Baby Boomer Ponders Obsession with Body Hair Removal, Eyebrows, and Extensions

What is the obsession these days with removing body hair? I mean, what is it with painting on thick eyebrows, excruciatingly painful waxing, and obviously fake-looking hair extensions?

This baby boomer must be feeling my age because I just don’t get it.

waxed hairYes, I shave my legs, but I can’t help noticing that women are overly preoccupied with hair lately.  Were we women bamboozled into this obsession by marketers?

According to the book, Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, more than 99 percent of American women remove their body hair. A lot of people have recently started getting into Brazilian laser hair removal.

Interestingly, Gillette introduced the first razor for women in 1915 along with the message that body hair was “unsightly” and “objectionable” and thus needed to be removed. And they just so happened to have the perfect tool. The company now earns over 9 billion dollars a year in sales.

The Brazilian bikini wax was created in Manhattan by seven Brazilian sisters in the early 1990s, who now earn six million dollars a year from waxing, hair, and nail treatments.

People are profiting big time from this obsession to remove hair. Not only do women wax their legs and armpits, but suddenly it became imperative and ever-so-fashionable to wax other places as well.  I mean, OUCH! When did ripping hot wax off sensitive areas become empowering?

In fact, women spend about $10,000 and the equivalent of over four months of their lives removing hair. Those who wax once or twice a month will spend an average of $23,000 during their lifetime.

Really ladies?

Does this all seem a bit strange to you baby boomers who fought for the feminist revolution with the conviction that instead of obsessing over physical beauty, women should focus on their intelligence, careers, achievements, and making a difference? During the 60s and 70s, women felt free to make their own decisions about hair removal and many chose to go au natural. These days, women feel ashamed and somehow dirty without a bikini wax. What happened?

Not to sound old-fashioned, but aren’t there more important things to think about and do than obsess and spend time and money on removing body hair? Back in the old days (okay, now I sound ancient) people seemed more focused on spiritual matters and family. They didn’t spend all their time worrying about whether their armpits were properly waxed. And many would have donated that $150 for a full body wax – to remove hair that’s going to grow back real quick – to a good cause.

And while we’re discussing this, just when did women become so helpless? Have you baby boomers noticed that women don’t know how to pluck their own eyebrows, shave their own legs, or paint their own fingernails and toenails anymore? In addition to all the money spent on waxing, women spend about $1,300 a year on manis and pedis alone. Yes, I splurge once in a while to do my nails but it’s not rocket science to apply nail polish. Wouldn’t you rather take a trip with all that money?

We boomers didn’t go to the hair salon for a “blow dry.” Instead, I deftly wielded my own blow dryer like a pro and stuck prongs into hot rollers without burning my fingertips to look like Farrah. If we wanted our hair colored we picked up a bottle of Clairol at the drugstore. We even dared to perm our own hair! Yes, we looked like poodles but who cared? And give me a break. At least we didn’t look like a Dr. Seuss book with multi-colored rainbow hair! What’s with that crazy trend?

When women aren’t busy trying to remove every scrap of hair from their bodies, they are clipping or taping on hair extensions to look like a Real Housewife or one of the Kardashians. Some women become addicted to the more permanent type of extensions which leaves natural hair looking like a war zone. Did I mention the pain of ripping out the tape from the more permanent type of extensions? The possibility of bald spots? Does this sound like a good idea to you? Even Jennifer Aniston has admitted that her famous locks had become thin from extensions.

Okay, I must confess that in the 60s it was popular to frost hair. For those of you who don’t remember, this process involved a tight fitting rubber cap with tons of little holes. A small metal crocheting needle was then used to pull pieces of hair through the holes – one at a time. So, it was kinda tortuous and women may have lost some of their hair in the process. And we baby boomers won’t talk about the bristle rollers women somehow slept in or teasing hair until it looked like a bird’s nest. Women back combed their hair until they looked like Marge Simpson and then applied enough sticky hairspray to make hair crunch.

But that was different. Sort of. Why don’t we change the subject?

eyebrowsCan we talk a minute about those wonky eyebrows, deemed the “power brow?” These trendy fuller brows are supposed to look like works of art, but they just look silly to me. Dark brow fillers create these squared off but perfectly arched eyebrows that look anything but natural. I have nothing against eyebrows, but should these two arches on your forehead warrant this much attention, cause so much work, and cost so much money? And why wax off your eyebrows if you’re only going to draw them back on again? I’m so confused.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be too critical. My senior picture displays thin, arched eyebrows that are perhaps a tiny bit over-plucked. Actually, I can’t believe I walked around so proudly like that, but that’s beside the point. At least I plucked them proudly all by myself and it didn’t cost me a penny!

Still, this whole cultural phenomenon puzzles me. But wait a minute. Maybe armpit hair is making a comeback. There’s an Instagram account called Lady Pit Hair that features women going against social beauty norms and growing out their armpit hair and dying it bright colors.

“Today’s beauty standards really bum me out as they constantly police women’s bodies,” says Taylor Carpenter, a 23-year-old whose hot pink pits are featured on the page. Besides the issue of rebelling against norms society forces on us women, she has another reason for brightening the color of her body hair: “Honestly, I really like how they look. When I catch a glance of my hot pink pits, it makes me smile.”

Okay, I sorta like the sentiment of standing up against this cloud of disgust over any scrap of non-waxed body hair, but I’m still mystified. Is fluorescent green leg hair the next trend? Maybe I am getting old!

Images courtesy of Ambro and patrisyu at






Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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14 Responses

  1. Interesting Julie. Remember Spoolies? Our mom used those back in the day to give my sister and I the tightest curls.
    Funny how the fads come and go.

    Thanks for the memories,

  2. Oh Hells No! I regard winter time as a time when leg hair can be used to hold your socks up! And I, too, had Farah hair. My sisters used to set their long hair on empty orange juice cans! And they ironed their hair on the ironing board (between damp towels) in the days before flat irons. God I’m glad I’m past all that! And how about the current trend of nose hair extensions. I. Can’t. Even….

  3. K. Lamb says:

    Your article left me giggling. I am definitely not within the obsessed group. On the rare occasion of a special event, I may have my nails done. I don’t think I’ve ever had a pedicure…maybe, once? My hair is trimmed a whopping 2 to 3 times a year. Forget waxing! No one is coming near my sensitive parts with a torture device! LOL

    So, am I high maintenance? Absolutely! Aren’t we all in some way? I just prefer to spend my money on books and the latest technology. 😉

    Great article! Thanks for sharing.

    • juliegorges says:

      So glad I made you laugh – I was trying to write this with a bit of humor. I’m with you. We all have our indulgences, mine just isn’t hair removal, eyebrows, or hair extensions!

  4. None of this for me Julie. Ha! I used to do my nails, but now I don’t have the time to keep up with them.
    I do know a lady that tattooed her eyebrows. For her, it wasn’t a bad idea. Not sure I could ever do that though.
    Like Kristen said, “Bring on the books!”
    Thanks for your fun post.

  5. Cat Michaels says:

    Oh my! I have been on another planet. Did not even realize this was a thing! Hair can stay on my bod where it likes. What I struggle with doing…or not…. is coloring to ‘look younger.’ My sis went natural after chemo nuked her hair, and she hated how everyone treated her as an old lady, (her words) when she was salt-and-pepper, so she is back to coloring. And cancer-free!

    • juliegorges says:

      Maybe Californians are more into this trend? Or only the younger generation? But it’s a thing for sure! Dying my hair is my one vanity I’m keeping so far – every time the gray starts coming in I’m reaching for that bottle. Maybe one day…

  6. I’m in the minimal maintenance category, I don’t shave, (well maybe my legs once at the beginning of each summer, and if I do,
    I do it myself). Everything else stays au naturelle and that’s the way I like it. Fun article to read Julie, I like the idea of the latest trend dying arm pit hair in revolt to fashion, can’t see it taking off though, and I certainly won’t be lining up to colour mine. 🙂

  7. There were two rules growing up (ook many more than two).Never allowed to dye my hair, and you had to wait to shave until you had hair under your arms. Given the fact that I am Half Italian I always felt that was an unfair rule. Being married to a Portuguese man, if we had a daughter I would not enforce that rule because I know that poor child will be a hairy beast. HAHA! While I enjoy smooth legs and underarms, I will not go to staggering lengths and drop tons of cash to achieve the look I desire. To each their own! On a side point, I did not know the first women’s razor came out in 1915. I love collecting pieces of information that will fill conversations haha.

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