Hair Removal – A Crazy History

by Malcolm Willis

05 11, 2015 | Posted in Laser Hair Removal | 0 comments

Hair Removal 30,000 B.C

A lot of people think that our current obsession with hair removal is a consequence of the modern day beauty pattern. However, it seems like the more we research it, the further back we have to keep looking. In fact, historians have found evidence of the hair removal craze as far back as 30,000 B.C.!

The desire to remove unwanted hair seems to be as old as humanity itself. The most fascinating thing about this is the crazy methods that have been developed throughout history.

Real men don’t have beards

Soldiers who had beards were easy targets

Soldiers who had beards were easy targets

The reasons for the practice have changed constantly. For example, handheld objects such as sharpened flint stones were used by cavemen to remove their beard and hair.

The hair was scraped from the skin. The theory is that a long beard and hair would hinder their fighting skills as it could be easier for the opponent to get a hold of the fighter’s head. 

This was quite common and became even more widespread when Alexander the Great famously requested that all of his soldiers shave before battle to avoid giving an advantage to the enemy. A close shave became symbolic of a brave, important man.

The Hairless Egyptians

Some Ancient Egyptians used to shave off all of their body hair, including that on their head, not only for cleanliness, but so that they could wear stylish wigs (which held sensual connotations). How did they do it, you ask? Sharpened copper blades! Maybe out of sheer terror, they then invented a form of waxing called Sugaring, not that it was any better, it was just less sharp! They would spread a sticky solution onto the skin, put a piece of fabric over it and pull it out. Very much like waxing.

Meanwhile in Greece…

In Ancient Greece, it was considered uncivilised to have body hair. Beards or unshaven areas of body hair would indicate that the person was of a lower class or even a slave. This continued in Ancient Rome where people would use pumice stones on their arms and legs to remove the hair through abrasion!

Or, if you were Julius Caesar, you could have each hair on your body individually plucked out by slaves. Including the beard.

Deadly Creams

Skeleton hands illustration

Ancient depilatory creams were corrosive even to the skin

Most impressive of all, is that from very early on societies have been developing depilatory creams. As far back as 5000-7000 years ago. The idea was to dissolve the hair above the skin. Nowadays, depilatory creams can be quite irritating to the skin. Back then, you needed to stay alert to see if what was being burned was the hair…. or your skin!

The ingredient list could include resin, pitch, animal fats, bat’s blood , starch, quicklime and…. arsenic!

Preparing to wed

Threading was also developed around that time. It is suspected that the method came from the Middle East where hair removal was seen as a major ritual before the marriage ceremony, as only married women were hairless.

The Europeans finally catch up

Girls would start removing the hair on their forehead from a very early age

Girls would start removing the hair on their forehead from a very early age

The British and Europeans took a long time to get on the hair removal band wagon. Maybe it was the cold weather and the many layers of clothes. After all, who doesn’t forget to shave every now and then during winter? Anyone?

 

During the Elizabethan era a very odd form of hair removal arose. In homage to Queen Elizabeth, women would shave their eyebrows and hairline to fake a high forehead. Some mothers, believing the new beauty trend to be permanent, would rub a concoction of strong vinegar and dried cat dung on their child’s forehead to prevent hair from growing and to make sure the child grew up with that nice, long, fashionable forehead! The nicer mothers used walnut oil.

The civilised Americans

By the late 1800s, physicians in North America developed a much more civilised hair removal method which involved inserting and twisting a barbed needle with sulphuric acid into the hair follicle  (a technique that was further developed to become electrolysis). Soon after, the Gilette razor was developed which, let’s face it, started to make things a little bit less scary and dangerous. Well, it was a first step anyway.

 

We’re still doing it today

Throughout history, all around the world people were finding any way they could to get rid of body hair and, although many crazy inventions were developed, many of the techniques remain today in some form or another.

 

A step forward

The latest development in permanent hair removal came in the 1970s when laser hair removal was created. With technology, different kinds of lasers and new methods are being developed and they are getting better and safer by the minute.

In fact, some of the current methods of laser hair removal are practically painless! Especially if done by an experienced professional.


And, the best thing about it is there are no flintstones, arsenic, sulphuric acid or cat poo involved!

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