, and nearly hit a pedestrian and preceded to chew out the pedestrian. My sister was horrified and said to the man (they were all stopped at an intersection), “do you realize you could have killed her?” His response to her was “yeah, well, why don’t you shave you legs!” I think this wins in the stupidest comeback of all time. It has become a running joke with us when you have no good response when someone makes a point about your bad behavior.

    • Tess

      That’s awesome.

  • http://webfootbasics.blogspot.com/ Rachel P.

    I popped over here from Casey’s Elegant Musings and read this post with some interest, especially when you mentioned your problems with shaving more than once a week. I know you challenged that no one could suggest something that would solve your woes with razor burn, but I have one that may not have been tried. I get razor burn as well particularly around my knees. My husband suggested I try shaving with the hair growth to avoid this problem. Admittedly, it doesn’t get every hair all the time and may not leave your legs baby smooth, but I am very pleased to have never had a problem with razor burn since I started this practice. You might try it.

  • http://unbleuetsolitaire.tumblr.com celina

    First of all, I love this blog incredibly and I always talk about it. Thanks Sally!

    Secondly, I used to feel confused about how I felt about body hair. I started shaving when I was 12 years old, when I was at my lowest point in body image, trying to fit in with the shallow school I was at. When I started high school though, I became friends with a girl who had very hairy legs, and she was against shaving completely. And you know what? She was the girl all the boys wanted to date. She’s since shaved, but her openness made me feel comfortable with myself. I think that more than society, it’s who we love that influences us. My boyfriend doesn’t even notice if my legs are hairy, he still touches them and tells me my skin is soft and beautiful.

    If we’re doing it for men, I think we should start realizing that they’re not as shallow as we think they are. They love us! Our curves, and our hair, from our love handles to our fuzzy bikini lines. Sometimes I think that we are really the ones putting us down, not “The Men”.

    • Hairy male

      I cannot understand why women want to remove any of their body hair.
      It is there to control sweat and as a way to attract men. Women who defy convention and let hair grow naturally are more confident. Body hair on a woman is completely natural and no cause for shame. Men love to see women with armpit hair and hair showing from bikini. If it is good enough for film stars like Julia Roberts why should women ever consider shaving.

      I am sorry for young girls who are not allowed to be natural and brought up to shave at the first sign of puberty. This is very wrong.

  • Sals

    Hi.. Am a 20yr old girl..not tht fair not tht dark.. I have lots n lots of hair all over my body.. I dont kno y.. :( i shaved them n now they disgust me :( one of my friend who doesnt have hair at all says i will never be married cause.of this :( and makes fun of me all the time.. Wat shud i do?
    And wen i tried waxing my deltoid region i get bad red rashes resembling those tiny pus filled pimples.. Wat shud i do.. I cant evn wax!!
    On my stomach i used a hair removing cream n got pimples there as well.. Even wen i waxed my back i got pimples n so i cant wear haulters or other gorgeous dresses.. Please help me.. Am i jus one of a kind.. My mom says u shud be satisfied with wat God gives u.. Bt do u think i should be satisfied.. I dont think so..
    Thanx.. Felt great sharin with u :)

  • http://lentilsonlylentils@blogspot.com Alicia Cumming

    Electrolysis–a cheaper option than the laser, now that sucked. So much that I, who felt ambivalent about her copious stomach hair to begin with, decided to just leave it be for a while. It’s a true money sucker when you have like two hairs removed for good for a 15 -20 dollar session….okay, it seems like one. But leg hair I cannot stand, it makes me feel less refined and like I’m a guy (nod to Western perceptions of gender), and someone told me armpit hair makes you smellier as the deodorant doesn’t catch on with all the hair…. I have chin hairs, too! It’s good to know I likely don’t have some hormonal issue (Mom had me taking synthetic estrogen for a bit, assuming I had excess testosterone).

  • hi

    Electrolysis IS the ONLY permanent hair removal. Don’t let people bs you on here with the laser hair removal. I went through to two separate 9 treatment sessions … back to back. Guess what? Lots of hair still growing and this is the top rated laser hair removal doctor in my region. Believe me I did the research but the wording with laser hair removal is misleading. Go with electrolysis…it’s the only thing that will work. Plus..you can’t be in the sun during laser hair removal sessions. Ready to live in the dark for months?

  • Heather

    I personally don’t find body hair attractive, but I strongly believe that that is just because we aren’t confronted with images of beautiful women with bushy eyebrows or slight upper lip hair. Because we never see this, it can appear strange and unattractive, despite the fact that millions of women have facial hair. Images of women with monobrows or sideburns or looking anything but perfectly tweezed and ‘silky smooth’ are often deemed ‘ugly’ or ‘manly’ and often ridiculed. Women should remove their hair because they want to, not because they think they aren’t beautiful with it.