Most women have issues with their body hair: some hair is too dark, other hair, too thick—and never, ever where the hell you want it (throw some of those rogue-ies on my brows, please). Some areas, like the bikini line, are safely tucked away from sight (in NYC this is true for eight months out of the year), but what about the upper lip, armpits, and legs? Here's where I stand on the trifecta of conspicuous body hair. (What about you?)
I remember the first time I became aware of my leg hairs. It was gym class in the 5th grade. Wow! Your legs are so hairy, one of my smooth-legged classmates pointed out. Why don’t you shave them?
I hadn’t really thought about it. I was 11. I was always the girl who wanted to be Aladdin—not Jasmine—so hair removal wasn’t at the top of my priority list. Plus, my mom had always been very au naturel when it came to beauty stuff, and it hadn’t really bothered me that a fuzz of half-inch-long white hairs had covered my legs. But that night I went home and begged my mom to let me shave them, and although she thought my fuzzy legs were beautiful, she helped me shave (with an electric razor)—up to my knees only.
Fifteen years later, I’m still a calves-only shaver. I wear my peach-fuzzy thighs like it ain’t no thing. I remember my boyfriend telling me, six years ago, that he loved the non-airbrush looks of the girls in Calvin Klein underwear ads, and thought the delicate hairs on their legs/arms/stomach were not only tolerable, but sexy. The thing is, I had always known I thought that was sexy; I prefer it to a completely hairless leg. It makes me feel French or Dutch…cool, reminiscent of Natalia Vodianova in 2010, at the Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year party, looking fabulous as fuck in that gold Balmain dress with her hairy legs, or any image in Treats! magazine. (I wish to be any and all of those things.)
Going half-shaved is like an insouciant accessory. A subtle nod that says, Oh, my thigh hair? I haven’t thought one thing of it. I’m busy, sweetie.
In terms of maintenance, my sensitive skin compels me to use an ultra gentle shaving cream, like Nivea for Men's Sensitive Shaving Gel. Barbasol also came out with a Sensitive Skin shaving cream, which is my current go-to. (Men’s shaving creams, always. I can’t stand the uber-sweet smell of most women’s ones.) I also have a tendency to steal my boyfriend’s shaving brush, which I bought for him at the New York Shaving Company—it lifts the hair, giving you a closer shave, and way less irritation, while also exfoliating your legs. And while I am not too loyal to any particular razor, I do require something with four blades. Junky two-blade disposables cut me up. Right now I’m digging the Schick Quattro.
The Upper Lip
There is something I dig about a woman who says “Screw it” about her mustache, whether it’s Sienna Miller (yes, I used to internet stalk her fan websites circa 2008 and usually the photos you click on are high quality enough you can see her faint mustache...so cool), my college friend’s sister with the beautiful face and the smelly feet, or one of my main homies for the last eight years. The latter sights the slight peach fuzz all over her face as the reason she hasn’t removed her ‘stache, her theory being the super-bare skin there would draw more attention to the rest of her fuzzies.
My fuzzy, white upper-lip hair has been the object of attention more often than I’d like to admit (once, in particular, resulted in my bawling under the water at the pool). So, early on, I decided to do something, and do something I have—although not particularly well, or with any consistency—since around age 13.
I remember my first hair annihilator: a buffing brush sort of thing, which, when you rubbed it over your lip in circular motions, “buffed” off the fine hairs. Irritation ensued, and I wouldn’t say it was particularly thorough. There were certain spots the brush couldn’t reach, and nobody likes a rug-burnt upper lip.
I’ve since moved on to depilatory creams (and a dalliance with a razor— I know, I know…), and my favorite so far is Olay Smooth Finish because of the protecting balm it comes with, and although there are gaps in my “maintenance” for short lengths of time, I continue to be a hairless upper-lip fan…on myself.
Before it was commonplace to shave our legs, pluck our brows, or wax our upper lips, we were encouraged to get rid of armpit hair. And the popularization of sleeveless dresses in the first part of the 20th century seemed to make it a necessity.
The related ads from this time are pretty comical. The tag line for one I found reads “You need not be embarrassed,” and continues, “When you go to the beach this summer, are you going to be afraid to raise your arm? Are you going to shrink from the scrutinizing glance of your friends?”
The hilarity that ensues thinking about going to Jacob Riis beach this summer, and just being sooo embarrassed that I didn’t shave my armpits—in a sea of tattooed, topless babes—is too much. Also, screw your friends if they give you “scrutinizing glanc[es]” for your pit hair. Do you!
However, in my opinion, armpit hair is the most difficult haircessory to rock.
First, it’s hot as hell in the summer, and I would imagine that hair there makes you smell worse, but also I feel like it’s the most daring of all the displays of female body hair. Is it because it’s a tuft and not delicately sprinkled all over your gams? I applaud those that can do it, and do it well; it just feels so incredibly hot to me. I need to be bare! My Schick Quattro and sensitive shaving creams do the trick, but I can’t go at it every day or things get very irritated (in which case the deo for your b.o stings. It’s a mess!). Every three days is about all I can muster.
Before Paula Cole, or Julia Robert’s infamous wave, and way before Charlotte Free, there was none other than the epitome of feminine beauty, Sophia Loren. Rocking armpit hair. Apparently, she never shaved them. Be still my heart…
Continuing my search for hot babes with armpit hair, I came across a fierce-as-all-hell photo of Penelope Cruz from the March 2011 ‘Misfit Issue” of AÏE magazine, and subsequently, the most hilariously banal Yahoo Answers thread, where one perplexed ‘Johnny’ wonders “Why Penelope Cruz grows armpit hair?” to which ‘Lina’ replies, “Being lazy to shave??? : D”
Maybe she was being lazy, Lina. Or maybe she just doesn’t give a fuck. (Or maybe the pic was Photoshopped.)
Any way you slice it, she looks like a bad bitch, indeed.
_Jesse Breeden is a Brooklyn-based beauty fiend and michelada connoisseur. She's also written about her white eyelashes for ITG. Check out her tumblr and Instagram. Photo courtesy of the author.