For feminine people, shaving and being generally hairless seem to be societal priorities. However, the reality is that everyone has different routines and unique reasons for body hair removal. Lots of women choose to preserve their hair in areas like the leg, armpit, and bikini line, for instance. Speaking from experience, I know that for those who decide not to keep up with shaving or who choose not to alter their body hair at all, judgment and dirty looks are a daily reality. In the summertime, when people tend to wear more skin-revealing clothing like shorts and bikinis, fear of being mocked for one's hairier bits can be magnified.
Personally, I have never liked shaving. Removing hair always felt like an unnatural practice for me, and I blamed my discomfort with it on misogyny and patriarchal control over beauty standards for women. My legs and bikini area were always easy to hide through most seasons, so I didn't worry about shaving them. Since my armpits were mostly always visible, however, I maintained their hairlessness for most of my life to avoid judgment (until recently, that is). These days, though, I feel present and comfortable in my body, unshaven and beautiful.
I used to think that removing body hair was harmful to all feminine people because of the rigid beauty standards the practice seems to come from, believing that we should do whatever we can to fight back against oppressive norms in our culture. However, the truth is that empowerment in feminism lies in the power of choice. Choosing to remove hair because it makes you feel empowered is just as positive and feminist as choosing not to remove hair.
So I thought I would chat with 30 feminine people of all ages about their average body hair routine to get a sense of why they feel empowered by their choices. I reached out via email and social media, and received some amazingly diverse answers along the way.
I also asked the interviewees if their routines changed in the summer months, when skin is more often exposed. Personally, I don't mind showing off my leg and armpit hair on the beach, but still feel uncomfortable about my bikini line, often shaving it more out of insecurity and less out of a loving choice. Perspectives on body hair or the lack thereof vary intensely, though, so check out what everyone had to say below.
"I only just got into waxing this year, and it's been a huge life saver! I used to be self-conscious about going to [the] beach, fearing that people would see my pubic hairs if my suit strayed even slightly. I tried shaving but razor burn was painful and it never lasted long. Now I go once a month for a Brazilian, and I can fully enjoy my time in the sun."
"I shave (legs, underarms, and bikini area), but not religiously. It's mostly in correlation to being in a bathing suit and, even then, I may be somewhat lax with it. I don't really care about my body hair and can often be found with some Ani DiFranco-inspired armpits. That said, I know there's social stigma around not shaving and I would never wear a tank top in the work place if I haven't shaved. Honestly, the whole conversation around body hair makes me sad, as it's just another way women are encouraged to view their bodies as defective, when they're doing nothing more than being healthy."
"I shave pits, lady bits, and legs. I wear jeans a lot (even in summer) so I pretty much only shave my legs if I know I'm going to be wearing a dress without tights... I wouldn't wear a skirt or dress with bare legs if I hadn't shaved, mostly because I think it looks weird. Also, I love the way my legs feel when they're smooth, I just usually feel like shaving takes so much effort."
"I shave my legs and underarms weekly. No real difference in summer. I am so uninterested in it all and find it all a chore. I shave the most consciously for a massage."
"I shave! Mostly just legs and pits but I actually have been letting my armpit hair grow out periodically and it's kind of fascinating. If anything I find that letting the hair grow under my arms makes it softer and I'm not nearly as grossed out by it as I thought I would be. When it comes to the hair down there I just keep it trimmed but I don't do a full-on shave. I actually bought an electric razor for the sole purpose of shaving my bikini area because it makes my life so much easier."
"I shave my armpits/legs two times a week (I get really bad irritation under my arms). As for my lady bits — I shave down there too but like once a month or so until I can't stand it/think my girlfriend might need help sifting through the jungle (kidding). Habits don't really change for summer. I might up pits and legs three times a week on a rare occasion!"
"[I shave my legs] below the knee about once a week. Love getting into bed with clean sheets and fresh shaved legs. [I shave my armpits] also about once a week. I tried growing it out but got weird looks at work. [With lady bits, I'm] going back and forth on this. I want to grow out a bush because feminism and sensitive skin, but I also use a luna cup and it's really tough to insert it without pinching long hair [...] I shave the back of my neck because I have a pixie cut, and as a teenager I used to shave my toes because one time I noticed that I had really long hair there and it freaked me out. This doesn't really change for me at any time of year."
"I shave my legs, pits, and lady bits occasionally — but more often than not I am racing to the bathtub five minutes before I'm supposed to leave because I'm what we would call a laissez-faire shaver and miss spots/forget/like 'em smooth when they're going to be rubbing up against someone else's. And in the winter, I shave... so much less. Armpits, every time I'm in the shower, Legs? Like never when it's cold out. I used to shave religiously and now I just give so many less f*cks about it."
"I shave pits pretty much every time I shower but even in the summertime I probably only shave my legs once a month or so? If that? When I was younger I shaved everything meticulously basically every time I showered. Married and in my 30s however, is a much less give a sh*t time. I kind of love it. As for downtown, I let my garden grow wild these days."
"Any time of year, I shave pits and legs... no matter what!"
"I shave my legs and armpits. This past spring, I've found myself shaving more than I would usually. I've become more accepting of my body as a whole, therefore I'm showing more skin. And I'm not against a little grooming. However, in the winter, bye girl. If I see a razor, I go running. It's a waste of time and it keeps me warmer hahaha."
"I shave legs and armpits all year round at least once every two weeks quickly with a razor! Shaving armpits helps me with my sweating and I like smooth legs when I apply lotion or go to bed. I shave more during the summer probably as I wear more dresses!"
"I shave pits and legs year-round, but frequency changes depending on the season. In summer and spring it's usually weekly, in winter and fall it's about once a month. It mostly has to do with comfort (it's always hot af in the summer and the fuzz helps me stay toasty in the winter), but there is still part of me that cares about what people think... if I had lighter, finer body hair I'd probably do it more infrequently. As for lady bits I trim up and shave my bikini line every so often."
"I wax my legs when I can be bothered (more regularly in summer than winter — about once every four to five weeks). Lasered my bikini line years ago so just do the odd maintenance laser in swimsuit season. Underarms can get as hairy as they like in winter but despite the pits being 'bang on trend' atm I still feel the need to shave them in summer or if I'm going to yoga or if there's a vague chance that anyone will see them."
"As someone who is Italian and Armenian, I have a lot of body hair and I got made fun of for it as a kid. So I asked my mom to shave them for me (in fourth grade) and she did, and ever since them I've been shaving them. Now it's because it makes me feel good, because I've learned that no matter what I do with myself, someone will always have something to say and I don't have to care. But as far as shaving my legs goes, I like when they're smooth and shiny in the summer. With lotion and clean shaven legs they feel really soft and I just feel really confident."
"I shave my underarms almost every day, and I shave my legs at least once a week (I wear pants most of the time so it isn't a necessity for me, and all of my hair is blonde). Doesn't change depending on the season."
"I shave my arms, legs, and underarms periodically (though less and less — my hair is dark and my skin is pale and sensitive, so the stubble shows almost instantly, but I've learned to live with a few days of grown out hair) plus I shave my upper lip because really who has time to do anything else with that my god? All of these things happen at least once a week, more if the occasion calls for it. I flip flop a lot on how much I care about my body hair being nonexistent, so I just do whatever I feel. Used to get a Brazilian wax every six weeks or so, but I'm now in the process of getting it lasered — I know what I like, and it's expensive/hard on my skin to keep removing that hair otherwise!"
"I shave legs and armpits — as quickly as possible with only soap because I'm impatient. No real change in the summer other than I do it more often!"
"I shave my legs and pits pretty regularly in the summer, probably a couple times per week and definitely more often than I do in the winter. I also don't really mind going bare legged with slightly hairy legs — my body hair is pretty light, also it's hot so oh well, who cares? What I do to the bikini area varies wildly based on how I'm feeling, if I'm going to be wearing a swimsuit, and if I'm getting any. I only shave, I've never waxed, sugared, lasered or threaded anything because I am a wimp."
"I shave my legs, pits, and — in the summer — bikini line. The only thing that changes is that I might do it a little more often in the summer than in winter.
"I wax my legs, underarms, and brows and it lasts for quite a while and the hair doesn't grow as thick. Since I live in Florida and it is perma-beach weather here, my hair removal routine stays pretty much the same. The only time it changed was when I was pregnant and just gave up towards the end."
"I shave my armpits at least every other day in the summer and my legs once or twice a week year round (more so in summer). Shaving is a pain in the ass though so I def try to do it less in the fall/winter. (Though I love smooth legs on clean sheets.) Bikini area I shave periodically. If I'm going on beach vaca, I'll get it waxed. But not full Brazilian."
"I shave my legs, pits, and experiment with various styles shaved into the hair in my bikini region (or sometimes lack thereof), depending on my mood. Generally speaking, I don't really mind shaving, and kind of find it to be relaxing. As for my brows, I either pluck or have them threaded. Usually these are all maintained in the same [way] year round."
"My 'grooming' habits are pretty much seasonal. In the winter my hair keeps me warm so I don't shave often. In the summer though I like to shed it all and go bald or at least trim/shave partially to avoid aiding the heat in its quest to end me. But sometimes a homie just wants to be bald/smooth for no particular reason! So sometimes I do that but it really depends on how I feel or want to feel."
"Honestly, in winter and fall I don't shave my legs consistently, it's too cold and I couldn't care less. Even in summer I don't shave every day, it's more like every dew days. Stubble is stubble, it's not going to kill me. The only thing I feel the need to keep shaved are my underarms. No reason, I just really like being hair-free under there."
"I do a lot of hot yoga so I shave all year round. I find that I'm shaving more often in the summer — either the hair grows back quicker or I'm more easily annoyed with even the slightest growth."
"I wouldn't say that I have a set routine; I'm pretty sporadic about it. But I shave my legs and my armpit hair like once or twice a week or two if I just don't feel like it. I only make a point to remove body hair if I know that I'm going to have sex. And as far as summer goes, I don't really change that much! I may shave my legs a little more but I'm not too particular about it."
"I don't really have a routine, I kinda go months without shaving then do it usually because I'm bored or want a change without really doing much to change. I would say I get more self conscious about body hair when it's warm out I think, just because more skin is exposed to the judgmental outside world. At the beginning of the summer I didn't really care but as it went on I started getting more self conscious so now I shave more often. It's not always a summer thing, like I'll shave out of nowhere in other seasons too just because I'm feeling it but usually just hairy AF."
So What Does It All Mean?
As to be expected, answers varied heavily, and encompassed everything from being more self-conscious about body hair in the summer to not being conscious of it at all during any season. Those who do shave do it for an infinite amount of reasons, though, from wanting to wear bikinis and dresses in comfort to being prepared for "getting some." Oftentimes the feeling or look of hair growth irritated them, or the smoothness of their skin made them feel beautiful and strong. Others have no set routine (remaining sporadic even in summer), or are completely against the process altogether ("I am so uninterested in it all and find it all (to be) a chore").
Ultimately, it's important to remember the power of choice. Feminism doesn't look like just one thing. I'm a feminist who's proud of their hairy armpits, which is just as valid as being a feminist who's proud of her hairless and smooth legs. It's important to note why we make the choices we do, though, and to empower one another by supporting said choices.
Images: Courtesy Innes Lukic; Courtesy Interviewees