I’ve had my fair share of hair removal mishaps. One time, I forgot how young I was then, but I found wax strips at home and I used them on my upper lip. I warmed it up between my palms and put it on my mustache — something that bothered me endlessly for some reason — then I yanked it hard. I basically stripped off a layer of my skin away with the wax, so then I had bloody patches on my upper lip, and in the weeks they were healing, I looked like a toddler who just ate chocolate ice cream. My skin was too young for the wax, and the strips were meant for the body, not the face. Apparently.
Another time was when I found my mom’s tweezers and I’ve seen her plucking her eyebrows before. Mine are naturally full and bushy and I wanted to tweeze them too. I didn’t have the knowledge of brow shaping and symmetry that I have now, so I plucked with no idea what I was doing. That evening my parents came home and were shocked to find their daughter with half her left eyebrow gone. Worse was that she denied ever doing anything. My dad still teases me about that. “Half your eyebrow was missing and you kept insisting you didn’t touch it, it was hilarious” Thank god eyebrows grow back.
I’ve had the desire to rid myself of the little hairs all over me very early on, thanks to seeing only smooth, hairless (not to mention light-skinned), women on television and magazines all around me.
I started hot waxing my armpits when I was in fourth grade. Ten years old. The continuous trauma on the young skin created hyperpigmentation that made me more insecure about my armpits. I begged my mom for bleaching creams and she gave in, seeing how much it took a toll on my self esteem.
Why is body hair so frowned upon when it grows on a female body?
Since then, I had been looking for ways to take off the hair and lighten my armpits. Years of trial and error, burning my skin, and making it worse while trying to make it “better”. Finally I found cold waxing and that seemed to work best for me.
As an adult, I would get underarm and Brazilian waxes regularly. Occasionally, I would have my legs waxed too. I sometimes shave my arm hair and the hair on my fingers and toes. I would thread my own eyebrows and upper lip often; I could be really conscious about the hair on my face. I was really aware of which parts of my body had hair and I would “solve” the “problem” immediately.
But how is body hair a problem? Some say hygiene, cleanliness. If that were the case, shouldn’t the same standard apply to men? They can have hair everywhere and use dishwashing soap when they bathe every three days and no one would bat an eye. Meanwhile, there is always the pressure on women to be smooth, hairless (oh, except on where hair is approved!), perfectly groomed, and smell like fields of lavender all the time. Why is body and facial hair so frowned upon when they grow on a female body?
Now that waxing salons have been closed for months and I won’t attempt to wax myself (you know why), it’s the first time in sixteen years that I let the hair in my armpits grow out. I know I have beautiful, lush hair on my head, but I had no idea my body could grow such hair there too. It’s fascinating! It’s beautiful. It’s healthy. I have more armpit hair than my 17 and 21 year old brothers. I think it’s funny and pretty cool, haha.
I don’t really realize when my eyebrows and my upper lip hair have grown out during this quarantine. When I do, I still clean up, but it’s not as borderline obsessive as before.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if anything, the quarantine has given me a break from having to perform femininity for a world that frowns upon anything less than, and anything different from its rigid standards of beauty.
This time has really been helping me focus more on how I feel more than how I look, and most especially focusing more on how I feel more than what others think I should look like. I’m learning to not care whether I bother people with how I look like. It has been a lifelong journey and the work is never done.
Letting it all grow out is not an act of self-neglect. In fact, it has deepened my self-love. After the quarantine, I’ll still wax here and there, but it won’t be for any other purpose than it makes me feel good. I am as hairier than I have ever been while I write this, and guess what: I love me more than ever, too. This body is mine and it is beautiful.