An Asian woman holding a razor with her left hand

Body hair removal has been around since the Stone Age, but the social stigma that surrounds it to this day hasn’t always been there. Cavewomen and cavemen shaved their heads to be more efficient in battle and protect themselves from frostbite. In Ancient Egypt, sugaring, a process that involves pulling the hair using a sugary paste, was invented. According to a study published by Cambridge University, ancient Egyptians believed that body hair is unclean and that being hair-free is hygienic and an indicator of social class. Cleopatra herself shaved off all her hair, including the hair on her head. 

Even the Indian Journal of Dermatology wrote that threading has been around for centuries in India and other countries. In Turkey, it is traditionally used to remove hair on the entire face. In 1915, the first women’s razor was invented, the Smithsonian Institution writes. It was marketed towards women who had to go to work without stockings because of a shortage in nylon during World War II.

The combined influence of history and good old marketing strengthened the social stigma around body hair on women. While body hair on men is considered natural and manly, on a woman, it is often perceived as unfeminine, unhygienic, and something that should be either removed or hidden away.

Goffman's theory of social stigma defines stigma as “an attribute that is deeply discrediting.” In his research, he states how stigmas lead to social inequality and restricts the well-being of the stigmatized. It’s no surprise, then, that more and more women choose to do the opposite of what society has been dictating for centuries. Here are reasons why it's okay not to shave if you can’t or don’t want to: 

Body Hair Doesn’t Make You Unclean

Body hair is not to blame for uncleanliness — poor hygiene is. Removing body hair may have been necessary to the ancient Egyptians, but now that we have all sorts of soaps, washes, and cleansers at our disposal, we can definitely keep our hair and clean it, too. According to Harvard’s Bionumbers, we have an average of 100,000 hairs on our heads, and that’s where most of it is concentrated. If you know how to shampoo, you should be capable of cleaning the rest.

Removing body hair doesn’t necessarily make you clean, but what does is showering regularly. Using a deodorant that prevents sweat and odor like Dove Intensive Renew Deo Dry Serum Collagen + Omega 6 helps accelerate skin renewal after shaving and reduces pigmentation. Since it’s a serum, it goes on dry, and the non-sticky formula feels comfortable on the skin. This can be your go-to deodorant, whether you shave or not. 

It’s Okay to Challenge the Norm

In the book Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, gender and sexuality studies professor Rebecca Herzig, writes that in the 19th century, scientists started associating hairiness with disease, lunacy, and violence, mostly applied to women. In the ‘80s, total hairlessness became popular with the rise of explicit pop culture and the Brazilian wax. With this becoming the norm, society dictated that being free of body hair was the only acceptable way to be when it’s not. 

The truth is, there may be several health benefits to having body hair, including preventing chafing in areas where skin surfaces rub against one another. 

Your Body, Your Business

To some women, not shaving is about making a statement. To others, it’s not a big deal — just something that they simply don’t do, and that’s okay. In 2019, model Emily Ratajkowski posed with unshaven armpits in Harper’s Bazaar magazine. She wrote, “If I decide to shave my armpits or grow them out, that’s up to me. For me, body hair is another opportunity for women to exercise their ability to choose.”

In 2017, Ashley Graham told Glamour magazine that having a “full bush” is about her preference and her partner’s preference. In 2012, model Charlotte Free told The Guardian that for her, not shaving her armpits is “an equal rights thing.”

At the end of the day, the decision to keep or remove body hair should be yours and yours alone.

It’s Good to Give Your Skin a Rest

Shaving is the most common way to get rid of body hair because razors are inexpensive and readily accessible. It’s the fastest way to remove hair on different areas of the body, including the armpits. A lot of modern tools and shaving products have incorporated moisturizers to nourish the skin.

While shaving has its advantages, it also has its downside. Shaving can cause irritation, broken skin, bumps, ingrown hairs, thicker regrowth, and skin darkening from friction. Even if shaving is important to you, it’s healthy to give your skin a rest. Every time you shave, you damage your skin. If your skin gets irritated, give it at least a week to recover before shaving again.

Feel fresh and confident between shaving with a deodorant that keeps sweat at bay and protects you as you move. A deodorant that offers antiperspirant protection, such as Rexona Women Shower Clean Antiperspirant Deodorant Roll-On with Motionsense, protects against sweat and odor for up to 48 hours.

Overcoming social stigma for women remains a huge hill to climb. For now, more people are becoming more aware of societal norms and their freedom to choose. At the end of the day, shaving is a personal choice that should be a personal choice and not an act that one does out of fear of being shamed, ridiculed, or excluded.