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From Seashells to Waxing: The History of Hair Removal


What was considered uncivilized in Ancient Greece is thought of as sexy thousands of years later, according to Refinery29.

Sharing the shaving methods of our ancestors, the health and beauty site reports that Samoans once sheared their skin with seashells to eliminate unwanted underarm hair, Greek statues showed no hair below the belt and Egyptian art “showcased women with perfect little triangles.”

Confirming the course of hair removal, Elle magazine mentions how exotic Egyptian women pioneered hair removal, taking the seashell method one step further than the Samoans by turning seashells into tweezers to pluck hair out rather than shave it off with sharp edged objects. They also utilized pumice stones and beeswax- and sugar-based waxes, unknowingly making waves for women’s hair removal for years to come.

But they did and for this, the 21st century woman couldn’t be more grateful that “by 1844, Dr. Gouraud had created one of the first depilatory creams called Poudre Subtile.” A 100-year-old advertisement shown at Refinery29 depicts the call to shave since “summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair.”

Promoting X Bazin depilatory powder, the brand promised to remove hair “gently and effectively” for a mere 10 cents with a generous sample by the manufacturer compared to the 50 cent cost of the cream in drug and department stores. So interested in its history, Columbia University student Kirsten Hansen dedicated her American Studies senior thesis to hair removal in “Hair or Bare?: The History of American Women and Hair Removal, 1914-1934.”

“With the decline of the Roman Empire and the resurgence of barbarian tribes the beard came back in style, likely because the practice of shaving was still a rudimentary and dangerous process,” writes Hansen. Citing a 1915 Harper’s Bazaar issue, she explained how hair removal changed with the fashion. When World War I wiped away materials and “caused shortages in resources and machinery,” the use of new materials and “mass produced clothing” bore a whole new type of wardrobe.

With sheer and sleeveless all the rage, having underarm or heavy arm hair was simply not aesthetically pleasing. Add in higher hemlines and before women knew it they were being called to shave in places that were never necessary. Taking advantage for the overnight need of shaving materials for women, Gillette, the most notable men’s razor brand introduced in 1880, began creating just-for-her blades and handles.

Though razors and creams were the way to shave, a new method was not far behind. “Wax strips made their debut in the 1960s and quickly became the method of choice for removing unwanted hair under the arms and on legs,” reports Elle, adding that laser hair removal was introduced mid-sixties. “Today, most women rely on some form of hair removal in their everyday beauty routines, whether it is tweezing, shaving, waxing, or depilatory.” Whether male or female, the methods use to shave have surely come a long way, only making us wonder if there is yet some other way to get rid of unwanted hair.

If you or someone you know would like more information about hair removal, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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