OK so, unless you’re some sort of sadist, you have spent lockdown in sweatpants, PJS, loose clothing and no makeup.I’m sorry if you haven’t, but frankly I’m not quite sure why you would subject yourself to a government mandated house arrest AND tight jeans. I just don’t.
During lockdown, many of us may have also abandoned our taxing hair removal routines. After all, with waxing salons and threading appointments a thing of the far distant pre-Covid past, many of us have had to. But now, lockdown is easing up, and seeing people IRL is fast becoming a reality; dare we bare our hair? Or will we fall back on old habits? Have we freed the fuzz, or is fuzz fear still alive and kicking?
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Gemma Walton, 31, a PR executive from Bristol, got *everything* waxed before lockdown.“I’ve been waxing my legs since uni and my underarms since I started working, about 10 years ago,” she says, “I have never taken anything to my bikini line other than wax. And my eyebrows are wax and more recently threaded. So suffice it to say, I relied on these services a LOT before lockdown!”So, what now, I ask, do you feel like a yeti under house arrest?“Honestly, not as much as I thought,” she says, “I let my legs go as long as I could in the hopes that salons would be able to reopen after a month or so. But once it became clear that the closings were indefinite, I decided I wanted to shave one day. That said, it’s been 10 weeks now and I’ve only shaved once. So it’s clearly not on my mind!”
Living with hair during lockdown may have become the norm, but it’s not something she is keen to continue once she’s ‘released’ from the house.“Honestly, my hair doesn’t really bother me at the moment because the only person seeing me right now is my husband and that bothers neither of us,” she explains, “But when those salons open up again? I am back on it ASAP. I just feel more comfortable that way.” I wonder what it is that makes us so critical of our own body hair, where the impulse to remove it really comes from? We’re frequently told that the proliferation of porn plays a part – particularly when it comes to pubic hair. But it is also worth noting just how widespread, how ingrained the idea is, that hairless underarms and legs are just the norm for women, and that any deviation from that is somehow less-than, or weird. Even Gemma agrees.“I always feel I remove my body hair for my own reasons,” she says, “I feel embarrassed if hair pokes out of my swimming costume and with my underarms, I exercise a lot, so I find it helps with smell and if I am wearing anything sleeveless.”“But the reality is,” she goes on, “How much of anything that ‘we’ want is truly disassociated from what society expects of us? Put it this way, my partner doesn’t comment or make me feel any less sexy regardless of how long that leg hair grows, but I certainly feel sexier when it’s not there. And let’s be honest, there is an extra pep in his step when he knows I’ve been to see my waxer…”For actress Alyssa Le Clair, 29, London, she had a head start with letting her hair grow out; coming to the realisation, pre Covid, that she was ready to reject society’s assumptions about her body hair.“I was at a talk about the beauty industry and feminism and the woman speaking talked about the fetishisation of women being hairless because it made their partners see them as younger than they were – and that has stuck with me since then,” she says, “I’ve always been adverse to it because I have really sensitive skin and it was very hard, but it also painted the idea for me- that I couldn’t shake- that people were profiting off of men’s fetishisation of younger women.”
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For Alyssa, her hair growth has been more than a lockdown necessity, but a strong-as-hell power grab. “It always makes me feel very powerful,” she says, “I have such an interesting relationship with my body, being a plus size person, so body hair has always made me feel a certain way. There are already standards set so high for us to be perfect because we aren’t ‘societal norm beautiful’. So I always thought I’d have to be perfect in every other way for someone to want to be with me. When I took back that power and questioned what happens with my body, in regards to my body hair, it made me feel like I was taking back something that so many people have taken away from me.”This is the kind of advice I get from Laura Jackson, 23, the founder of the viral hair-positivity movement #Januahairy, which launched (and went viral) in 2019. “Growing body hair in this time is so much more than being ‘Lazy’- you are choosing to do this, you are accepting this. This is your body, your choice…” she says, “Embracing this part of your body affects your attitude towards the way you view and accept other parts of yourself. Women are always under so much pressure to look and act a certain way in order to feel accepted by society’s conditioned male gaze. This journey will open up your mind to these pressures and give you the opportunity to explore that choice- you choose what to do with your body- no one else’s choice but your own.”
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Plus, she thinks now is the ideal time to experiment with this part of yourself, to test your boundaries and see what you, and only you, feel about your own body.“Quarantine is a great time for people to experience their body in this way,” she says, “When you become comfortable and accept your body like this, it’s a really enriching and liberating experience. You can’t know your own opinion of what your body hair is until you have embraced it and explored the choice you have to do so.”This advice hits home for Tallia Berat, 30, a writer and activist from South London.Besides her bikini waxes, Tallia’s pre-Covid hair removal rituals were fairly sporadic and low maintenance. Lockdown has actually made her consider how much she *really* cares about having body hair.“My bikini waxer has done way too much good work for me to come along and muck it up so I’m leaving that well alone during lockdown but everything else has been very mood based – some weeks I’ve needed to feel preened and others the opposite,” she says, “That said I haven’t touched my eyebrows or my dark under chin hair – it feels really pointless to put myself through ANY pain right now and maybe it’s a good opportunity to give my skin a break?”
“It’s actually been quite fascinating and liberating to let my hair grow out,” she says, “It’s made me rethink about how much time and effort I put into it, and how much I actually care about it. Moving forward, I think I’m going to feel a lot less pressured to remove it, and just be guided by what I feel moment to moment.”The pandemic – as well as the time to let it grow during lockdown – has shifted her perspectives.“I’m looking forward to getting a bikini wax for sure, but mostly because I just wanna support her business, as she’s a local small operation and she will have struggled during this time,” she says, “But removing my body hair after lockdown? It is definitely NOT the first thing on my list….”