My girlfriend used to shave her legs. It was a once a week ritual. But after a bit of reading and one trip to our Ella Bache clinic in Aspley she was a convert to waxing. Waxing takes less time, costs less money and is longer lasting than shaving. And you get to talk to someone while getting it done. In fact, it’s surprising what you can learn:
In Ancient Greece and Rome it was a sign of status for men and women to remove their body hair. But the practice had already been around for hundreds of years.
In Ancient Egypt (and later in Classical Greece and Rome) men and women would scour their legs and bodies with pumice stones. They would literally rip the hair from their bodies with these stones.
Later, the Romans would delicately scrape away unwanted body (and facial) hair with sharpened volcanic glass. In a time before antiseptic such a practice could quite literally kill you, should a cut turn septic and fester.
Things didn’t improve much during the middle ages.
Village matriarchs concocted all sorts of potions to rid people of unwanted body hair. One recipe from the 16th century included arsenic and quicklime amongst its ingredients. When smoothed onto the skin it would burn hair, flesh, anything. To be fair, it was advised this potion only be used on the legs, for safety reasons. Even so, there likely would have been many women permanently disfigured by the practice.
Many off-the-shelf hair removal products available today work in a similar fashion to the medieval potions. But rather than burning the hair they dissolve it with much softer chemicals.
It wasn’t until 1915 that the razor company Gillette took the opportunity to market a razor towards women. The success of the product took even the manufacturers by surprise and Gillette was hard pressed to keep up with demand.
Since then two things have happened to increase the demand for hair removal products. First, women’s spending power has risen. And second hemlines have receded.
More than ever women are able to show off their shapely legs. So more than ever they needed to keep them shaved and soft.
From the moment the first actresses graced the silent screen modern women have presented with ideals of beauty. Models, public figures and heroines in all areas of endeavour have only reinforced the obsession with shaved legs.
A 2013 survey estimated an average woman will spend 72 days of her life shaving her legs.
The alternative, waxing, is, as my girlfriend’s clinician at Ella Bache Aspley pointed out, a lot less time consuming, a lot cheaper and a lot more fun.