Extended Feature: Hair Removal

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A meme has been circulating lately, where a girl sends a photo of a beauty blender to a boy asking him if he knows what the object is. The girl then takes a screenshot of his response, which typically varies from “a fluffy egg” to “a pink raindrop.” The girls share the conversation with their friends and laugh at their male friends’ or boyfriends’ ineptitude. The girls are so attuned to the trends and tools of makeup application – an entirely alien concept to men – that their responses feel unfathomable. However not all aspects of bodily maintenance are quite as mysterious as a beauty blender — or are they? We all have rituals and methods for primping. However we often choose not to disclose them even with close friends. If you’re a man, you’re likely even less prone to discussion. Yet a series of interviews reveal that yes, men do groom – but in different ways.

With the recent trend of body hair removal—among both men and women—it’s become clear that trimming, shaving, waxing, and even plucking are not just for girls anymore. The market for “Boyzilian Treatments” (a play on the Brazilian wax for women, which removes all pubic and anal hair) has skyrocketed since 2010, as reported by the New York Times.  Many male clients who come to waxing salons to remove their pubic hair are doing so as a result of pressure from their partners. “The vast majority say they’re doing it because their wife or their girlfriend told them to do it,” one waxer said to the Times. “The wives bring them,” saying “If I’m going to do it, you better do it as well.”

Men’s pubic waxing is becoming increasingly popular for men of all walks of life. “What we’re finding is, it’s everybody,” said Mike Indursky, the president of the Bliss chain of spas, which offers a men’s Brazilian called the Ultimate He-Wax for $125. “It’s the gay community, it’s the straight community, it’s very conservative guys, it’s very liberal guys. All different age groups are coming in. It’s much, much bigger than we ever thought.”

But if this regimen has shown unprecedented success, why is discussing body hair removal still taboo? Today, body hair removal is a topic most likely kept to oneself. When I inquired as to why this is, one woman delivered a poignant message.

She noted that the beauty industry now promotes many messages that once were not part of our cultural dialogue: “Like, ‘love your body at any size’ or ‘curvy is beautiful’ or ‘small boobs are cool too!’ And that’s great,” she continues. “But the media never really looks at all these things that a lot of people are still uncomfortable with, like being hairy or having acne, so it’s kind of swept under the rug.”

And that’s an inconvenient precedent. It seems strange that something most women partake in is kept secret. To investigate the matter, I took a poll of one hundred forty-four women, aking about the ways in which they removed pubic hair. Arguably the most salient example of this self-care ritual’s taboo nature is that every woman I spoke to desired to be anonymous, and not a company her quote with a name. The results of this poll are reproduced below.

As the data shows, shaving is by far the most popular. When prompted, most women responded the same way: it’s the easiest, quickest, and least expensive way to get the job done. The column farthest to the left represents a poll answer created by the polled group, officially titled “I go back and forth [between shaving and waxing] depending on my mood.”

In the poll’s comments section, the women laughed at the idea of threading pubic hair, and had never heard of sugaring or plucking (due to the immense pain it would cause to a sensitive area). However two women admitted that when pinching pennies, they plucked their bikini line before going to the beach rather than springing for a wax. One of the most popular reasons for their imposed urgency to remove any and all body hair comes back to the same idea: sexual attractiveness.

“I personally don’t think I need to be hairless to be attractive,” one woman said. “But now that everyone around me is going totally bare I feel like I have to, too.”

“I’m not really sure why it’s so taboo, but it is,” another woman said. “It’s seen as such a non-feminine thing to have hair, and women are expected to be totally hairless.” When prompted about whether it’s something she feels comfortable discussing with her friends, she replied, “I’m happy to talk about hair removal with people I’m close with, but I feel so awkward if anyone ever comments on how hairy I am.”

The data shows that most all of us remove our hair in one way or another; so why can’t we take initiative to foster a more open dialogue? It may take time for a new beauty regimen to go from taboo to commonplace. (There was a time when eyeshadow was considered obscene!) The first step to removing the stigma?

“Just talk about it,” one woman says. “We all have hair, don’t we?”