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What's with America's Hair Removal Obsession

3rd June 2015

It's becoming more and more fashionable for men and women to get rid of any excess body hair they may have, but North America seems to be taking it to a new extreme. In fact, a staggering 99% of American woman voluntarily remove hair with over 85% doing it on a regular basis.

Surprisingly, despite hair removal’s long and often eventful history, voluntary body hair removal is a relatively modern trend that only really took off in the early 1900s. In fact, when Europeans began colonising North America, they were shocked and confused by the indigenous peoples’ aversion to body hair. Their lack of beards was something that the invaders found difficult to comprehend. The trend soon spread however, and by the time the Cold War hit, women with visible body hair were considered dirty and un-hygienic.

Given the incredible ‘ordinariness’ of body hair removal, it was often overlooked when researching beauty practices and why we are so obsessed with certain trends. It is no longer a trend, but an accepted social norm. One theory behind our obsession is that it's an instinctive response to evolution. As one of the few mammals on the planet not covered in layers of fur, it allowed humans to avoid common parasites. This gave anyone with less hair an advantage over the rest as they were less likely to fall ill from the diseases parasites carry.

This fails to explain the fluctuation in popularity of the trend throughout recent history. Perhaps as time went on, social influences became far more powerful than evolutionary ones. We've seen this among a number of characteristics that we no longer rely on for survival. It's likely that as we became less reliant on physical characteristics to survive, body hair became associated with a more primitive and “less-evolved” version of man which would be looked down on and excluded.

Regardless of the reasoning behind the world's loyalty to such a trend, it’s clear that hair removal isn’t slowing down. People spend a ridiculous amount of money in their lifetime on hair removal; razors, waxing, etc. In fact, a 2008 study showed that American women who shave, will spend an averages of $10,000 and 2 whole months of their life managing their habit. Clearly shaving isn't the cheapest solution after all and it might be time to consider a more permanent method of hair removal.

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