"I Had Constant Stubble": The Real Reasons Women Remove Hair

Let’s face the fuzz. It’s 2019, we have body hair and we’re not afraid to let it all grow or let it all go. More importantly: here at Refinery29, we’re not afraid to talk about it.
Together with Braun, we speak to three women about why they decide to remove some of their hair and what it means to them, and only them. From IPL and learning to love your body to epilating and shaping your identity, these stories prove that when it comes to your body, it really is your beauty, your rules.
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Paris Lees, writer and equality campaigner

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"One of my favourite things is genuinely to make some tea, have a hot bath and use my Braun Silk-épil 9 epilator. I mean, yes, it hurts but I also find it helps me with my anxiety. Everyone feels different degrees of anxiety but you can really turn the volume up on that for trans people. It’s not for everybody but for me, hair removal and pampering is so therapeutic. When I'm not epilating, I tweeze a LOT – I actually cannot watch a movie without my tweezers, it’s such a thing for me. I consider it all vital self-care.
That’s because early on in your transition, you are relying on external things like hair removal, makeup and nails to help you pass. They don’t feel like a luxury, they feel like essentials. It’s because you are never allowed to forget your body when you’re trans, you’re always aware of it. Whether or not your body conforms to another person's idea of what it should look like, is the difference between whether or not you're able to walk down the street safely. There’s a lot of extra pressure and scrutiny on trans bodies. I really feel that.
I always jokingly say that transitioning is 90% hair removal. With body hair, you do feel like you have to get rid of it as that’s just within our culture, and when you want to be read as female you want to get rid of any male signifiers.
I know cis girls who wouldn’t shave their armpits and I really admire them for that. I think probably if I was cis then I would be with them but I feel that for me, I just don’t want to draw attention to anything that would make my gender presentation any more conspicuous than it needs to be. As a cis woman it has a different symbolic weight than it does for a trans woman.
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On some level we all remove hair because of what other people may think. Sometimes you’re doing it and you think, 'Oh this is ridiculous, men don’t have to do this' but I don’t believe it’s all that, because I certainly don’t always put lipstick on or shave my legs to attract a man, I’m doing it because I feel better. I epilated my armpits yesterday for no real reason but my own – I just feel cleaner and happier.
There are a million ways for people to look good. Different bodies, hairy armpits – you name it – can all look gorgeous. There is space for everybody, and everybody has a look that works for them. Find something that works for you."

Vanessa Vanderpuye, actress and model

"I used to not want to show my abs or my arms or my thighs. I used to cover them up. I used to hate it when people would comment, or when guys would come up to me and say, 'Oh flex your muscles for us'. It made me hate my six pack. But now it's celebrated. Over the last three years, famous female athletes with strong bodies have become desirable and that’s so weird when you’re someone who has felt they have to hide what they have for years. I’ve learned to love my athletic body and wearing my hair natural, and I’ve made sure I celebrate both in my work as a model.
One thing I have had to learn to deal with is the facial hair I suddenly got when I came off the pill after seven years. It was the odd hair at first but then over the years it became thicker and fuller and it was as thick as my armpit hair. No matter what I did to remove it, it left scarring. I didn’t like my boyfriend at the time touching my chin at all. He used to tease me. It was in jest but it got too much and sometimes it was in front of other people so it made me feel super insecure.
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It affected my work as a model so much that I had to quit for a while, I didn’t want people looking closely at my face. Someone on a shoot once yelled that they had to put extra makeup on my face to hide the scarring – in front of everyone. I had to keep smiling but I was dying inside.
The only thing that eventually worked for me was laser and facial epilating. Right now, my go-to is the Braun FaceSpa Pro. It also has a brush application that cleans my pores beforehand to minimise ingrown hairs. I usually just sit down, watch telly and do it with a cup of tea. Now that I feel in control of my facial hair, I feel like myself again. It’s allowed me get back into modelling and it also makes me feel like I can talk about it more, which really helps.
It’s so good that women are talking about their body hair. I have seen so many famous women recently talking about depression and mental health, and I even saw a woman speaking on a panel recently who had embraced her facial hair and grown a beard. It is nice to see people like that, it is making people who have those issues think, 'I am not alone'."

Jacqueline Kilikita, beauty editor Refinery29 UK

"I was at university when I discovered I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – something that affects one in five women in the UK. One of the main symptoms is an increase in body hair. When they told me, suddenly everything clicked into place, because excess body hair had always been a huge issue for me.
When I was younger, I used to sort of leave it – I used bleach and hair removal creams. But when I got a bit older, the hair started to get coarser and thicker and so I would have to shave it. Especially on my face and my arms. It was all I knew how to do. It got to the point on my face where I had a constant five o'clock shadow and no amount of makeup would cover it up. I had constant stubble.
I was bullied about it and it really stuck with me – when you’re a young girl and it’s boys saying stuff, it stays in the back of your mind on dates. It made me feel so insecure. There was one time I was dating a guy and I quickly dry shaved my moustache and cut myself, so I had this gash on my upper lip. I had to put tissue over it!
I tried everything to control it, but it either made things worse or took up so much time and money. IPL was the only thing that worked but it was too expensive to go to the salon all the time. So having the Braun Silk-expert Pro 5 is revolutionary for me because I can do that at home really easily – it also has a SensoAdapt™ skin tone sensor so the laser can work perfectly with my olive skin. It has liberated me from thinking about it all the time. Being able to take control of my PCOS and the symptoms makes me feel better. People will always have something to say, but being able to completely remove something that affects me so much lets me be who I want to be, rather than constantly thinking, 'Omg have I shaved my fingers today?'
As a beauty editor, I think it’s great that I can speak about body hair in a totally unfiltered way. Women have body hair and we don’t shy away from talking about it. In that way I think we are moving in the right direction, whether you embrace your hair or not."
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Your relationship with your body hair is as unique as you are, so your routine should be too. If hair removal is what gives you the confidence to love your body, do it the way that makes you happy and do it your way.

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