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Author Topic: Leg/pubic shaving origins
Phaedra
Jingle Bell Hock


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As far back as I can remember shaving legs has been common practice in the UK so that's five decades covered.

This may not be the case in continental Europe though. A french woman stayed with us for a while when I was about six and I remember being with her and my mother as they got ready to go out. She slipped into a sleeveless dress and then proceeded to comb her thick dark armpit hair. The look of [Eek!] on my mothers face is one of my abiding memories.
She was still banging on about it when she was eighty. Probably because my father said he thought it looked sexy. That, coupled with the fact she had pubes trimmed into a heart shape, made her a harlot in my mothers eyes for all time.

She regarded women who didn't shave as hippies, blue stockings or continental tarts. She also firmly believed that middle aged women who didn't shave had given up the ghost on being attractive and should be ashamed of themselves.

I remember a time in the mid to late seventies when a lot of my friends were actively involved with the feminist movement and stopped shaving because they said it was a form of oppression.
My refusal to abandon the practise was deemed an affront to the sisterhood. I think most of them were depilating again by the eighties but only to please themselves of course.

ETA Spelling error

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Winter Morning
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Ana Ng:
I've always heard (source: my ass) that women began shaving their legs when nylon was needed for parachutes in WWII. They went without and began shaving. The practice stuck. Or so I've heard.

My mother was in her 20s during the 1940s. She told me that she started shaving her legs then because due to the lack of nylons during the war, she wore leg makeup (including a line drawn up the back of her leg to imitate the seams in stockings) and the makeup wouldn't stick to leg hair.

ETA: Links about leg makeup and how it related to shaving. Forties.net (note: Jazz music plays) , History of Beauty and Hygeine products by Ad*Sense , Safety Razor and Shaving Collectables FAQ , How to shave your legs, armpits, and bikini area correctly.

My mother was actually opposed to me starting to shave my legs when I was a teenager in the 1970s. She said that "Once you start, you never can stop."

Morning
I used the red-haired girl icon because my mother was a red-haired girl!

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Artemis
The First USA Noel


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Morning, how true is that? I've never really shaved (only a couple times) myself--I've been firmly in the waxing only camp since I was 13, but I've heard people say, "Once you start, you can't stop" in regard to shaving.

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Horse Chestnut
Happy Holly Days


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quote:
Originally posted by Phaedra:
As far back as I can remember shaving legs has been common practice in the UK so that's five decades covered.

This may not be the case in continental Europe though. A french woman stayed with us for a while when I was about six and I remember being with her and my mother as they got ready to go out. She slipped into a sleeveless dress and then proceeded to comb her thick dark armpit hair. The look of [Eek!] on my mothers face is one of my abiding memories.
She was still banging on about it when she was eighty. Probably because my father said he thought it looked sexy. That, coupled with the fact she had pubes trimmed into a heart shape, made her a harlot in my mothers eyes for all time.

That was pretty much the attitude when I was growing up back in the 50s and 60s. Shaving the legs and underarms was not a way of making a woman more sexual, but more an attempt to desexualize those areas. Clean shaving was considered to look cleaner, more hygenic, and made those areas of the body less noticable. At least the was the explanation given for the practice.

Now as for pubic shaving; You were not suppose to even look at those areas, let alone touch them, so of course shaving there would have been out of the question. Except, of course, for the bikini line. (See above explanation.)

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Christie
The Bills of St. Mary's


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I grew up in the 60s & 70s and shaving our legs was definitely a rite of passage. You weren't truly a woman until you'd shaved with your dad's razer and had little blobs of blood soaked toilet paper dabbed all over your legs.

The first time I ever shaved under my arms it was with my dad's electric razer (learned my lesson so I thought from the razer with a blade experience) -- yowie -- razer burn [Eek!]

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Winter Morning
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quote:
Originally posted by Artemis:
Morning, how true is that? I've never really shaved (only a couple times) myself--I've been firmly in the waxing only camp since I was 13, but I've heard people say, "Once you start, you can't stop" in regard to shaving.

I think it is true if you really care about hairy legs. It seems to me that once you shave your legs, regrowth is more noticeable. The old wive's tale is, of course, that hair that is shaved grows back in darker and thicker. If you don't care about hair on your legs, then yes you can stop. [Wink]

I actually think my mother was making the comment to refer to not giving up one's childhood too eagerly.

Morning

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remigo
Deck the Malls


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From Western Europe:

De-fuzzing underarms in Ireland is pretty much de rigeur. Can't remember ever seeing bushy oxters on an Irishwoman, but maybe I don't get around enough.

Anecdotal evidence:
Several years ago, I went on a 3 week exchange programme in France. I remember going to the pool with a bunch of French teens, and the near-hysterics they were in when they saw a middle aged lady who had natural pits. Au naturel was certainly not the norm in Poitiers, France in the '90s.

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hoitoider
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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I think one of the earliest legends of women shaving their legs is the infamous meeting between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. There are a lot of variations of this story:

"Another tradition related that when the queen met Solomon, he was sitting in a glass house. Thinking he was in water, the queen raised her dress, exposing her hairy legs. Solomon's displeasure became an aetiological story for the origin of depilatories."

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Don Enrico
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From my experience in Germany, shaving the legs and armpits is common with woman (I wouldn't know about the 'bikini zone', of course [Wink] ). It wasn't as common in the 80's, though (you may remember the German singer Nena of "99 Red Balloons" fame).

Shaving body hair for men has become a trend in Germany in the wake of 'metrosexuality'since the mid-90's.

Don Enrico

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Arriah
The First USA Noel


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TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!! TMI space!!!

I prefer men that have controlled body hair too. If I want to cuddle with something furry, I have a perfectly good dog. DH shaves his armpits and I have enjoyed snuggling with him 100% more ever since. He also goes thru much less deoderant and it works better since it actually gets on the skin.

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Rebecca

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UrbanReindeer
Deck the Malls


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The disturbing (to me, at least) trend I've noticed lately is girls in their teens and early 20's now shave their arms. Not armPITS ... their arms, from wrist to above the elbow.

Now come on, like I haven't got enough body parts already that society has deemed shall be hairless. Like shaving doesn't already take up way too much time IMHO. My arms are fuzzy, GDI, and they're going to stay that way.

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Wicked Tinkerbell
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quote:
Originally posted by Horse Chestnut:
That was pretty much the attitude when I was growing up back in the 50s and 60s. Shaving the legs and underarms was not a way of making a woman more sexual, but more an attempt to desexualize those areas. Clean shaving was considered to look cleaner, more hygenic, and made those areas of the body less noticable. At least the was the explanation given for the practice.

I saw a documentary on film making several years ago (on AMC or A&E). It mentioned that, in the '50's and '60's, male actors were required to shave their chests for shirtless scenes because hairy chests were considered too sexy. The show used before & after photos of William Holden as an illustration. (I think he was filming Sabrina.)

Personally, I thought the hairless one seemed more 'nude'.

This did explain why certain actors who were (seemingly) hairless during that period seemed to suddenly sprout hairy chests in the '80's. This had puzzled me. (I just thought that Shatner had bought a chest-toupee, as well. [fish] )

On another note, I have been told that swimmers, divers and some runners shave to reduce water/air resistance. I don't have a cite for this--it just came up during conversations.

Wicked 'Paging Tom Selleck' T.

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guruwan2b
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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I have been shaving my arms for a long time. It wasn't just fuzz, though, fuzz I would have lived with. It was lots of hair. My arms look much better smooth.

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Cervus
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by UrbanRenewal:
The disturbing (to me, at least) trend I've noticed lately is girls in their teens and early 20's now shave their arms. Not armPITS ... their arms, from wrist to above the elbow.

I've never seen or heard of this before.

My attitude toward my personal body hair is: If it's making me uncomfortable, I'll shave it. If it doesn't bother me, it stays. If you think it's gross, that's your problem, not mine.

I'm blonde and my hair grows very slowly, so it's not really noticable if I don't shave my legs or armpits. Usually I don't shave my armpits because I can never angle the razor enough to reach half the hair, and I don't really care that much anyway. It's only when the hair starts getting think and rubs against my armpits (when I have my arms at my sides) that it becomes uncomfortable, so I shave it.

My mother tried to get me to believe that I would be shunned by society if I didn't shave my legs. She actually told me once, "You look like a caveman! Ladies in today's society do not walk around with unshaven legs!" Well, that was all the provocation I needed for my first open rebellion: I stopped shaving my legs when I was a sophomore in high school and didn't start again until halfway through my junior year. I was teased and called "Bigfoot" for being hairy, but for once I didn't care. The world didn't end, either.

I trim my bikini region once a month, before the start of my period, because it makes "clean-up" easier. Personally, I find shaved pubic hair (the bald look) extremely unappealing. I tried it once and looked (and felt) like a 10-year-old. Definitely not sexy. So, never again.

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"There is no constitutional right to sleep with endangered reptiles." -- Carl Hiaasen
Won't somebody please think of the adults!

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wee wifey
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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quote:
Originally posted by UrbanRenewal:
The disturbing (to me, at least) trend I've noticed lately is girls in their teens and early 20's now shave their arms. Not armPITS ... their arms, from wrist to above the elbow.


This is extremely common amongst Asian women, here in the UK at least.

& yes it is a chore so the girls I know went for laser hair removal on their arms etc.

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once known as little miss

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Dutch Angua
Deck the Malls


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quote:
On another note, I have been told that swimmers, divers and some runners shave to reduce water/air resistance. I don't have a cite for this--it just came up during conversations.

Yeah I heard that. But I heard from someone else, the shaving is actually to make massages (part of the training)easier.

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NeeCD
Happy Holly Days


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quote:
Originally posted by Morning:
quote:
Originally posted by Artemis:
Morning, how true is that? I've never really shaved (only a couple times) myself--I've been firmly in the waxing only camp since I was 13, but I've heard people say, "Once you start, you can't stop" in regard to shaving.

I think it is true if you really care about hairy legs. It seems to me that once you shave your legs, regrowth is more noticeable. The old wive's tale is, of course, that hair that is shaved grows back in darker and thicker. If you don't care about hair on your legs, then yes you can stop. [Wink]

I actually think my mother was making the comment to refer to not giving up one's childhood too eagerly.

Morning

I don't believe hair comes back darker or thicker, but it sure itches like heck for quite some time - enough reason for me to keep on shaving.

When I was in Austria in 1989, most of the women I saw had shaved legs, but my aunt (native Austrian) said that she only started shaving when she lived in the US (where she met and married my uncle) and that it was just starting to catch on over there. Most of the women I saw who did have a lot of leg hair were immigrants from Eastern Europe.

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I wondered why the Frisbee was getting bigger, then it hit me.
What does "Bookachow", "YOMANK!" and other lingo mean?

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ThistleSoftware
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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quote:
Originally posted by Dutch Angua:
quote:
On another note, I have been told that swimmers, divers and some runners shave to reduce water/air resistance. I don't have a cite for this--it just came up during conversations.

Yeah I heard that. But I heard from someone else, the shaving is actually to make massages (part of the training)easier.
I imagine different individual swimmers do it for different reasons, but the guys on my swim team in high school would shave before important meets to reduce water resistance. You wouldn't shave when practicing because the more resistance you have to swim against in practice the stronger/ faster you swim. We did not have massages as part of our training.

As far as pubic shaving, I think that the porn industry contributed. Actresses started gradually reducing the amount of pubic hair they would keep in the 80s, progressing to the current completely bare standard. Since porn is very prevalent and accessible now, and since it serves as one of the very few influences on how people think genitals should look, people started to think genitals might look better shaven.

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Officially Heartless

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Griffin at the Maul
Joyeux New Sale


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The hair on my right leg is slightly thicker than that on my left leg, and is definitely longer than on my left leg. The only reason I can think of for that is that it was shaved numerous times for various surgeries after my accident.

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remigo
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Griffin Roll:
The hair on my right leg is slightly thicker than that on my left leg, and is definitely longer than on my left leg. The only reason I can think of for that is that it was shaved numerous times for various surgeries after my accident.

That's perfectly common, humans just aren't exactly symmetrical. Blood supplies and all that. One leg is usually stronger than another, one leg is often hairier. My legs have been always treated exactly equally but the right leg hair does seem to grow back a little more.
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Elphaba Fabala Elphie Fae
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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quote:
Originally posted by UrbanRenewal:
The disturbing (to me, at least) trend I've noticed lately is girls in their teens and early 20's now shave their arms. Not armPITS ... their arms, from wrist to above the elbow.

Now come on, like I haven't got enough body parts already that society has deemed shall be hairless. Like shaving doesn't already take up way too much time IMHO. My arms are fuzzy, GDI, and they're going to stay that way.

I don't know any girls that do this, but I do know a couple of men that do. I went to high school with a guy who one day decided to shave his arms. He was quite angry with himelf when he realized he now had to keep doing that.

My (male) boss does that as well. I can't figure out his reasoning...he shaves his legs as well. Strange man...

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The Wicked Witch of the West was FRAMED!

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Spam & Cookies-mmm
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quote:
Originally posted by Artemis:
people say, "Once you start, you can't stop" in regard to shaving.

My grandmother believed this. She literally (I counted) had three hairs on each leg. She thought all women were made this way and that leg hairs wouldn't grow if you didn't scrape your skin with a razor. But since I inherited her son's legs instead of hers, I ignored her advice.

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Cervus
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Elphaba Fabala Elphie Fae:
I went to high school with a guy who one day decided to shave his arms. He was quite angry with himelf when he realized he now had to keep doing that.

What do you mean, he "had" to keep doing it?

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"There is no constitutional right to sleep with endangered reptiles." -- Carl Hiaasen
Won't somebody please think of the adults!

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NeeCD
Happy Holly Days


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I shaved my arms when I was 10, just because I was kind of curious about the whole shaving thing. I've also shaved small areas before applying henna. All the hair on my arms is light colored and even, with no longer/darker patches anywhere. I'm also curious as to why the guy Elphaba went to HS with thought he "had to" keep shaving.

I friend of my cousin (FoaC?) once shaved off her eyebrows, though, and a year later they still hadn't all grown back in. They looked thin, but not abnormal. A friend of mine was also irritated because her stylist did her eyebrows and plucked the narrow ends too short and they haven't regrown. Are eyebrows different than other body hair?

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I wondered why the Frisbee was getting bigger, then it hit me.
What does "Bookachow", "YOMANK!" and other lingo mean?

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Cervus
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by NeeCD:
I friend of my cousin (FoaC?) once shaved off her eyebrows, though, and a year later they still hadn't all grown back in. They looked thin, but not abnormal. A friend of mine was also irritated because her stylist did her eyebrows and plucked the narrow ends too short and they haven't regrown. Are eyebrows different than other body hair?

I think it depends on the person. I've heard of some people who had eyebrows shaved (either by choice or against their will while they slept) or had a scar there; the eyebrows never really grew back the same and it was obvious.

I, on the other hand, cannot control my bushy eyebrows. The hairs all grow in random directions and no amount of brushing, plucking, or shaving will make them look "normal". But fortunately they're blonde (such a light shade of blonde that people are compelled to comment on them) and the frames of my glasses tend to disguise the fact that my eyebrow hairs all grow in different directions.

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"There is no constitutional right to sleep with endangered reptiles." -- Carl Hiaasen
Won't somebody please think of the adults!

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Artemis
The First USA Noel


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Thanks for the info, all. But, Elphaba, what you said about your male friend who "had" to keep shaving his arms sort of contradicts that, doesn't it?

I also wax my arms--have been doing so for about five years now. I just think it looks better, cleaner. And smooth, oh so smooth.

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"You can't play Electro-magnetic Golf according to the rules of Centrifugal Bumble Puppy."
-Mustapha Mond, "Brave New World"

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Xia
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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I can sort of understand why some people shave their arms. It can look rather odd when a woman has very dark, long hair on her arms. I guess I lucked out there because you can barely see my dark blonde arm hair, except in the light (it has gold shiny highlights like my hair, heh.) My arms and head have dark blond or light brown hair, but my eyebrows are pretty much black as is my leg hair unfortunately... I guess maybe that's part of the reason why a lot of people ask me if I dye my hair (because my eyebrows are so dark.) Well, that and the fact that I often have darker roots or stripes in my hair due to it lightening so much from the sun in the summer...

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Elphaba Fabala Elphie Fae
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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quote:
Originally posted by Cervus nippon:
quote:
Originally posted by Elphaba Fabala Elphie Fae:
I went to high school with a guy who one day decided to shave his arms. He was quite angry with himelf when he realized he now had to keep doing that.

What do you mean, he "had" to keep doing it?
Once the hair started growing back, it was prickly, unlike the soft hair that had been there pre-shave. He could never stand the prickliness long enough to let it grow all the way back, so he was stuck with it.

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Cervus
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Most shaved hair is prickly when it grows back in. After a while, though, it smoothes out as it gets longer - at least mine does. I suppose if you can't stand having prickly hairs for a temporary period, you shouldn't shave at all.

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"There is no constitutional right to sleep with endangered reptiles." -- Carl Hiaasen
Won't somebody please think of the adults!

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Esprise Me
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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quote:
Originally posted by NeeCD:
I friend of my cousin (FoaC?) once shaved off her eyebrows, though, and a year later they still hadn't all grown back in. They looked thin, but not abnormal. A friend of mine was also irritated because her stylist did her eyebrows and plucked the narrow ends too short and they haven't regrown. Are eyebrows different than other body hair?

Plucking is different than shaving, though. In the latter case, you're just cutting the hair at the skin's surface; in the former, you're actually yanking it out by the root. I could see how that kind of trauma, especially when repeated over a long period of time, could cause the hair follicle to eventually quit.
I think another thing that contributes to the perception that shaving causes hair to grow back darker and thicker is the fact that many girls start shaving their legs before their leg hair has started coming in as dark and thick as it's going to get. I started shaving the summer before sixth grade, when all my body hair was like my arm hair is now--that is, practically invisible. I guess I thought it was the grown-up thing to do, and I was obsessed with being grown up. If my leg (and underarm, and bikini line) hair were still that fine and light, I wouldn't own a razor at all.

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"If God wrote it, the grammar must be infallible. Perhaps it is we who are mistaken." -MapleLeaf

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Artemis
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by Esprise Me:
Plucking is different than shaving, though. In the latter case, you're just cutting the hair at the skin's surface; in the former, you're actually yanking it out by the root. I could see how that kind of trauma, especially when repeated over a long period of time, could cause the hair follicle to eventually quit.

That makes sense. After several years of waxing, there are certain places on my legs where hairs have stopped growing in, or they grow in much shorter. Hopefully that will continue in the future.
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RiotGirlHeather
Jingle Bell Hock


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I have really light blonde arm hair, so I don't worry about shaving it. My leg hair is really light blonde, even after shaving them from the time I was 11. I guess I lucked out in that department.

My eyebrows are another story...they're dark, strawberry blonde, they grow in all different directions, and they grow fast. It seems as if two days after I pluck a hair it's back to full length. Although, I can have light brown, dark blonde, or red hair and have it look natural.

Heather

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Luke: I'm Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you.
Princess Leia: You're who?

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BelleMorte
Jingle Bell Hock


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I shave the hair off my arms because it makes self tanner go on smoother.

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"Cheating Hall Of Shame"-in honor of the dishonest.
Every driver, owner and crew chief has a place in our Hall, which won't be moving to Daytona Beach anytime soon. Lone exception? Kyle Petty, who hasn't won a race since 1754.

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Andrew of Ware, England
A-Ware in a Manger


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Having just returned from Florence and having looked at a lot of Renaissance paintings, including a lot of nude ladies, I noticed that none of the ladies had underarm hair. Is that because the models had shaved it off or did the artists not paint it?

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Andrew, Ware, England

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notorious fluffy g
I Saw Three Shipments


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one of my daughters is self conscious of the hair on her arms ( of all of her sisters,hers is dark) and she shaves it. she is much happier about her arms now. I recall when the girls were younger i let them shave their legs because of gymanstics competition- but i got flack from other non gymanstics moms about it

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"Reading and writing, arithmetic and grammar do not constitute education, any more than a knife, fork and spoon constitute a dinner."

* Sir John Lubbock

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