Body hair: a matter of hygiene or aesthetics

Body hair: a matter of hygiene or aesthetics

Body hair: a matter of hygiene or aesthetics

October 6, 2020


We figure out whether we need vegetation under the armpits and on the pubis and whether it is worth removing it.
Photo by Iya Zorina

Iya Zorina

Author of Lifehacker, athlete, CCM

Body hair: a matter of hygiene or aesthetics


Advertisements for razors and epilators insistently suggest that body hair is unhygienic and ugly. Society supports this belief, but does not insist. Shave certain places, all in a row or nothing at all – everyone’s choice.

In the case of hair on open areas of the body – legs, arms, chest – hygiene does not count, and only aesthetic views can become the reason. But the hair under the arms and on the pubis is another matter, here first of all cleanliness and lack of smell come to mind.

Before looking into the real reasons that make people shave, it would be nice to understand why we have underarm and pubic hair at all and whether we are losing something important by shaving it off.

Why do we need pubic and underarm hair

There are two theories explaining why we have quite dense vegetation in these places.

  1. To reduce friction. In the case of the armpits – when walking, running, working with hands, and on the pubis – during sex. However, the absence of hair does not seem to contribute to the occurrence of chafing in these areas.
  2. To attract the opposite sex. Apocrine glands are located in the armpits and on the pubis, the task of which is to secrete a secret from proteins, fats and fatty acids. Bacteria feed on this wealth, which provide a specific fragrance. Scientists suggest that the secret soaks into the hair, and this enhances the smell and, in theory, attracts partners. However, a rudimentary vomeronasal organ (how animals determine pheromones) and dysfunction of the pubic apocrine glands suggest that this feature is a relic and not so necessary for finding a sexual partner.

Thus, there is no urgent need for hair in these areas of the body.

Why did people start shaving their body hair?

Shaving legs, armpits and pubis is not so modern invention. Shaving was practiced in the ancient cultures of Egypt and Greece, in ancient Rome and even during the Middle Ages – to get rid of pubic lice.

In the 20th century, marketing is blamed for the spread of fashion for a smooth body. In 1915, the first Gillette advertisement came out with the message that it was feminine and hygienic. And in 1924, the first bikini swimsuits appeared, and women began to shave their hair and below the belly.

Before men, the fashion for shaved skin, not only on the face, got a little Later. However, to date many men in the West prefer to get rid of their pubic and underarm hair.

The production of shaving and hair removal products, as well as the development of various methods of hair removal, is a huge industry in which a lot of money is spinning.

The hairless body is promoted not only in advertising, but also in fashion magazines, films and TV shows. They also talk about the distribution of pornography, in which pubic hair is very rare. Young people absorb this experience and begin to perceive the absence of hair as one of the criteria for sexuality.

But despite the fact that the image of the ideal body, enshrined in popular culture, has no hair, only a small percentage of people believe that they shave because of social expectations.

What other reasons are there

Research in the UK, New Zealand, Australia and the USA showthat 65-89% of women and 65-82% of men shave their pubic hair. Survey of over 4,000 men and 3,000 women in the USA showed that the main reasons for shaving are sex and hygiene.

Most often, people of both sexes shave before sex, especially before oral.

In addition, 61% of men and 59% of women do it for hygiene, while 44 and 46% perceive it as part of their usual personal care. Interestingly, some primitive communities that do not have access to either fashion magazines or porn get rid of groin hair for the same reasons.

Study found 26 such pre-industrial societies. In 22 of them only women shave their pubis, in 11 men do it too. Scientists have found information about the causes of tradition in some communities: in two of them it was done for attractiveness, in seven – for hygiene.

Is it really hygienic?

Probably the most common reason for shaving underarms is to get rid of bad breath. In men, hair removal in these areas is really helps immediately reduce the odor of sweat, as opposed to simply washing with soap. Moreover, women consider the smell of shaved male armpits nicerthan from those that overgrown 6-10 weeks.

For women, this is a little less relevant, since their sweat less and its odor is weak. But because the hair increase area where bacteria live, women still benefit from shaving.

As for the pubis, hair removal helps cope with pubic lice, otherwise the benefits are debatable.

The problem of smell here is not as acute as in the case of armpits. The fact is that apocrine glands in intimate places do not produce apocrine sweat. Therefore, the smell never comes from the groin, as from the armpits, and there is no need to fight it. To maintain hygiene, you can simply wash regularly, and this will be enough.

In addition, shaving the pubis has some risks: cuts, skin infections, sepsis. One little study…






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