Are You a Hairless Mammal?

It’s summertime again.  Time for beaches and iced tea, BBQ and watermelon, sunscreen and mosquito netting.  Whether you enjoy the heat, or prefer to bask in the chilly air-conditioned confines of the great indoors, it’s hot outside.  I’m certain that you’ve noticed, as have I, that the world of advertising loves summertime.  People, especially young, impressionable people, usually have more free time in the summer.  Free time added to a bit of pocket money means a golden opportunity for companies to cash in on the insecurities of the masses.

Is your body beach-ready? Do you have cellulite? Is your hair still shiny? Are you tan? Please don’t tell me you’re sweating! how could you let people see you perspiring?! DO YOU HAVE BODY HAIR!? The guilt and shame-inducing messages are endless.  The image of young, thin, tan, sweat-free, shiny-tressed people with hairless bodies is everywhere.  It seems like 75% of the offers on Groupon these days are for laser hair removal.  There’s an entire section at most drug stores for the removal of hair.  Whether you wax, shave, buff, sugar, pluck, or laser it off, the message out there is that body hair has to go (or, in the case of guys, it must be “manscaped” to “acceptable parameters).

My Summertime legs
My Summertime legs

I am not immune to this.  I grew up reading fashion magazines and trying as hard as I could to look like the models on the pages.  How could I get below a size five?  Why on Earth was my skin burning and freckling instead of tanning?  How could I prevent the hair from ever growing back on my legs?!  I spent way too much time worrying about this as a teen and in my early twenties.  I was obsessed with it because I, like most of my peers, had been brainwashed by the media.

While, yes, it has long been the social norm in our society for women to seriously limit their body hair, it has not always been so expensive.  I remember when it was easy to get a razor handle that would fit several brands of blades.  You could get the little multi-blades in a pack for a few dollars, and they would even fit cute handles you could order from catalogs.  This was much easier than buying regular bare razor blades, and safer for those who might be clumsy.  Today, however, razors have become some sort of luxury item.  If you don’t want to pollute your local landfill with disposable, single-use plastic razors, you will end up spending a small fortune on the packaged safety blades.  At most local drugstores near us, the blades are kept under lock and key, and cost an average of $20 for four blade heads.  Those blade heads probably cost less than a quarter to manufacture.  The markup is ridiculous!

The madness doesn’t stop there, however!  If you buy one brand of razor handle, only that brand of razor head will be compatible.  Gone are the days of blades that would fit a standard handle!  Just as we have seen electronic devices and cell phones with individual chargers that match nothing else (thank goodness that trend is disappearing!), so are different razor heads only compatible with certain handles.  Certainly, this is a way for the corporations to make more money!  It prevents other companies from selling a knockoff blade that will fit their specific razor, it seems, because this is one area where I have not seen generic equivalents.  This even goes beyond brand, and extends to different models!  I knew I had a Schick handle, and i thought i was lucky when Schick blades went on sale for a mere $15!  Little did I realize that my Schick Hydra handle would not be compatible with Schick Quattro blade heads!  It’s a trap!

Now, of course, there are plenty of people who go with alternate means of hair removal.  My favorite for a long tine is now pretty hard to find. It was a plastic mitt onto which an adhesive piece of very fine-grade sandpaper was attached.  it removed hair for several weeks, and also exfoliated the skin.  It cost about $5 and the kit lasted for about 6 months.  Why didn’t it catch on? It only worked on fine, light hair, which is not what the majority of body hair is for most people.  It also did not work well under the arms, so purchasing a razor was still important.  If you are interested in waxing or sugaring to remove body hair, you have to let the hair grow out until it is long enough to get trapped in the coating, and then it is less than a pleasant feeling when the hair is yanked off.  People with sensitive or fragile skin need not apply, because it will be more trouble than it is worth.  What about laser hair removal?  It seems to be everywhere.  I know many people for whom it has worked, but unlike the buffing mitt that worked only on fine, light hair, laser hair removal works best on coarse, dark body hair.  It is also very expensive, and not all places that offer laser hair removal are trustworthy.  in fact, it is vitally important, when having someone else remove your hair, to read all of the reviews you can find of a place before you go.

Case in point, I once entered a “raffle” for a laser place after completing a walk to raise money for a cancer charity.  I thought the company must be legit, since they were at the charity event.  When they called to tell me I had won a “gift certificate” for $500, I was happy!  When I went to the place, the situation was different than anticipated.  First of all, most places that cater to hair removal will also be set of selling you other things to make your body “perfect” – and the salespeople are slick.  They will make you think you are a welcome guest, and then proceed to dismantle any remaining confidence or dignity you still possess.  Not all places, to be sure, but places like the one that gave me this certificate.  I have light, fine body hair – and as I mentioned above, that is not ideal for laser hair removal.  The “clinician” did not stop at trying to sell me that, however.  She made a BIG deal about how I needed skin restructuring and cellulite reduction and laser wrinkle removal.  I went from being a relatively confident person who thought I had won $500 to being someone who was suddenly unsure if it was okay to be seen in public.  A rule of thumb: if someone tries to give you the hard sell by telling you there is something wrong with your body? RUN. Run away very quickly!  As it turned out, I hadn’t been given a gift certificate at all, but a coupon.  I won’t elaborate on that horrible experience, except to say that one should be extremely careful when going to a laser hair removal place.

So, what can you do when you live in a society that expects you to be hairless, you have been programmed to want to be hairless, and companies are taking advantage of your desire to be hairless?  Great question! I am afraid to try actual straight razor blades, I dislike electric shavers, and I am too sensitive for the creams, waxes, and laser options.  I feel like I am throwing money away by paying exorbitant mounts of money for name-brand razors, but i don’t want to be disruptive to the environment by buying cheap plastic disposables.  It’s looking more and more like I will need to either hunt down one of those buffer sets, or make a trip to the local hardware store for some very fine sandpaper.



One Comment Add yours

  1. Sam says:

    Wow. That sounds awful that they were so rude to you at the hair removal place. I mean, I know it’s their job to up-sell, but you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. They should’ve be happy enough you were offering $500 (then again they might have donated it if you won it).

    I don’t particularly enjoy shaving, and I know a lot of the reason women shave is because of the social norms that convince us that we need to, but I am kind of glad we aren’t all running around with hairy armpits and legs. I’m not a huge fan of excessive body hair (especially on men). It just freaks me out a bit.

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