Shave it or hate it

Blonde hair, tall and skinny with soft skin and not a single hair on your body. Middle Eastern girls in a white society often feel pressured to conform to Western beauty norms. A self-reflection of why I decided to remove all of my body hair.

Story by Anahita Ahmadi

For as long as I can remember, body hair has played a huge role in my life. At the surprising age of 13, I started bleaching my hair. My mother kindly reminded me when it was time again: “Anahita it’s time to bleach your arm hair.” Those words were happiness to my ears as it meant that the wait was finally over and I would no longer be the ‘hairy girl’.

In elementary school, I was (almost every time) the only Middle Eastern girl. This significantly impacted my self-esteem as I couldn’t help constantly comparing myself with the white girls in my class. I would ask questions such as:Why don’t they have a unibrow or long thick arm hair? Why am I the only one with noticeable body hair? Later on, when I finally went to high school, something changed: There was more diversity in my class. I can’t lie, at first, this made me extremely happy but as time went on, I began noticing that even those girls had much less body hair than me.

Why am I the only one with noticeable body hair?

From that moment on, I made sure that body hair would no longer be a problem. I started my own removal routine. At first, I got rid of my armpit hair at the age of 11. When I was 13, I moved on to using an epilator to remove both my leg and armpit hair. Then, I decided it would be best if I started bleaching or sometimes waxing my arms and facial hair. You could say I have done every hair removal method out there, but none have ever left me satisfied as the hair would always grow right back.

At the age of 18, I began my journey with laser hair removal. Before going to the right place, I knew I had to do some research. In the process, I noticed how many different clinics there were and how they all varied tremendously in price. I realised at that moment how hard it was going to be to find the right one as not all of them used the same methods. After investigating, I finally found a place that I felt comfortable going to. They use the diode ice laser treatment that allows a quick and safe removal of unwanted body hair. This makes this method painless and effective.

Even now, I don’t feel pretty or clean if I see any type of hair on my body.

When I walked in for my initial session at the clinic, Rezhin Baban, owner of Bella Mia Clinic, asked me why I wanted to laser-remove my body hair. I began by thinking about being honest or not. Finally, I opened up by explaining to her that whenever I see my own body hair I get grossed out and I don’t know the reason why. She responded by saying that a lot of girls come for the same reason as I do, especially Middle Eastern girls. In general, the majority of people go to laser hair removal clinics to remove their thick brown hair.

Women in our society often feel the pressure to remove body hair to conform to society’s norms. In 2017 a survey showed that as many as 96% of women shave or epilate their armpit hair. The majority of women (53%) shave their legs occasionally when they go on dates or have to visit the physiotherapist. A smaller percentage of women (31%) make sure their leg hair is always gone (mostly because they dislike it). 16% of women simply put it off during the winter months. Only a few, 3.4%, shave their legs out of personal enjoyment. Among women, 50% completely remove all their hair, 11% do away with proliferation, and 39% trim it.

When I think about the 11-year-old Anahita I can’t avoid feeling bad for her. She’s never felt pretty due to her body hair. She blamed her genes and roots. After all these years I think, I can finally answer the question of why I feel so grossed out by my body hair. It’s the way others made me feel. Even now, I don’t feel pretty or clean if I see any type of hair on my body.

There are plenty of other foreign girls who also experience these problems. Personally, I feel like we should talk more about diversity in school. Including the history of body hair. That way young people and girls in general can feel less ashamed of something that is completely natural. School should be a safe space for individuals to ask questions and talk about their insecurities. By doing so, it would educate the younger generation and teach them to love themselves just the way they are.