What Do You And Cleopatra Have In Common?
A History of Hair Removal
I get the question, ‘when did Brazilian waxing begin?’ a lot and I’ve never really known. Here I am finally setting about to find the answer.
Hair removal is reported to have been around since at least 1150 BC and appears to have begun in the Middle East. In this hot climate both men and women would remove all of their body hair as a sign of cleanliness, as a way to reduce parasites, fleas, lice, and body odor, and to conform to beauty standards set by women like Cleopatra. From what I’ve read, just like most other things it seems the ancient Egyptians had hair removal pretty well on lock. Copper razors have been found dating back to 3,000 BC in ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian ruins, as well as evidence of the use of beeswax and sugar-based waxes. Great methods as far as I’m concerned!
On to the ancient Roman Empire and Greece: a lack of body hair continued to be a sign of personal cleanliness and civility for both men and women, and full body hair removal continued to flourish. Later, hair removal had become the particular burden for women, as men had more social leeway for letting their body hair grow if they wanted. This is why you have seen many famous statues and paintings of Roman and Grecian women as lovely and hairless. Super rough hair removal method of this time included: plucking with tweezers made from seashells, scraping it off with sharp stones, and something to do with bat blood that I am not super clear on…
Queen Elizabeth I, being the trend-setter or her time (1558-1603), either found she preferred her body hair, or was sick and tired of trying to get rid of it, so she began a trend of letting it grow. However, she did think a hairless face was important, so women of this time said goodbye to all their facial hair including eyebrows. Elizabeth also thought it looked great to have a really big face, so women began shaving their hairlines, too. Rather unpleasant hair removal methods of this time included bandages soaked in ammonia (which they got from their cats) and vinegar.
Hair removal continued throughout the ages with different styles going in and out of fad depending on the trends at the time. Sometimes this hair removal was accomplished with the help of resins from Africa which made waxing much easier, or with crazy things such as arsenic sulfur, bat blood, frog blood, and vinegar. Lovely.
Fast forward to the 1930’s; the first commercial body wax is manufactured in France and it quickly became the preferred way to remove unwanted body hair for women around the world.
In the 1940’s World War II caused a massive nylon shortage, which in turn created an opportunity for advertisers to market hair removal options to women who wanted smooth legs. And, at just about the same time, the bikini was introduced to the United States and as swim suits became more and more revealing, more and more women looked for ways to clean up the bikini area.
Of course, the U.S. has gone through more-hair fads, like in the 1970’s, and less-hair fads, like in the 1980’s. The pioneer of the Brazilian bikini wax in the U.S. was the J. Sisters Salon in Manhattan, beginning in 1994. The J. Sisters began their professional education in their family salon in Victoria, Brazil, where they were taught a strong foundation on personal grooming. “In Brazil, waxing is part of our culture because bikinis are so small,” one of the sisters, Joyce, explains. “We thought it was an important service to add (to their already thriving manicure business) because personal care is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.”
Lucky for us, waxing technology has become amazingly gentle and relatively pain free. Thank heavens. No more bat blood for us.
If you haven’t tried Brazilian waxing maybe it’s time! Book your first session here.
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