Does growing body hair help your body image?

 

When I say body hair, what’s your immediate reaction?

Maybe one of these responses:

“Ooh, it’s gross, women need to remove it!”

“It’s natural and normal, it’s no big deal.”

“There’s one rule for men and another rule for women.”

Over recent years, the body positive community have sought to raise greater awareness and acceptance of body hair on women.

One of these initiatives, ‘Januhairy’ encourages women to grow their body hair and post pictures of it on social media.

In this post, I’m answering the question:

Does growing body hair help or hinder body confidence?

Watch or read below:

 

Letting it all grow out

Back in January, I spoke on BBC Radio about my views on Januhairy, a campaign aimed at promoting body positivity and acceptance of body hair on women.

During Januhairy, women are encouraged to grow their hair and post pictures of it on social media.

The question is, does growing leg, underarm, etc. hair help or hinder body confidence?

As a body image coach, I don’t have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to that, but I do have some thoughts about it.

So, let’s break down the main issues as I see them:

Firstly, removing body hair is a cultural beauty ideal

Let’s be clear. Hair removal is a beauty ideal that women are expected to conform to.

When women choose not to remove hair from under arms, legs or genital areas, it’s portrayed, particularly in popular media as disgusting and ‘unhygienic’.

Unsurprisingly, there is a double standard when it comes to men. For them, it isn’t considered ‘gross’ or ‘unhygienic’ to be hairy from head to toe.

This cultural ideal creates the false belief that any hair on a women isn’t normal.

Which brings me to the second issue…

There are some women and young girls who believe body hair is abnormal

Because of this beauty ideal, there are women and particularly young girls who think that being hairy is abnormal (this was my experience as a young girl).

The proliferation of media and porn showing hair free women has normalised hairlessness.

Yet body hair is natural and normal. Why else do we have it? It’s there to protect, cool and warm your body (although its vital purposes have been forgotten).

For years I struggled to come to terms with hair on my arms, legs, and other places because I thought it wasn’t normal. This led me to hide or remove the hair.

What’s great about a campaign like Januhairy is that it helps to normalise hair.

Normalising hair helps you to accept it, which bring me to my next issue…

A better body image comes from accepting your body

Developing a healthy body image comes from acceptance of the body you have, not always wishing it was different.

So if you’re conscious of body hair, the first step is to accept that you have it and not wish you were born hair free!

Remember, everyone has body hair. It’s irrelevant to your worth!

Believing that you are unacceptable for having body hair is what fuels negative body image.

From this place of acceptance, you get to decide if the hair stays or goes. It’s not right or wrong to remove body hair. It’s your body, so you get to decide.

Once I accepted my body hair, I became more relaxed about removing it.

I now go for long periods without removing the hair on my legs. It’s partly because I can’t be bothered, but it also feels good to rebel against the expectation that I will remove the hair.

This brings me to my final point…

It’s empowering to go against beauty ideals, and when you do, you’re flexing your body confidence muscles by embracing yourself as you are.

As women we’ve been conditioned to fear going against beauty ideals. We’re told that we won’t get a partner, a job, be happy or successful if we don’t wear make-up, use anti-ageing products, lose weight or remove our body hair!

But when we go against what society is telling us to do, it can feel good – rebellious even! And, when you rebel and realise that your world doesn’t fall apart (which it won’t), you build your confidence in being yourself, exactly as you are.

Ultimately, the decision to remove hair is a personal choice. So never feel that you MUST remove it. And if you decide to remove it, do it because YOU want to, not to conform to a beauty standard.

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