The shockingly cool history of hair removal
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Hair Removal Through the Ages1 of 12
Decidedly one of the most popular beauty services today is also one with a long and arduous past. ELLE.com explores the quest for smooth, hair-free skin.
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Ancient Egypt2 of 12
The Egyptians may have been the forerunners of many beauty rituals, but they invested the most time into hair removal. Women of ancient Egypt removed all of their body hair, including that on their heads, with tweezers (made from seashells), pumice stones, or early beeswax- and sugar-based waxes.
The Roman Empire3 of 12
During the Roman Empire, the lack of body hair was considered a sign of the classes. Wealthy women and men used razors made from flints, tweezers, creams, and stones to remove excess hair. In fact, even pubic hair was considered uncivilized which is why many famous statues and paintings of Grecian women are depicted hairless.
The Middle Ages4 of 12
Just like Cleopatra was a trend-setter in her time, so too was Queen Elizabeth I during the Middle Ages. She set the precedence for hair removal among women, who followed her lead by removing it from their faces, but not their bodies. The fashion of this era was to remove eyebrows and hair from the forehead (to make it appear larger), which women did by using walnut oil, or bandages soaked in ammonia (which they got from their feline pets) and vinegar.
The 1700s5 of 12
The late 18th century ushered in a more civilized approach to hair removal. While European and American women didn't take too much consideration into it, Jean Jacques Perret, a French barber, created the first straight razor for men in 1760 which was used by some women.
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The 1800s6 of 12
By 1844, Dr. Gouraud had created one of the first depilatory creams called Poudre Subtile. Soon after, in 1880, King Camp Gillette created the first modern day razor for men and thus a revolution was born. However, it would be another three decades before a razor specifically marketed for women would appear.
The Early 1900s7 of 12
In 1915, Gillette created the first razor specifically for women, the Milady Decolletée. The early 1900s also saw ads for depilatory cream hit the masses. In 1907 an ad for X-Bazin Depilatory Powder began circulating, promising to remove "humiliating growth of hair on the face, neck, and arms." A decade later, a leading women's fashion magazine ran an ad featuring a woman with her arms raised and her armpits bare, the first of its kind.
The 1940s8 of 12
Remington released the first electric women's razor in 1940 after the success of a male version. Due to a wartime shortage of nylon, more products and techniques for hair removal hit the market as women needed to go bare-legged more often.
The 1950s9 of 12
During the 1950s, hair removal became more accepted. Since many depilatory creams were still irritating to the skin, women relied on razors to shave their legs and underarms and tweezers to groom and shape their eyebrows.
The 1960s10 of 12
Wax strips made their debut in the 1960s and quickly became the method of choice for removing unwanted hair under the arms and on legs. The first laser-hair-removal tools hit the market in the mid-1960s, but soon fell out of favor due to their skin-damaging tendencies.
The 1970s11 of 12
Although electrolysis had been around for nearly a century, it became more reliable and safe in the 1970s with the development of transistorized equipment. The decade also saw a resurgence in the removal of bikini area hair as the swimsuit fad of the 1960s stuck around.
The 1980s to Now12 of 12
Today, most women rely on some form of hair removal in their everyday beauty routines, whether it is tweezing, shaving, waxing, or depilatory. Waxing bars, eyebrow threading studios and electrolysis centers are at an all-time high and continue to rise. New technologies in hair removal have made it one of the most popular beauty services.