We’ve stopped shaving during lockdown. Is this the start of a beauty revolution?
What’s your first memory of shaving your legs?
I must have been 11 when I started to shave imaginary hair from my pale legs. By 13, this was second nature.
Girls with hairy legs were called ‘manly,’ and this was the last thing I wanted to be known as for a tall, gangly teen. From then, my legs were always clean-shaven, as were my underarms.
Around a year ago, I found myself sprawled in a local park with two friends, when one of them raised her arm. Dyed bright pink, her burst of underarm hair was not only visible but proudly so.
She had decided that she’d had enough with shaving and that was that.
As a proud feminist, I’m aware that women are held to arbitrary beauty standards — often unachievable ones. The more I thought about it, I questioned whether I was really shaving for me or to please other people.
During lockdown, many of us have switched up our beauty routine.
Whether you’ve abandoned your makeup bag or are living in lounge wear, a combination of spending more time indoors and alone has made many of us rethink our own beauty standards.
Especially when it comes to shaving.
Just like me, Claire Thompson, a 26-year-old illustrator, has been shaving from a young age.
“Lockdown has actually been the first time I’ve ever not shaved my legs. It sounds insane when I say it out loud, but I used to carry a razor in my school bag and check my legs during PE,” she says.
This adds up in more ways than one.
A survey from the American Laser Centers found that while women reported spending just around $15.87 per month on shaving, the lifetime investment for females who shave adds up to $10,207.
They also noted that the average American woman shaves up to 12 times a month.
Women and razors have always had complicated relationships. According to an older research article: “A major component of ‘femininity’ in the United States today is a hairless body, a norm that developed [as early as 1915].”
But we’ve recently seen a shift.
After Billie, a popular razor brand that use women with actual body hair in their advertisements, and models in popular culture being photographed with unshaven underarms, it feels like the idea that women should be hairless is finally being challenged.
Jessica Brown, a 28-year-old administrative professional, discussed her fears of talking to her partner about body hair.
“My boyfriend laughed when I asked him if he was OK with it. His answer: ‘Since when did you care what I thought?’ I’d dump him if he ever told me that I couldn’t wear what I wanted to wear, so why did I care what he thought of my body hair?” says Jessica.
Jessica’s sentiments were reiterated by many of the women I spoke to, with plenty worrying about whether their partners would find them less attractive.
For Maria Martinez, a 22-year-old student, she says it’s society that concerns her, not her partners.
“I’m Hispanic, and I swear my hair triples overnight. My biggest problems are my upper lip and forearms. But, during COVID, I’ve given up on hair removal. Like, do I really need to shave my arms?” she asks.
Maria’s concerns are shared by many, but she was surprised by the lack of attention her hairy arms garnered.
“I’ve let them grow and the world hasn’t ended,” she says. “I was really paranoid that people would just stop and stare at me in the street. But, I’ve realized that it might just be a bigger deal in my own head than it ever will be in real life!”
Maria isn’t the only one relegating her razor to the shelf.
Forbes recently highlighted the drop in razor sales during lockdown, with the female market especially affected.
It begs the question: When we don’t have to worry about what other people think, are we less inclined to shave?
Dyeing your underarm hair might be surprising, but it appears to be a growing trend, with celebrities from Miley Cyrus to Lady Gaga flaunting neon underarms.
“I actually feel more powerful with body hair than I ever thought I would. I’ve just picked up some dye. My housemate and I are going to dye ours pink!” says Amy, a 26-year-old woman.
You can see the trend growing across Instagram with the hashtag #dyedpits.
Some women explain that they feel empowered by sporting a bold color under their shirts. There are also some benefits to keeping things au natural, like preventing ingrown hairs, razor burn, and skin tags.
Not all women want to grow their hair, and that’s A-OK too.
Some shared that they feel ‘unclean’ if they haven’t shaved. Others explained that they prefer the feeling of being shaved head to toe.
Ashley, a 28-year-old working in finance explains, “I just don’t feel clean when I have hairy legs or underarms. I like to feel feminine and for me, that means no leg, arm, or underarm hair.”
For many, body hair is very personal, with some women just not feeling ‘themselves’ when they don’t follow their grooming routine.
“I get why some women prefer not to, but lockdown has reminded me of how gross I feel when I don’t [shave],” says Ashley.
The way we feel about our body hair can change regularly. A lot of women only shave for a night out, holiday, or event.
For others, it’s part of their weekly routine.
Whether you want to dye it, trim it, or remove it, be sure to do so safely.
Ultimately, shaving your body hair is a personal choice. In the end, the only person you need to do it for is you.
Charlotte Moore is a freelance writer and assistant editor of Restless Magazine. She’s based in Manchester, England.