When I was about 13, I became deeply insecure when my body hair started to grow. From a very young age, I was advised to take care of the hair on my body: shave my legs, armpits and intimate parts. I even shaved my arms, fingers and toes for years, shaped eyebrows, upper lip, and even inside my nose! And don’t forget the hair on your head! It has to look shiny and perfect all the time. Suddenly everything about my body became something that I needed to change. Strangers would comment on my facial and arm hair and advise me to wax them because “girls should always have their body hair shaved.” Once, a guy I dated called me disgusting because I left a piece of hair (about 3mm). These things made me insecure about the way that I looked and presented myself in front of others.
These standards were set for someone as young as I was—and that’s ridiculous when I think about it now. I had this fixed idea that I had to shave my whole body (except my head) to be more desirable or feminine. As a result, I was ashamed of showing a centimeter of hair visible on my body for years. I did not want to be seen as unhygienic or disgusting to anyone. But insecurities and beauty expectations forced me to make these changes and adhere to these unrealistic standards.
My relationship with shaving has been on and off since then. As a really lazy girl, I used to not shave my legs so frequently during winter, as no one would see them. But I still got ashamed of my own hair when it grew longer than a few millimeters.
I really just stopped shaving less than a year ago, when I embarked on a pilgrimage in the Spanish mountains. When you have to carry everything on your back in a 30L backpack, you really reevaluate what you need in your life. And frankly, a razor is not so heavy but totally not needed. For almost 2 months while I was walking, I let my hair grow everywhere and just stopped thinking about it. It felt so natural and right to see my body as it was, with all the hairs. I had to make friends with the idea that the back of my thighs is more hairy then the front of it, and learned that my armpit doesn’t look like a bush. I met many other women on the road who stopped giving a dime about their body hair. It creates such a bond between women, like you know you belong to the same tribe and it empowers you and boosts your confidence.
It took me a while to totally embrace this practice and integrate it in my life. When I traveled back to Hungary to move out of my apartment, I started to settle in again. I was home for two months and the “normal” world sucked me in. I couldn’t go anywhere without the beautiful models smiling at me from the billboards with their perfect smile, tanned skin, and hairless body. After about two weeks, I gave in. I felt so bad about myself that I took a razor and spent more than an hour under the shower, removing all the little hairs on my body which didn’t feel like they should be where they are. It felt good. I love when my skin is soft and smooth and it was just such a different feeling. A different kind of confidence which feeds off of insecurities.
By choosing to stop shaving, I’ve chosen to stop policing my body, and though I understand that others are empowered by shaving, I wasn’t.
You do not feel like you need to be perfect-looking when you’re on the road, living in nature or remotely from everything. At the beginning I still got that feeling that I am not “quite right” with my body hair and shaved everything off. It has now been about two months since I last shaved. The hardest part was (still is at times) to make peace with my little mustache hairs. (Not having a mirror in my teepee helps tremendously with this, because if I don’t see my face I forget about it). When I really made friends with my body hair it allowed me to enter into a deeper connection with my body on other levels as well. I gained a next-level confidence which doesn’t feed off of my insecurities but rather, of my strengths.
Having body hair is perfectly natural. It is accepted and even, praised on men and it should be on women as well. What is unnatural is how companies designed marketing campaigns to manipulate us until believing that women should shave in order to be attractive (so they can sell us more products and benefit from our insecurities).
In 1915 Gillette was looking to widen their customer base. Men were already having to trim their facial hair, so they introduced a new product, targeting women. With this step they basically doubled their customer base. They sold their products by claiming to solve a problem, that women never knew they had—hairy legs!
The campaigns that advertised razors really aimed to shame women into shaving, using words like “embarrassing,” “unwanted” to refer to armpit and leg hair, creating negative associations around all female body hair. Over the years they repeated it so many times and these adverts are bombarding us from every corner now, that we started to believe this.
Some advertisements went as far as spreading fake facts like body hair is unhygienic. Truth is there’s nothing unhygienic about it. Think about it: if men’s leg hair is not unhygienic, why would it be for women? We are the same species and body hair originally had an important role in our life. The only reason why we think something so natural can be unnatural, ugly or unhygienic is that we got so brainwashed that we can’t see through it anymore.
Here are 5 things that happened when I stopped shaving:
- I’m more confident
The more I explore my choices and my reasoning behind them, I became more and more confident about making my personal choices in life, as well as my appearance. The more naturally I live, without shaving or using make up the better I feel in my skin. It stopped feeling weird and became something I’m now proud of. I even started to silently enjoy the shocked faces when someone notices my hairy leg for the first time.
- My body is more visible
With this new confidence came something I never expected. Being naked or even just showing more skin or wearing tighter clothing became more natural. I used to wear long pants and jeans even in the worst heat in the summer if I didn’t have time to shave my legs before I left the house, even if my hair wasn’t even a millimeter long. No one would notice it but I knew it was there, so I had to hide it. Now I don’t care. If someone doesn’t like the way I look, they have the choice to look away.
- Life just got easier and getting ready is faster
I used to have this 1.5-hour-long ritual every morning before I headed out to work. There was an image in my head of what is acceptable in my own home and what is acceptable outside. Even if I left to pick up some groceries with confidence despite my unwashed hair or unshaved legs, it only lasted until I bumped into someone I knew or saw a handsome guy. I used to beat myself up for not looking “presentable.” Now I feel comfortable and even, sexy without make up, with no bra and my body being as hairy as it is.
- My skin got better
Once I stopped shaving I stopped having cuts and rashes on my legs, there are no more ingrown hairs around my bikini line. My skin feels softer and more moisturized.
- My sex-life improved
When I started to love and accept every hairy bit of my body, so did I start to love and accept every part of my partners’ body, my sex life changed for the better. Sex became less about a performance and worrying what the other person might see and so like or dislike on me. It’s more about spontaneity, pleasure, and just having fun. I found myself also being more confident to show my intimate parts more openly to my partner, while before I would rather hide them.
I know I was very lucky on this journey because I met many women who did the same and empowered me. I met open-minded people who accepted my body as it was. I never received negative comments about my body hair since I fully stopped shaving and my partner never made a comment about it. I believe it has something to do with the different environment I am in and the open communities I joined. I am sure if I would start this while I was working in the corporate environment in my “old life” I would receive many negative comments about it. It was enough to show up for a night shift without make-up to get mean comments, so I can imagine what would come… So I am really grateful for the love and support and acceptance of these amazing people, because it helped me tremendously to love and accept myself, too. So for me, the truest sign that I am at the right place with the right people is this: I am loved and accepted for who I am, as I am. And this should be the real normal and the base how we treat each other and ourselves.
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