I shaved my armpits, more or less every few days, for the better part of twenty-two years. This winter, I stopped.
I was curious. I wanted to see, for the first time ever, what my un-groomed armpits looked liked. Since noticing the first brown sprouts as an awkward middle schooler, I’ve tried to keep my underarms hair-free. Despite a generally lax attitude toward any kind of complicated personal grooming, on this front I was always consistent. Every few days, I swiped at them with a razor blade so that nothing grew beyond a bit of stubble. I never left my armpits alone long enough to notice which way the hair pattern swirls, or how the color shifts the longer it grows. I didn’t know if it would be soft or spiky or somewhere in between.
Growing up, women who grew their armpit hair were either called hippies or French. There simply wasn’t room in the imagination for them to be anything else and there weren’t many—or maybe any—adult women in my everyday life choosing to go, as we might have said, au naturel.
Even now, I admit to sometimes being startled by my own reflection. It took a few months for the hair to really fill in and get to a place that sufficiently reminded me of my dad. (Turns out, I’d recognize this hair swirl anywhere.) With t-shirt season upon us, I’ve been debuting my personal grooming choices in public. It’s anyone’s guess how I might feel about my newfound hairiness come full-blown summertime, but for right this minute, I love my hairy armpits. Which, of course, is all that really matters.
What about all of you? Clean shaven armpits or happily hairy?
For the curious:
I’m wearing my very favorite new t-shirt*in whitewash.
Also my very favorite jeans* in life’s work.
My lipstick is by Kosas, in phoenix.
My earrings are from the local shop, 21Tara.
My nail polish is by Zoya, in a color that I forget the name of, which might be Kylie but could very well be Heidi.
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I have inadvertently done this many winters and my husband is always a bit disappointed when I raze them come sleveless season.
Awesome! Love that you shared this!
So I had a baby last June and a day or two prior to labor beginning, I decided I had to shave my armpits in order to save myself any embarrassment while birthing the babe.
That was the last time I shaved my armpits! Almost a year ago. And yes….I agree….it does surprise me sometimes when I catch a glimpse in the mirror. But I’m OVER shaving my armpits. I was getting irritations and ingrown hairs so I decided, no more. And I don’t plan on shaving them any time soon.
I shaved my armpits every few days since puberty. The past 7 months, I’ve stopped. I havent gotten sick ONCE since I stopped shaving them. I have a theory that the hair helps the lymph nodes under the arms function properly, which improves the immune system naturally. I have a condition of immunodeficiency, so I historically hadn’t usually gone more than a couple of months without catching at least a little something. But since I stopped shaving, I’ve been feeling so much healthier.
You know, I tried the same thing this winter! I’m still on the fence, to be honest. I think I look sexy and “French” when I’m naked, and yet somehow I’m not entirely sure about it when I’m wearing sleeveless dresses? But it is so much more comfortable — no more angry red ingrowns, hallelujah!
Thank you so much for sharing!
Yes! So much more comfortable!
this post gave me a happy little zing! i also diligently shaved my armpits (and legs) more or less every day for over a decade, up until last winter, when i decided to just stop cold turkey for a few months. it went fine, but i chickened out once it got warmer, and i went back to shaving last summer. but once it got cold again i decided to really stop shaving my underarms (as well as my legs for weeks/months at a time, since my legs don’t get particularly hairy anyway), and have been hairy-pitted for the better part of a year now. i admit to still being a bit self-conscious as the weather warms up, but i figure i’ve done a lot of internal work of undoing all this patriarchal garbage in me, and this one thing shouldn’t be any harder.
one thing i find fascinating is that a lot of the photo/art projects i’ve seen featuring unshaven armpits tends to feature conventionally attractive, thin and mostly white women–as if to compensate for the “grossness factor” of hairy pits. and i definitely feel the pressure to be “dressed up” if i’m flaunting my armpits. just goes to show that the male gaze is embedded deep!
I don’t really have armpit hair hangups, so I just do what I want. I shave about once a week or whenever I feel like it and I dont feel pressure either way. I think living in Portland helps, lol.
My bigger hangup right now is unpainted toes. I keep my feet groomed but I am tired of painting my toenails. I feel so underdressed when they are bare though, especially with sandal season around the corner. This is the little gender battle I am fighting right now.
So interesting! I’ve had friends who have this hangup about unpainted toes, too, but I’ve never been shy about unpainted toe nails (even if I do sometimes like to have them painted!).
I go 9 months a year without touching my armpits but usually cave in the summer time. I succumb to socitital pressures to be “normal”, that’s the only reason I ever shave. I’m so grateful to see people with a platform being open about this!
So interesting. I’m intrigued to see how I feel come the first time I need to really dress up for something!
Same! I don’t want to “make anyone uncomfortable” when I wear sleeveless shirts. Sadly, I’ve kinda stopped wearing sleeveless shirts (at least at work) bc I don’t want to shave.
Erin, I’ve been reading here for years, but haven’t commented. I very rarely shave my armpits in the winter, and this winter in particular – I was insanely busy, studying for my medical boards, and also raising my 1 and 4 year olds and it just didn’t happen. I took my boards, and the next day, on a whim, got on a plane to Hawaii with those two kids without a razor in my bag. 5 days on the beach with hairy legs and hairy armpits but an insane amount of fun with my kids really prompted me to think about how or if I want to handle body hair moving forward. This is just such a timely post, I haven’t ventured out with short sleeves/sleeveless around people we know, yet, because we live in Seattle and it hasn’t come up, but of course, today it’s nearing 80 degrees and all I want to wear are sleeveless dresses. So, I guess thank you! It’s always helpful to see someone else’s thoughts on topics we deal with.
So great and so glad!
Haven’t shaved mine in over 10 years and I’ll never go back! I stopped shaving as a dare with a friend and we gave up after 6 months when both of us found ourselves not wanting to shave anyway. I like to shave my legs every so often but it’s not a big deal for me either way. Happy you’re sharing ❤️
I’m curious – have you noticed any difference in terms of armpit odor/sweatiness? I feel like whenever I let my underarm hair get long, my armpits smell more!
I really haven’t noticed any increase in odor. I sometimes think it’s kinda decreased…but that might be solidly in my head!
I shaved mine last fall after about 18 months unshaven, and my BO was off the charts! Granted, I was also about a month postpartum, but that was enough to convince me to leave well enough alone. 🙂
Ah, so interesting!
I have the opposite problem. I actually wax my pit hair, which I’ve been doing for ages, which ironically also means a fairly liberal grow-out period. I’m happy to have it long but also happy to have it gone? Mood-dependent (cold Canadian winters certainly play a seasonal role). But for some reason I’ve noticed an extra stink these last few months as my nursing relationship with my 21mo has been changing. I find the hair retains smell more and as such wanted it gone to see if that helps (and it has). But I am hoping this stink factor is just a phase… I like being able to not worry about it!
I remember when Julia Roberts bared her underarms at the Oscars (I think?) and feeling so validated. Strange the role those celebs play!
So I’m slightly unsure about this because I stopped shaving when I got pregnant and the hoermonal changes over the last almost-two years have been wild… but, I think it just took my body a little time to recalibrate. I also at some point got new deodorant from LuSa Organics and I haven’t had BO issues at all.
My odor INCREASES on the rare occasions I shave my pits. To be honest, I probably never will again, but that is something I had noticed when I did.
I also stopped shaving my armpits this winter. I’ve gone many winters without shaving, but usually shave in the summer due to not wanting to be smelly. However, I noticed that when my armpit hair is growing out, I tend to be smellier than when I shave it, but now that it is fully grown out, it seems to actually have less odor on a regular basis! hmmm!
I grew up with a mom who didn’t shave or pluck, and my choices of when and how much to do so were always on my own terms. I think this has always made it easier for me to have minimal hangups about body hair feel in charge of my own body. I tend to shave every week or two (sometimes more in the summer) whenever I feel like it and have the energy.
Yeah, so interesting. I think there was a part of me that also wanted it to be clear to my kids that there’s more than one way of doing…everything!
I stopped shaving when Trump was elected, the smallest of protests. I shaved them again for my wedding day but they are back to their natural state, most likely for good.
Omg. I did this little protest upon Trump’s election too, and am dying of delight that I found someone else who did so too!!!!! It was my first time not shaving and I’m most likely sticking with natural for good, too. 🙂
Me too. It was a conscious decision. I just stopped! Almost like a quiet and personal protest.
I meant it wasn’t a conscious decision
I’ve had mine lasered. I’m not really a fan of body hair, especially facial hair. I’ve always thought it was odd that it’s ‘expected’ of females only. In Europe I’m noticing more men removing body hair – legs and chest, as well as their armpits. It’s interesting that I think the US is going a different way.
I’d be very self conscious with hairy armpits. I remember being so embarrassed about my legs when I was about 10! And then my bikini line, lip etc. I had it all lasered and have found it life changing. Incredibly liberating. Definitely feel much sexier and can go swimming at a moment’s notice! Italian genes made me very hairy naturally! But I think people should do what they want. It’s not a big deal, although I really found it affected my day to day life.
Yes, for sure. Everyone should do whatever feels best! I admit that I’m more shy/concerned about my bikini line than anything, and it’s also the most likely place to get irritated! You never know: maybe I’ll be someone who has long armpit hair, shaven legs, and a lasered bikini line! We contain multitudes!
Bikini line remains my biggest issue in my unshaven life. Occasionally I have to remind myself my armpits are fine, even in a sundress. But for my bikini line, I spent more money than usual on swim bottoms (skirts, shorts) that will cover it. I think because it makes me feel more exposed to have more dark hair showing, even if it’s definitely on my legs, and not on anywhere I consider private.
I am so with you, Sarah… I wish I never touched my bikini line… It is so much work and I am at a point where I need to consider laser. Every swimming session needs planning. I truly hate body hair. I have dark, coarse hair and it grows fast… trimming and shaving once a week is a killer!!
i agree! i really dislike body hair on myself. i cannot handle the feel of unshaven legs or unshaven underarms. it’s funny because i’m not hairy at all (my arms look shaven even though i don’t, and my hair on my legs is incredibly fine and blonde — hard to see even when i’m weeks from shaving). i would absolutely laser.
For most of my adult life, I was intermittently lazy about shaving my legs, but religious about shaving my armpits. Now, I couldn’t actually tell you the last time I shaved my legs – it’s been at least 2 years. I like the feel of smooth, hair-free skin, but frankly can’t be bothered to maintain it, particularly since waxing isn’t in the budget anymore. I stopped shaving my armpits about 2 years ago as well – at first, it was sort of an experiment – does this mesh with my sense of femininity? No. Does it work with my clothing and lifestyle? Mostly? I found armpit hair distracting that first summer when I switched to sundresses, but now it’s just normal. I sometimes wonder if I should be grooming it in some way, but most of the time, I just like that it’s there.
Ha! Have definitely had a moment of thinking about whether I should be trying to tame or train it…but, you know: lazy.
Woo-hoo! Go Erin! So happy to see this post. I stopped shaving any and all body hair about 6 years ago. I feel so free. I enjoy short showers, healthy skin, and a mind free of body hair worries now. I no longer wear sleeveless anything and I have a skirt+shirt type bathing suit. Works for me!
I love this! I’ve shaved in and off for many years, but after I got pregnant almost a year ago, I stopped. I love thinking that my now 10 month old daughter will know that shaving isn’t necessary. I also appreciate the time and water and irritation saved! My leg hair is pretty dark so sometimes I feel self-conscious, but- in the rural town where I lived until March I loved bucking stereotypes, and in the city where I am now I feel similarly and also see plenty of other women who don’t shave!
I’m embarrassed to admit, I’m always a little surprised when I see a femme presenting person with hairy pits. That initial surprise is always followed by, ‘they are so their own person’ and amazement…followed by a little tingle of shame that we are so programmed to think hairless is the default! —I am personally BO paranoid and feel like shaving keeps my odor tamer. I do hate the itchy bumps though. My husband shaves his armpits Bc he hates the way hair feels. He uses his trimmer so it doesn’t reach any kind of length.
Oh, for sure. I mean I’m definitely still surprising myself!
A couple years ago I was lazily shaving my dry legs in the tub as I was getting ready for a holiday party. My daughter saw me and asked why I was shaving the hair off of my legs and I froze. I could tell her the truth. That mommy shaves because she would feel embarrassed if other adults at this party saw her hairy wintertime legs. Because society kind of obligates women to conform to strange and shaming beauty standards.
I lied to her and told her I just shave whenever I feel like it. That answer was enough to satisfy her, but I decided I would live by those words and only shave when I genuinely felt like it. Which turns out is like never?
So here I am, I haven’t touched a razor in what feels like ages. My husband always thought it was dumb that women felt they had to shave and encouraged me to let it go if it didn’t bring me any joy.
Not shaving brings me joy!
Triana – thank you for sharing. As my daughter is growing up, I’m sorting through these female stereotypes as well and learning to find what brings me joy. Also, I smiled when you shared your husbands thoughts. I am confident my husbands would be quite similar. What sweeties!
I stopped shaving all my body hair when I was maybe 20 years old (I’m 23 now). I started to shave when I was like 12 or something, always telling myself that I only did it for myself. So a couple of years ago I said to myself that if I really only did it for myself, then I should go without shaving for as long time it would take me to get comfortable with it. And if I still wanted to shave again after that, it would be totally fine. I just had to try first. It was hard at the beginning! Especially not shaving my armpits. But I rarely think about the hair nowadays, and it feels so good. I’m happy that I gave myself a chance to figur out what I really wanted.
I sometimes feel like I would like to try not shaving, but I physically don’t like the feeling of hair on my legs and armpits. My legs get super itchy, and when the hair is long enough to poke at/through my clothes, I starts to feel prickly and tingly. Similar with my armpits — if I forget to shave my armpits, I remember because 2/3 of the way through the day, I start to feel a prickly, pokey feeling. I’ve definitely gotten myself into this position — I’m sure my skin felt fine before I started shaving, but now I feel physical discomfort whenever I go even a day without shaving. I could push through it, but I honestly have no problems with my routine. I kind of like shaving — I use oil and a safety razor, and I feel like it scrapes off the layer of dead skin cells, like when ancient romans used to go to bathhouses (not the hair removal part, but the dead skin cell part). I hope to explain to my kiddo(s) that this is a choice I make because it’s what feels right to me, it’s a choice some women make (for a variety of reasons) and some women don’t (for a variety of reasons) and what’s most important is that each person do what’s right for them and let others do what’s best for them. Of course, if I could bottle up some of the confidence and amazing parenting from the commenters above and save it for when the time comes to have this conversation, I would! What a beautiful space here, where this type of thinking is reinforced and encouraged! =)
I hope you continue to do what feels good to you! But I just want to chime in and say that once the hair truly grows out, it no longer feels prickly. I stopped shaving my armpits when I had full body hives from an allergic reaction and by the time my skin felt recovered enough to brave a razor (about a month I think), the hair didn’t bother me any more. Waxing also avoids the prickly growing out, but first you have to grow it out with to wax!
I bet it does! Sometimes I feel like “ok, I’ll wait it out,” but I’ve always ended up going back to shaving because it’s so much less of a burden than the discomfort. But I’m sure if I could wait it out, everything would feel ok. I kind of like my little safety razor and oil ritual. It feels way more luxurious than my old disposable razor and soap, and my legs feel so moisturized and itch-free. It’s my self care (and I bet a lot of women’s me time is NOT shaving!)!
The only area I DO shave is my underarms. I am just a very sweaty person, and, embarrassingly, I have really sweaty pits. I can’t imagine not shaving my underarms and getting all sweaty, smelly, and uncomfortable. I don’t really shave my legs in the winter months, just because I am lazy. And also in regards to the bikini area, I used to wax but I stopped a number of years ago. The price is ridiculous and I still got irritated after a wax, just like a razor. I give my bikini area some extra love in the summer months, when I am in a bathing suit, but that’s really an area I leave alone too. I do, however, regularly wax my face. Eyebrows, lip, chin. I work in PR and with the press, and sometimes find myself on camera. In HD. Which is not forgiving. But these are my personal choices. As long as a woman is comfortable with her choices, that is all that matters. It is none of my business whether a woman chooses to remove her body hair or not.
yes, a million times over to that last bit!
Great post! I shave my armpits because I find I have more armpit odor when I let the hair grow in, but I haven’t shaved my legs in 3 years. I honestly can’t be bothered to shave my legs. If I could easily, affordably, and permanently remove all my leg hair, I might do that, but shaving every other day (and feeling the stubbly, rough growth on the in-between day) is way too much work. I’m a yoga teacher and so my body is often somewhat on display. I notice people noticing my leg hair, but no one has ever commented on it. Whenever I see another woman with hairy legs, I feel such a surge of solidarity!
I had the hair on my armpits lasered off, since I wanted less of a hassle (not shaving every day) and less hair. Best decision. I now only need to shave every couple of days
Being Sicilian, (Italian), I am not lacking in the Hair department. I was teased all through school for my hairy arms, (Dark Brown Hair), mu
Mom and Sisters were going to get me
Electrolysis, ………. my Dad vetoed that!
I had to start shaving at a very early age
and still shave daily,
Yay for Hair and Hairless
I hear that! Without oversharing, it will be interesting to see how Faye navigates her own Sicilian heritage into her teen years!
I still shave, but I changed deodorant. After 20 plus years of shaivng once or twice a week, then jumping out of shower to apply ant-perspiratn to my newly shorn pits, I developed a contact dermatitis to those products. Now I use a spray without aluminum , my pits happier.
So happy to see this post! About 3 years ago I stopped shaving as an experiment to get more comfortable with my body hair. It was liberating. Now I rarely shave my armpits, and I don’t miss the razor burn. While I’m totally unabashed about my hair in most spaces, I am shy about it at work and find myself choosing longer sleeves in the office. Similarly, I gave up bras and love it during “off hours”, but am less comfortable at work. Turns out, while no bra is glorious at brunch or the grocery store, it takes up more mental bandwidth at work than I’d like to admit. I find myself crossing my arms or buttoning my sweater if a meeting room gets *chilly. On especially important days I may choose a bra (bralette – let’s not go crazy!) rather than risk being distracted or feeling vulnerable and self-conscious when the air conditioning kicks on. A work in progress, and certainly imperfect, but a journey well worth it.
I could never let my armpit hairs grow- i don’t think it’s sexy to see armpit hair coming out wearing a beautiful summer dress. Just my opinion…my girlfriend in high school never shaved had blond hair and was in the hippie era. Wasn’t a fan of the look. I work out with sleeveless tops at the gym and have never seen anyone in all my years in the Bay Area have underarm hair. I’m into shaving- the oder factor is a big deal to me. I raised Girly Girls. Not a fan. But each their own I say …
Such a personal question and ultimately not really about what’s common or what we what we prefer to see on anyone else, but what we choose for ourselves.
I stopped shaving my armpits when I was pregnant because one day in the shower it occurred to me that if I had a daughter, I would be showing her by example that her body was “wrong” and needed to be “fixed” somehow to be normal. That was four years ago. My leg hair has been more of a struggle for me to let go, I still feel pretty self conscious, as I have a lot of dark hair on pale legs and I live in a conservative place where also (anecdotally) women who do choose not to shave seem to have much less leg hair! But I’m working on it all the time. And on my shopping list right now is a second swimsuit with short-style bottoms cuz I’m not comfortable showing bikini hair but am not interested in the last minute panic about making sure I’ve shaved!
Hmmm must say totally pro shaved armpits. And it is not only women, I feel a bit sucky seeing both men and women with fully grown armpit hairdo. Not sure why perhaps it is the way we were raised looking at what beauty definition was pushed into our faces. Saying this I am more enlightened for example I don’t see beauty in a established beauty, I see beauty in beautiful smile, unique feature like freckles, big gap in front teeth, a scare over the eyebrow, etc. However the hairy armpit makes me cringe. I couldn’t stand that eu natural look since I was a child, still remember seeing my mum with a full bush here and there and feeling very uncomfortable. After these and other ‘traumatic’ sights I effectively removed all my hair there and here that took me about 2 years of 6week appointments at laser clinic. Strange how our views shape without our consciousness.
Love this post. I prefer longer, silky hair (anywhere!) to itchy stubble. Women have hair. We are mammals, after all 🙂
I stopped shaving my armpits a few years ago. If anyone has noticed (probably a few have) no one has ever said anything. I don’t even think about it anymore, except, recently I had an exam with a new gynecologist, who asked me to put my arms above my head for part of my breast exam. I didn’t even think of my unshaved armpits until after the exam was over, and then wondered if she had noticed, lol. Still not ashamed though. I have had PCOS my whole life and spend entirely too much time trying to pluck chin hairs as a result. I don’t have time for shaving something as silly as armpits.
I know this is going to be an unpopular view but I find unshaven armpits really gross. I know it’s socialisation and I also strongly advocate that everyone is entitled to do whatever they like regarding personal grooming but hell would freeze over before I’d willingly sport a hairy armpit. Fortunately I had all my unwanted hair lazered off about 10 years ago and it’s never come back. It was expensive but the money I’ve saved in razors or waxing ( not to mention the time saved) has made this the best investment ever.
i never shave! winters are for growing hair and come summer i do just a little more upkeep (trimming/waxing). I really hated shaving – leaves everything so prickly and waxing just hurts! At some point years ago I thought to myself why do I even do this – I don’t care about my hair! And as my bf told me when I asked him because I assumed he’d be disgusted (society really does a number on girls): “I like it and the only person who would notice or care is you”
I haven’t been shaving my armpits for a long time (maybe a few years?) but I still feel REALLY self-conscious about anyone seeing it. Even though I am WAY HAPPIER not shaving them and like the pit hair. It’s soft and silky and I feel like a badass.
I only shave my legs in summer, and even then, infrequently.
I don’t have much armpit hair and so it looks ridiculous if I don’t shave…like I went through puberty a minute ago. I have no interest in messing with my bikini line, though! There doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid crazy irritation, and it’s just not worth it.
I used to shave every other day in the shower. But, at some point, all that shaving lead to was a serious rash under both armpits, which were both painful and not really decent to look at either. So now, I leave my hair to grow a few millimeters and don’t really worry about shaving. I might shave when I feel like it’s getting out of hand, but generally no sooner. And my armpits are much happier for it!
No thank you ….for me.
I have bought your book- read the blog for interesting ways to make my Mother Earth healthy.
i’m curious: what about all the rest?!
Love this post! Up until a few years ago I used to shave my armpits and legs every week, now I just let them grow and maybe shave once a month. I just got so fed up with the image that women should be hairless…
I started shaving my legs because other girls made fun of my leg hair in 6th grade. The first time I used a razor I sliced my fingers. I used to be so embarrassed by the hair between my belly button and vulva when I went swimming. Shaving never made me feel good, just shame for being hairy, like it somehow made me less feminine.
For me, it took several years in my twenties away from consuming pop culture and other media. During this time I worked as a birth doula and got to see the bodies of lots of different women during their most powerful time. These bodies were all so beautiful and so different. They taught me that femininity is about coming into my body and loving that embodiment, not about cutting away parts of myself.
Since then I haven’t shaved, and after a short adjustment, I haven’t been embarrassed. It’s taught me a lot about self love. ❤
Did you see @januhairy on Insta? Not sure if it was more of a UK thing (various newspapers featured it etc). I’m thoroughly unshaven for about 9 months of the year, and then give in to the pressure on armpits and legs for a few weeks in the summer (prefer to ‘sugar’ rather than shave – zero waste recipe via Paris To Go blog). My boyfriend is always dismayed when the armpit hair goes! But I do generally like to have t-shirts with a proper (short) sleeve, and not the little cap sleeves that so many women’s t-shirts have now – I sew my own, and was talking to a friend the other day who actually buys men’s t-shirts for this reason. Various layers of privilege involved in who is allowed to ‘get away with’ breaking these body hair norms, of course – not easy for anyone, but I might feel braver about it if I was white.
i love it! i haven’t shaved my legs are armpits in about 5 years (and let’s be real, before that i definitely wasn’t shaving above the knees). it’s so freeing, saves so much time, and no more razors . i feel like unshaved armpits just looks to badass!
What a good topic!
I stopped shaving my arm pits in my teens, because my skin was so sensitive I would have a lot of bumpy, prickly, irritated skin every time I tried to shave. I decided hair looked ok in comparison to what my pits looked and felt like when I was done shaving. Once or twice a year, I’ll trim off the hair to about 1/4″ to help keep it healthy or less stinky or whatever, but other than that it’s just….there. It catches sweat and never bothers me and saves me time!
I haven’t shaved my armpits in quite a while, and don’t plan to ever again. Once in a while I will shave my legs and it feels a bit like a treat sliding into bed with smooth legs, but that’s about it. I worry most about my face and neck, and arms, to be honest. I’m pretty hairy overall and shave my face any day I am in public (though for a few daring weeks in college, I actually let my facial hair grow out!). I always wear long sleeves because I’m really self-conscious about my arms in general (hairy, and also fat — I know, big deal, but you know we all have our “things”).
Yes!!! That feeling of smooth legs on fresh sheets — Sometimes I shave just for this 🙂 Frugal hedonism at its finest.
ha! I love that feeling too!
I stopped shaving my armpits 10 years ago while in high school. At first I stopped because my skin was getting irritated. Then I continued not shaving when I realized it had no effect on getting laid or keeping friends. Only time I considered doing it again was my wedding. But then I realized it was silly to be anything other than myself on my wedding day, so I dyed them blue .
I haven’t shaved my legs in 20 years (gulp, I’m old), but thanks to semi-regular waxing, my remaining leg hair is practically invisible. I don’t think many of the men I have dated have even noticed that I don’t shave my legs.
I currently live in a country where sleeveless tops are not acceptable, but waxing is very cheap. I’m using this as an opportunity to grow out my armpit hair and then have it waxed about once a month. I am hoping that regular waxing thins out the hair and minimizes the regrowth the way it has for my legs. As for bikini line, I can’t be bothered to do anything more than the occasional buzz with an electric trimmer. There is nothing worse than itchy bikini line regrowth in hot and humid weather!
I did the same experiment two years ago. I suffered from ingrown hairs and was also curious how it would make me feel. Turns out, I’m pretty indifferent about underarm hair. (While I find leg hair intensely annoying after three days.) I occasionally wax if I want to but mainly it stays put.
Hi French lady here 🙂
Just to say that I had never ever heard about ´us’ not shaving our armpits before moving to the US. I’m not offended just amused that everyone is someone else other. For example in France, we say the German ladies don’t shave their armpits :).
Cheers to unshaved armpits and courageous ladies! You rule!
ha! yes, so fascinating! i’m guessing it might be an apocryphal stereotype that dates from American GIs in WWII. not that i know what the majority of french women were doing with their armpits then either 😉
Erin – lovely post! can I ask – what bra are you wearing under that shirt? Am looking for a perfect everyday t-shirt bra and it seems you have found one 🙂
I’m wearing a Cosabella Dolce Soft Bra in this shot, which I really like, but I wouldn’t really call it the perfect everyday t-shirt bra. It’s a definite bralette and it doesn’t do anything in the way of shaping which is what I typically think of when I think of t-shirt bras! Still, there’s a link if you want to check it out! It’s an affiliate link, which means I would earn a small commission if you purchased something, just an FYI!
When I turned 35, I decided I was done. I stopped plucking my eyebrows (still pluck those chin hairs though!), stopped shaving my pits, stopped shaving my legs, mostly stopped the bikini line. My daughter (age 5) now says proudly “pit hair, don’t care!” and laughs like crazy when she sees my pits in the summer. The first summer I was a little self conscious but decided not to care what other people thought. My husband thinks it’s sexy. My leg hair is much finer and lighter than I ever thought and I regret spending all those years shaving! My eyebrows grew in nicely after over plucking for most of the 90’s.
The next birthday I decided to stop wearing a bra unless I wanted to wear one — usually only wear one if the top is too thin to be decently covered. Now I spend summers braless, hairy, and so happy!
I loved this comment.
“braless, hairy, and happy”– love this!
Very supportive of freedom of choice; especially for women and regarding their bodies and identity. I have decided to remove under arm hair, I feel more like an animal than a spiritual being with it – so it goes for mystical artistic tantric reasons. Thank you for the subject contemplation.
I think this will be a new perspective: It took me years to realize that most women shaved, but that was largely due to ethnic heritage (my mother’s people – both men and women – have little or no body hair), so when I sprouted generously, courtesy of my German father, I thought I had a problem! I grew up loving (and wearing) long skirts and long-sleeve shirts by choice long beforehand so it took a while before I started to feel self-conscious at pool parties, etc. I keep pretty hair-free now for hygiene/BO reasons. I teach junior high girls with waxed legs; I personally wonder if it’s porn culture that’s pressuring them. As far as I can tell women never bothered with shaving until hemlines rose and sleeves disappeared but haven’t researched that fully.
My personal biggest societal cave-in was to wear makeup and knee-length dresses/skirts to work. I never regularly wore makeup beforehand but now do it to look professional/older (I look like my students otherwise – again, ethnic heritage). Happily I skip it on the weekends and I have a supportive husband who respects me and my decisions!
BTW following with interest all the posts on other-than-white fashion. As a mixed breed myself I never felt that I looked good in conventional styles and colors so my sisters and I rebelled and made our own. I went to a college where I could wear exactly what I wanted: I dressed in elf-esque clothes (long dresses, flowing sleeves, sheer headscarf), all in the neutral colors that flattered ME. Receiving countless compliments was just the icing on the cake!
Winter 2018/2019 I decided to go ‘full fur’ ie no shaving anywhere. I haven’t bothered with bikini line in years, just get short style swimsuit or, currently, have a matching pair of shorts that go over my swimsuit. Also gave up shaving above the knee some years back. To be fair I never wear dresses higher than that and only occasionally shorts. So the big changes were letting my underarms grow which I have never ever done and my legs. For the winter, I definitely preferred it and will do it again. Long hairs are way more comfortable than stubble. My armpits did continue to startle me occasionally- but I suppose that’s no surprise since never before in my life had I had more than stubble there.
My husband didn’t mind it at all. I felt a little awkward about my legs when I went to my masseur but he also said nobody’s leg hair bothers him.
I think I will keep shaving for the summer – I like wearing sleeveless tops to work as it gets quite warm in our office and I just don’t like the look of sleeveless with hairy armpits – for men either! Don’t really think it would look office appropriate either. But after having grown it all out, I definitely will not be worrying so much about a few days of stubble being on display – it’s definitely minimal in comparison! And I will also be going back to ‘full fur’ in the autumn-spring again. And maybe next spring I’ll start waxing instead of shaving.
Now that I live in France, I do as all the French women I know here do: lumière pulsée. You go to a salon a few times and then the hair is gone for good. Not very PC maybe, mais très pratique – no more wondering what to do and when. Perhaps some of the French stereotypes mentioned above are slightly out of date?
Yes, of course! I’m thirty-four, so it’s been a long while since I was a kid!
I stopped shaving back in college while backpacking in Peru and never looked back. At first, I was shocked by the shocked responses and facial expressions I received from literally everyone, especially my own mom (and I was living in “liberal Bay Area”-lol) and that galvanized me to continue NOT to shave. I figured if I did it, maybe it would make it a little easier for someone else. Now, x years later, I don’t think about it for one second, except maybe in the summer, it makes me feel sexier than ever.
The one time I did shave my pits was a few years ago when I was a bridesmaid in one of my best friends wedding, and the mother of the bride made a comment about being in the pictures forever and I felt like I didn’t want to cause even a fraction of drama on her day, so I went into the bathroom and practically dry shaved them off, and the second I did, I regretted it. Never again will I shave my pits and definitely never for anyone else.
Interestingly enough (to me at least), thinking about it I shave my armpits because it’s easy. It takes 30 seconds, the stubble rash isn’t so bad, I don’t have strong feelings either way and it’s part of my routine.
But in the winter I can easily go months between leg shaves. And my bikini line is the bane of my existence. Maybe the same is true of lots of women? I have very pale, sensitive skin which gets rashy super easily, and fast-growing, although pale-ish, hair. Waxing used to bring out a furious rash that lasted five days, a brief spell of pubic sleekness and then another five days of horrendous stubble itch. And then it would grow back. So basically I’d fork out $40 or whatever for about 5 days of bikini-friendly hairlessness. Is that just me?! Not worth it! Lasering is not in my budget right now. And shaving also provokes a mild rash. So basically I feel all I’m doing is keeping the grass vaguely mown for the sake of swimsuit wearing! I’m certainly not doing it for my husband, and right now I’m so heavily pregnant I can’t even see what’s going on down there so I’m not doing it for myself…
I ramble. But I am fascinated to know what’s the *norm* when it comes to this stuff, in a society where porn has drastically changed the next generation’s perspective on intimate hair and nudity.
So interesting, and inspiring. This makes me think of a project we had to do in a Sociology of Gender course in college, where we had to go against a common expectation/norm placed on our own gender. I didn’t shave my legs for a few weeks….and nobody noticed or cared. But I felt super nervous! I wasn’t nearly as adventurous as others in the class, but it was a pretty jarring awareness of how much I had internalized these expectations and feelings…that I wasn’t really even aware of. I still usually shave my lower legs for shorts/skirts, but can’t really do much to my bikini line due to sensitive skin (shorts for swimming. or just not caring!). I’m tempted to stop shaving my armpits because I have such sensitive skin and the pain (not to mention the red bumps that are just as noticeable as the hair would be!) is just not worth it. You’re inspiring me, Erin! How much we feel the pressures to conform, whether we’re aware of it or not.
I am sorry to be a party pooper, but my husband who is a molecular biologist says bacteria breeds in unshaven places where the growth is dense, including beards 🙂
Makes sense! Does your husband remove all of his body hair?
I love your t-shirt, Erin. I’m always in search of the perfect white t. I don’t like them too thin and clingy. I also don’t like when the bra shows through. It’s hard to tell from the pic here (and those on the website) if this t-shirt would be a good option for me. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
Thanks! I really love it, too! I’d say it’s not clingy but it is on the thinner side and definitely not totally opaque! Working on a new t-shirt post though, so stay tuned!
Thank you! Looking forward to the t-shirt post. The other colors available for this t (the “tart” shade, especially) are lovely too!
A few years ago I gave up removing my armpit hair just because I felt like it. At the same time I switched to a spray-on crystal deodorant instead of antiperspirant due to increasingly sensitive skin. My pits would get a little stinky by days-end but nothing really to worry about. I experimented with removing it again and found that without hair the smell was much less. Overtime though I discovered that when summer came and I sweated more I would get rashes from the excess sweat and so had to switch back to antiperspirant. I found a roll-on version that is fragrance free. (The stick ones all give me a rash, fragrance or not.) Occasionally I remove the hair there and on my legs as well, but either way I just do what I feel like, I don’t give a hoot what anyone else thinks.
I love this conversation – thank you, Erin. Your underarm hair experiment reminds me of my own decision to stop dying my hair to cover the grey. Another natural element of a woman’s body that, perhaps at some point in history, succumbed to patriarchal pressure for a specific aesthetic – youth and beauty. Of course, going grey, or allowing unfettered underarm hair, or going without toenail polish – each of these decisions are personal, which may or may not actually derive from male pressure in any given situation. It’s impossible to trace a woman’s motivations and so like you, I don’t judge. Personally, I hated spending loads of money to dump chemicals on my head every 6 weeks. And now I’m free!
Ha! Yes! I can see that! I think what’s interesting is it’s hard to trace even my *own* motivations, let alone anyone else’s! Right this minute I don’t think I’ll cover my grays when they come in, but only time will tell!
For whatever reason, the decision to let my hair go grey was SO HARD. Possibly because the greys started getting serious while I was still in my 30s. I just really didn’t want to look old or “ugly” – whoever is meant to define ugliness is a mystery to me, but I suppose I didn’t want to look ugly to myself. Turning 40 really zapped all this nonsense out of me. I suddenly felt liberated to be whoever I want to be. It feels so good.
Oh man! Grey hair was a very, very hard one. I don’t really want to dye mine (I do!), debate it every single time and would love to support the ‘it’s natural’ thinking behind aging gracefully, but dear lord it is so ageing on most people. Me included – I look much older as my roots start showing. People say it typically ages you 10 years. I’m late 40’s and no way am I ready to look nearly 60. That’s like grandma age; I’m still in to clubbing! I’m waiting for everyone else to stop dying their hair – I had no idea everyone (most) did at such a young age. And people with straight hair using straighteners for that amazing salon look. I’m very dark and curly!
As an aside, never heard about or seen the French not removing hair. But growing up living and holidaying in Europe – Germans definitely.
Love this! I’m always excited when I see another woman who is rocking her hairy underarms!
I stopped shaving my armpits a few years ago and I love it. Oddly enough, it makes me feel even more like a woman, even though we’re taught that body hair is “gross” and “un-womanly.” But it’s natural and I see it as a sign of maturity, so I’m here for it haha.
I still have to shave my underarms every so often for photoshoots, but it just reminds me how much I hate shaving and reinforces my love of my natural body hair. In fact, I shaved last week and found that my armpits felt wet ALL THE TIME. It was so odd not to have pit hair containing that moisture, I thought I was sweating through everything. Cannot wait for them pits to fill in again so that I can have peace of mind haha
I wonder, do you shave your legs or are you letting that hair grow out too?
I shave my legs!
So glad to see this! And it seems from the comments that it may be coming back. I haven’t shaved under my arms since the 70s. It drove my poor mother crazy.
Hi Erin, I’m happy for *you* in reading this. I remember a post you made years ago about deodorants and you mentioned in it that you didn’t use cream deodorants due to the “ick” factor of touching ones’ own underarms. I feel like in embracing pit hair you must have grown a lot more comfortable in your body, comfy enough to share this intimately with us. So thanks, and congrats. <3
I personally oscillate between fully-grown and clean-shaven. Like a commenter above I like to save my brainspace for the chin hairs. I wish I could embrace them but I don't know if I'll ever unlearn that bit.
Ha! I’m pretty sure the ick factor was more about the general residue, rigmarole, etc.
I hear that. I’ve been using cream deo pretty much exclusively for the better part of a decade and generally just smash any residue into my cuticles. Fat and the Moon from Etsy is my go-to. I tried to make my own a couple times and just could not match their consistency.
Have long since gotten over it, so no worries needed on my behalf!
I’m so grateful you’re sharing this, Erin! I, too, ditched the razor a couple years ago, and I haven’t shaved any body parts since. This has been super liberating and freeing, but I need some advice. I’m an immigration+civil rights attorney, and I am about to reintegrate into the male-dominated, super square social scene of a law firm (but in Portland, Oregon). I’m finding that I’m feeling self-conscious about my arm pits and legs. I’m wondering how other professional women handle this? Do you rock body hair in the office/board room/court room? Any style tips, sisters? Thanks!
I’m also curious about how other femme-presenting people approach this. I’ve personally tried to cover up my body hair at work, since it seems that even male-presenting people are not showing leg hair or armpit hair in the workplace. But I wonder if it just depends on the level of formality of the workplace (I’m a a teacher).
A little late to the game on this one, but I work in a male-dominated field and have also experimented with “a year of no shaving” anywhere. My style is more basic (2 pairs of work slacks & button ups just to keep style simple), so I never had to deal with exposed body hair at work. I do have quite dark, coarse hair which is contrasts to pretty light skin.
For-going shaving first started for me in highschool on swim team. It was part of our training to create more “drag” in the water with body hair. Come competition season (4-6months later), you’d shave it all off and BOOM. Like a greased pig you’d feel like you glided through the water. I didn’t try not shaving again until my twenties as part of a year long experiment when I lived in the southeast (some really interesting looks & comments came from that outside of work during the summer). I too like the feel of no leg hair (could care less about the pits) and my husband more than myself even supports that. I do think about how my son will see it and how it will shape his view of women. It’s not outside the cards for me to start the no-shave again.
I haven’t shaved my armpits for about 6 years now. I definitely was self-conscious at first, but after a couple of summers I don’t even think anything of it– except to feel kind of sexy now and then! The one time I thought about shaving was when I was a bridesmaid in an old friend’s wedding in my hometown– it was definitely not the kind of culture where one sees women with armpit hair. But in the end I stuck with what felt good to me, and hopefully she isn’t disappointed when she sees my fuzz in her wedding pictures…
One bit of advice to those who are worried about more smell– be sure when you’re washing your armpits to get the hair thoroughly wet before you apply soap– just like the hair on your head. If you don’t you’re likely to get soap buildup, and that’s the one thing I’ve found makes it smell more. If I don’t have the soap buildup on the hairs, I find there’s less smell than when I shave.
I have very thick hair and it grows back quickly, so if i I want the clean look, I’d have to shave every 2-3 days, which causes constant irritation. I decided to just stop shaving so often regardless of whether I wear sleeves or no sleeves, and I live in South Florida, so it’s mostly no sleeves. Now I shave once every one and a half to two weeks if I need to (because looks from people), and I don’t shave all the way down to the pores. My new technique is to shave in the direction of hair growth and whatever I can get is whatever I can get. Or if I have to go to a formal event and I’m wearing no sleeves.
My sister moved out to Sebastopol, CA last year and has embraced full hair growth. I don’t know if I’m ready to do that yet living in South Florida.
As for odor, it makes no difference whether I have hair or not, and I don’t usually wash my armpits with any harsh soaps, if at all. I made the switch from antiperspirant and regular deodorant to natural to no deodorant a couple of years ago. Your body will go through an adjustment period. Also, BO depends on the clothes that you wear (certain fabrics enhance BO or just smell bad when mixed with armpit sweat even if you have no BO), your diet and the state of your digestive system. Sometimes my stomach isn’t ok and I have mild BO, but nothing like when I used to wear deodorant. If I need to be “presentable,” I apply magnesium chloride oil and that will hold me for about two days, including two days of Mysore practice! As for the sweat, I don’t mind it at all. It reminds me that I’m a living human being!
Now for down there… I used to shave the bikini line only because I always preferred a natural look, but I stopped that too. Again, irritation, and it’s worse down there. Now I just wear bathing suit bottoms that can cover that entire area and that’s it. Legs, I continue to shave, but only on a need basis.
I stopped shaving my pits a few years ago after seeing Amanda Palmer in this music video: https://youtu.be/dyE2MLq24OE. I thought her natural armpits were so sexy! I thought, I want that. And I haven’t looked back (mostly…). I only wish I were brave enough to sport sleeveless shirts at work. But then I realized that even male-presenting people don’t usually wear sleeveless shirts in professional environments. So now I opt for linen when it’s hot and I have to work.
So many points have been touched on here! Thank you all for making me consciously remember WHY I shave my armpits and legs……..
Because one million years ago the boy I was crazy about ran his hand up and down my leg and said “Jill, you have hair on your legs, you should always shave your legs”. I was 17 and had forgotten to. But I’ve never shaved above my knees after the first time I tried it in junior high because my thighs are smooth and don’t have much hair and shaving it made it much coarser for awhile. That boy became a man that died some years ago – why AM I shaving my calves?! I salute you all and will go without shaving long enough to let the hair grow out to be soft…I hope. My pits too! * * * My youngest son complained terribly about me hennaing my gray away and begged me to stop, and lo and behold when I did, everyone has raved about my hair colour! It’s blondy gray and my husband says women pay a lot of money to get this colour. I’ve had several teenage girls ask me what hair colour I use and a few have tried to dye their hair my colour! Which just naturally came from AGING (and mothering 4 sons). * * * As for shaving/waxing pubes, oh my god, forget it. Tried it once, most painful stupid thing I’ve ever intentionally done to myself, especially as it was all growing back in. I can’t believe so many young women do it as a matter of course. I’ve wondered if it comes from porn industry pedophilia. Or something. * * * My best friend gave me a pedicure/polish as a gift. Liked the pedicure but when the polish went on my naturally beautiful opalescent pink nails I felt like I was smothering. Like because my toenails couldn’t breathe I couldn’t breathe. Has anyone else ever felt this way about nail polish?
I forgot to add that the stupid swim suit industry doesn’t make nearly enough cute suits with an inch or two of leg to cover a bit of hair. There are “boy shorts” and antique swimsuits but not nearly enough of them.
Would love to hear, still enjoying the patch of underarm freedom?
And my husband thinks the little bit of hair on the inside of my calves is cute….. I think I will want smooth no hair legs come spring/summer but for now, it has been a revelation seeing my own leg hair for the first time in my adult life.
But the real revelation was uncovering how completely I internalized someone’s offhand comment – 46 years later!!
I shaved a handful of times in my life, and for decades I’ve had hair in my armpits to be more comfortable without the abrasion between the skin of different body parts rubbing on each other. It will be great in summer when the hot weather and perspiration ups abrasion. I use alcohol as my deodorant, much more gentle than deodorants or anti-perspirants.
A great solution to shaving vs not is to trim under my arms. This is cleaner and more groomed and avoids razor irritation. I use a small trimmer with a guard and it’s the length of two weeks of growth. Perfect for sleeveless or bikini. It doesn’t show too much and is quite sexy.
Beautiful, sexy and erotic! Love to see this!
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