Tayler D. Parker, BA1; Ashley E. Brown, MD1
- McGovern Medical School, UTHealth Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX
Corresponding author: Tayler D. Parker, BA, 6431 Fannin St, Houston, TX 77030, email Tayler.D.Parker@uth.tmc.edu, phone: 806-445-4949
Tags: beauty, behavior, shaving, medical sociology, health anxiety
“Keep your man faithful and ensure home security- Shave your underarms!”. This slogan may sound comical, but it is an actual message found in underarm shaving advertisements for women as early as 1915.1 Whether shaving was driven by the emergence of sleeveless tops or by a male-driven culture, most women in the United States were shaving their armpits consistently by the 1950s for both social normativity and perceived attractiveness/femininity.1 However, recently, it appears that femininity is evolving- armpit hair is in, and with it, a new stance on hyper-femininity.
A century after those initial advertisements, we examine the battles that women are facing today. The movement to stop shaving armpit hair is a choice for women to present themselves to the world in a powerful way and to define femininity for themselves. Emily Ratajkowski, a model and social media influencer, has recently shared her reasons for no longer shaving her armpits. “On any given day I tend to like to shave, but sometimes letting my body hair grow out is what makes me feel sexy… As long as the decision is my choice, then it’s the right choice.”2
Dermatologists may see more patients who want to stop shaving their armpits, but have questions about the health implications: Will it smell more? Is it dirty? Armpit hair is natural and acts to diffuse sweat from the skin and prevent chafing. While armpit hair does not change the odor, it may be more difficult to apply solid deodorant as it’s harder to contact the skin underneath. Patients might consider changing deodorants to liquid roll on, a gel, or a spray.3 To prevent harboring of bacteria, an antibacterial body wash or deodorant soap may be recommended. The goal is to empower patients to express themselves freely and healthily.
Author Bio: Tayler Parker is a fourth year medical student at UT McGovern Medical School in Houston, Texas with plans to apply for the 2020-2021 dermatology residency match. Her research efforts have focused on rare dermatological case presentations, graduate medical education cirriculum, and clinical guidelines and safety in pediatric surgery. She has a background in psychology as well as fastfood management. When she isn’t on clinicals or working on research, Tayler loves reading, yoga, and gardening.
- Basow, S. A. (1991). The Hairless Ideal: Women and Their Body Hair. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 15(1), 83–96. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1991.tb00479.x
- Ratajkowski, E. Emily Ratajkowski Explores What It means to Be Hyper Feminine. Bazaar. August 8, 2019. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a28577727/emily-ratajkowski-sexuality-essay/. Accessed August 25, 2019.
- Davis A, Hou K. Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Pit Hair. The Cut. June 12, 2015. https://www.thecut.com/2015/06/everything-there-is-to-know-about-pit-hair.html. Accessed August 25, 2019.