9 Important Lessons I Learned From Growing Out My Armpit Hair

On November 1, 2014, I was taking a shower when I realized that my razor had gone from a little old ... to completely rusty. I decided to throw out the blade and skipped shaving my armpits that day. And the next day. And the next. And just like that, I began my no-shaving underarm journey. Under the guise of participating in No-Shave November, I thought I would just experiment with not shaving my armpits for the month. Well, that one month has now turned into three months.

It wasn't exactly intentional that I stopped shaving my armpits — it was mostly laziness. Still, I had been edging toward not shaving for quite sometime. Although I honestly prefer the appearance of shaved legs and armpits most times, I am just outraged at the fact that I feel obligated to shave because of my gender. In that way, not shaving my underarms has been a way of fighting a social construct that is primarily placed on women — the battle of body hair removal.

So as I continue down my path of hairy armpits, I encourage all of you pit shavers out there to open your minds and embrace the world of body hair. Here are nine things I've learned now that I have.

1. Most People Won't Judge You (To Your Face)

I'm a person who likes to point out awkward moments in order to help defuse the situation. I also feel the need to justify all of my actions, and wear a lot of sleeveless outfits with cardigans over them. These three traits combined led to me feeling like I needed to give people a heads-up that I was no longer shaving my armpits.

Case in point, I drunkenly showcased my hairy pits off at my 10-year high school reunion — like my armpits, my memory of this event is fuzzy (and I blame Romy and Michele for not better preparing me). Although I'm sure my former classmates found it bizarre and unnecessary, the ladies I showed it to seemed to be OK with my new look.

I figure it's better to acknowledge that I know my new armpit style is not what is socially acceptable, but that I'm trying it out, rather than have people judge me. To everyone's credit so far, most people really don't seem to care (at least to my face) — and are more amused at the fact that I felt the need to point it out in the first place.

2. ... But Some People Still Will

Of course, there were some people who could not hide their true feelings about my new look. My sister (who shaves every time she showers — even when she was ginormously pregnant) could not help but show her disapproval all over her face. And I know I made some uncles and cousins uncomfortable by showing the pits off during family Christmas parties. (The fireplace was on, the house got hot, and the cardigan had to come off!)

I get the disgust at seeing a woman with hairy armpits — I honestly do. Our brains have been programmed by the mainstream media to see women with clean armpits. But that's why I'm doing this experiment. Because there is no reason why women (or men!) should feel forced to shave their body hair — it's not weird, it's natural.

3. Putting On Deodorant Is More Difficult

I had bought my (very hairy) boyfriend deodorant for his Christmas stocking and was shocked when he told me I had purchased "the wrong kind." He said he could only use clear gel deodorant because the white solid stick cakes into his armpit hair.

I thought he was being dramatic, but within that week, my armpit hair had finally grown to the lengths where I was experiencing the same phenomenon. Nothing says weird like white deodorant all stuck in your female armpit hair.

4. Styling Armpit Hair Is Hard

I have had dreams of styling my body hair ever since I read one of those embarrassing stories in a teen magazine (I believe it was the "Say Anything" column in YM magazine — RIP) where a girl was dared during a sleepover to braid her pubic hair. (We all gotta have goals, people.)

Turns out that much like pubic hair, styling armpit hair is really hard. I've only been growing it for three months, but even as it continues to grow, I don't think a braid will ever happen for me. Sad, I know.

5. It Takes More Effort To Keep Things Smelling Fresh

Although I can't style it, I do have to be more aware of cleaning my armpit hair now, since my pits tend to hold more of my armpit stank (and lovely pheromones!) now than they used to do. But having to wash your pits is also slightly fun because it's like washing your hair — only in your armpits — so you can get some serious suds going.

6. People Might Actually Judge The Quality Of Your Pit Hair

A lot of my close friends dismissed my efforts by saying my armpit hair was not that long or hairy. Excuse me!? This is more body hair than I've ever had! I have lightish hair and I'm fair skinned, but my armpit hair isn't that light! It made me extremely curious about what everyone else's armpit hair looks like. I guess more people grow out their hair in the winter than I ever knew.

7. I Sometimes Miss My Smooth Pits

Over the years, I have gotten multiple comments from women about how nice my armpit skin is. (Really.) Unlike my bikini line, I never got razor burn on my armpits and the skin was always pretty smooth. It has been a change to replace my highly-lauded smooth pits (apparently they are my most-complimented body part?) with hair.

8. Getting Dressed Requires More Thought

Choosing my wardrobe for the day is complicated by the fact that I have to decide whether or not I feel like exposing my armpits to the world. When I wear a nice dress, I am accustomed to seeing my armpits look "girly," like the rest of me.

Which is why I view this little experiment as a challenge of how I view the world (I believe this is the true definition of "first world problems"). One of the main points in continuing to grow out my hair is to reprogram by brain so that I no longer think sexy has to equal smooth. I still have a ways to go, but I'm making progress. Which brings me to...

9. Beauty Really Is All About Your Attitude

My next step in this journey is to stop making a spectacle of my armpit hair and to just accept it. I shouldn't feel the need to "warn" people that I am a woman with hairy armpits. It's nothing to warn people about!

Of course, I like to discuss my body hair because I find it to be an interesting conversation, and I want people to know it's a choice. But I want to feel the freedom of being able to go out in a shirt that shows my pits without having to feel like I have to explain myself. And I'm going to get there someday.

Images: Caitlin Gallagher; Giphy (9)