Back in Time: A Brief History of Body Hair Removal
November 20, 2017
Many of us might think that the hair removal techniques we know and use today are not very old, but the truth is that they have been around since ancient times. Technology, trends, and values have changed how and why we get rid of body hair, and now a wide array of solutions are available for everyone. Luckily, the best thing about modern hair removal products is that they don't involve the bizarre methods and ingredients that it used to! Here are some of the highlights of hair removal throughout history.
- 1. Cave People Did Shave!
People usually believe that prehistoric people were excessively hairy. But as it turns out, cavemen did remove body hair, just not for aesthetic reasons. For them, removing hair meant fewer lice and mite infestations. To keep these unwanted visitors at bay, they used natural tools like sharpened stones and seashells to scrape hair from the face. Not sporting long beards also came in handy in battle, as opponents wouldn't have anything to hold on to in order to gain an advantage.
2. The Egyptians' Pioneering Techniques
Like many other techniques and cosmetics such as hair dye and eyeliner, the Egyptians were hair removal pioneers. Body hair was largely unwanted in Egypt for several reasons. First, it came in handy for controlling mites and lice. Second, it helped to keep body temperature cool in the scorching Egyptian climate. Third, hair was associated with the lower classes of society. It was so important for the Egyptians to be hairless that most men and women shaved their heads, priests even removed their eyebrows and eyelashes, and pharaohs were buried with jewel-incrusted razors, an essential belonging that they believed would help them remain hair-free in the afterlife. Barbers existed, and they were important members of the royal "staff." Additionally, the Egyptians were probably the first to ever wax. They would place a mixture of beeswax and oils on unwanted hair, put cloth strips over the wax, and pull. A depilatory paste made with quicklime and arsenic was also used. This concoction sure was nothing like today's gentle formulas, which are enriched with natural ingredients. Shaving was also common in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians scraped their hair with tools made from flint or pumice stone. Bronze, copper, or gold "razors" were also common.
3. Easterners Had Refined Skills
You might have heard of threading and think that it is a new technique for shaping eyebrows. In fact, threading originated in the Middle East and India thousands of years ago and then spread to China. Easterners skillfully shaped eyebrows and sideburns with cotton threads and removed hair from other areas of the body, too. Easterners who emigrated to the West could not find anyone who knew how to do this technique, so they popularized it themselves. Nowadays, many women choose threading to shape their eyebrows because of its precise results and because it is completely natural—no additives are needed.
4. Beautifying the Roman Emperor
Roman Emperors sported clean-shaven faces. They regularly groomed themselves with bronze tweezers. The elites weren't the only ones concerned about shaving. Teenage boys were shaved in a public ritual that served as a rite of passage into adulthood. Upper-class women also removed some body hair using concoctions made from resins, oils, and even bat's blood! However, the Romans were not as obsessed with getting rid of body hair as the Egyptians were. Slaves and other members of the lower class kept beards, which went in and out of style several times during the Roman Empire.
5. The Middle Ages Were Less than Glamorous
During the Middle Ages, many yucky ingredients were commonly used for personal hygiene and hair removal. One of these ingredients was… cat's feces! This ammonia-loaded excrement was combined with vinegar to prevent eyebrow growth and hair from growing on the top of the forehead. This allowed women to have higher and wider hairline, which were trendy among the nobility. It also was common for eyelashes to be plucked during the Middle Ages. As for the rest of body hair, people often shaved their heads, so their wigs would fit better. Arms, underarms, and legs weren't shaved at all because of the conservative values of the era.
6. A Breakthrough Tool Was Created during the 18th and 19th Centuries
The first iterations of what would pave the way for today's razors were developed during the 18th and 19th centuries in an attempt to achieve a safer shave. The first one was made in 1769 by Jean-Jacques Perret, a French barber. He enclosed a sharp blade in a wooden handle to minimize the risk of cuts. The second one was developed in 1847 by an Englishman named William Henson. He created the rake-type razor, a design that still prevails today since it proved to be much safer and efficient at removing hair. Towards the late 1800s, an improved version of these razors appeared: it was the Kampfe brothers' Star Razor Blade Kit, which was a resounding success. Posters advertising the Star Razor Blade Kit featured women, which meant that the taboo of women getting rid of body hair was slowly but surely starting to subside.
7. Sleek and Trim at the Beginning of the 20th Century
Several new and improved hair removal tools were created during the 20th century. William Emery Nickerson and King Camp Gillette — rings a bell, doesn't it? — invented and patented a flexible, disposable blade. Around 1915, Gillette created a razor for women called Milady Décolleté. It was used to shave the nape, so women could sport the clean, sleek, short haircut that was in style at the time. Along with Milady Décolleté, the growing popularity of sleeveless dresses prompted women to remove armpit hair. In the 1940s, World War II changed many things, including the way women shaved. A shortage of nylon meant that there were fewer materials to make stockings out of, which led to women showing smooth, hairless legs. In short, during the first half of the 20th century, hair removal grew more popular, especially among women.
8. The Definitive Popularization of Hair Removal
By the 1950s, it was official: smooth legs, clean underarms, and tweezed and shapely eyebrows were the rule and not the exception. Some hippie movements during the 1960s promoted a more "natural" approach, but in general, hair removal was becoming more and more common. Popular culture fueled this trend by portraying perfectly trimmed, smooth bodies. In the late 1980s, the trend got more daring with the advent of the Brazilian wax in 1987. This technique grew in popularity very quickly and lifted the taboo on pubic hair removal for good. All in all, it became easier to find all kinds of hair removal products during the second half of the 20th century. Since then, hundreds of new shaving tools have been invented and marketed, procedures have been greatly improved, and people have completely embraced body hair removal as a part of their routines.
9. The Evolution of Hair Removal Never Stops
Technological advances like electrolysis and lasers have made it possible to permanently remove hair, but traditional methods are still extremely popular. The wide range of options to choose from and the demand for body hair removal will surely prompt further changes and improvements in the future. New formulas with rich, nourishing ingredients are the big favorites. Beauty Image develops innovative and effective waxing products that pamper your senses with exquisite formulas and ingredients. Body waxing can be an indulgent experience with our wide array of waxes, treatments, and waxing accessories.