Lily Allen posted an Instagram story showing herself getting ready in the bathroom for a Brit awards after-party on Wednesday night: pretty routine behaviour for a #relatable singer in 2019. Less ordinary, though, was the candid and taboo-busting glimpse it gave into her beauty regime.
"Literally lightening my nipples right now..." the topless 33-year-old told her 1 million followers, as a makeup artist applied body makeup to Allen's breasts, before briefing viewers even more intimately about her body hair. "Georgie is literally plucking hairs out of my nipples and I didn’t even know they were there," she added. "Because I obviously haven’t looked at my nipples in so long."
The singer, having taken off the semi-sheer black Coach dress she wore for the ceremony, was changing into a flesh-coloured leotard and sheer dress with platinum wig for the Warner Music party. Presumably Georgie just wanted to ensure Lily avoided a (what-would-have-been-widely-deemed) "wardrobe malfunction" but by publicly plucking the star's nipple hair, she shed light on a regular, yet undiscussed, part of many women's beauty regimes. Nipple hair is common, normal, annoying at times, but also kind of hilarious – so why is it still so taboo?
Nowadays, certain types of body hair aren't just accepted among certain feminist milieu – they're a badge of honour. Furry armpits, fuzzy legs and silky forearms are now considered "cool" and even enviable by many women (and some men) – even if they still don't comply with mainstream women's body and beauty standards. But nipple hair? Have you ever heard another woman in the public eye talk about theirs (let alone be as laissez-faire about the situation as Allen)? Us neither. Not all body hair is considered equal (and then there's the whole separate issue of women's facial hair).
Even body-positive campaigns and pro-body hair movements rarely mention, let alone celebrate, nipple hair. The focus of this year's "Januhairy" campaign, which saw women ditch their razors and cancel their wax appointments for the first month of the year, was largely on the more socially palatable leg and arm hair. "I just want women to feel more comfortable in their own beautifully unique bodies," Laura Jackson, the 21-year-old Exeter University student who founded the movement, told the BBC, making no mention, for example, of toe hair, belly hair or, indeed, nipple hair. But maybe we shouldn't be surprised; we're living in a world where the world's first razor advertising campaign depicting a woman with actual body hair went live only last year.
Women's nipple hair is dubbed "an awkward and embarrassing problem" by the tabloid press, while Allen has been since been deemed a "scrote" by a Twitter troll following her Story, and accused of revealing "TMI" by a Canadian showbiz website. Yet based on anecdotal evidence, it's common: just look at all the medicalised articles answering "yes" to the question "Is women's body hair normal?" on Google. So why isn't it simply considered a standard part of being a woman, with all the hormonal changes and imbalances that that can entail over one's lifetime?
Hairy nipples can sometimes be a sign of medical conditions including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects an estimated fifth of women in the UK, and Cushing's syndrome, a rarer condition caused by too much cortisol in the body. If anything, your nipple hair could be a helpful hint to get yourself medically checked out. And if you get rid of it, that's cool too (it's perfectly safe to remove your nipple hair). But the option is always there to shout about it on social media, too.