Woman with her hands behind her head with underarm hair

One in four millennial women are setting aside their razors, creams, lasers, and waxing strips. 

A recent study showed a sharp decline in underarm shaving among young women in the United Kingdom in the last three years. The same Mintel data also showed that 7 percent more females are choosing to let their leg hair grow freely. Perhaps influenced by the self-care movement as noted by the study’s researchers, more women could be accepting public displays of their body hair and ditching conventional hair removal products for other at-home grooming methods.

sphinx head

Photo courtesy of Daniel H. Tong/​Unsplash

In Egyptian and Greek antiquity, the lack of body hair was seen as a sign of class. Men and women with less body hair were perceived as being wealthier and generally more civilized. Fast forward to the 1880s, when a man named King Camp Gillette invented the first commercially sold razor…for men. Supposedly this was a time when a woman’s need to remove body hair was more marginal, as women tended to dress more covered up.” It wasn’t until the 1900s that the razor was first marketed and sold for women, shifting conventional thinking back to a preference for smooth, hairless skin.. As decades and technology raged forward, advertising campaigns for hair removal products including razors, wax strips, and depilatory creams focused on the humiliation” women feel in public from unwanted” body hair.

Hair removal, for one, is known to sometimes cause skin irritation in the form of bumps, rashes, or redness — a tell-tale sign something’s not right or may be unsafe for your body. Taking razors, waxing, and sometimes harsh hair removal products from the equation is one way of ensuring skin remains unharmed. While facing the social taboos associated with letting underarm or leg hair grow out can be tough, especially as a woman, celebrities are speaking up to help.

Model and activist Paris Jackson explicitly showcased her support for removing the stigma when she exhibited her underarm hair at the 2017 VMAs. Even prior to walking the red carpet, underarm hair visible, she frequently — and proudly — showcased her unshaven body hair in her Instagram photos. After receiving negative feedback in her comments section, Paris spoke out in an Instagram story:

People are really mad. I wish I could post some of these responses,” she said. You can just tell how angry and infuriated these people are…I love hair, and sweat, and BO…Some people think that it’s like super disgusting, especially on girls, but every human body does it. It’s natural. Get over it.”

It’s these messages of self-care and prioritizing grooming over hair removal that help to illuminate the fact that the expectation that women should remove all body hair is a fabricated social norm. Even back in 2010, singer Solange Knowles tweeted, Who ever invented the bikini wax was an evil creature. Who said bushes need to b gone?!”

Actress and activist Emma Watson has time and again raved about a product (Fur Oil) designed to care for your hair down there”, rather than choosing removal products. I’ll use it anywhere from the ends of my hair to my eyebrows to my pubic hair,” she told Into The Gloss.

Earlier in October, an Adidas model – Arvida Byström – showed off her leg hair in an ad campaign for the brand’s Superstar” sneakers. The immediate response was inflammatory. The model started seeing an outpouring of negative comments on both Adidas’ and her own social media channels about her body hair.

My photo from the @adidasoriginals superstar campaign got a lot of nasty comments last week. Me being such an abled, white, cis body with its only nonconforming feature being a lil leg hair. Literally I’ve been getting rape threats in my DM inbox. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to not possess all these privileges and try to exist in the world,” Arvida wrote in an Instagram response. Sending love and try to remember that not everybody has the same experiences being a person 🌎 Also thanks for all the love 🌹 got a lot of that too.”

Ultimately, whether you decide to let your body hair grow or not, it’s totally up to you. To us, it’s empowering to see women embracing their body’s natural state and not feeling pressured to change a thing. At the end of the day, it’s all about having the ability to do what makes you feel confident and comfortable in your own skin, no matter what the trends have to say.