body hair
Will it last even as we return to public life? (Illustration by Francesca Mahaney, Pratt Institute)

What’s the Future of Body Hair After Quarantine?

As hair salons and waxing places stay temporarily closed, the beauty routines we’ve built up for so long are crumbling, forcing us to embrace our natural beauty.

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As hair salons and waxing places stay temporarily closed, the beauty routines we’ve built up for so long are crumbling, forcing us to embrace our natural beauty.

If you’ve still been shaving your legs during quarantine, you’re on another level right now.

And unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two months, you are probably very well aware of the current coronavirus situation, which means we’re all kind of living under our own rocks at the moment. People are staying home — or are supposed to be — including nonessential workers. And nothing is more nonessential right now than your next bikini wax or eyebrow threading.

Now, that’s not to say that personal grooming or taking care of your appearance is a waste of time. In fact, many self-care practices involve pampering your body with a new nail polish, a face mask or a relaxing bath, and I think that’s still an important part of personal mental well-being.

But these extreme routines — hyper-routines, even — are crumbling because of quarantine. We can’t go out and get haircuts, manicures, pedicures, tans or eyelash extensions, nor can we be waxed, plucked, threaded, dyed, bleached, manscaped or whatever other practice some influencer swears by. We’re being forced to go without these little luxuries and return to our more natural selves.

Even celebrities are going without their normal beauty routines, and those who do are receiving backlash for breaking quarantine measures; Cardi B recently got a bikini wax and a new set of acrylic nails, sparking users online to question if quarantine means the same for everyone.

I’ll even own up to it: The thought of shaving my legs seems pretty pointless right now, considering the feeling of impending doom and the fact that I’m staying home most days. I’ve had several friends echo this sentiment; some haven’t shaved once since quarantine started.

What’s interesting though, is that body hair acceptance might be gaining more widespread traction.

Those friends that I’ve asked have tossed around the idea of no longer shaving at all; it’s a lot of wasted time and money to shave, plus it sends unnecessary hair down the shower drain, adding another expense and a headache to the mix. And many of them — myself included — don’t notice a huge difference between the everyday feeling of having shaven legs or hairy legs.

If you wander into the creative cesspool that is TikTok, the “body hair” tag shows a surprising amount of posts with users defending their body hair and their choice to show it. One of these most popular videos has over 780,000 likes, with the message “let’s normalize body hair.”

Some fashion bloggers have even started posting images of themselves showcasing their natural body hair in an attempt to normalize it. One such blogger recently posted a picture on Instagram of her hairy quarantine legs, reminding her followers that “your leg hair is cute.”

With quarantine and the recent move toward more natural beauty products and styles, it seems like we may be steering toward a more positive view of body hair.

The only problem? Our fear of what other people will think of our natural selves.

If you look in the comments sections of these posts, there’s a divide. Some people wholeheartedly accept these calls to normalize body hair, praising the creator for their bravery in showing their body hair and inspiring them to embrace their hair as well. Others say that although they appreciate the creator’s choice to not shave, they prefer a shaven look.

Additionally, almost everyone who told me they thought of going natural with their body hair also told me they would be afraid to go out in public with it.

It’s clear that, personally, many people don’t mind their own body hair; if it were really an issue, we’d still be getting rid of it with the same vigor as in our pre-quarantine days. The issue is the societal judgement that falls upon us as soon as we walk out of the door with hairy legs or armpits.

And sure, it’s a matter of personal choice. Some people say they just prefer to shave their legs; they like the feeling of smooth skin. And for those who really don’t like it, they’ve found ways to manage their body hair despite the quarantine.

But for those who don’t really have that strong preference and remove body hair because it’s expected, it’s a little trickier than that. While people can shave if they want to, many people do it because we’re “supposed” to. We’re supposed to be smooth. We’re supposed to be hairless.

Had we not been force-fed messages about how amazing smooth legs or hairless armpits are by grooming campaigns and beauty advertisements, would we really have that so-called preference to begin with? What does it say to us when we see commercials for the next great razor shaving a leg that is already perfectly smooth? If it’s a matter of personal choice, why don’t we see body hair in traditional media?

It’s not all hopeless though; despite the pressure that hinders many of us from fully embracing our body hair, these recent events are promising signs that it will become more accepted, as body positivity continues to be a hot topic of conversation. Celebrities like Rihanna, Amandla Stenberg, Paris Jackson and others have walked red carpets or posted on Instagram showcasing armpit or leg hair. Bloggers, content creators and internet users are striving to normalize it, one Instagram post or TikTok at a time. And while the comments sections on body hair posts do show a divide, there seem to be fewer purely negative comments than in previous years.

The next and last step is just to see more acceptance of body hair in our day-to-day lives. And quarantine might just be what pushes us to that point.

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