During puberty, hair growth begins in girls in the pubic area, followed by the underarms, reports Familydoctor.org. A variety of methods work to remove underarm hair, many of them offering temporary results. If you are bothered by excess hair in the armpits, consult with your doctor or dermatologist for treatment and hair removal options.
Blame puberty for women’s armpit hair, as that’s when it starts to develop. Along with rounded hips and legs, blossoming breasts and menstruation, pubic hair sprouts in the pubic regions and armpits. Armpits feature a type of hair called terminal hair, KidsHealth website explains, the same type of thick, coarse hair found on your head. Terminal hair, including that of the armpits, was meant for protection of the human body, although most American women see no purpose in keeping armpit hair around today. In fact, Women Fitness website notes shaving your armpits can even help reduce body odor.
Armpit hair remains largely taboo in current American society, but that was not always the case, explains Kirsten Hansen in her thesis “Hair or Bare?” Women before the early 1900s likely did not even think about underarm hair as none of the fashions of the day even exposed their arms. Women’s sleeveless dresses made their debut around 1914, along with ads in women’s magazines that told ladies underarm and other “objectionable hair” removal was now a necessity. The 1920s roared in with even more skin exposure, thanks to flappers and more sleeveless fashions.
'The Great Underarm Campaign'
“The Great Underarm Campaign,” a phrase coined by historian Christian Hope and noted in “Hair or Bare?” ran from 1915 to 1919. It consisted of a series of ads for underarm hair removal products, all with the same message that underarm hair on women was atrociously gauche and “the underarms must be as smooth as the face.” Depilatory powders, including one called X Bazin, were the earliest hair removal products to hit the market. Gillette’s was the first to introduce a razor made especially for women in 1915, along with the concept of shaving the underarms that remains common today.
Shaving, which consists of slathering a shaving cream on the underarms and whisking off hair with a razor, is one of the most common methods. It lasts from one to three days. Depilatory foams or creams dissolve the hair’s root and last anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks. Waxing lasts three to six weeks and works by yanking out the hair by the roots with wax applied to the armpit area.
If shaving, waxing and foams or creams are becoming too tedious, you always have a couple of other hair removal methods that are meant to be permanent. Electrolysis and laser treatments work by killing off the hair follicle so it no longer grows. Electrolysis does this by zapping the follicle with a burst of electricity while laser treatments use light beams. Each hair needs individual attention, which could make for a fairly lengthy treatment session. Even though both are meant to be permanent, KidsHealth notes some people experience hair growth after either treatment.
- Barnard College: Hair or Bare? The History of American Women and Hair Removal, 1914-1934; American Studies Thesis by Kirsten Hansen, Columbia University
- Women Fitness: Getting Rid of Unwanted Hair
- TeensHealth from Nemours: Hair Removal
- Women Fitness: Body Odor
- KidsHealth from Nemours: Talking to Your Child About Puberty
- Family Doctor: For Parents: What to Expect When Your Child Goes Through Puberty