I found this article when “goggling”
How clearly I remember the first time superfluous hair ruled, and ruined, my life. It was a sunny day, I was 13 and my parents had planned a day trip to the beach at Frinton.
I was thrown into a panic. I locked myself in the bathroom and applied Jolen Creme Bleach to my upper lip, and Immac to my legs, tummy and bikini line. The fumes were so toxic I’m surprised I didn’t pass out.
I waited the requisite 20 minutes or so, various brothers and sisters hammering on the bathroom door wondering what on earth I was doing, before I could at last wield my tiny wooden spatula and scrape all the gloop off, revealing the bald and so-much-better me beneath.
So began a battle that has continued, day in, day out, ever since.
To say that facial hair – on my upper lip, on my chin, sometimes extending down my neck, some of it white and fine, some of it black and coarse – currently rules my life would be an understatement.
On a long-haul, red-eye flight from New York the other week, my biggest preoccupation on landing was what on earth would have sprouted overnight, and how could I hide any new hairs until I got home, given my tweezers had been confiscated from my hand baggage? I write the word ‘pluck’ in my to-do list each morning. Some days, I despair at the extent of my problem.
In Los Angeles not long ago, in a sun-filled hotel room in front of one of those magnifying mirrors that light up, I literally reeled with shock: there were curling granny hairs so long they could be plaited. Stubby man-beard hairs. Someone should just place me in a circus and sell tickets.
Facial hair and its no less important cousin body hair has meant that I have always shied away from intimacy. I would avoid having sex in the morning in case my husband touched my face; I left my honeymoon halfway through for an emergency knee wax.
I have been known, when stranded miles from a beauty salon, to pluck the hairs from my legs one by one. I spent my 20s not having wild sex and binge drinking, but saving up for fortnightly appointments at the Tao clinic in Knightsbridge, where I would have electrolysis on my face, my cleavage, around my nipples (oh, dear God, the pain!) and on my tummy.
I invested in my own electrolysis machine and would sit at home for hours, shocking myself for longer than the recommended dose, just to be rid of those blessed little hairs that refused to give up the ghost.
have bought home-waxing kits, and discovered they never work. I have worn trousers, turned down dates, avoided parties and cancelled holidays – all because of the dictatorial demands of my body hair’s life cycle (if you go for a leg wax while the hair is too short, you are roundly told off by the therapist and sent packing).
Even as I sit here typing, there is one hand on my chin – feeling, searching, worrying.
And I am not alone. At the gym the other day, I saw countless women with razor bumps, ingrown hair, rashes, burns from waxes, regrowth: all of which are more unsightly, surely, than a bit of unadulterated fuzz.
The fashion for seeing hair removal as anti-feminist died out at the end of the 1970s so completely that even a hint of darkness beneath the arm of Julia Roberts can make headlines around the world.
But while the vast majority of women, at some time in their lives, will sprout unwanted hair on their face/breasts/stomach, the problem remains the last unmentionable taboo.
While even movie stars will admit to cellulite, the odd grey hair and wrinkles, not one will own up to whiskers.
We might now see, occasionally, a glossy magazine photograph of a woman with a roll of stomach fat, but I have never seen a picture of a female hairy chin.
I put this to the beauty editor of a monthly, and she recoiled in horror. ‘We can’t alienate readers,’ she said. ‘When we do a feature on waxing, we show a beautiful pair of sleek brown pins, not razor bumps or stubble. That would be revolting.’
But why is female hair seen as such a turn-off? While the sugaring and threading methods of removal have been around since ancient Egypt times, the fashion for women to be hairless took off only in the 1920s, when arms and legs began to be exposed for the first time.
Now, though, the tyranny to be completely bald has reached dizzying new heights.
The Brazilian wax, which leaves behind only a narrow ‘landing strip’ of hair, and which came about among young women in Brazil who wore thongs to the beach, has now infected every High Street beauty salon in the land.
Then there is its more extreme stablemate the Hollywood, which takes away everything, leaving the bearer distastefully childlike. My waxing specialist in London now does ‘seven or eight Hollywoods a day’ – a 70 per cent increase on this time last year.
Completely Bare, the American chain of spas dedicated to hair removal, has seen requests for a Hollywood quadruple in the past 12 months. Which must amount to something of a trend, but what fuels it? Is it men’s expectations from watching pornography where women are as bald as billiard balls or our own deep-seated neuroses?
‘Such insecurity has been instilled into women over generations; we have made not the least headway in the struggle to dispel it,’ writes Germaine Greer in her book The Whole Woman. ‘Women with “too much” (i.e., any) body hair are expected to struggle daily with depilatories of all kinds in order to appear hairless.