I Stopped Shaving -- Here’s What I Learned

About a year and a half ago, I did something scary. I stopped shaving. 

 

Inspired by body hair positivity pages on Instagram, I started to evaluate my relationship with the culture of body hair removal and how shaving really made me feel. As a Latina with particularly thick, dark hair, I started to realize this imposed beauty standard was kind of a huge sexist, colonialist scam.

 

Firstly, there's the obvious double standard. For men, body hair is a mark of masculinity, adulthood, strength, power. For women, it's a mark of poor hygiene. I don’t see any reason why I can’t be confident in the same ways a man can be. Why shouldn’t I, too, embrace a bit of cozy leg insulation during the cold winter months? It seems obvious that women are culturally (and commercially) conditioned to be repulsed by their most natural states of existence. Everything in the beauty industry profits off of this fact, with hair removal services costing the average woman $27,000 in a lifetime.

 

Why do women feel the need to remove our body hair? It’s a question I started to ask myself a lot. Afterall, body hair is a sign of physical maturity in both sexes. Emulating the hairless body of a prepubescent person is a pretty strange beauty standard when you start to think about it. A beauty standard justified by the weird and dangerous cultural belief that youth is the primary sexual value in women. 

 

I started to get disillusioned with shaving for all of these reasons. Plus, it was a lot of work. 

I had been constantly removing thick black hair from my legs, armpits, and face since I was 12. I found myself spending ungodly amounts of mental energy trying to fit into a European beauty standard. And, in doing so, I was culturally conditioned to dislike my natural appearance. 

 

So after sitting and thinking on the issue for what felt like forever, I finally gathered the confidence to be my most authentic self. I ditched the razors, the waxing, the tweezing, and instead tried to embrace my body hair. 

 

I wish I could tell you that it was instantaneous freedom — a moment of complete self assurance and strides towards feminist utopia. But it wasn’t. It was downright terrifying for the first couple of months. I was tortured with the anxiety about how any given person might react. If I felt someone was staring at me, I would feel myself regress to the small, Mexican girl getting bullied on the playground, and I’d turn bright red. I hid myself behind sweaters and leggings and long bangs for a while, only feeling truly comfortable around my closest friends and family.

 

But after a while, it got easier. I got used to the natural appearance of my body and began to accept myself exactly as the universe made me. Because of that, it didn’t matter so much what other people thought about me. There was only one person that I needed to like me, and that person was me. My own comfort and confidence became my biggest priorities, and I learned to care a lot less about the opinions of others.

 

Learning to love my body hair was one of the hardest things I’ve ever challenged myself to do. It was scary to unlearn the years of cultural conditioning that made me feel dirty, manly, and monstrous. But in the end, it taught me many things. Mostly, I learned that I do not have to look picture perfect in order to have value. It is not my job to be pretty, conforming, or digestible to the male gaze.

 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, or pampering yourself with a beauty routine that makes you feel happy. But I think it’s important that women analyze the patriarchal lens through which we view ourselves. This is especially true for women of color, as we tend to hold ourselves to the unrealistic beauty standards imposed by white imperialism. 

 

Since I’ve stopped shaving, I feel much more in control of my body and my identity. Though I still sometimes struggle with negative self-image, I have learned to accept the parts of myself that others may not like. If you have ever considered growing out your body hair, I highly recommend you do it! You’ll learn a lot about yourself and ditch an outdated beauty standard in the process.