From an early age, we learn about the ways we can remove body hair rather than how we can embrace it. Despite seeing a shift in how we talked about body hair in the 2010s (remember people dying their armpit hair and Miley Cyrus causing a stir when she showed up to a red carpet with unshaven pits?), we’ve recently seen that there’s still a stigma around keeping body hair. This prompted us to put together an anonymous questionnaire, where we talked to 63 women about their body hair. They shared their personal relationship with it, their shaving habits (if they had any) and how society may or may not have influenced their grooming decisions. After reading through the results, we were shocked at the responses.
We Asked 63 Women About Their Body Hair and Their Responses Shocked Us
From shaving habits to societal influences
How We Conducted the Body Hair Poll:
Over the course of a month, we surveyed women between the ages of 18 to 70+ from across the United States and the United Kingdom. The poll also includes responses from different ethnicities, races and sexualities to be more inclusive and diverse with our data.
What Are Our Shaving Habits?
In the survey, 14 percent of respondents said they regularly remove all of their body hair, while 54 percent prefer removing only some of their body hair. The rest of the data shows 25 percent of people remove their body hair on special occasions only and two percent stick to trims. When it comes to the most common areas people remove hair from, armpits were the clear winner at 98 percent, while legs and pubic hair trailed closely behind at 83 and 65 percent, respectively. The most curious finding was that 18 percent of respondents mentioned belly hair removal, which has become more common for women in recent years.
Of the women who shave their body hair, 95 percent use a razor for shaving. The survey also shows at-home treatments like chemical removers (11 percent) and waxing kits (11 percent) are a favorite, too. On the flip side, some prefer letting professionals take the lead with 22 percent seeing a waxer and 13 percent opting for laser hair removal.
How Do We Really Feel About Removing Body Hair?
When it comes to removing body hair, how it looks and how it feels go hand to hand for women. Around 81 percent of the women we polled reported that they prefer the way their skin looks after shaving, while about 83 percent say they like the way it feels. But the percentage that stuck out most, and a big reason why we conducted this survey in the first place, is 30 percent say “It’s just what I’ve always done.”
Why is that? There are many factors that come into play here. When asked about what influences our shaving habits, 41 percent say the media has a hand in these decisions, which isn’t a new revelation by any means. Since 1915, we’ve been hit with ads that presented body hair as something that was embarrassing or unsexy for women to have.Respondents also call out TV shows, commercials and movies for playing a role in how body hair is depicted.
As one woman shared in the survey, “The fact that being completely hairless has been an expectation that women have to abide by is really messed up. Growing up, you were totally made fun of for not adhering to those expectations, so I've always felt pressure to shave regularly in order to look ‘presentable.’ Over the last few years, I've really been able to unpack how stupid that is and embrace what feels right for me instead. After all, it's your body, and you can do whatever you want!”
Aside from the media, the women we polled say their partner (32 percent), their friends (38 percent) and celebrities (16 percent) also have a significant influence on their shaving habits. And although 67 percent of women said it wasn’t too important to have their partner’s input on their grooming choices, 18 percent still felt strongly about it. Common responses included having talks with their partners about preferences, and how that ties into their perceived attractiveness and sexual intimacy within the relationship.
How Do We Feel About Embracing Our Body Hair?
Despite outside factors, most of the respondents said they are doing what feels right to them now. Keeping or removing body hair is being seen as more of a personal choice. Many note they spend less time shaving these days. As one woman shares, “I’ve gotten a lot more relaxed with my shaving habits. I just don’t care as much anymore!” According to the survey, 21 percent keep their leg hair, 32 percent keep their pubic hair and 6 percent keep their armpit hair. The data also shows that 81 percent leave their arm hair alone, while 46 percent keep their back hair and 40 percent leave their stomach hair.
Will We Ever Stop Shaving?
While we’re learning to celebrate our body hair more, many of the women surveyed believe there’s nothing wrong with mowing the lawn every now and then. The bulk of respondents (about 61 percent) agreed with the statement: “I love my body hair, but sometimes prefer to tidy up specific areas.” Some said this has more to do with hygiene practices and having smoother skin that’s not irritating or rough to the touch. As one respondent shares, “I have a healthy relationship with my body hair. I remove my hair because I personally like the feel and look. However, it's not always necessary, so I don't mind letting it all grow out until I feel I need to remove it again. I just like the way it looks when it's removed. But I don’t hate my body hair.”
On the other hand, 15 percent of women took a firm stance on removing their body hair stating, “You will never see an inch of hair on me!” One woman adds, "I have thick, coarse hair and a lot of it. I've been getting waxes since the early days of high school and I've never looked back. I feel way more comfortable and confident in my own skin when I keep the body hair in check. I may have learned about different removal methods from friends, but partaking has always been a personal decision.”
Is Body Hair Still a Controversial Topic?
Yes and no. Most respondents said they now prioritize their own preferences and are less concerned about societal expectations of women. To that end, many pointed out that media plays a big role in this shift, as we’re starting to see more brands changing the way they target hair removal products and/or show off body hair in their ads. In 2019, Nike ran ads showing models with body hair, and popular hair removal brands like Billie and Veet have shifted their messaging to give customers the choice to remove or embrace their body hair. There have also been more movements like Januhairy, which encourages women to stop shaving during the month of January, and hashtags like #bodyhairisnatural, which highlights a collective of people who are trying to break any stigma around body hair.
Many respondents agree that we, as a society, have gotten better at accepting body hair, but we still have a long way to go. After all, a change in public perception doesn’t happen overnight. While some mentioned men and their ideals of what a woman should look like as a factor, others say it’s a generational thing. As one shares, “I think the younger generations are realizing that their bodies are their own, and that it's healthier to have this type of relationship/acceptance with yourself rather than just conform to one beauty standard.”
Body hair is complicated, but it’s ours. As much as we can blame society or the people around us for our choices, it’s ultimately our decision to keep or remove our body hair. One respondent sums it up best: “I'm trying to focus more on what feels comfortable to me as opposed to what is expected of women more generally. I feel like I have a pretty neutral relationship with my body hair at the moment. I don't feel the need or want to be completely hairless all the time, but I also don't feel the need to completely embrace and celebrate it all the time either; I feel like it is what it is, and I remove it when I want to.”
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