Recently there’s been a healthy number of women in the media happily flaunting their unshaven armpits. ‘Good for them!’ we cry, but the fact something as totally natural as body hair is still headline-worthy gives us a pretty strong indication of where society’s at when it comes to female grooming.
Now, I have to confess – guilty feminist moment – I’m all about being as bald as poss. Leave my eyebrows, lashes and hair on my head and get rid of the rest and I’d be happy. But either way, the important thing is that it’s your choice. Don’t let your friends or boys or magazines dictate how you choose to groom (or not). But if you are going to, better to be informed.
And on that note, we’ve got a few myths to bust…
MYTH: “Shaving makes hair grow back thicker and darker”
This is probably the most common body hair myth there is, but there’s absolutely no science behind it. For starters, the root of your hair (or the ‘follicle’, which is what determines your hair’s colour and thickness) is way below the surface of the skin, so nothing you do above the surface is going to affect that. The reason it may look thicker is because hair naturally tapers at the end – so slash it in half, and the thickest bit becomes the top.
MYTH: “You should never shave above the knee”
Reasons for this range from as trivial as the argument above, to the rather terrifying “there are SERIOUS veins in your thighs, you could slit an artery!” I lived in genuine fear of this, until I caught sight of the back of my thigh – 10 years after my fellow 13-year-old friend first dispensed the wisdom – and it looked like the head of a toddler it was so hairy. I realised how ridiculous it was I’d never dared shave there.
How heavy handed have you got to be with a razor that you gauge enough skin to cut an artery?! We’ve all suffered the odd nick, but life-threatening wound? Not gonna happen.
MYTH: “Shaving your legs will get rid of your tan”
You cannot ‘shave off’ your tan; a tan is pigment, and again, pigmentation is not on the surface of your skin. If your tan is ‘coming off’ it’s because the ‘tan’ is simply a layer of dead skin. And we all know what happens to dead skin after you’ve tanned. It falls off.
(Disclaimer: tans aren’t all that great anyway—read here for why.)
MYTH: “If you wax enough, eventually the hair doesn’t grow back”
Ok there is actually some truth in this, in that the hair will likely come back finer than before – but it differs from person to person. The only way to permanently get rid of hair is to have laser hair removal treatments, but even then, it’s not 100% guaranteed to get rid of all hair permanently. Mother Nature’s a strong woman.
MYTH: “You should shave against the growth of hair”
When you shave ‘against the grain’, you pull the hair away from the skin before slicing through it. While that sounds like a good thing – and, admittedly, does give you a closer shave – it tugs at the skin and is much more likely to cause shaving rash or irritation. So to get that same silky smoothness while shaving in the direction of hair growth, use a shaving cream (using normal conditioner or a bar of soap works too) and make sure the blade is super sharp.
MYTH: “It’s more hygienic to remove hair from your bikini area”
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING UNHYGIENIC ABOUT YOUR PUBIC HAIR. It’s entirely natural, and your body is incredibly clever: it’s there to protect your vagina from infection. Besides, we’re perfectly happy (and clean) with hair on our heads. Some girls do feel happier without it, but that’s your prerogative.
MYTH: “Plucking a hair out will make two come back in its place”
This is something people say most often about grey hairs, so obviously not the top of the worry list right now – but just to clarify anyway: this is not true. For any kind of hair. If that was the case, don’t you think balding men would’ve cottoned on by now?
MYTH: “Waxing causes ingrown hairs”
Ah, ingrown hairs. The plight of so many pluckers/waxers/shavers. Ingrown hairs are exactly that: hairs which have grown and curled round underneath the skin, rather than grown up through the pore, which is why people with curly or coarse hair tend to suffer with them more. Unfortunately, any hair removal has the potential to cause ingrowers, but waxing isn’t necessarily more likely to cause them than anything else, so in the end, it’s down to what works for you.
Shaving when you have ingrown can sometimes irritate the skin more, whereas waxing is less frequent. But either way, again, make sure you use a sharp, clean razor when shaving and go to a professional for waxing. And remember, on the rare occasion they can get infected, often they’re nothing to worry about and will eventually just go away on their own: try to leave it alone, exfoliate and apply tea tree to reduce any irritation.
MYTH: “You shouldn’t pluck above the eyebrows”
I don’t even know where this came from. Perhaps to stop us getting over enthusiastic and making our eyebrows look weirdly low down on our face? Whatevs. If you want to pluck some stray stragglers from the top, there’s no reason why not – except the risk your own over-enthusiasm. Besides, plucking regret is what eyebrow pencils are made for.
MYTH: “Waxing is super painful”
There’s no getting around it – if you rip hair out from the root, it’s going to hurt a bit. But we promise you, it’s not nearly as painful as the films and TV would have you believe. Go to a good beautician who knows what they’re doing, request hot wax if your hair is particularly coarse or you’re waxing your bikini line, and perhaps avoid going for a wax around your period, when your body is particularly sensitive.
Or don’t do it at all, if you don’t fancy it. Because body hair is natural and beautiful too, and that is a true fact.
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Image: Hailey Hamilton