Female Grooming Throughout History
For centuries, women have pursued smooth, hairless skin to make them feel more feminine. More recently, however, new methods and dramatic product improvements have changed the way women remove hair.
Hair removal research reveals that many of today’s techniques are hardly new. As early as the Stone Ages, women were removing unwanted hair by scraping it away with sharpened rocks and sea shells. The ancient Egyptians developed hot waxing, and Cleopatra is even rumored to have created a depilatory concoction containing arsenic tri-sulphide as an ingredient. Early Arabian women used threading and created the ‘bandandoz’, the precursor of the modern epilator, which consisted of a cotton thread laced between their fingers. In the early 18th century, American women prepared poultices of caustic lye, which, when applied to legs, burned away unwanted hair.
Cultural changes, new trends and technological advances prompted women to remove hair from different parts of their bodies. It wasn’t until the 20th century that hair removal shifted from the virtually exclusive domain of men. During the post-Victorian era, particularly in the United States, women’s fashions dictated the removal of hair from both legs and underarms.
Smooth, clean-shaven legs took on a new appeal during the early days of World War II in the United States. Nylon hosiery became scarce, causing women who had to go without stockings to apply leg makeup instead. These American women appeared to be wearing hose with the help of makeup, complete with a seam up the back of the leg applied with a black marker. Smooth, hairless legs made this illusion much easier to achieve.
Since then, the appeal of clean, smooth, hairless legs, underarms, bikini, forearms and faces for women has not diminished. Hair removal has become as much a part of women’s beauty routines as conditioning hair or applying lipstick. Hair-removal products and techniques have changed, yet the desired result–soft, smooth, hair-free skin–remains the same.