A History of Hair Removal
We can never know for certain when people began to remove hair from their bodies, as this practice probably pre-dates written records. Pumice stones could have been used by ancient people to remove unwanted hair, so the history of hair removal could have begun with our very early ancestors.
We know that people in the Indus Valley Civilisations in what is now Pakistan as well as those in the other great civilizations of the time (around 5,000 years ago), Egypt, China and Mesopotamia removed their body hair and we know that men shaved. Body hair would have been uncomfortable and unhygienic, and so would have been removed as it is today in hot climates. When metal tools were used and sharpened on flints, razors would have been made and used by men and perhaps women.
When people learned how to make thread, this could have been used by women to remove hair as threading (as it is called) is still practised to this day by women in Pakistan, India and the Middle East; it is called khite in Arabic. Women use a thread to pluck another woman’s eyebrows, but it could be used to remove hair from the legs too. Of course, people who come from hot climates do not have as much body hair as do people who live in colder ones.
The ancient Egyptians used sugaring to remove unwanted hair, which is based on the same principle as waxing. The paste used is sugar based and rose water could be added to it to give women the feeling that they were being pampered, rather than undergoing a not quite painless experience. It is actually not as painful as waxing which is a more commonly used method of removing hair today. The paste sticks to the hairs rather to the skin, which makes the removal of the paste and hair more bearable. It is more comfortable also because the paste is cooler to use than hot wax as it is cooled only to room temperature. As only natural ingredients are used in the paste, it is better for the health of the skin than waxing.
The ancient Egyptians took the removal of hair to what we might today consider extremes, as they all shaved their heads too and then wore wigs. The pharaohs (including Cleopatra) also wore false beards which conveyed a god-like status on them, it is believed. However, there is conflicting evidence regarding whether or not all women or all men removed their body hair, although they probably removed most of it.
The ancient Greeks were particularly aware of body hair and when a young girl reached puberty her first pubic hairs were either removed by sugaring or another type of waxing, or they were pulled out with a pair of tweezers.
In the Renaissance European women differed in their views of body hair, with Italians having books devoted to hair removal methods for women (but not for men). Catherine De Medici, the Italian-born French queen (1519 – 1589) forbade the women at her court to remove their pubic hair, although one can’t be sure why she did so. The opinion of male 16th century doctors was that women should remove their bodily hair, because failure to do so would make them masculine, argumentative and generally disagreeable. However, prostitutes did remove 脫毛 pubic hair, but then wore “merkins” (tiny wigs) to disguise the fact.
In Europe people generally do not have a long tradition of hair removal, perhaps because of climate and the fact that insects and parasites are not as prevalent in such climates as they are in hotter ones. During Elizabethan times, women removed hair from the hairline on their forehead, as the ideal of beauty at that time was for a woman to have a high brow. They also totally removed their eyebrows to increase the illusion of a high, long brow. However, hair was not removed from other parts of the body; hygiene was not a consideration.