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It is hair to stay, deal with it

Millennial women are expressing their body confidence in their own way by preferring to go ‘natural’ in parts of their bodies people expect to be clean shaven

Stephen Mwangi, 30, is a disturbed man. His girlfriend, Mary, whom he loves and has dated for two years, loves keeping her armpit hair and he finds it unhygienic.

On the other hand, Mary finds shaving her armpit hair itchy and uncomfortable. She also doesn’t like the fact that hair grows back thicker after she shaves. Mary loves her armpit hair and thinks that men have no say as far as her hair is concerned.

She finds it liberating and doesn’t feel like it’s a crime to show them off.  The only body hair that she maintains is the hair on her eyebrows as she believes that her face looks better when she shaves them than when she leaves them to grow.

Despite the fact that armpit and pubic hair might be just as natural as the hair on our heads, the society deems armpit or pubic hair in women as something controversial, taboo even.

Having hair in pubes or armpit areas has always been regarded as unhygienic, to some, a secret so shameful that it must be hidden from the public, especially if one is a woman.

However, even with these findings, current research shows that more people are opting not to shave their underarms and other areas. This means that it’s really not as ‘out-there’ as it was once deemed to be.

Research by analysts Mintel argues that more millennial women are deciding not to get rid of hair from their armpits as in the previous years.

According to the research, back in the year 2013, 95 per cent of women between the ages of 16 and 24 shaved or waxed their underarms. Shockingly, by the year 2017, the figure had dropped to 77 per cent.

In the year 1700, Jean Jacques Perret invented the first razor blade, designed originally for men to use on their faces, but women would use it as well. During this period, even the word ‘underarm’ was deemed scandalous. 

Then in the 1900, the advent of the sleeveless dress pressured women into shaving their armpits. More and more razor blade companies took this opportunity to sell the idea of shaving to women as being “more lady like.”

Come the 1940s during the Second World War, the shortage of nylon and also the short skirt trend, as history records, forced women to begin shaving their legs, armpits and even their eyebrows.

However, on the other side, men didn’t have to shave anything. Things got worse in the 1980s with the advent of fashion, porn and pop culture that made everyone believe that having pubic hair was wrong.

This period saw numerous videos and images of women with their pubic hair either via fashion photography or pornography. Currently, with the advent of more bolder feminist movements, women have options when it comes to body hair removal.

For instance, celebrities such as Myles Cyrus, Madonna’s daughter, Lourdes Leon, Willow Smith   and Oscar-winning Julia Roberts, who was one of the first to reveal hairy armpits on the red carpet of the Notting Hill film premier in the year 1999, have gone au naturale. Some are going as far as even dying their pit hair.

Sociologist Dr Gladys Nyachieo of Kenyatta University feels that social expectations play a huge role in how women view their body hair as it always seen as disgusting or simply socially unacceptable.

“People shave their armpits because the society, especially those living in urban areas view it as dirty or careless. Failure to shave makes one uncomfortable as the society influences the private decisions of shaving and not shaving. In my opinion, shaving should be done for hygienic reasons,” she argues.

Though shaving armpits is associated with cleanliness, a study carried out by a  Chicago doctor,  Kris McGrath of Northwestern University, found out that underarm shaving linked with deodorants might result in breast cancer amongst women. 

Further claims on this recently hit the headlines when Phillipa Darbre of the University of Reading in the UK wrote an article, which reported that preservatives used in the making of deodorants as well as antiperspirants, could be found in breast tumours.

Tucked away in between one’s arm and torso, the armpit is often regarded as the source of unpleasant odours and embarrassing wetness. Those who leave hair in their armpit, apply deodorants for freshness and a perfect smell. 

According to Dr Nyachieo, employing deodorants might result in cancer as the skin gets exposed to the chemicals. “Most deodorants inhibit sweating, which is a natural process of getting rid of wastes in the body. Shaving also causes small cuts that even without deodorants cause irritation and illness,” she says.

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