Heart to Heart: Body Hair

/ Monday, June 3, 2013 /
Note: This is a post geared toward both ladies and gents!

Photo source

One of the modern-day expectations of discrepancies of the sexes lies solely in body hair. In general, it seems that for men, more body hair is better: hairy armpits, hairy chests, rugged beards - all are signs of manliness and masculinity.

For women, however, it is the opposite. No armpit hair! Eyebrows perfectly tweezed! Not even a hint of a unibrow! The modern erotic industry (he-hem, porn), along with many ads channeled through various means of media have channeled the mindset that the less, the better. Hairless pubic areas and hairless armpits, perfectly smooth legs, everything shapely and smooth - that is in.

What does this mean for people? Well, for men, it means going au naturale or even applying Rogaine (minoxidil) on previously unpredicted areas. 

For women, this means:
  • Shaving
  • Tweezing
  • Waxing/Sugaring
  • Chemical depilation
  • Electrolysis
  • Oral contraceptives to reduce hormonal effects (especially if one has polycystic ovarian syndrome, PCOS, which may cause women to become hirsute)
Some women have revolted against this norm and definitely have gone back to being au naturale. Balpreet Kaur, a Sikh woman who took a religious stance on this via a Reddit incident, is once such person. Other ladies have revolted due to the downsides of such hair removal mechanisms: increases in incidences of contracting Molluscum contagiosum (a virus that affects the epithelium), increases in the incidences of contracting STDs, pain during the removal process, bumpy skin afterward, prickly skin due to shaving, etc etc etc.

I personally am amazed by these ladies. I am proud of the way they want to defy societal standards, not only because of health reasons, but also because of spiritual reasons, defying the influence of the media, loving oneself from the inside and not from what others want, and much much more.


Here's my own experience with hair removal.

Leg hair:

Truth: I've never shaved my legs before. Back when I was in middle school and high school, I was so embarrassed that I had (a tiny amount of) leg hair and that my legs were not "perfectly smooth" like all of the other girls on the teams. My mom did not let me shave; she said that later on in life I would thank her. And truthfully, I do thank her. I am a woman of East Asian descent who does not have thick hair. Over the years, my leg hair has actually fallen off in places. To this day, I do not shave. However, my legs are still smooth and, from perhaps 1 foot of distance away from me, no person can see that I have any leg hair at all.  And I do not have to deal with any leg razor burns or anything like that.

Armpit hair: 

I started trying to remove my armpit hair when I started college. While in high school, my mother did not let me use any hair-removal devices (see post on leg hair above) but when I actually started college, I noticed that my armpit hair did not recede like my leg hair did.

I started using chemical depilatory creams (think Nair), but those really irritated my skin. I was terrified of razors but, after talking to my roommates and suitemates, I started using a razor and shaving cream. I shaved my armpits for the next 3 years, and it actually worked!

During my senior year in college, though, I started noticing the sad part about shaving: once you start, you can't stop. It seemed that the hair would grow back almost instantaneously, thicker (or at least as thick as the original "stalk") and it was really quite annoying. I thought about other options: waxing, sugaring, electrolysis (waaayyy too expensive) and tweezing. Waxing didn't seem to work (at least with the cheap waxes I actually had access to), sugaring seemed a bit out of my league to understand to make, so I ended up with tweezing. At first, it definitely was painful, but after the first time I seemed to get used to it. The hairs grow back finer and finer and some of them eventually even stopped growing all together.

I continued doing this in medical school as well. Tweezing does definitely take time and patience but with practice one gets better at it. Also, tweezing to maintain (lack of) hair is much easier and takes much less time to do than just tweezing for the first time (think 3 min every day).


The summer before my senior year of college I went to a Shiseido makeup stand at a mall. I asked the lady (literally) if she could teach me how to pull off a smoky eye. Literally, what ensued was her showing me how to do it but also commenting on the horrendous state of my eyebrows. How unruly they were! How badly I needed an eyebrow waxing! I did not know anything about it beforehand. Thinking that she was an expert, I was quite horrified myself by my own eyebrows after that. Why hadn't I ever thought of this beforehand? Why did I never bother to clean myself up before?

Thus, after that, I started looking into waxes and stuff like that more. I bought my first kit from Target - a Sally Hansen item, I believe. The wax strips did not work so well. I tried SLOABN's sugaring wax strip techniques, and I could not get the wax to heat/melt properly due to the weird type of microwave I had.  I tried tweezing and all sorts of things. All of them worked but only to a certain degree. I guess you can say that I just sort of gave up. All of them took too long, and after med school started I got too lazy to continue them. Thus, now, I just tweeze them every once in awhile if I see something glaringly obvious that is out of place or something. Otherwise I just leave them alone. To the lady at the Shiseido counter: Thank you for your advice, but I'll start waxing normally when I actually have the time and money to do it.

Lip hair:

I actually didn't think about lip hair until one of my friends mentioned it during my first year of medical school. She told me about how she would use a cream depilatory system and how it worked. Curiously I decided to use the sugaring wax strip technique on my own later, and it did work a bit. However, I did not notice, truly, much difference from when I used it and when I didn't, so thus, in the interest of saving time, I just stopped.

Pubic hair:

I think my interest in this type of hair removal didn't spike until senior year of college. I had never really thought about it before. Then, due to various factors, I realized that perhaps pubic hair was part of the whole "shebang" about all of the hair removal trends in total. Hmm. I didn't have a bikini or anything, but I somehow just decided to start. Remembering my bad experiences from shaving before, I knew I did not want to shave, but at the same time I knew that I couldn't dish out $90 for a Brazilian wax either. Thus, I did it using the method I knew that worked - tweezing. Yes, tweezing. Do you think this is painful? Well, let's just say I had a high pain tolerance. I worked my way a bit every day and did a bit more every day. The rest of it I just trimmed. Well, now it's a lot easier to maintain and everything, and showering is much easier as well!

Overall, what do I think of the system? I am quite disappointed in the way that the media has influenced society in this. I do fervently wish that it could be a system where I did not have to worry about body hair and images of it in certain situations. Sleeveless dresses and bikinis have definitely contributed to the trend. However, I do like the clean feel of smooth skin. I will probably never shave my legs, but I do hope that someday I can actually go to places to do eyebrow waxes regularly and stuff like that. Until then though, I'll stick with what I can do without breaking the (already broken) bank.


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