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Baby Boomer Ponders the Obsession With Body Hair Removal

What is the obsession these days with removing body hair? I mean, what is it with painting on thick eyebrows, excruciatingly painful waxing, and obviously fake-looking hair extensions?

This baby boomer must be feeling my age because I just don’t get it.

Yes, I shave my legs, but I can’t help noticing that women are overly preoccupied with hair lately. Were we women bamboozled into this obsession by marketers?

According to the book, Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, more than 99 percent of American women remove their body hair.

Interestingly, Gillette introduced the first razor for women in 1915 along with the message that body hair was “unsightly” and “objectionable” and thus needed to be removed. And they just so happened to have the perfect tool. The company now earns over 9 billion dollars a year in sales.

The Brazilian bikini wax was created in Manhattan by seven Brazilian sisters in the early 1990s, who now earn six million dollars a year from waxing, hair, and nail treatments.

People are profiting big time from this obsession to remove hair. Not only do women wax their legs and armpits, but suddenly it became imperative and ever-so-fashionable to wax other places as well. I mean, OUCH! When did ripping hot wax off sensitive areas become empowering?

In fact, women spend about $10,000 and the equivalent of over four months of their lives removing hair. Those who wax once or twice a month will spend an average of $23,000 during their lifetime.

Really ladies?

Does this all seem a bit strange to you baby boomers who fought for the feminist revolution with the conviction that instead of obsessing over physical beauty, women should focus on their intelligence, careers, achievements, and making a difference? During the 60s and 70s, women felt free to make their own decisions about hair removal and many chose to go au natural. These days, women feel ashamed and somehow dirty without a bikini wax. What happened?

Not to sound old-fashioned, but aren’t there more important things to think about and do than obsess and spend time and money on removing body hair? Back in the old days (okay, now I sound ancient) people seemed more focused on spiritual matters and family. They didn’t spend all their time worrying about whether their armpits were properly waxed. And many would have donated that $150 for a full body wax – to remove hair that’s going to grow back real quick – to a good cause.

And while we’re discussing this, just when did women become so helpless? Have you baby boomers noticed that women don’t know how to pluck their own eyebrows, shave their own legs, or paint their own fingernails and toenails anymore? In addition to all the money spent on waxing, women spend about $1,300 a year on manis and pedis alone. Yes, I splurge once in a while to do my nails but it’s not rocket science to apply nail polish. Wouldn’t you rather take a trip with all that money?

We boomers didn’t go to the hair salon for a “blow dry.” Instead, I deftly wielded my own blow dryer like a pro and stuck prongs into hot rollers without burning my fingertips to look like Farrah. If we wanted our hair colored we picked up a bottle of Clairol at the drugstore. We even dared to perm our own hair! Yes, we looked like poodles but who cared? And give me a break. At least we didn’t look like a Dr. Seuss book with multi-colored rainbow hair! What’s with that crazy trend?

When women aren’t busy trying to remove every scrap of hair from their bodies, they are clipping or taping on hair extensions to look like a Real Housewife or one of the Kardashians. Some women become addicted to the more permanent type of extensions which leaves natural hair looking like a war zone. Did I mention the pain of ripping out the tape from the more permanent type of extensions? The possibility of bald spots? Does this sound like a good idea to you? Even Jennifer Aniston has admitted that her famous locks had become thin from extensions.

Okay, I must confess that in the 60s it was popular to frost hair. For those of you who don’t remember, this process involved a tight-fitting rubber cap with tons of little holes. A small metal crocheting needle was then used to pull pieces of hair through the holes – one at a time. So, it was kinda tortuous and women may have lost some of their hair in the process. And we baby boomers won’t talk about the bristle rollers women somehow slept in or teasing hair until it looked like a bird’s nest. Women back combed their hair until they looked like Marge Simpson and then applied enough sticky hairspray to make hair crunch.

But that was different. Sort of. Why don’t we change the subject?

Can we talk a minute about those wonky eyebrows, deemed the “power brow?” These trendy fuller brows are supposed to look like works of art, but they just look silly to me. Dark brow fillers create these squared off but perfectly arched eyebrows that look anything but natural. I have nothing against eyebrows, but should these two arches on your forehead warrant this much attention, cause so much work, and cost so much money? And why wax off your eyebrows if you’re only going to draw them back on again? I’m so confused.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be too critical. My senior picture displays thin, arched eyebrows that are perhaps a tiny bit over-plucked. Actually, I can’t believe I walked around so proudly like that, but that’s beside the point. At least I plucked them proudly all by myself and it didn’t cost me a penny!

Still, this whole cultural phenomenon puzzles me. But wait a minute. Maybe armpit hair is making a comeback. There’s an Instagram account called Lady Pit Hair that features women going against social beauty norms and growing out their armpit hair and dying it bright colors.

“Today’s beauty standards really bum me out as they constantly police women’s bodies,” says Taylor Carpenter, a 23-year-old whose hot pink pits are featured on the page. Besides the issue of rebelling against norms society forces on us women, she has another reason for brightening the color of her body hair: “Honestly, I really like how they look. When I catch a glance of my hot pink pits, it makes me smile.”

Okay, I sorta like the sentiment of standing up against this cloud of disgust over any scrap of non-waxed body hair, but I’m still mystified. Is fluorescent green leg hair the next trend? Maybe I am getting old!

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