From Razors to Lasers- A Quick History of Hair Removal
They say history repeats itself and even in terms of personal care that sentiment seems to ring true. Every time you see an unsightly hair that you want off of your body as soon as humanly possible, you are participating in an ancient belief system. From shaving to sugaring, temporary to permanent, hair removal has been going on a lot longer than you think.
Historians have found proof of depilatories (hair removal methods) having been in use since 30,000 B.C. Now that's a long time between then and now to come up with new ways to remove hair. The truth is, there have only been a few proven methods for removing hair from our bodies and besides electrolysis and lasers, we really haven't come up with too many. The methods of removing hair, from razors to lasers, is an interesting but short list.
The Flintstones- The earliest of men began scraping away their beards with sharpened flintstones and shells. As you might have guessed, it all depended on their location in regard to these materials, which depilatory they chose. Either way, these implements surely removed almost as much skin as they did hair. Ouch!
Depilatories- Women, being a bit more patient, and let's face it, more concerned with keeping their skin, started mixing together concoctions they considered gentler than a sharp rock that would melt away the hair on their bodies. These formulas contained ingredients such as arsenic and lye. Of course, this caused a bit of burning and probably a little pain, but less skin loss and a lot less bloodshed. These formulas evolved through time and today we still use cream hair removal products such as Nair and Veet.
Razors- For this report, we are referring to a blade of metal as a razor. The first razors to surface were found in this time period in Egypt and India. They were made of copper with beautifully adorned handles signifying the importance of these implements.
Tweezing- Roman woman began to fall into the craze of Alexander the Great who had an obsession with shaving but chose to be a bit more ladylike. Continuing with the routine cream depilatories and adding to that tweezing. Using bronze tweezers very much like the ones we use today, these ladies shaped their brows, removed other facial hair and other places that fit that era's expression of sexual prowess.
Sugaring- Today sugaring has been touted as the NEW way to whisk away unwanted hair without using hot wax. The truth is, sugaring isn't new at all! Historians have proven that Cleopatra herself used a mixture of beeswax or sugar, honey, water, and lemon on her pesky hair. That's exactly the same ingredients used in today's sugar hair removal recipe give or take the beeswax.
Threading- You haven't had it done before, it hasn't always been there in the mall, so it must be a new way to pluck your brows right? Nope. Threading is a very important skill and service in some cultures. The fact is, threading is NOT just for brow shaping. An important ritual in Muslim culture is to thread a bride head to toe a day or two before her wedding. All body hair is removed, barring her brows and the hair on her head.
Glass- The Aztecs in North and Central America have left behind evidence of having used volcanic obsidian glass for their hair removal regiment. A very sharp edge indeed, but very fragile and of course, it led to many nicks and cuts.
Modern razors-It wasn't until the late 1700's that we see the first modern razor invented using a very sharp blade of steel. It was an L shape and quite awkward to try and manipulate. Then came a razor blade that ran perpendicular to the handle. Finally, a man, who bears the last name Gillette, came up with the idea of a safe handheld double-sided razor. He went on to become the quintessential manufacturer of shaving razors, even procuring a deal with the government to have a Gillette razor as part of the standard-issue to all of the U.S. Armed Forces during World War 1.
Electrolysis- Electricity makes its debut in the hair removal industry through a modality called electrolysis. This method is the best for permanent hair removal. Using needles, an electric current is applied to each follicle in order to cause a reaction that will render the follicle useless. Seems a rather savage form of depilatory in comparison to ancient methods! It is effective and has gone through many stages of advancement though. Today, electrolysis is very popular among the transgender population as well as those willing to go through a bit of pain to obtain hairlessness.
1960 to Present
Laser- The first lasers to hit the hair removal market were singular and could not service a wide variety of skin tones and hair colors. Today, the FDA has approved them as a permanent hair reduction modality and many lasers are being tailored to fit a wide range of clientele. Since its inception, the technology of laser hair removal has advanced very quickly and has even been introduced as a handheld at-home device!
Waxing- At home or in the spa room, waxing is a great way to remove hair and its origins lie in sugaring but waxing advances that depilatory method with different ingredients and methods of removal. Both hard and soft sugaring was performed in ancient days. It's much the same in modern waxing. Hard wax is applied to the skin, allowed to cool, and then removed. Strip or soft wax is applied to the skin immediately followed by a strip of material used to adhere to it and then ripped away taking the hair with it.
Some things in life just don't change. One of those things is the question of hair. To have, or not to have, that, my friends, is the question. Since ancient times hair has been removed from the human body for reasons of hygiene, culture, style, and sexual attractiveness. Just remember, when you decide you want to go have that new method of hair removal done to your legs, Cleopatra probably already did that!