Whilst we all now resign ourselves to the arduous task of removing what we consider to be unsightly hair, we pay little heed to why we do it or how we got here. For those of us that on occasion consider the cultural phenomenon here is a brief walk through the timeline of hair removal history:
Back in times when survival was paramount, the removal of hair was probably for more practical reasons than for aesthetics. Ancient Egyptians, including women, removed all body hair. Having no hair whilst on the battlefields was an advantage as you could not be grabbed by it when fighting. Ancient Egypt was also when the first sugar based waxes appeared.
By the time we move into Roman times the culture had moved into hair removal being more of a class thing. The wealthy residents considered the presence of excess hair including pubic hair to be uncivilised. This is why much of the art and the statues from this period depict bare bodies.
During this period there was a fad for removing all facial hair, this included the eyebrows and all forehead hair giving the impression of having a large forehead. It would appear that at this time ladies were quite happy to go shaggy elsewhere and that the method which they used for hair removal included bandages soaked in ammonia derived from cat urine and vinegar…..pleasant!
1700s and 1800s:
Hair removal wasn’t much considered by European and American women during this time and it appears really to have been a man’s issue with the invention of the first straight razor for men being made by a French barber in the late 1700s. In the 1800s, the first depilatory creams came to light. The first one was reputedly called Poudre Subtille. This was followed by the invention of what is now the forerunner of the modern day razor by King Camp Gillette in 1880.
1900s to modern day:
The early 1900s saw depilatory creams take off with the first mass advertising campaigns, this was increased when the magazine Harpers Bizarre published an advert showing a woman with a bare armpit in 1915 – imagine the uproar!
In the 1940s the first woman’s electric razor appeared, this was quickly followed by the war-time shortage of nylon stockings and women had no choice but to go bare legged – we have all heard the stories of the ladies who drew on their seams. It is possibly a good thing that at this point the world famous depilatory cream Nair was invented!
The 1960s saw the invention of wax strips – ouch! The invention of the first laser hair removal machines around about this time as well.
These days the technologies have advanced, but the options are pretty much the same. Laser hair removal has advanced to a point where we now have the invention of the first at home laser hair removal device which was approved in 2008 and IPL hair removal machines.
So you see. Hair removal has always been with us, from cavemen to us now, where visits to salons and spas are now the norm and a part of many women’s beauty regime. It does make you wonder what is next though.
Image attributed to http://www.freedigitalphotos.net foto76