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Choosing between a hair raising experience or a close shave


Choosing between a hair raising experience or a close shave

If you enjoy the first half of this article then you may be intrigued to follow our illustrated experiment with body hair that follows it. Look in Articles and Appraisals under the Discover menu tab in ANW. Steve experiments by growing a beard and shaving one of his armpits, I grow armpit hair and leg hair, and we both shave our pubic hair for the first time. What were our personal conclusions? Join the friendly and respectful ANW community to find out more.  

Heading Off


For centuries the human race has been obsessed with hair. The hair on our head being the most visible has always been used to demonstrate trends and fashions. Braiding dates back 30,000 years. Male wigs became popular in the 1600s and are still used in British law courts today. We straighten our curly hair and perm our straight hair. We dye our hair all sorts of colour for fun or to hide our unwanted grey hair that symbolises our inevitable ageing.


When Steve was at school some teachers used “comb overs” to convey that they had more hair and footballers sported giant perms. Today naturally curly hair in men is often kept too short to show curls and as soon as balding starts a complete shave is opted for.


Men and women take fashion very seriously. It is big money. Magazines and celebrities have the ability to kick start a world wide trend by grabbing the attention of a few and allowing our want to be “in” and not “out” do the rest.


Facial Hair


In recent years male celebrities and advertisers have brought back the beard. Though 2020 has seen this popularity start to wane again.


It is thought that about 55% of men now have facial hair. However, around 1 in 4 men say they cannot grow a beard. Some claim this effects the way they perceive their own masculinity.


Beards do offer some health benefits. They keep the skin moisturised, protect skin from UV rays, from allergens and infectious bacteria.


On the negative side reports show that they can add an average of 5 years to your assumed age. Beards are seen to hold you back when “climbing the work ladder.” Reports also claim being clean shaven is the most popular choice for women in their men. Surveys suggest that those sporting beards can be imagined as more aggressive and less trustworthy.


Legs and Armpits


The trend for women to shave their legs and armpits really kick started in the Western world about one hundred years ago in the 1920's. By the 1940's magazines were acting very negatively towards those women that didn't shave. Although very popular in North America it didn't really take off in Europe until after World War II. By the 1950's shaving in some countries had become very much the norm.


Just previously to the 1920's clothes did not show enough skin for it to matter. Going back further to the middle ages Catholic women were seen as feminine if they had body hair. Facial hair was another matter. In the 14th Century women plucked their foreheads to have a higher hairline. Elizabeth I in the late 1950's started a trend in eyebrow removal. We have always been too happy to follow those we admire for fashion sense. Even when it makes no sense!


Darwin is seen as part of the problem. He suggested that the more the body hair we have the lower down the evolutionary scale we were. This possibly encouraged some to wish to become “naked apes.”


Though we mustn't forget armpit hair has an evolutionary purpose. Darwin wasn't suggesting we shouldn't have hair at all. Just less than other creatures. It stops skin to skin friction for a part of the body that naturally rubs against itself through the day. At the same time acting as a natural wick to pull sweat and bacteria away from the skin and allowing ventilation.


Religion also plays a part. Muslim men and women, for example, remove underarm hair as part of their guidelines for religious cleanliness.


More recently western men have started taking to the razor. Shaving of legs becoming increasingly popular for sports and as it has become more acceptable it has been used for aesthetic reasons as well. In Spain where sport is taken very seriously we have noticed a lot of men shave their legs and other parts of their body. Though some of theses men don't look particularly sporty!


It is becoming a fashion statement among the younger generation. It is reported that around 10% of middle aged men in the USA groom their armpits as opposed to around 70% of those in their late teens.



Pubic Hair


Removing pubic hair is a fashion that has been much more noticeable in naturist circles than elsewhere. We have had people contact ANW asking if they will be accepted on a naturist beach if they don't shave. There is a concern that it has become a naturist uniform and that is a shame. Naturism should be seen as discouraging uniforms. Naturism aside pubic hair removal is a world wide phenomenon taken on by many people in the last thirty years. Statistics claim around 80% of women aged between 18 and 65 remove some or all of their pubic hair.


Hair removal is big business. It is reported that women in the USA who shave can spend as much as ten thousand dollars and about two months of their lives dealing with unwanted hair. Those that wax on a monthly basis will spend more than twenty thousand dollars in their lifetime. The hair grooming and shaving industry is huge. It is their want to keep us coming back that has been promoting the idea in magazines for the last ten decades.


Although sported by a minority for some time pubic shaving really took off in the late 1980's. Partly due to a growth of more explicit pornography. In 1987 seven sisters from Brazil opened a salon in New York offering complete wax hair removal. After some celebrities started having this treatment the popularity soon spread.


Being hairless started being seen as the natural choice for many. Though it is far from natural. Like the hair on our head, our eyelashes, eyebrows and armpits pubic hair has a purpose. It serves as a physical barrier protecting a vulnerable and sensitive part of our bodies. Like eyelashes and nose hair it traps dirt and harmful microorganisms. It helps keep the area moisturised, acts as a protective cushion, and helps disperse odours, sweat and bacteria. Each hair is attached to a nerve which may help in increasing sensitivity in the area for sexual stimulation and at the same time reducing friction. The hair acts as a “dry lubricant “ - rubbing hair against hair is easier and less damaging than rubbing skin on skin. Importantly, it keeps our genitals warm. The natural oil produced by the hair also prevents bacteria growth. It is believed that pubic hair helps protect against certain infections like cellulitis, STIs, urinary tract infections, vaginitis and yeast infections.


It is also believed that pubic hair not only shows that a person has the ability to reproduce but it may also be responsible for pheromone transmission.


Why do we shave then?


Race has an influence. Indeed different countries have different attitudes. Steve remembers how in the 1970's many in England in real life and within the media would comment about European women not shaving their armpits and legs.


It is reported that in Japan many women shave only their legs and underarms and not their pubic area.


The Germans are supposedly like the women in the US and chose to be hair free. Likewise in Australia where apparently those who don't shave are seen as being “free-spirited.”


In India upper class women completely remove their leg, underarm and pubic hair. However in China hair is considered to be completely natural and acceptably left alone.


Korea seems to have gone the other way. Pubic hair is seen as a sign of fertility and sexual health. Reports mention that women in recent years are having extra hair added with transplants.


The UK, as is often the case, walks the grey line and surveys suggest a 50-50 split over pubic grooming.


Around 60% of the estimated 80% of women in the USA who remove remove pubic hair claim the main reason is for greater hygiene.


The NHS in Britain points out that there are no health or hygiene benefits to removing pubic hair. Accept for preventing pubic lice which is now uncommon.


As well as the health benefits mention above for keeping hair. Shaving can lead to skin irritation, abrasions and damage. Hair removal is linked with injuries, burns, infections, an increased chance of STIs, abscesses and staph boils.


The second most common reason for hair removal is for aesthetic reasons. The third being to please their partners. These personal reasons are completely valid for each individual and they should be the reasons that people concentrate on. Personal choice should never been undervalued. As naturists we should welcome the right to chose. Both for hair removal and for keeping hair.





A change in attitudes towards body hair


In 1999 Julia Roberts caused a storm in the media when she wore a dress that exposed her unshaven armpits.


A survey in the UK has shown that in 2013, 95 percent of women from ages 16 to 24 removed their armpit hair and 92 percent shaved their legs. In 2016 the numbers dropped to 77 percent and 85 percent respectively. The body hair grooming business have likewise reported drops in sales. Some women state they feel more womanly with hair, though they also report being treated with hostility. Showing hair on the internet can lead to receiving rape and death threats. Extreme reactions, but we have been receiving such threats for promoting naturism. Some people hate those that support a choice away from their own view points.


The issue of choice is clouded by how much society, family and friends judge what we do with our bodies. What we consider as choice is often enforced by years of expectations. The fear of being talked about in the school playground, or being stared at on the beach or gossiped about by peers has an effect whether we like it or not. Some women however are seeing the breaking of some of these taboos over body hair as a way of tackling feminist issues and are looking at breaking from these restrictions. Although it does mean stepping out of their comfort zone. Showing armpit hair or leg hair is being seen as a sign of personal strength. Body hair is equated to power and masculinity and some remain intimidated by women showing body hair that in recently decades has been seen as purely a male thing.


Some celebrities have begun to speak proudly of their unshaven armpits and legs. It has started to become quite a popular movement on the internet. It still remains rare to see armpit and leg hair on women but statistics and campaigns do show the trend is growing.


The introduction of “Januhairy” in 2018 encouraged women to stop shaving at the start of each year. It is promoted as not about shaming women who choose to remove body and facial hair but to support those who chose not to and get the subject spoken about. To encourage real choice.


The razor company Billie established in 1917 uses choice as a marketing campaign. They show women in swimsuits with various levels of hair. Ashley Armitege, the director of their video campaign has spoken about wanting to normalise body hair and to show that it isn't “gross or unhygienic.” To show that body hair is a choice. One of the models Linsay Zae has spoken about how such a campaign would have meant so much to her had she seen it when she was twelve.

Advertising Image for Billie - copyright Ashley Armitege. Click Here to Check Out The Video Advert



It seems that those puberty years are a hugely important time. When habits get formed and when self-consciousness is at its highest and peers are often at their cruellest. We understand how naturism can help through this tough time and I would love to see body hair choices becoming just that. For everyone to be able to shave or grow their hair without fear of repercussions. For the idea that growing hair is unhygienic and unsightly to be shaved from societies consciousness, brushed up and dropped in the bin.




Our Experiment in Hair By Anna and Steve

This Article continues on ANW with illustrations of our extended experiment with growing and shaving hair and our own personal conclusions. Including a revisit one year on. 


Anna - To prepare for this article Steve and I decided that we needed to get a better understanding of what it is like to be with or without body hair. To see what it felt like, to judge the aesthetics for ourselves and to see what sort of reactions we and particularly I may get on the beach and on the street...

Read on in the Articles section of ANW in the Discover area.

For now, thanks for reading. Anna and Steve   

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Anna and Steve have shared over 150 articles and blog posts on and write regularly for naturist publications. If you would like to collaborate with them on any naturist / nudist promotional activity or quote from any of their work please contact them via email at [email protected]