Shaving Struggles

6 years ago by

While the words “spontaneous beach day” may elicit squeals of excitement and delight for some, to me those three words strung together sound about as fun and frivolous as “the bar exam.” If you were to invite me to a “spontaneous beach day” this would be my response via text:


You see, thanks to my Mediterranean ancestors, I cannot spontaneously wear a tank top, let alone a bikini and frolic in the sand without being mistaken for Sasquatch.

And if you are a woman who does not find the words “spontaneous beach day” frightening in the same way you find the words “President Donald Trump” frightening then it will be difficult for us to be friends on any deep level because we have fundamentally different fears in life. I’m sure you have your own struggles you hairless, flawless, unicorn of a woman. And I respect those struggles, I do, but you will never understand the struggle of thick, dark, unwanted body hair.

You will not know the annoyance of attending a wedding on a Saturday where you will don a knee length, sleeveless dress so you must stop shaving your armpits and legs the previous Tuesday to ensure a smooth shave with minimal razor burn and irritation. This will cause you to wear long sleeves and pants for the remainder of the week no matter the temperature or time of year (please note: people primarily get married in summer months).

You will never get caught staring at another woman’s tan, rubberized, Barbie-like skin as if you want to pet it, or better yet, wear it.

You will never understand the true horror of ingrown hairs.

Oh? You get them too? How many? One a month? Like a hormonal pimple? That’s cute. Every time I shave, my skin erupts with enough ingrown hairs to rival the Terracotta Army.

The one trick I have found that prevents ingrown hairs I learned from a stripper (yes, I inquired about a stripper’s flawless bikini line because it was much more mesmerizing to me than anything else she was doing with that pole). Promptly after shaving apply a swipe of aluminum-based deodorant over the shaved area. The aluminum does something magical to the skin and prevents all ingrown hairs. Aluminum is also poisonous and has been attributed to causing birth defects and cancer, but may I suggest simply chanting “the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward” while applying?

You will never understand the frustration of getting into yet another quarrel with your boyfriend who insists it does not “grow back thicker.” What the hell does that bearded cartoon know! He doesn’t even shave his face!

You will not spend the entirety of your six-year courtship with said boyfriend going to the greatest of lengths to hide your knuckle wide happy trail. The happy trail that you gave yourself at twenty-five by dumbly taking one swipe (one measly swipe!) up the center of your stomach because your once cute peach fuzz turned a few shades darker thanks to hormones. That one fateful swipe was akin to a controlled burn of a farmland. Clearing the meager peach-fuzz saplings and providing an unobstructed path for the spawns of said saplings to grow back with ferocity, screaming, “How dare you murder my ancestors! I will seek vengeance for eternity!” “Eternity” ended up being the next eight years of your earthly existence till lasers finally vanquished them all.

Okay, fine, for medical and perhaps ethical reasons I will clarify that shaving technically does not prompt hair to grow back thicker. But it does cause hair to grow back blunter compared to its original, tapered form. And for some of us, blunter means darker, coarser, and more prone to ingrown hairs as the blunt hairs have difficulty protruding from that little bugger of a pore without a fight (i.e. inflammation, irritation, pain, and ultimately a little dark spot of a tombstone on your skin to mark his struggle and ultimate death when you attacked him with tweezers at two in the morning after a bottle of Chardonnay).

If you don’t believe me, I’ll happily show you my two hands. The one hand attached to a normal wrist, and the other attached to a wrist with a metal plate and eight pins in it. The hand that just HAD to be shaved prior to my surgery early this year despite me begging my surgeon to just let this one hand slide, sans razor. She claimed one shave wouldn’t make a difference.


Now I bleach the top of my right hand once a month to hide the hair that decided to sprout like weeds across its back.

Oh? Shaved hair doesn’t grow back darker for you? Then I can say with one hundred percent certainty you are not Greek. I can also say with one hundred percent certainty I have only disappointed my Greek grandmother once in my life, at the age of thirteen when she saw I started shaving above my knee. Devastation reigned across her face as she mumbled with love, “Oh, Veronica, you cannot do that. We are Greek. It does not work the same for us.” The pain of unwanted body hair spans generations.

Why don’t I wax? Is that what you’re thinking? Well, I’m so glad you asked:

       1. It’s expensive. A bikini wax will run about sixty bucks with tip for us coastal elites. Sixty bucks for someone to pour hot wax on me and rip it off my body along with my hair? I am not a masochist so, yah, hard no.

       2. It’s painful (see above). Use numbing cream, they say. Take Advil, they say. Do not shave between appointments, they say. Bullshit, I say.

       3. It’s time-consuming. Unless you live above a wax shop you are budgeting at least an hour out of your day for a result that will last MAYBE three days. MAYBE.

       4. Per above, it has a short shelf life. Like shorter than fish left out in the sun. So start swiping ladies, because you just paid sixty bucks to have a baby smooth vulva for the five percent chance his face gets anywhere near your vulva during daylight.

       5. It is fragile. Have you ever had sex right after a Brazilian? Well, if you do your vulva and bikini line will not be available for public consumption for the next week or so. Mainly because you will be sitting with a bag of frozen peas between your legs.

I believe the torture inflicted upon women by the Brazilian bikini wax is the patriarchy’s version of a practical joke because I refuse to believe the Brazilians invented it. They seem like a joyous, fun loving population from what I know, having never set foot in their country. Also I have yet to see it become de rigueur for men to wax their balls despite those things regularly ending up in my mouth.

And yet, despite knowing that hairless females are a societal construction born from capitalistic razor companies realizing they were missing out on revenue from 51% the population, I still rigorously prune all hair on my body as if I were a topiary. Why? It pains me to say this but I simply feel less inhibited when I’ve gardened my garden. I am more confident, flirty and just all around better in bed when I’m bringing my societally manufactured A-Game to the table (and at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to be better in bed?).

But the kicker to all this pruning and shellacking of ourselves is that we must maintain the Maserati of a woman’s body effortlessly. Like a duck gliding across a lake without a ripple of fluster in the water, while mere millimeters away the duck’s little orange feet are whirling like pinwheels to keep up the facade. What a grand illusion and ultimate glass house we have built ourselves because anyone who has ever handled a high performance vehicle, such as a woman in her entirety, knows they can be finicky as hell, require constant maintenance, and break down regularly.

It was one of those weeks at work where grooming takes a back seat to basic survival. I merely ate, slept, and filled my car with gas to get to said job that was working me late into the night but was also paying for said food, gas and overall survival so it was a real catch-22.

By the time I finally saw my boyfriend that weekend I apologized for my “unkempt” appearance in the same breath as, “but this isn’t going to bother you, right?” Read: Because it shouldn’t bother you and if it does bother you we have a lot more to discuss or not discuss because I will probably moon walk out of your life while singing So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu, adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu.”

His response will forever be tenderly held in my brain’s sulci; “I think it’s cute when you let it go. It means you’ve had a busy and productive week, which I find far sexier than anything else.” Hallelujah.

So why am I still investing so much time, money and pain into removing the proof of my life well lived? A life he finds sexy? (Also please note the way he phrased his response implies he had already seen dust on my Maserati unbeknownst to my impeccable recollection.)

Who are we doing all this gardening for? Is it for the men? Or is it for us? Or was it originally for the men but now we’ve become so accustomed to it that putting down the tweezers, hair dye, razors, pimple poppers, eye cream, serums, and surprisingly painful dry brushes seems like an insurmountable feat?  I conservatively spend thirty minutes a day scrutinizing my appearance, either in a mirror while applying and removing my makeup or merely in the back of my head while navigating through my day, and re-doing my ponytail, but always making sure it’s re-done the way I like it. I’m starting to think I want some of that time back.

What do men think about with all the time not devoted to their physical appearance? Sports? World domination? Girls named “Madison”?

And maybe all of this effort I put forth is in vain. Maybe my boyfriend had been aware of my stomach forest the entire time. Maybe he just gives me the courtesy of ignoring it. Or better yet, maybe he doesn’t really care.


Add yours
  • Love this. So well-written and funny and right-on. I’m in a similar place, figuring out what beauty steps really make a difference in how I feel about myself out in the world, and what steps are nonsense and not worth my time. I also have a busy productive awesome life – why would I waste it on nonessentials? Thanks, Veronica!

  • This is really well written and funny.

    I’ll add, because waxing really is a scam: That whole thing about how your hair will grow back thinner and lighter over time if you wax consistently? It’s true… but not predictable, even, or consistent in any way, so it’s also pointless.
    I waxed all through the Big Brazilian Years (it was an aughts thing, yes?) and pretty much up until I got pregnant 3 years ago. I wasn’t consistent about it, but I was consistent *enough* to not notice that when it grew back, it was patchy and weedy like a lawn in August. The area next to my bikini line, which had been waxed the most consistently, didn’t really grow back, but the ring around that 1-inch strip came back fine. Not so much ring-around-the-collar as ring-around-the-lady-zone. It looks AWFUL.
    That said, sugaring does hurt a lot lot lot less.

  • Kathleen Kittrick September, 21 2018, 3:03 / Reply

    Totally agree! I prefer the sugaring method!!

  • Hysterical.. but sooo true.. felt the terror of .. spontaneous let’s go swimming!!!
    All of it so true.. We’re werebetter of just being aunatural and be kind lines.. $$$ Waxingexpensive/ time/ getting there.. yes yes yes and yes.. will try the deodorant trick!
    Shaving makes it worse worse worse..

  • I just don’t even know if I’ve read anything truer or more factual on the internet in a verrrry long time. Preach.

  • Right? I was like yaassss

  • C’est un très bel article, bien écrit, bien structuré, avec une montée de l’humour progressive et des effets comiques bien maîtrisés. Bravo car j’imagine qu’il a dû être long à rédiger et demander beaucoup d’implication ! Vous avez réussi à mêler l’intime, le très personnel, avec une dimension universelle à laquelle chacun peut s’identifier. La voix n’est jamais artificielle, le ton n’est jamais convenu et le style ne correspond pas au format type “magazine” parfois un peu ennuyeux. C’est un beau texte à la voix singulière, comme on aime en lire sur le site. Continuez !

  • You are a terrific writer Veronica, and now that I know you’re Greek I like it even more! (Half Greek here, although–forgive me–pretty hairless. Must be because my family is from the the area near Albania? Who knows)

    Your last sentence is the gist of the matter–he doesn’t really care. And I don’t think women should want to be with men who DO really care. We are adult females, we have hair. The whole hair removal thing has more than a whiff of creating a fantasy of childhood, of youth. That is of course what make-up and physical alteration is mostly about, and we all choose what aspects of that we are willing to or want to do. Personally for me a Brazilian is a ridiculous bridge too far: I do not want to look like or feel like a pubescent girl.

    I’m happy with my tiny smidge of Benetint and my eyelash curler. That’s about as far as I’m willing to go at age 58 and we’ll see how long even THAT lasts…..

  • Hello to a fellow Greek! (Even if you are relatively hairless, I still love any Greek.) Also love your approach to beauty. Thanks for the kind words! x Veronica

  • I am Greek too.. I have light skin but a lot of hair, everywhere… I used to have ingrown hairs and a spontaneous day at the beach was also a nightmare for me.
    Then, almost 18 years ago, I started laser. First my bikini line, then my legs, then my armpits and recently my arms. I haven’t used a rasor ever since, my skin is always smooth and honestly the money spent in laser are the best invested money EVER!
    And let me clarify: it was never about pleasing men. It was always about myself and the way I feel when I am well – groomed.
    kisses from a fellow Greek!

  • You are a great writer with an original style

  • Love Veronica’s writing! x

  • So funny!
    If it’s possible for your skin type do try at home IPL (I tried Lumea) – it changed my life! From scars from ingrown hairs, with my skin always inflamed OR hairy, and let’s not even talk about the bikini line…. to really being not afraid of spontaneous anything. (because yes, let’s go tomorrow at the pool was a nightmare…)

  • Yes this is funny but also quite harsh. Balls in your mouth regurally? Does your mom read this? I began waxing at fourteen. My grandmother and mother both had strong opinions about body hair and discouraged shaving. My mom usually waxed her legs at home on the kitchen floor. While at times, for lack of time, I have gone to salons for a leg, bikini and underarm wax, most of my life I’ve done it myself. After a few times it becomes so easy. I’m nearly fifty now and I only need to wax about every six weeks. Winter less summer more. It is so ecomomical! I think I spend about ten dollars each time. I’ve tried all the brands and I like the water soluable sugar waxes best. I usually buy it at Whole Foods. When I come by a beauty supply company that allows non professionals to shop,like Sally’s, I stock up on a bulk supply of musslin waxing strips. You can cut them to size for the upper lip or other areas. The last several years the hair on my arms became darker. I now wax my arms too and it is so easy. I’ve also had a few “waxing circles” with friends…. like a spa day at home. We make acai honey face masks and help each other with the back of legs etc. haven’t done that in years but it was a good way to practice. You don’t mention using a laser to cut down on your hair growth. I tried about five sessions a decade ago and it definetly cut my growth down to nearly half. The machines are so much better now and seem to work very well. Have you tried this option? Even if it does not take all your hair away it makes waxing so much easier. Looking back I have always ultimately waxed my body for me. It may seem like I’m doing it for “other” but I like feeling smooth and soft and clean. I found it tidier when I had my period to have less hair there and of course my legs look far better in a dress and heals. I just can not see hairy legs in that scenario.
    In the times where I was busy and over growth happened I would just notice how I was feeling about it, joke about it when necessary, and accept my temporary furry appearance for an extra week or two. Then once I could get to waxing or in an extreme instance I would shave (in the last thirty five years I think I’ve shaved about ten times and yes for me it is a massive difference in grow out) I would deeply appreciate the difference. Women are way too hard on themselves and in my opinion with our extreme visual addictions are only getting worse, we must model to younger girls and to others that we are enough just as we are. A few simple healthy grooming habits are normal. Self care can be a beautiful ritual and is valuable to model and practice. We must be kind and loving to ourselves and others in doing so. Celebrating both our flaws and gifts creates balance.

  • Hi Jessica! Thank you so much for your thoughtful and extensive reply. My mom does read this! And yes, while some of my writing might be a bit risqué for her, I promised myself a few years ago I would always write (or create any art) as if my parents never existed. I never want my writing to be influenced by my parent’s approval because, well, then it wouldn’t be my truth or my art. On another note — I LOVE the visual image of your mom waxing her legs on the kitchen floor. This should be a scene from a movie! What a lovely memory. xo Veronica

  • Men don’t care, at least the true keepers, they don’t care at all. :)

  • Preach, Cristina, preach!

  • Gemma Prior September, 23 2018, 5:46 / Reply

    Ooohh, am I so glad to read this! I have exactly the same problem only possibly worse! I shave and then 24 hours later I need to shave again – ingrown hair lumps and all. I have constantly avoided relationships because I’m so embarrassed. Somehow I inherited my fathers hairiness – thanks Dad. My Mum and sister can go for weeks and weeks without needing to shave. Bloody genetics like to play against you, don’t they!

  • Hey Veronica, merci pour ce texte drôle et profond. Je suis passée par là a la fin de l’année dernière, quand j’ai réalisé que cela faisait 20 ans que je me souciais de mes poils, mon poids, mon look, que j’entretenais la Maserati, comme tu dis. 20 ans ! Les sommes d’argent et le temps que cela représente m’ont donné le vertige. Avec tout ca, j’aurais pu mettre de l’argent de côté pour faire le tour du monde et passer une thèse de doctorat !
    Alors du coup, cette année, j’ai ouvert un compte épargne, planifié le tour du monde que je ferai dans qq années grâce à cela, et j’ai commencé à préparer l’entrée en doctorat.
    Et de plus en plus régulièrement, je teste ce que ça fait de se baigner sans être rasée ou de passer la journée sans maquillage. Et je m’impose de ne pas passer plus de 5 minutes à choisir ma tenue du jour. Et le monde, bizarrement, continue de tourner ;)

  • Good grief. Thank youuuuuuuuuu.
    I have been given an Irish complexion with a less Irish hair thickness. :/ This has meant for me, razor burn + ingrowns on my legs (no matter how new razor is) and an uncomfortable relationship with bikini waxing which has left me with two inch long scars from deep ingrowns… what they don’t tell you about waxing is that if you are prone to ingrowns then the ingrown just starts deeper. Sigh.

    After realising I *just wasn’t comfortable* letting the entire thing loose, the thing being my 2 inch bikini line, I finally went down the IPL line (but only on my bikini…that’s enough time spent in that seat, thanks) and after about 8 sessions my growth is still…growth, but a lot less. And a bit more manageable. I’m not quite at the point where I can leap straight out of the house at the first mention of a spontaneous beach day, but, it’s an improvement.

    Thank you again for such a candid account of what seems to be so many womens’ experiences.

  • This is incredible!

    That opening paragraph had me saying “Yes, finally someone who gets it!” Spontaneous beach days actually bring out the fear of life in me, for this and other similar self conscious reasons that no one else probably even notices. This was such a delight to read and had me in agreeance, why should it matter to anyone else?

    Thank you Veronica!

  • You are me in my twenties.
    IPL about twenty years ago changed my life.
    Try it. It works and is worth the money.

  • after reading all the comments on this post — i think IPL is in my very near future! followed by a spontaneous beach day :) xoxo

  • I really really don’t get, why there’s not 100 comments under this post. For me body hair is the biggest body issue. I have very small breasts, I have lots of skin imperfections on my face, but still body hair is my main concern and I feel super insecure about it. I love to hear about woman trying to liberate from shaving/waxing terror, but actually living this type of freedom is still soooooo hard. I blame Instagram (as I do with most of my beauty concerns). Spending up to 2h daily looking at images of hairless bodies of celebrities and bloggers can do nothing good to my perception of my own hairy vag, stomach, mustache, forearms. Fortunately, I’m also quite lazy in terms of beauty ruitnes so it sort of wins most of the times with my insecurities. Thank you, Veronica, for this funny note about your struggles. And greetings to all the hairy sisters out there.

  • this is great. i thought i was the only one who needed frozen peas post wax?! #neveragain

    i got my bikini modestly lasered in 2003 or 2004. IT STILL HAS NOT GROWN BACK. no other lasering (even fancy Spruce and Bond here in NYC) has had that kind of success for me- and i have pale white skin and dark body hair.

    in any case, you are hilarious. i will keep this to show my daughter when she grows up bc i’m pretty sure she’s going to have dark back hair in about 8 years.

    also, no mention of nipple hair?? in high school a friend said, “IF i had hair on my nipples I would totally pluck it.”

  • oh man. i have a lot to say on nipple hair. maybe i’ll do a follow up to this post alllll about that nipple hair. xx V

  • Hi! Silkepil changed my life. I had to shave my legs every 24 hours, a nightmare! Now I epilate every 2 weeks, it doesn’t hurt and my skin is soft and beautiful. Wish I had spent those 75 euros before!

  • LOVE this post and your attitude. Write more, please!

  • U make life so hard. Its annoying. Solution, one word: sugaring. It does not grow back in three days, but three weeks. With normal exfoliation every now and then, if u want, to be sure not to get ingrowns. Maybe a vegetable oil with some anti-bacterial lavendel oil. As sugarwax is three ingredients: sugar, citric acid (lemon) and water, it does not annoy skin but is supposedly anti-inflammatory. Its the ancient recipie by dark-haired Middle Eastern women since centuries. Find a salon first. Then learn to do it at home.

  • I am trying sugaring this month and will report back! xx

  • I AM GREEK TOO AND I FEEL YOUR PAIN! I also thought I was the only person hiding her “stomach forest” from her (now) husband. Thank you, amazing piece!!

  • This was everything. Thank you for talking about this. The best piece.

  • I so relate to this. I’ve actually had nightmares about spontaneous beach days because my bikini line is a nightmare and takes serious and careful tending to get me ready to wear a swimsuit. I can’t shave it because it will explode with ingrown hairs. Waxing breaks my skin and causes bruising (not pretty). So, I use a combo of plucking and Magic Shave powder, which is an exfoliating depilatory powder popular with African American men who are prone to ingrown hairs. That stuff is a godsend (even if it does smell like sulfur, haha!).

    As for shaving my legs, I’ve found that switching to an old fashioned Merkur single blade safety razor has been SOOO much better than multi-blade razors. It cuts the hair off at the surface of the skin instead of lifting it up to cut it and allowing it to go back beneath the surface, which translates to way less irritation and razor bumps. The regrowth also feels less jagged/prickly. I like that it’s also more environmentally friendly and feels a bit more glamorous. Anything to make the drudgery of shaving feel more glamorous is a plus.

  • Antonymous October, 16 2018, 8:44 / Reply

    Hi, as a man who shaves some of his body but has the privilege of doing so out of mere choice I can only very partially understand your effort, so I can only give you my support against the pressure on a unified image, same for whoever wants to stop shaving at any given time and give it a rest for any while, short or long or not start at all in some zones. Irrilevant, but it also fascinates me when a woman does so because it can express some rebelliousness and confidence on her natural self, of course more if she keeps herself otherwise groomed and not completely wild. This is not a fetish though as if one shaves becase she really doesn’t like hair, more power to her and great if she feels better!
    I’m really sorry for what happened to your hand, the accident more than the shaving, now it’s all ok I hope, but as hair had to be removed, it’s grown back wild ever since and now has to be bleached. Just an idea, but while you’re at it you might just shave both of your hands along with the rest of your arms if you don’t like hair and even out both. When it’s time to do your arms, you just start a bit farther instead of your wrists and should just take a few more seconds, but that’s just an idea (:, sorry if strange.

    As for shaving above your knee, funny because it’s “normal”, that I know, unless hair is much finer than on lower legs, and if darker hair was genetic could your grandma be meaning a traditional concern, along with “you don’t shave your thigh unless you expect company” or similar :D? Like, just guessing and not to be rude, especially if she happens to be of Orthodox background, but I don’t wanna assume, but if one chooses to shave one does it up to where there’s visible hair, maybe they didn’t need to at 13 like you but at 16, but if one thinks skirts should cover at least your knee it sort of makes sense. But she could have just meant how your hair grows back, as you said, but I think that even if it were true that shaving makes hair a bit darker and stronger in itself, one mostly shaves because it was already becoming darker on its own, rather than the opposite and that’s why you were shaving and for the very (good) reasons why you prefer shaving, if you didn’t would it be worth to stop shaving at knee and switch to waxing just for the upper half :)?
    I definitely agree with you on waxing and I’d name one other reason, you can shave again as soon as it grows back and you don’t have to wait for the right length lol. For this and those other reasons I’m more comfortable shaving my chest and shoulders every 3 – 4 days-
    For how hair grows back, not representative, as man as I told, but in a way, when one chooses to shave a new zone of their body, where you don’t want hair, you want to continue taking care of it with relative regularity, depending on time, clothes and situations, like you already did for your legs, arms and armpits, which you seem to shave regularly.
    I’m not very hairy but when I wanted to stay smooth in summer, every 3 -4 days, were enough more like 3 most of the time :D.
    But that I know, if you let the blunt shaved hair grow back for some time, it sheds and the new one should be similar as before, have you tried this on your hand?
    Sorry for the stream of words if you don’t mind.

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