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What Is Behind Our Obsession With Hair And Waxing?





What is behind our obsession with hair and waxing?

Behind the innocuous question of hair - to have it or not? - a much more complex score is played out on our relationship to the body, to femininity and to sexuality. Let's dive into it!

“Legs, bikini line, armpits, when I leave the beautician, I have the impression of being light, beautiful and attractive,” says Emily, 37. As if my body had just come out of hibernation. I feel the sun better on my skin, my clothes slip more easily, I always want to make love.” Sociology, ethnology, psychology, aesthetics…, dozens of essays in the human sciences bear witness to our fascination with those few millimeters of animality that stimulate the imagination, and many other things. Of course, there are all-or-nothing extremists. And this has always been, as explained by Christian Bromberger, researcher at the Mediterranean Institute, European and comparative ethnology (Idemec) and author of Trichology, an anthropology of hair and hair (Bayard, 2010). ", And philos," who loves ", in ancient Greek) as" trichophobia ". In Rome, esthetician slaves track down the hair of patricians concerned about their hygiene. For this same reason, but also to distinguish themselves from the shaggy barbarians, the legionaries fight short hair, beardless faces. In ancient Egypt, the hairless physique of the nobility and the scribes is a social marker that differentiates them from slaves, hairy and hairy. In France, hair removal follows the more or less strong influence of the Christian religion, which, in the Middle Ages, required not to touch what, by nature, God gave. In the 16th century, the feminine nobility, who wanted to appear diaphanous, waxed or shaved the top of their foreheads to resemble Marie Stuart. Imams, rabbis, popes and other religious have always had a full beard.

Religion, climate, hygiene, morals ... the reasons for keeping or not keeping hair follow one another as much as they contradict each other. But back to us, here and today. On the one hand, there is the hair that grows inexorably - on the head, on the body, on the pubis - and, on the other, the weapons of mass depilation ever more numerous, ever more efficient. Between the two, there is us, with more or less hair, according to our prejudices, our fantasies, our constraints.

Unless you have a very natural German, Spanish or Portuguese temperament, or be provocative and quite courageous, like Julia Roberts showing her hairy armpits in 1999, at the premiere of the movie Love at first sight in Notting Hill, in London (the actress has never repeated the feat and has refrained from any militant hairy comments), it has been a long time since hairs have been allowed to exist publicly on women's legs and armpits.


Public life, private life, the smooth dominates …

A quick glance at the bodies sprawling across the front pages of magazines, in the street and soon on the beach is enough to see who, the razor versus hair duel, came out on top! The smooth wins in society. A victory confirmed by ethnologist Juliette Sakoyan, author of the memoir from laser wax: farewell to hair in contemporary society: "The current canons of femininity reside in an ideal of soft skin, which calls for caress and evokes youth, innocence. "And to specify that hair removal is part of the triad of our quest for smoothness: no hair, no fat, no wrinkles.

Waxing therefore goes without saying, and the "anti-hair" arsenal is being enriched with new and increasingly effective technologies. Without forgetting the shower gel-type auxiliaries which facilitate shaving, deodorants and creams which slow down hair regrowth, leave the skin clean and silky ... For most women, hair removal has become as common a gesture as brushing their teeth.: 87% say they practice it regularly, 12% when the hair is visible, 1% never, according to the Ipsos survey (2016, updated in 2019). Hairy paradox, at the time of the return to nature, the "deforestation" of the female body, as today that of the male body, has therefore become the norm.

By publishing a survey on new trends in pubic hair removal (New trends in bikini hair removal, June 15, 2020), Elle magazine created the event, opening the debate on the trivialization of the "secret garden", or how the intimate heart becomes subject - object? - fashion. Personal choice, simple desire to feel good in a hairless body, more or less conscious submission to the aesthetic diktat of fashion? Even Le Monde in its article The tyranny of hair removal (March 7, 2019) wonders: hygienic concern or indirect influence of porn professionals who appear hairless on the Internet? This is to say whether the question fascinates experts, spectators and, of course, those primarily interested. As with other areas of the body, legs or armpits, there are as many "trichophiles" as there are "trichophobia", adepts of the smooth pubis as of the burning bush. Psychoanalysts see in shaved sexes a refusal to grow (called "secondary sexual characteristics", the hairs testify to sexual maturity) and a fear of intercourse. As for those who eradicate the hair for the sake of distancing vis-à-vis virility and, in a way, animality. Waxing goes against the letting go of winter and depression. And, one thing is certain, summer is the season of smoothness, lightness and seduction.



What is the hair used for?

Originally, the hair was used to insulate us from the cold and to regulate our body temperature, explains Joe Sebaoun, dermatologist. Today, it helps to preserve the hydrolipidic film of the skin: the sebaceous gland guides the sebum (fatty and moisturizing secretion) along the hair outwards. Once the skin is depilated, hydration is therefore less effective. The hair not only retains water, it also retains odors, especially under the arms and on the pubis, a reason that prompts women, but also men, to wax more or less completely. Called “secondary sexual characteristics”, the hairs testify to sexual maturity, and also have the function of preserving sexual odors - the pheromones - which emit a powerful erotic signal.


Men, finally uninhibited!

Leave the fleece or shave everything? They too are torn between the desire for abundant hair - an outward sign of their virility - and a hairless, muscular, gladiator-style body. Between the falling hair and the growing beard, men are still wondering about their hair. As often, men's fashions and trends find their origin in the homosexual world. After the hairless torsos, the shaved heads, the smooth chins, the mustache and the beard of three days or more have reappeared… A file on the return of the hair in the magazine Vogue of September 2020, recalls that " The beard is the goat's daughter", which made its appearance among gays in the 1990s, after the wave of hair removal that had preceded. Since then, this famous Billy goat has been frolicking on the chins of barely pubescent males as well as of older males.

Finally uninhibited, men seize these codes in their own way. “We are no longer in gay stereotypes, assures Guillaume Cadot, specialist in consumer trends. All the models coexist with everyone. "With or without hair, everyone chooses the male model that suits them: Alain Bernard, the hairless Olympic swimming champion of the Beijing Games, or Sébastien Chabal, the bearded mountain of the French rugby team. Michel, 38, plays the mower on his chest so that the hairs, with which nature has generously endowed him, stop protruding from his V-neck T-shirt. Serge, 41, wears a beard but takes care of the daily trimming and shaving in the neck. "On the chest and legs, I find it a sign of virility, but the hair on the back, it's dirty," admits Paul, 35, who, from the first days of summer, passes by. the hair removal box.

Men go to beauty salons: 20 to 30% ask dermatologists for laser hair removal, and one in five to remove hair, according to the Ipsos survey. Does the influence of porn films affect younger people? Like girls, many 18–25-year-olds no longer hesitate to wax their pubic and testicles. But some men - like some women - choose to break free from this permanent guerrilla war against the hair by letting it grow, at the same time getting rid of the stress of shaving. The three-day beard symbolizes this desire for freedom. Conclusion of Guillaume Cadot: “The reappearance of the three-day beard every day of the year or of the trimmed goat, in the cinema (George Clooney, Brad Pitt…), in fashion (the couturier and director Tom Ford or the Indian model Satya Oblette), among executives who have yet had a close shave, marks a return to a displayed masculinity that the man had somewhat lost sight of. A return to the natural and to his own nature which he still wants to keep control.

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