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Why Women Aren’t Shaving Their Armpits This January (Or Until They Feel Like It)

If you’re noticing more and more people, from celebs to your friends to some very hip teens rejecting the razor in favor of growing out their underarm hair this January (or Janu-hairy), it’s just the latest wave in a trend that’s been gaining momentum in the last decade. The idea of shaving, plucking or waxing the non-head hair that comes out of your body has been a cultural edict for (mostly women and femme folks) to follow for a lot of the 20th and 21st century — coinciding with the hair removal industry being profitable and a host of other factors encouraging smooth, hairless skin as a standard of beauty.

But now, as we start to identify and look more critically at all the ways certain standards of beauty (often masqueraded as hygiene or health matters) just don’t work for us, more and more people are just saying “nah, I’m good” to the idea of scraping a razor, adding a stinky depilatory or ripping wax over their most sensitive body parts just because they’re a little bit fuzzy or stubbly. And as the people who represent our culture’s beauty standards, celebrities and influencers (from Miley Cyrus and Halsey to Madonna and Janelle Monae), get in on the furry fun — it’s harder to justify removing your body hair unless it’s really and truly something you want to do.

In the book “Plucked: A History of Hair Removal,” Rebecca M. Herzig explores the hair-removing obsession in western culture, particularly in the United States, and notes how it is very much a recent development ruled by intersecting social issues and factors ranging from industry, gender, immigration, race and more. But, of course, most people are more likely to see their hair removal habits less as matters of “norms and values” and industry and more about their personal tastes.

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“Whether one engages in hair removal or deliberately rejects reigning norms, management of the hairy body has become one more way to exercise [individual freedom],” Herzig writes. “Shave or wax, laser or pluck: we are empowered to decide, and responsible for our own outcomes.”

Katie C., a photographer from the Hudson Valley in New York, says the first time she really remembers learning that she was “supposed” to be ashamed of her body hair was in the middle school locker room. And of course, that makes sense: as it’s a time when you’re already so conscious of your own body, the ways it’s changing, and the bodies of your peers. So, often, the “rules” become clear pretty fast.

“I remember being an adolescent and early teen and being embarrassed by [the fact that her mom didn’t shave] but now that I’m older I totally get it (so thank you, mom!),” she tells SheKnows, but says it didn’t take long to shed the hair aversion as an adult. “I’ve never been one for leg shaving, so I’d say I’m an early-adopter. Gorilla legs all year round, baby! Armpits is more out of forgetfulness or laziness — but I also don’t care too much.”

For most people, the decisions they make about keeping or removing body hair in 2020 are all about comfort — and the time and energy you’re willing to put into the ritual of depilation. If you get itchy or feel like your deodorant isn’t hitting the same way, it makes sense to opt in for a shave if it’ll feel good. But, just the same, if you want to avoid razor burn, ingrown hairs or any of the other less-than-fun parts of hair removal, why wouldn’t you just opt out?

“As a society, we shun women with body hair, acting as though they are dirty and unclean. We hand young girls razors and teach them how to “take care of a problem” instead of presenting shaving, plucking and waxing as part of a personal decision about whether an individual wants to remove any or all of her body hair,” Shaye DiPasquale writes for HelloFlo. “My personal worries about body hair began to fade when I got more involved in activities throughout high school and into college. I didn’t have time to waste thinking so critically about my appearance anymore. But, it wasn’t until this past year or so when I began seeing social media posts from other women talking about the natural beauty of body hair that I truly began to understand how empowering body hair can be for some individuals.”

When you’re a mom, or just a person living a life that’s full and wonderful and busy and exhausting in its own way, it totally makes sense that you might embrace keeping your hair and deciding you DGAF whether someone else has thoughts on the aesthetics.

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