Behind the stigma of female body hair & the history of body hair removal

As soon as the weather gets warmer, what's one of the first things we do ladies? Grab the razor, so we can wear all the skirts, shorts & sleeveless tops that have been gathering dust in our wardrobe for half the year.

Over the past couple of years, whilst I was fretting over the hairs that I missed whilst shaving, I started to question why we remove body hair. Why is there so much pressure to be hairless like a new born baby? Why do women feel embarrassed to have body hair? Why do shaving adverts have already hair-free women in them & why do they portray women as happy & 'unstoppable' only if they're hair-free?

Growing up, I used to cry over how much body hair I had. I was constantly trying to hide my hairy legs, fingers, hands, side burns etc. embarrassed that people would make fun of me.

Harnaam kaur-influencer and model-youngest women to have a full beard

Harnaam Kaur: Influencer & model

It's not right or fair that women are brought up to believe that body hair is gross, unfeminine and unattractive. It's socially acceptable for men to have body hair, but women not to, which confirms the constant shaming & policing of women's bodies. Women have received death & rape threats for showing body hair despite it being a completely natural part of being human.

When we're already getting paid less than men, & being charged the 'pink tax' on razors, why should we fuel the patriarchy's unrealistic standard of beauty by constantly spending our hard earned money on body hair removal?

To challenge this, I researched the history of female body hair removal, why we do it & why there's a stigma attached to it.

(Throughout this post we'll be sharing pics of women who are embracing & loving their body hair!)


Cavewomen & men

It's believed that cavewomen & cavemen where the first to remove body hair, but they shaved for safety reasons, not vanity. They shaved their heads & faces so their opponents wouldn't grab onto it in battle. It also reduced the chance of frostbite.

In the Stoneage, they used sharp edged stones and used shells as tweezers.

Ancient Egyptians

A few thousand years later, both men and women in Egypt removed all their body hair, except their eyebrows. The absence of body hair represented cleanliness & beauty.

They used pumice stones, tweezers made from seashells, beeswax & sugar-based wax.

Cardi B shamed for stomach hair - Rani & Co.

Cardi B was shamed for having stomach hair (but we love it!)

Roman Empire

Lack of body hair still resembled cleanliness in the Roman times, but was also a signifier of class, only for women though. Wealthy women removed body hair, whilst men got to keep theirs.

Pubic hair was seen as uncivilised, so the moment a woman grew pubic hair, she had to remove it.

Queen Elizabeth 1

Queen Elizabeth created the trend of grooming facial hair, i.e. shaped brows & no moustaches. But, ladies got to keep their leg and pubic hair (#win).

An unusual trend during the Elizabethan Era was making your face look longer by removing the hair from the top of the forehead by rubbing walnut oil & even cat poo on this area!


Introducing Gilette, one of the largest razor brands. King Camp Gilette created the first safe razors for women.

In 1915, the first anti-underarm hair campaign was created, introducing the 'Milady Décolleté' razor (it was 14k gold-plated!). The campaign stated 'the fastidious woman today must have immaculate underarms if she is to be unembarrassed'. Sleeveless dresses were becoming a big fashion trend, so removing underarm hair was a 'necessity' according to Harpers Bazaar (thanks for exposing them Refinery29).

This was the first time that fashion directly affected how women shave their body hair.  


World War 2

During World War 2, there was a shortage of nylon, meaning women couldn't wear stockings as often. For women to be socially accepted, their bare legs had to be shaved.

In the 1950s, as skirts got higher, hairless legs became more common, armpits were shaved & brows were tweezed.

Porn, pop-culture & fashion

In the 80s & 90s, pornography & fashion photography often showed women with no pubic hair. The first salon offering a Brazilian Wax came about in 1987, with celebs such as Gwenyth Paltrow & Naomi Campbell visiting it & talking about it.

Stacey women proudly showing hairy legs on Loose Women-Rani & Co.
Stacey Solomon proudly showing her hairy legs on Loose Women

So, that's a brief history of how & why female body hair is removed.

In history, body hair removal has often been a symbol of status & class, but that's not the case anymore. Body hair removal is no longer a fashion trend. It's the result of society constantly telling women what to do with their hair.

More & more women are starting to question their body hair removal. I've seen women confidently walking around with unshaven legs & underarms, & I am HERE for it. 

Rupi Kaur poem on female body hair-Rani & Co.

This doesn't mean that if you remove body hair then you're a bad feminist. If you're sitting there thinking, "I agree with this article, but I'm a hypocrite for removing my body hair", remember, it's difficult to unlearn what you've been taught from a young age. We are challenging societal stereotypes more & more but it's a slow & steady process. If being hair-free makes you feel good, then so be it. But, let's not judge women for embracing their natural body hair (that includes women who judge other women, read more on our post about internalised misogyny).

If society viewed female body hair removal as a choice rather than a necessity, or just viewed it as none of their business, maybe women would love their bodies more & the patriarchy would profit less from the insecurities it creates for women.

Let us know what your views are in the comments below!


Lots of love,
[Founder of Rani & Co.]



 Article header photo credit: @xtheodoreclarkex, emma.jpg, kathrynpidgreon, Januhairy


  • Julie Moss

    Melody, that isn’t true. I know some beautiful females who don’t shave and they are in happy marriages! If the guys you go out with hassle you about how often you shave or wax, or bully you to do so, they are not the right guy for you. You shouldn’t have to compromise who you are just so you can have sex. You are worth more than your sexuality!
    Can I encourage you to not worry about sex for a while, and focus on putting time and effort into knowing who you are, and loving and embracing your true self! If a partner won’t share sex with you unless you get rid of hair, that isn’t love, its coercion and its not ok. Be proud of who you are and don’t let anyone make you compromise yourself!
    Love yourself, you are worth it,

  • Julia

    I’m in my 30s and have never shaved my pubic hair entirely (always trim or do nothing). While many guys are pigs and have no respect for our bodies, let’s also recognize that there are good, family-oriented guys, too, who couldn’t care less about pubes.

    I’ve changed my trimming routine a little bit for my husband (giving oral) to make things easier to get to, but he’s made it clear that he’ll be fine with whatever. He just wants things to be clean (freshly showered or feminine wipes), which is a safer practice anyways.

    My husband is actually the one who removes all of his pubic hair regularly, even though it’s against the male stereotype of being hairy. It’s more comfortable for him, and he says it increases sensations for him during sex. I love how prominent his penis is and it makes oral better on my end, but if he wants to change the style some day, I’ll also be fine with whatever. There are so many things that make me attracted to him, but his pubic hair (or lack of) doesn’t make the top 100 reasons.

    I feel that when you find someone who unconditionally cares about you and your future, you don’t need to be concerned about your pubes. If, however, you are looking for a one night stand or a relationship based primarily on sex, then your pube situation matters a whole lot more, and you can’t expect those guys to be the loving and caring type.

  • melody

    It’s totally sexist, but if heterosexual women stop shaving their legs and public hair, they won’t get sex. Most men refuse to have sex with real women, with real hair

  • Ramona

    Hi Keertan,

    Thank you for sharing your story. So sorry you felt that way, it’s totally understandable. Good for you for standing up for yourself, it’s not easy to do! The fact that those guys couldn’t say it to your face says a lot about them. Don’t let anyone make you feel insecure, body hair or not, you’re beautiful as you are.

    Ramona (Founder of Rani & Co.)

  • Keertan Kaur

    Thank you for this article Ramona :)
    I was at the gym yesterday wearing tracksuit bottoms with a small portion above my ankles showing (leg hair present), I noticed a guy staring and looking specifically down at my ankles. I had my headphones in but saw him say something to his guy friend who then proceeded to look at me, again down at my ankles…this made me feel so self-conscious so I took my headphones off and asked what was up. They went silent and said nothing but had smirks on their face. I asked them again to say what they had to say, but again no answer…
    They made me feel quite low but I guess a blessing in disguise as made me come across your article :)

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