Women & Wet Shaving
In honor of Women’s History Month, we are taking a look at women and wet shaving. There is a growing interest among women shavers for this wet shaving gig, so we thought we would explore the topic of women’s shaving.
A Brief History of Women’s Hair Removal
Throughout history, cultural and practical practices have influenced when, where, and how women removed body hair. And let’s just say, we’ve come a long way!
Cave women rocked the shave.
Believe it or not, archeologists have found that these earliest people might not be the hairy-knuckled, hirsute beasts of history book fame. In fact, they may have been some of the first women wet shavers. But they weren’t looking for fashion cred or hygiene points. Stone Age women (and men) would shave their heads and faces to prevent their enemies from having anything to grab hold of in a fight. Sharpened stones or seashell “tweezers” served as the first “shavers”. They also removed hair to prevent frostbite. (It reduced the chance of ice building up on the body when water froze to beards, braids, or buns.) Safety first, friends.
Shave like an Egyptian (or Mesopotamian).
Often credited with the first “razors”, Mesopotamians and Egyptians were some of the first to remove all body hair. First for cleanliness and then for beauty. The hot Egyptian climate lends itself to the comfort of hacking off all that extra hair, but it also helped prevent the spread of disease. They moved beyond the sharpened stones to copper razors and even beeswax/sugar-based waxes, which they applied and then ripped off with fabric. (We really haven’t progressed much in this area, eh?) Eventually, unshaved came to equal uncivilized. (We even came to name an entire culture “Barbarians” (unbarbered) in our dedication to smooth skin.) Cleanliness is next to godliness, amirite?
Greeks & Romans keep it class-y.
Taking cues from those who came before them, the Greeks and Romans also adopted grooming practices as a sign of civilization and safety in battle. Women in this era actually began the process of removing all their body hair - using pumice stones, razors or flint, and even depilatory creams. You may have noticed that paintings and sculptures of this time honor the value of complete hairlessness on women. However, they took it a step further and made it a class issue. Personal razors weren’t a thing so a barber was required for hair removal. That meant only the wealthy (or those in the army) could afford a shave. When in Rome?!?!
Elizabethan & Victorian Ages keep it covered.
While most of the safety issues went the way of the woolly mammoth by this time, hair removal for vanity’s sake was just ramping up. However, most of the concern during these periods was facial hair. Queen Elizabeth was fond of plucking eyebrows and using walnut oil and other products to lighten and thin hair on the face. Removal of eyebrows, mustaches, and low hairlines were considered in vogue. Imagine wanting a receding hairline! The Victorian age saw much of the same. Full coverage fashion meant body hair was covered - lose the mustache, but forget about pit hair. Out of sight, out of mind.
1900s to Today
So, where did the idea of shaving legs and armpits come from? Passed down perhaps by moms & grandmas? One word: MARKETING. That’s right, much of our “traditional” expectations of women shaving underarms, legs, and bikini area came from the fashion, advertising, and men’s grooming industries. King Camp Gillette introduced his safety razor in 1903 and saw his sales skyrocket over the next few years, especially when soldiers from WWI received them as general issue gear. But clearly there was the untapped women’s market. By 1915 the first razor marketed to women was created, the Milady Decollete. But now women needed to be sold on why to buy them. Well, changing fashion presented the perfect opportunity. As sleeveless dresses appeared, the “need” to shave armpits followed. Ads exploded urging the need to remove “objectionable hair”. Then skirt lengths shortened and shaving legs became necessary. Within a few years, 98% of women were shaving both.
Today, women are talking about body hair more than ever - waxing, threading, brazilians - and the list goes on. But the decisions are more squarely in individual hands than ever before. To shave or not to shave, that is YOUR question.
Benefits of Wet Shaving for Women
Now, if you do choose to shave (no matter how little or how much), the practice of wet shaving is the way to do it.
While there is an initial investment in the correct tools, wet shaving is largely cheaper than continually replacing disposal razors. After purchasing your razor, it is just a matter of replacing the blades which are quite inexpensive. Pennies per shave really.
In addition, wet shaving reduces waste and is more eco-friendly, unlike plastic cartridge razors. You buy a tool that lasts and you don’t have to fill the landfills with plastics. In addition, shaving soaps and shaving creams often come with reusable bowls or tubs which can be refilled. Also, no more aerosol cans of foam with questionable propellants and chemicals.
But one of the most compelling reasons for women to embrace the wet shave is the experience. You get an extremely close shave with less irritation, razor burn, and ingrown hairs. The lathering and prepping can feel like a spa day of pampering. Once you have the technique down, you can get the best shave of your life. And of course, the tools look pretty classy - sleek stainless steel, hand tied badger brush, hand turned pottery bowl - right?
Are you a wet shaving woman? What got you into the game? What is your favorite part? Let us know in the comments below.