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How Hair Removal Became a Beauty Standard – ts.kux.de

How Hair Removal Became a Beauty Standard

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As spas and waxing centers remain temporarily closed due to social distancing, many have opted to practice hair removal methods at home or let it grow au naturale. While the choice to groom body hair is now a personal preference, it’s a practice that has been shaped by centuries of history. Originally a safety measure in combat, depilation has developed into one of the most popular beauty treatments today. From Ancient Egypt’s belief that body hair signifies social class to celebrities wearing it proudly on the red carpet, CR traces the evolution of hair removal throughout history. Whether it’s a political statement or a personal choice, it can get pretty prickly.

Safety Precautions in The Stone Age

Before hair removal was used for aesthetic purposes, shaving one’s hair off during the Stone Age was a survival tactic. Despite modern depictions of cavemen and women, archaeologists have determined that they were the first ones to embrace shaving. It’s believed that shaving during the Stone Age was a safety measure during battle, as having a hair-free head and face protected them from their opponent grabbing onto them. In harsh weather, shaving was also used to avoid frostbite from water becoming trapped and frozen against the skin.

Unfortunately, the method behind this archaic hair removal technique was a painful one. It required men or women to whittle stones to a sharp angle and slide it down their face. Alternative tools used include animal teeth, sharp flints, or clam shells as tweezers.

Hygienic Purposes in Ancient Egypt

Thousands of years later, hair removal was modernized in Ancient Egypt. The sugaring method of hair removal was invented during this time, with a sticky paste made from sugar, water, and lemon juice being used to pull the body hair. This laid the foundation for waxing techniques used today, as the paste would be applied to the skin, covered with a muslin cloth, and pulled away, taking the hair with it. Other tools like seashells or pumice stones were also used to achieve the desired degree of hairlessness.

In Ancient Egypt, body hair, especially pubic hair, was a symbol of the uncivilized, depicted as dirty and unhygienic, hence why many women opted for hair removal. They also followed the trends set by Cleopatra, who removed all of her body hair, including from the top of her head, to signify social class. Even men preferred a clean shaven face, as having a beard or stubble was common among servants and slaves.

Body Hair as a Class Issue in the Roman Empire

The Ancient Egyptians were not the only ones to define body hair trends by social class. Pubic hair was considered low class, which explains why Ancient Greek statues of women were completely hairless. When hair removal techniques moved to the Roman Empire, wealthy women and men used razors, tweezers, pumice stones, and depilatory creams.

The practice of removing body hair for women and men began diverging, however, as keeping the private areas bare for women came to symbolize purity and class and men growing their body hair became a sign of manhood. This disparity between genders continued throughout the ages.

The East Introduces Threading

While there is no exact date to mark the origin of threading, it has been a part of age-old traditions. Believed to have originated from the Eastern cultures of India and Iran, threading was used to perfect eyebrow shapes as well as remove facial hair on the upper lip, chin, cheeks, and sideburns. The treatment consists of two threads being twisted together and moved along the skin, plucking out singular hairs much like a tweezer. It is also considered to be a rite of passage in some civilizations, such as Persia, where threading is known as Bande Abru–“Abru” meaning eyebrow, and “Bande” the thread. There, the practice of eyebrow threading marked a woman’s path to adulthood and was a sign of female virility.

Eyebrows Reshaped in the Elizabethan Era

Going into the Middle Ages, Queen Elizabeth I pioneered the idea of facial hair removal in Western culture, influencing women to completely pluck their eyebrows and shave back their hairlines to create an illusion of a larger forehead and elongated face. Hence, many women adopted a bizarre approach of soaking bandages in a mixture of ammonia, walnut oil, and vinegar to suppress hair growth on the forehead. While facial hair was removed for aesthetic purposes, European women did not shave or wax body hair.

The edicts of the Catholic Church also influenced how women treated their hair. Growing it out was a display of femininity, but they had to keep it completely concealed when in public or else it was considered immodest.

The New Razor of the 1700s-1800s

The late 18th century ushered in a more civilized approach to hair removal. In 1760, barber Jean Jacques Perret introduced the first straight razor for men. Perret created an L-shaped wooden razor guard that helped reduce the risk of cutting oneself while shaving. Though marketed towards men, women also used the razor. Another means of hair removal was also invented when Dr. Gouraud created one of the first commercial depilatory creams, called Poudre Subtile. Then in 1880, King Camp Gillette (his name, not his title) released a straight razor that was even safer than Perret’s model and would soon evolve into the convenient razors we know today. Though it would be decades later before a razor specifically marketed towards women would appear, this era marked a time when there wasn’t any strict beauty standard dictating how women groomed their own body hair.

The First Women’s Razor

During World War II, women couldn’t wear stockings every day due to the shortage of nylon, meaning they had to go bare-legged on a daily basis. This spurred the practice of women routinely shaving their legs. Gillette unveiled the first women’s razor in 1915, dubbed the Milady Décolleté, complete with its own rose velvet packaging. The first electric razor for women was also released by Remington in 1940.

The Influence of Hair Removal Ads on Women

Around the time the first women’s razor was launched, ads for depilatory creams were becoming increasingly popular. Beauty standards for women were soon being shaped by the media, through images in magazines and in the movies. In fact, a women’s fashion magazine ran an ad featuring a model with her arms raised and her armpits bare. This marked the first time that fashion directly influenced how women groomed their body hair.

As hair removal ads ran throughout the mid-20th century (and continue today), women felt more obligated to rid their body of hair. With photoshoots of models embracing hairless armpits and bikini lines, it became clear that the ideal beauty standard for women at the time embraced the no body hair image. Razor ads for men also existed, but they were more focused on facial hair removal.

Waxing and Laser Hair Removal Debut in the ’60s and ’70s

The most popular method of leg and underarm hair removal soon came into the market. Waxing strips were widely popular due to their efficiency and effectiveness, tied to the growing fashion trends that involved showing more skin, such as the rise of the mini skirt and hotpants. This also aligned with the Sexual Revolution and Women’s Movement of the 1960s, as women gained more liberties and defended their autonomy over their bodies. On one end of the spectrum, many women continued with the clean shaven, body hairless look that had been popularized in the 1940s and ’50s, and on the other, feminists turned their back on hair removal and opted to go au naturale.

New hair removal methods continued being developed as the beauty trend became more widespread. The first laser hair removal method was introduced in the mid-’60s, but quickly lost popularity due to its damaging effects. That said, the 1970s eventually brought the development of transistorized equipment, allowing safer methods of electrolysis and laser hair removal.

Full Body Hair Removal of the ’80s

While bikinis have been around since the 1940s, they continued getting smaller throughout the 20th century, and by the 1980s the style was completely mainstream. With more exposure came a growing desire to remove hair around the bikini line, in addition to other areas of the body like the legs and armpits. Brazilian waxes, a beauty treatment consisting of removing all pubic hair, became a standard by the ’80s. It is reported that the first full body waxing experience was first offered in the U.S. in 1987. From that point on, waxing centers and spas have provided whole menus dedicated to waxing treatments, addressing just about every part of the body with hair.

Body Hair as a Personal Statement in the 21st Century

Today, body hair is no longer tied to any standard of beauty. After thousands of years of being told what to do with their hair, society has reached a point where body hair is now celebrated, and men and women alike are free to do whatever they want with it.

In 1999, Julia Roberts sent shockwaves throughout pop culture history when she waved her hand during the premiere of Notting Hill and revealed her underarm hair. At the time, the image made headlines and tabloids claimed she was making a feminist statement. The conversation now continues two decades later, as flaunting ones body hair has become a trend among women who post images of their armpit hair on social media to defy old-fashioned beauty norms. Young celebrities such as Amandla Stenberg and Paris Jackson have made appearances with unshaven armpits, too. A number of wellness brands such as Billie and Fur have also cropped up in recent years to promote products that allow people to feel confident in their personal preference around body hair. Evolved from a Stone Age safety practice, hair removal has become an aesthetic treatment and means of individual expression.

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createdAt:Thu, 30 Apr 2020 15:11:03 +0000
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