Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve shaved my pubic hair. As a ballet dancer, I didn’t dare let a dark hair poke through my pink tights, and to keep my leotard-and-tight ensemble impeccably free from hairy flaws, I used a painstaking combination of Nair, electric razors, and waxes from age 13 to 21. This seemed normal to me. Everyone I knew with pubic hair manicured her nethers region relentlessly: my peers shaved, my fellow ballerina friends shaved, my mother shaved, Sarah Jessica Parker on Sex in the City shaved — so of course, I followed suit. It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned other women let their pubic hair grow freely, liberated from vulvic beauty standards seen in the fashion and porn industries.
After years of oscillating pubic hair trends, today we’re seeing a return of the bush. It seems at last we’re realizing that our hair down there does, in fact, serve a very important purpose and that our vulva -region sculpting should be determined solely by our personal preference. But what did it take to get here anyway?
So how did we get here? Well, here’s a brief history of women shaving pubic hair.
The royals did it
Our ancient Egyptian sisters are allegedly the forerunners of many beauty rituals (Cleopatra’s milk baths for supple skin come to mind), but most of their grooming time was devoted to hair removal. Women of ancient Egypt removed the majority of their body hair, including that on their heads, with tweezers fashioned from seashells, pumice stones, or early beeswax and sugar based waxes.
Similarly, during the Roman Empire, a lack of body hair was considered a sign of wealth and class. The bourgeoisie ladies and gents of Rome used razors made from flints, tweezers, creams, and stones to remove excess hair. In fact, even pubic hair was considered uncivilized. This is why so many famous stone statues of Grecian women are depicted hairless.
In the Middle ages, Queen Elizabeth I started removing hair from her face, but left her body hair alone. She set the precedent of the large forehead trend, opting to remove her eyebrows and hair from her forehead to make it appear elongated. Women used walnut oil or bandages soaked in ammonia and vinegar.
Razors and waxing strips are born
In the late 18th century, Jean Jacques Perret, a French barber, created the first straight razor for men, and soon after women adopted the tool into their own hair removal tackle boxes. Years later in 1880, King Camp Gillette created the first modern day razor and thus a revolution was born when in 1915 Gillette created the first razor specifically for women called the Milady Decolletee.
A decade later, a leading women’s fashion magazine ran an ad featuring a woman with her arms raised and her armpits bare, the first of its kind. Remington released the first electric razor in 1940, right at the same time women were wearing nylons less and showing bare legs more.
The sixties saw the debut of wax strips, in tandem with the bikini fad. Women’s pubic area was on display in public areas and on magazine covers, television, and in film more often and waxing, shaving, and plucking was normalized.
Although no advertising or health campaign ever came out and declared that public hair shaving was a necessary grooming or hygiene practice for American woman, the idea was pushed equally by both the razor and hair removal industry and the entertainment industry. The image of a hairless woman became synonymous femininity, pristineness, and fairness.
1970s, back to basics
In the seventies the status of the hairs on the head resonated with hairs in our pants — liberated! The burgeoning feminist movement of the seventies tied ideas about sexual liberation to natural and freely grown body hair— a full bush and lush armpit hair were a sexy symbol of the counterculture brewing on college campuses and urban centers. In the 80s and 90s, Helmut Newton’s nude art photography, and less highbrow publications like Playboy, showed manicured but very present pubic hair on women.
Rise of the brazilians
In the 90s and 2000s— the years I came of age and was trimming like mad for my ballet class— Brazilian waxes became a big celebrity trend. The infamous “Brazilian” episode of Sex and the City premiered in 2000, depicting the TV series lead Carrie Bradshaw getting a dramatic waxing at a New York salon.
Today: pubes are in (again)
Today, we’re seeing a return in the embrace of the hair, largely attributed to the feminist movements of our time that emphasize the importance of choice. The New York Times cited the fuller bushes of Naomi Campbell and porn star Stoya as eidence of the trend, and recent comments by celebrities like Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow confirm a cultural shift toward women’s embrace of body hair.
With this shift, we’re witnessing a host of products designed to moisturize and pamper our pubic areas. Just like the hair follicles on other parts of our bodies, our pubic hair deserves conditioning, too. I recently tried a product called Fur Oil. Fur Oil is essentially oil for your pubic hair: a moisturizing grape seed oil and jojoba oil carrier with some essential oils, including tea tree oil. As I generally keep my pubic hair trimmed short, I had to grow it out a little to test the product. I have incredibly sensitive skin, but Fur Oil was gentle and moisturizing and the smell is luxurious. I used it once a day in the evening after showing, incorporating its use into my nightly grooming routine. You just need a few drops to rub into your pubic hair and skin region. I use an electric razor to trim, and occasionally suffer from an ingrown hair or two, but Fur Oil successfully calmed any irritation or redness in my pubic hair area (tea tree oil is a great microbial oil) and the jojoba oil is super soothing. I even tried it on my eyebrows. It’s a lovely treat for your nether regions, particularly if you (or your partner) find the scent of lavender enticing.
At the end of the day, you should trim your bush as you please— we are the architects of our muffs.