I want to speak out about something that’s been on my mind for a while now. Why are women criticized so much for having body hair? I’m going to discuss my history of hair removal and why I stopped shaving because I think it’s ridiculous that women are expected to shave themselves 100% bald from the eyebrows down but men are expected to be hairy. I’ll warn you that some of my descriptions and chosen images might be considered disgusting and graphic so be warned if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing.
I’ve had eczema and dry, sensitive skin since I was a small child. I constantly broke out in rashes from the smallest thing, and the rashes would linger for weeks no matter how much Benadryl I took and how much hydrocortisone cream I slathered on my body. I have memories of pulling my pants down in the school nurse’s office as a small child so that she could slather medicated ointment on the backs of my legs. I would react to things like laundry detergent, grass, animals, certain foods, soaps of all kinds (even baby shampoo), fabrics, sweat, and anything else you can think of. I would lie in bed crying in the middle of the night because my skin would burn so severely that I couldn’t move my legs. My skin would crack and bleed, and sometimes ooze pus.
The first time I removed my body hair was in 3rd grade. I was in class and a few of my classmates made fun of my hairy arms. My skin tone is very fair, and my body hair is pretty dark. It’s really noticeable when I have any kind of hair on my body. I went home that night and shaved my arms, only for the bullying to intensify. The bad thing was that I couldn’t stop shaving my arms because they would become extremely stubbly in a short amount of time and people would notice if I bumped into them. My arms are the only part of my body that I shave diligently, but after about 10 years of shaving and the occasional wax it doesn’t grow as thick and dark as it used to so I don’t find I need to do it more than once a week.
I started shaving my legs when I was about 12 years old, but every single time I’d finish my legs would burn and sting and become incredibly dry no matter what products I used or how high quality the razor was. Sometimes the razor would catch some of the dry patches and rip them open, which would leave dozens of little scabs everywhere in addition to the red and irritated skin. Unfortunately, identifying as a woman in the United States means you pretty much have to remove your body hair because it’s seen as disgusting and unhygienic. I was too mortified to let my legs get hairy due to the way hairy women are treated and labelled.
That same year was the first time I shaved my armpits. It was a horrible experience and I had razor burn before I was even done shaving. My deodorant caused me a significant amount of pain when it came in contact with the raw skin. I started to get rashes in my armpits that would start to bleed from my bra rubbing on it all day. I was self conscious of raising my hand in class or wearing anything that showed my armpits because the rashes were extremely visible. Instead of ditching the razor, I was obsessed with trying any product I could to stop the rashes from forming. I didn’t put the pieces together and realize that the shaving was causing those rashes.
When I was 14 years old my boyfriend at the time asked me if I shaved my pubic hair. I said no, and he became visibly disgusted and told me I was dirty and needed to shave. I ended up shaving and my pubic region was so sore that I couldn’t put my underwear on and had to put a bag of ice on my crotch. The entire area was red and covered in obvious bumps. I had cuts everywhere. I absolutely hated the feeling of having no hair down there. It constantly itched even if I slathered coconut oil or aloe vera over it. When it became stubbly it was absolutely intolerable. I hated the feeling of shaving over already irritated skin in such a sensitive area, so touching up my pubic area was even worse than letting it get hairy.
I started shaving my face at age 15 when I began displaying signs of PCOS. The vellus hair on my face would grow so long that it was noticeable, and I had a visible mustache. Read this article to learn more about removing hair from the face. Before anyone asks, no, shaving my face will NOT make the hair grow back darker. I still shave my face because I feel more comfortable without it there and it helps my makeup go on easier without caking up or looking dry. Note that I use a cheap twin blade razor because I shave my own face.
I kept shaving all my body hair faithfully until I was 19 years old. During this time period I’d been to the doctor dozens of times to discuss my skin condition. They never once told me to stop shaving, and they made it seem like it was just my sensitive skin reacting to my environment. I tried dozens of shaving products and wasted a lot of money buying a wax warmer to see if waxing was more gentle on my skin. Please don’t give me any recommendations for shaving products because I’ve truly tried everything. No matter what I did to remove my body hair I’d still end up covered in rashes from head to toe.
When my relationship with my boyfriend became more serious, he told me I didn’t have to shave my body hair for him if I didn’t want to. His reasoning was that he’s a relatively hairy man himself, so he has no right to insist I shave. So I stopped. Here’s a list of the good things that have happened to me since I stopped shaving my legs, pubic region, and armpits:
⦁ My skin holds moisture more effectively, and sucks up lotion more than it used to.
⦁ I’m able to wear bras more often because they don’t tear up my armpits.
⦁ My rashes are all but cleared up.
⦁ I don’t need to use deodorant as much because I don’t stink. I used to use a lot of deodorant and would still smell unpleasant.
⦁ I have a more pleasant odor “down there”.
⦁ I save a lot of time in the shower.
⦁ I save a lot of money on shaving products.
⦁ I don’t leave deodorant stains on my bras anymore.
⦁ My bras don’t smell as bad as they used to, which means I spend less time washing them.
⦁ I feel more comfortable in my skin without rashes.
⦁ I feel secure in my femininity because I don’t feel like I have anything to prove.
⦁ I appreciate my boyfriend more because he doesn’t judge my hairiness.
⦁ I never have stubble anymore. My body hair is soft because I use a lot of homemade lotions and creams.
⦁ My skin isn’t constantly ripped apart by razors.
⦁ I save money because I don’t need to make doctor’s appointments and I don’t have to pay for prescription creams that don’t work.
⦁ I don’t deal with ingrown hairs anymore.
⦁ My armpits never feel sticky with sweat and friction.
⦁ My armpits and pubic region are returning to their natural color. They used to be darkened from repeated shaving.
⦁ I’m able to use a wider variety of beauty products, including scented lotions, because my hair protects my skin and I don’t have open wounds for the products to sink into.
⦁ I have an easy way to dispel creepy men online. I just send a picture of my hairy legs or hairy armpits.
⦁ My sex life is improved because my skin doesn’t burn the second it’s exposed to sweat and friction.
⦁ I feel empowered because I’m breaking the mold of what’s acceptable.
The stereotypes (you know which ones) about women who don’t shave are so abundant that many people perceive them as fact. If body hair is so disgusting and unhygienic, why is it acceptable for men to be covered in it? Why aren’t men expected to shave their armpits, legs, pubic region, excess facial hair, arms, and any other place with visible hair? I’m not linking any articles about whether or not body hair is “dirty” simply because of this fact. I don’t feel the need to explain myself against a wall of misconceptions. A woman having hair on her body shouldn’t be seen as some radical feminist act. We all grow hair on our bodies. The refusal to shave should be just as much an option as coloring your hair or choosing your clothing.
When I started posting pictures of myself on this blog, I would shave my armpits because I was afraid of the backlash. All my painful symptoms started coming back (my armpits are still a little raw a few months later). I’ve decided instead to embrace my hairy body, and I refuse to apologize for it or make jokes about myself. The main purpose of this post is to help other women realize that they don’t need to remove their body hair if they’d prefer not to. I don’t have a problem with other women removing their body hair, and I’m not going to insinuate that you’re not a “true feminist” if you shave. That’s not my opinion at all. I’m just tired of ruining my skin and causing myself a lot of issues just because I’m afraid of how other people will perceive my hairy armpits.
It seems like hairy armpits are coming back around in social media trends, so hopefully it’ll become normalized the more frequently we discuss body hair and promote body hair equality. At this point in time it’s so heavily stigmatized that even body positive websites fill up with hate comments if one of the women shown has visible body hair.
I hope this post can help someone out.
*All images used on this blog are either my own, or were taken from Bing Image search. If you own any of these images and would like them removed, email me at Rollsandcurvesemail@gmail.com and I’ll take them down without hesitation.