Plucked: A History of Hair Removal


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Hair removal , also known as epilation or depilation , is the deliberate removal of body hair. Hair typically grows all over the human body. Hair can become more visible during and after puberty and men tend to have thicker, more visible body hair than women. Hair does not generally grow on the lips , the underside of the hands or feet or on certain areas of the genitalia.

Forms of hair removal are practised for various and mostly cultural, sexual, medical or religious reasons. Forms of hair removal have been practised in almost all human cultures since at least the Neolithic era. The methods used to remove hair have varied in different times and regions, but shaving is the most common method.

In early history, hair was removed for cleanliness and fashion reasons. If the hair was cut and shaven it meant one was high class. In Ancient Egypt , hair removal was not just a fashion statement; it also served as a treatment for louse infestation , which was a prevalent issue in the region.

The Casualties of Women's War on Body Hair

Commonly, they would replace the removed hair with wigs, which were seen as easier to maintain and also fashionable. They would remove their hair using two methods: waxing and shaving. If they chose to wax they would use caramelized sugar, and if they wanted to shave, they would use an early form of the straight razor. As time went on new techniques were found to remove hair such as Laser hair removal.

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Each culture of human society has developed social norms relating to the presence or absence of body hair, which has changed from one time to another. Different standards can apply to females and males. People whose hair falls outside a culture's aesthetic standards may experience real or perceived social acceptance problems. For example, for women in several societies, exposure in public of body hair other than head hair, eyelashes and eyebrows is generally considered to be unaesthetic , unattractive and embarrassing.


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With the increased popularity in many countries of women wearing shorter dresses and swimsuits during the 20th century and the consequential exposure of parts of the body on which hair is commonly found, there has been an increase in the practice of women removing unwanted body hair, such as on legs, underarms and elsewhere. Many men in Western cultures shave their facial hair, so only a minority of men have a beard , even though fast-growing facial hair must be shaved daily to achieve a clean-shaven or hairless look.

Some men shave because they cannot grow a "full" beard generally defined as an even density from cheeks to neck because their beard color is different from their scalp hair color, or because their facial hair grows in many directions, making a groomed look difficult. Some men shave because their beards are very coarse, causing itchiness and irritation. Some men grow a beard or moustache from time to time to change their appearance. Some men shave their heads , either as a fashion statement, because they find a shaved head preferable to the appearance of male pattern baldness , or in order to attain enhanced cooling of the skull — particularly for people suffering from hyperhidrosis.

A much smaller number of Western women also shave their heads, often as a fashion or political statement. Some women also shave their heads for cultural or social reasons. The outlawed custom is still infrequently encountered mostly in rural areas. The society at large and the government are working to end the practice of ostracizing widows.

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People may also remove some or all of their pubic hair for aesthetic or sexual reasons. Moreover, unwanted hair is often removed in preparatory situations by both sexes, in order to avoid socially awkward situations.

For example, unwanted hair is removed in preparation for a sexual encounter or before visiting the beach. Though traditionally in Western culture women remove body hair and men do not, some women choose not to remove hair from their bodies, either as a preference or as an act of defiance against what they regard to be an oppressive ritual, while some men remove or trim their body hair, a practice that is referred to as being a part of "manscaping" a portmanteau expression for male-specific grooming. The term glabrousness also has been applied to human fashions, [ citation needed ] wherein some participate in culturally motivated hair removal by depilation surface removal by shaving , dissolving , or epilation removal of the entire hair, such as waxing or plucking.

Although the appearance of secondary hair on parts of the human body commonly occurs during puberty , and therefore, is often seen as a symbol of adulthood, removal of this and other hair may become fashionable in some cultures and subcultures. In many modern Western cultures , men currently are encouraged to shave their beards, and women are encouraged to remove hair growth in various areas.

Commonly depilated areas for women are the underarms, legs, and Pubic hair. Some individuals depilate the forearms. In recent years, bodily depilation in men has increased in popularity among some subcultures of Western males. As with any cosmetic practice, the particulars of hair removal have changed over the years.

Western female depilation has been significantly influenced by the evolution of clothing in the past century. Leg and underarm shaving became popular again [ when? The reduction of the minimum acceptable standards for bodily coverage over recent years has resulted in the exposure of more flesh, giving rise to more extensive hair removal in some cultures.

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Encouragement by commercial interests may be seen in advertising. At present, this has resulted in the " Brazilian waxing " trend involving the partial or full removal of pubic hair, as the thongs worn on Brazilian beaches are too small to conceal very much of it.

Ingrown Hair Removal Close-up! Ingrown Hairs Pluck

For men, the practice of depilating the pubic area is commonly referred to as manscaping, even though technically this term is applicable to hair removal all over the body. Many men will try this at some point in their lives, especially for aesthetic reasons. Most men will use a razor to shave this area, however, as best practice, it is recommended to use a body trimmer to shorten the length of the hair before shaving it off completely.

In ancient Egypt, depilation was commonly practiced, with pumice and razors used to shave. It is represented in some artistic depictions of male and female nudity, [ citation needed ] examples of which may be seen in some red figure pottery of Ancient Greece on which both men and women were depicted without body or pubic hair.

Emperor Augustus was said, by Suetonius, to have applied "hot nutshells" on his legs as a form of depilation. The majority of Muslims believe that adult removal of pubic and axillary hair , as a hygienic measure, is religiously beneficial. Baptized Sikhs are specifically instructed never to cut, shave, or otherwise remove any hair on their bodies; this is a major tenet of the Sikh faith see Kesh. In the clothes free movement , the term "smoothie" refers to an individual who has removed most of their hair. In the past, such practices were frowned upon and in some cases, members of clothes-free clubs were forbidden to remove their pubic hair: violators could face exclusion from the club.

Enthusiasts grouped together and formed societies of their own that catered to that fashion and the fashion became more popular, with smoothies becoming a major percentage at some nudist venues. Being a Smoothie is described by its supporters as exceptionally comfortable and liberating. Every year in spring the club organizes the international Smoothy days. In the U. Although the SCN club closed in after five years, its SCN website continues to promote the club's hairless fashion.

Athletes may depilate as an enhancement to their abilities. For example, male and female competitive swimmers may remove their body and pubic hair [ citation needed ] in order to help streamline their bodies and to allow their swimsuits to fit more closely to their bodies. Hairfree legs also are described as increasing the comfort and effectiveness of sport massages. In some parts of the Theravada Buddhist world, it is common practice to shave the heads of children.

Weak or sickly children are often left with a small topknot of hair, to gauge their health and mark them for special treatment. When health improves, the lock is cut off.

Plucked: An historian’s take on hair removal - The Globe and Mail

In Judaism , there is no obligation to remove unwanted body hair or facial hair, unless the woman does so, she must shave whatever area she usually shaves in preparation for the Mikva, the ritual bath. Jewish men, are prohibited from using a razor to shave their beards or sideburns; and, by custom, neither men nor women may cut their hair or shave during a day mourning period after the death of an immediate family member.

It is not currently practiced as a law, contingent upon a future decision by the Universal House of Justice , its highest governing body.


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  8. Sikhs take an even stronger stance, opposing all forms of hair removal. One of the " Five Ks " of Sikhism is Kesh , meaning "hair". To Sikhs, the maintenance and management of long hair is a manifestation of one's piety. Under Muslim law Sharia , it is recommended to keep the beard , [19] and that which is the object of recommendation foot, hand, back, and chest hair. A Muslim may trim or cut hair on the head.

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