RELATED: Body Hair, Don’t Care!
The Hairy History
Let’s start from the beginning. Rachel Herzig explains in her book, Plucked: A History Of Hair Removal, that having bare arms became a trend sometime in the 19th century because of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The renowned biologist wrote in his book, The Descent Of Man, that hairlessness is a sign of evolutionary superiority.
The press bit the story and popularised this notion further – to the point that people began looking at being hairy as being “less developed.” But there was one crucial part of this story: scientists believed that it’s only with women that going bare is associated with “higher anthropological development.” Men got a pass because they’re “supposed to be hairy.”
There have been a ton of controversial studies done on women’s body hair! Herzig also cites an 1893 study showing that women with excessive facial hair were more likely to go insane. And that’s not all – human sexuality scholar Havelock Ellis asserted that women with thicker and stiffer hair had a greater tendency to become violent and display animalistic behaviour. This view persists today: evolutionary biology professor Mark Prager tells the DailyMail, “Removing all hair… is associated with cleanliness and eliminating parasites… smooth skin has become a sign of health.”
With so much shady science surrounding the issue, it’s unsurprising how taboo body hair became in the 20th century!
Hair-Raising Removal Procedures
Due to body hair’s bad rap, hair removal became the norm by the early 20th century, even though hairy women didn’t have many treatment options. They went from scrubbing off the pesky little strands using sandpaper to applying cream made from rat poison. Some went as far as getting X-ray treatment, which meant having regular and unhealthy exposure to radiation.
How To Get Rid Of Arm Hair
Thankfully, women don’t have to endure the same level of pain when it comes to hair removal anymore. Here are some safer (and less painful) methods of removing hair have emerged in the last few decades:
1. Shaving Arms
You might be asking yourself, “Should I shave my arms?” Many women don’t like shaving because they believe it makes hair grow back thicker and darker. But that’s not exactly true – the texture and colour stay the same, but the tips of the hair become blunt, which gives the appearance of thicker hair.
Razor burns are another cause for concern, but this can be avoided by regularly exfoliating, using shaving cream, and shaving in the direction in which hair grows. Using a sharp blade is also a must.
2. Forearm Waxing
Going smooth and hairless is easy with waxing. In this procedure, hair is pulled from the root using cold or hot wax. Many people prefer this method since it prevents new growth for up to eight weeks. After the procedure, be sure to exfoliate your skin and avoid tight clothing to prevent ingrown hairs.
Should You Buy Into Hair Removal?
Hair removal thrives because it’s a lucrative industry. Companies who profit off hair removal are always promoting the image that hairless women are happier and more attractive.
But naturally hairy women are fighting against the stigma of having body hair. South Asians, especially Indians, are making waves on the twittersphere by embracing their fuzzy limbs.
An Instagram account called Project #WWHA was started to normalise the concept of hairy arms. The account regularly posts images of beautiful hairy women in the hopes of showing there’s no need to go through painful – and expensive – hair removal procedures to feel confident.
Whether or not it’s okay to remove body hair is still up for debate. For some women, hair removal can feel therapeutic. Some persons of colour even assert that it makes them feel safer. On the flip side, some girls view staying hairy as a way of fighting against the patriarchy. No matter which side of the debate you’re on, the trend is clear: body hair on women is becoming more widely accepted.
Flaunt It: Women With Hairy Arms
5. Taylor Swift
Because she’s blonde, Tay-tay’s arm hair is barely noticeable. But with the right lighting, you can see that she’s shaggy all over. Check out this 2016 concert photo for proof.
4. Sarah Hyland
Sarah Hyland has had a complicated relationship with her hair. The Modern Family star had to wear extensions while filming to hide the hair loss she experienced as a side effect of kidney dysplasia medication. But in this 2019 photo at the E! People’s Choice Awards Red Carpet, you can see Sarah with her luscious locks, along with a healthy amount of arm hair.
Leave it to Madonna to give zero fs about what people think of her natural body hair. Aside from making headlines in 2014 for posting a selfie of her armpit hair, she was also photographed baring her hairy arms in the ‘80s. She tells Harper’s Bazaar in 2011, “Going to high school, I saw how popular girls had to behave to get the boys. I knew I couldn't fit into that. So I decided to do the opposite. I refused to wear makeup, to have a hairstyle. I refused to shave. I had hairy armpits.”
2. Maisie Williams
Maisie Williams shows us that there are no razors in Westeros in this 2016 photo of her at the BBC America BAFTA Los Angeles TV Tea Party. We love that she’s fuzzy and proud!
1. Emma Watson
It’s hard to capture photos of Emma’s hairy arms, probably because of her warm hair colour. But some paps who were eager to take a shot of her Time’s Up tattoo caught her fuzzy arms at the 2018 Oscars.
While she wasn’t talking specifically about her arms, Emma has gone candid about her body hair. She tells Into The Gloss that she bleaches her upper lip and tweezes her eyebrows, and uses fur oil on her pubic hair.
To Women With Hairy Arms: Your Body, Your Choice
Body hair on women has a long and complicated history. But if anything’s changed in recent years, it’s that women have become empowered to make a choice. They can shave if they want to, or stay natural if that’s what they prefer. Thankfully, beauty standards are changing and more women have started to embrace their naturally shaggy selves.