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Hair removal, also known as epilation or depilation, is the deliberate removal of the body or head hair.
Hair typically grows all over the human body and can vary in thickness and length across human populations. Hair can become more visible during and after puberty, and men tend to have thicker, more visible body hair than women. Both males and females have visible body hair on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes, armpits, genital area, arms, and legs. Males and some females may also have thicker hair growth on their face, abdomen, back, buttocks, anus, areola, chest, nasal, and ear. Hair does not generally grow on the lips, the underside of the hands or feet, or some regions of the genitalia.

Hair removal may be practiced for cultural, aesthetic, hygienic, sexual, medical, or religious reasons. Forms of hair removal have been practiced in almost all human cultures since at least the Neolithic era. However, the methods used to remove hair have varied in different times and regions.
The word "depilation" comes from the Latin "pilus," which means "hair."

 For centuries, hair removal has long shaped gender roles, served to signify social status, and defined notions of femininity and the ideal "body image." In early periods, the condition of being hairless was primarily done to keep the body clean, using flint, seashells, beeswax, and various other depilatory utensils and exfoliator substances, some highly questionable and highly caustic. Ancient Rome also associated hair removal with status: a person with smooth skin was associated with purity and superiority. As a result, removing body hair was done by both men and women.

 In Ancient Egypt, besides being a fashion statement for affluent Egyptians of all genders, hair removal served as a treatment for louse infestation, a prevalent issue in the region. Therefore, they would often replace the removed head hair with a Nubian wig, which was seen as easier to maintain and fashionable. In ancient times, one highly abrasive depilatory paste used consisted of an admixture of slaked lime, water, wood ash, and yellow orpiment (arsenic trisulfide); In rural India and Iran, where this mixture is called vajibt, it is still commonly used to remove pubic hair. In other cultures, oil extracted from unripe olives (which had not reached one-third of their natural stage of ripeness) was used to remove body hair.

 During the medieval period, Catholic women were expected to let their hair grow long as a display of femininity while keeping the hair concealed by wearing a wimple headdress in public places. The face was the only area where hair growth was considered unsightly; 14th-century ladies would also pick off hair from their foreheads to recede the hairline and give their face a more oval form. From the mid-16th century, it is said when Queen Elizabeth I came to power, she made eyebrow removal fashionable.

 By the 18th century, body hair removal was still considered a non-necessity by European and American women. Nevertheless, when the first safety straight razor appeared for men to shave their beard safely and not inadvertently cut their throat, invented by the French master cutler Jean-Jacques Perret in Paris 1760 and author of La pogonotomie, ou L'art d'apprendre à se raser soi-même (Pogonotomy or The Art of Learning to Shave Oneself), some women allegedly used this safety razor too.

 In the late 19th century, women in Europe and America started to make hair removal a component of their personal care regime. According to Professor Rebecca Herzig, the modern-day notion of body hair being unwomanly can be traced back to Charles Darwin's book published in 1871, "The Descent of Man and Selection about Sex." Darwin's theory of natural selection associated body hair with "primitive ancestry and an atavistic return to earlier less developed forms," writes Herzig, a professor of gender and sexuality studies at Bates College in Maine. Darwin also suggests that having less body hair indicates being more evolved and sexually attractive. As Darwin's ideas polarized, other 19th-century medical and scientific experts linked hairiness to "sexual inversion, disease pathology, lunacy, and criminal violence." However, those connotations mainly were applied to women's and not men's body hair.

 By the early 20th century, upper- and middle-class white America increasingly saw smooth skin as a marker of femininity and female body hair as repulsive, with hair removal giving "a way to separate oneself from cruder people, lower class and immigrant."

 Harper's Bazaar, in 1915, was the first women's fashion magazine to run a campaign devoted to removing underarm hair as "a necessity." Shortly after, Gillette launched the first safety razor explicitly marketed for women—the "Milady Décolleté Gillette," one that solves " embarrassing personal problem" and keeps the underarm "..white and smooth".

Cultural and sexual aspects

 See also: Bikini Waxing and History of Removal of Leg and underarm hair in the United States.


 Leg shaving using a razor.

Body hair characteristics such as thickness and length vary across human populations, some people have less pronounced body hair, and others have more conspicuous body hair characteristics.

Each culture of human society developed social norms relating to the presence or absence of body hair, which has changed from one time to another. As a result, different standards of human appearance and physical attractiveness can apply to females and males. People whose hair falls outside a culture's aesthetic body image standards may experience real or perceived social acceptance problems, psychological distress, and social pressure. For example, for women in several societies, exposure in public to body hair other than head hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows is generally considered unaesthetic, unattractive, and embarrassing.

With the increased popularity in many countries of women wearing fashion clothing, sportswear, and swimsuits during the 20th century and the consequential exposure of parts of the body on which hair is commonly found, there has emerged a popularization for women to remove visible body hair and hirsutism, such as on legs, underarms and elsewhere. In most of the Western world, for example, most women regularly shave their legs and armpits. Yet, at the same time, roughly half also shave hair that may become exposed around their bikini pelvic area (often termed the "bikini line").

In Western and Asian cultures, in contrast to most Middle Eastern cultures, a majority of men are accustomed to shaving their facial hair, so only a minority of men reveal a beard, even though fast-growing facial hair must be shaved daily to achieve a clean-shaven or beardless appearance. Some men shave because they cannot genetically grow a "full" beard (generally defined as an even density from cheeks to neck), their beard color is genetically different from their scalp hair color, or because their facial hair grows in many directions, making a groomed or contoured appearance challenging to achieve. In addition, some men shave because their beard growth is excessive, unpleasant, or coarse, causing skin irritation. Finally, some men grow a beard or mustache from time to time to change their appearance or visual style.

Some men's tonsure or head shave, either as a religious practice, a fashion statement or because they find a shaved head preferable to the appearance of male pattern baldness or to attain enhanced cooling of the skull – particularly for people suffering from hyperhidrosis. A much smaller number of Western women also shave their heads, often as a fashion or political statement.

Some women also shave their heads for cultural or social reasons. In India, tradition required widows in some sections of the society to shave their heads as part of being ostracized (see Women in Hinduism § Widowhood and remarriage). The outlawed custom is still infrequently encountered, mostly in rural areas. Society and the government are working to end the practice of ostracizing widows. In addition, it continues to be standard practice for men to shave their heads before embarking on a pilgrimage.

Women with unibrows are considered a sign of beauty and attractiveness in Oman and for both genders in Tajikistan, often emphasized with kohl. In Middle Eastern societies, regular trimming or removal of female and male underarm and pubic hair has been considered proper personal hygiene for many centuries, necessitated by local customs. Young girls and unmarried women, however, are expected to retain their body hair until shortly before marriage, when the whole body is depilated from the neck down.

In China, body hair has long been regarded as expected. However, even today, women are confronted with far less social pressure to remove body hair. The same exists for other countries in Asia. While hair removal has become routine for many of the continent's younger women, trimming or removing pubic hair, for instance, is not as expected or popular as in the Western world, where both women and men may cut or remove all their pubic hair for aesthetic or sexual reasons. This custom can be motivated by potentially increased personal cleanliness or hygiene, heightened sensitivity during sexual activity, the desire to take on a more exposed appearance or visual appeal, or boosting self-esteem when affected by excessive hair. In Korea, for example, pubic hair has long been considered a sign of fertility and sexual health. It was reported in the mid-2010s that some Korean women were undergoing pubic hair transplants to add extra hair significantly when affected by pubic trichinosis (or hypotrichosis), which is thought to affect a small percentage of Korean women.

Moreover, both sexes often remove unwanted or excessive hair in preparatory situations to avoid any perceived social stigma or prejudice. For example, unwanted or excessive hair may be removed before an intimate encounter or visiting a public beach or swimming pool.

Though traditionally in Western culture, women remove body hair and men do not, some women choose not to remove hair from their bodies, either as a non-necessity or as an act of rejection against what they regard as a social stigma, while some men remove or trim their body hair, a practice that is referred to in modern society as being a part of "manscaping" (a portmanteau expression for male-specific grooming).



The term "glabrousness" also has been applied to human fashions, wherein some participate in culturally motivated hair removal by depilation (surface removal by shaving, dissolving), or epilation (removals of the entire hair, such as waxing or plucking).

Although the appearance of secondary hair on parts of the human body commonly occurs during puberty and is often seen as a symbol of adulthood, removing this and other hair may become fashionable in some cultures and subcultures. In many modern Western cultures, men are encouraged to shave their beards, and women are encouraged to remove hair growth in various areas. Commonly depilated areas for women are the underarms, legs, and pubic hair. In addition, some individuals depilate the forearms. In recent years, bodily depilation in men has increased in popularity among some subcultures of Western males.


For men, depilating the pubic area is commonly referred to as manscaping, even though technically, this term applies to hair removal all over the body. Many men will try this at some point, especially for aesthetic reasons. Most men will use a razor to shave this area. However, as best practice, it is recommended to use a body trimmer to shorten the length of the hair before shaving it off completely.

Cultural and other influences


 In ancient Egypt, depilation was commonly practiced, with pumice and razors used to shave. In both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, the removal of body and pubic hair may have been practiced among both men and women. It is represented in some artistic depictions of male and female nudity,[citation needed] examples of which may be seen in red-figure pottery and sculptures like the Kouros of Ancient Greece in which both men and women were depicted without body or pubic hair. Emperor Augustus was said, by Suetonius, to have applied "hot nutshells" on his legs as a form of depilation.

Most Muslims believe that adult removal of pubic and axillary hair is religiously beneficial as a hygienic measure.

Baptized Sikhs are specifically instructed to have unshorn Kesh (the hair on their head and beards for men); this is a central tenet of the Sikh faith (see Kesh).

In clothes-free movement, "smoothie" refers to an individual who has removed their body hair. In the past, such practices were frowned upon. In some cases, members of clothes-free clubs were forbidden to remove their pubic hair: violators could face exclusion from the club. However, enthusiasts grouped and formed societies of their own that catered to that fashion. As a result, the style became more popular, with smoothies increasing significantly at some nudist venues. The first Smoothie Club (TSC) was founded by a British couple in 1991. A Dutch branch was founded in 1993 to give the idea of a hairless body more significant publicity in the Netherlands. Being a Smoothie is described by its supporters as exceptionally comfortable and liberating. The Smoothy Club is also a World of the Nudest Nudist (WNN) branch. It organizes nudist ship cruises and nudist events every month. Every year in spring, the club organizes international Smoothy Days.

Other reasons



Head-shaving (tonsure) is a part of some Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jain, and Hindu traditions. Buddhist and Christian monks generally undergo some form of head-shaving or tonsure during their induction into monastic life.

 Within the Amish society, tradition ordains men to stop shaving a part of their facial hair upon marriage and grow a Shenandoah-style beard which serves the significance of wearing a wedding ring. Mustaches are rejected as they are regarded as martial (traditionally associated with the military).


In Judaism (see Shaving in Judaism), women are not obligated to remove their bodies or facial hair unless they wish to do so. However, in preparation for a woman's immersion in a ritual bath after concluding her days of purification (following her menstrual cycle), the custom of Jewish women is to shave off their pubic hair. Furthermore, during a mourning ritual, Jewish men are restricted in the Torah and Halakha to using scissors and prohibited from using a razor blade to shave their beards or sideburns, and, by custom, neither men nor women may cut or shave their hair during the shiva period.

The Baháʼí Faith recommends against complete and long-term head-shaving outside of medical purposes. However, it is not currently practiced as a law, contingent upon the Universal House of Justice's highest governing body's future decision. Sikhs take an even stronger stance, opposing all forms of hair removal. One of the "Five Ks" of Sikhism is Kesh, meaning "hair."To Sikhs, maintaining and managing long hair manifests one's piety.

Under Muslim law (Sharia), it is recommended to keep the beard.[citation needed] A Muslim may trim or cut hair on the head. In the 9th century, the use of chemical depilatories for women was introduced by Ziryab in Al-Andalus.

Ancient Egyptian priests also shaved or depilated daily to present a "pure" body before the images of the gods.




Very pronounced upper body hair growth on an adult male Maui Islander

The body hair of surgical patients is often removed beforehand on the skin surrounding surgical sites. Shaving was the primary form of hair removal until reports in 1983 showed that it may lead to an increased risk of infection. Clippers are now the recommended pre-surgical hair removal method. A 2021 systematic review brought together evidence on different techniques for hair removal before surgery. This involved 25 studies with a total of 8919 participants. Using a razor probably increases the chance of developing a surgical site infection compared to using clippers or hair removal cream or not removing hair before surgery. Removing hair on the day of surgery rather than the day before may also slightly reduce the number of infections.

Some people with trichiasis find it medically necessary to remove ingrown eyelashes.

Hair shaving has sometimes been used to eradicate lice or minimize body odor due to the accumulation of odor-causing micro-organisms in hair. However, in extreme situations, people may need to remove all body hair to prevent or combat infestation by lice, fleas, and other parasites. Such a practice was used, for example, in Ancient Egypt.

It has been suggested that an increasing percentage of humans removing their pubic hair has reduced crab louse populations in some parts of the world.

In the military


A buzz cut or utterly shaven haircut is standard in military organizations where, among other reasons, it is considered to promote uniformity and neatness.[ Most militaries have occupational safety and health policies that govern the hair length and hairstyles permitted; in the field and living in close-quarter environments where bathing and sanitation can be difficult, soldiers can be susceptible to parasite infestation such as head lice, which are more easily propagated with long and unkempt hair. It also requires less maintenance in the field and dries more quickly in adverse weather. Short hair is also less likely to cause severe burns from flash flame exposure (as a result of flash fires from explosions), which can easily set hair alight. Short hair can also minimize interference with safety equipment and fittings attached to the head, such as combat helmets and NBC suits. Militaries may also require men to maintain clean-shaven faces. Facial hair can prevent an air-tight seal between the beginning and military gas masks or other respiratory equipment, such as a pilot's oxygen mask or full-face diving mask. Testing whether the cover adequately fits a person's face is known as a "respirator fit test."

In many militaries, head-shaving (the induction cut) is mandatory for men when beginning their recruit training. However, even after the initial recruitment phase, when head-shaving is no longer required, many soldiers maintain a wholly or partially shaven hairstyle (such as a "high and tight," "flattop," or "buzz cut") for personal convenience or neatness. In addition, head-shaving is not required and is often not permitted for women in military service. However, they must have their hair cut or tied to regulation length. For example, a female soldier's shortest hair in the U.S. Army is 1/4 inch from the scalp.

In sport


It is common for professional footballers (soccer players) and road cyclists to remove leg hair for several reasons. In the case of a crash or tackle, the absence of leg hair means the injuries (usually road rash or scarring) can be cleaned up more efficiently, and treatment is not impeded. Professional cyclists and professional footballers also receive regular leg massages. The absence of hair reduces friction and increases their comfort and effectiveness.[citation needed] Football players are also required to wear shin guards. The affected area can be treated more efficiently in case of a skin rash.

It is also common for competitive swimmers to shave the hair off their legs, arms, and torsos (and even their whole bodies from the neckline down) to reduce drag and provide a heightened "feel" for the water by removing the exterior layer of skin along with the body hair.

As punishment


In some situations, people's hair is shaved as a punishment or a form of humiliation. For example, after World War II, head-shaving was a common punishment in France, the Netherlands, and Norway for women who had collaborated with the Nazis during the occupation and, in particular, for women who had sexual relations with an occupying soldier.

In the United States, during the Vietnam War, conservative students sometimes attacked student radicals or "hippies" by shaving beards or cutting long hair. One notorious incident occurred at Stanford University when unruly fraternity members grabbed Resistance founder (and student-body president) David Harris, cut off his long hair, and shaved his beard.

During European witch-hunts of the Medieval and Early Modern periods, alleged witches were stripped naked and their entire bodies shaved to discover the witches' marks. The discovery of witches' marks was then used as evidence in trials.

Inmates have their heads shaved upon entry to certain prisons.

Forms of hair removal and methods

  • Depilation is removing the part of the hair above the skin's surface. The most common form of depilation is shaving or trimming. Another option is using chemical depilatories, which break the disulfide bonds that link the protein chains that give hair its strength.

  • Epilation is removing the entire hair, including the part below the skin. Methods include waxing, sugaring, epilators, lasers, threading, intense pulsed light, or Electrology. Hair is also sometimes removed by plucking with tweezers.

Many products in the market have proven fraudulent. Many other products exaggerate the results or ease of use.

Depilation methods


"Depilation," or temporary removal of hair to the level of the skin, lasts several hours to several days and can be achieved by

  • Shaving or trimming (manually or with electric shavers)

  • Depilatories (creams or "shaving powders" which chemically dissolve hair)

  • Friction (rough surfaces used to buff away coat)

Epilation methods


 "Epilation", or removal of the entire hair from the root, lasts several days to several weeks and may be achieved by

  • Tweezing (hairs are tweezed, or pulled out, with tweezers or with fingers)

  • Waxing (a hot or cold layer is applied and then removed with porous strips)

  • Sugaring (hair is removed by using a sticky paste to the skin in the direction of hair growth and then peeling off with an absorbent strip)

  • 0:14

  • Threading in Wenchang, Hainan, China

  • Threading (also called fatlah or khait in Arabic, or band in Persian) in which a twisted thread catches hairs as it is rolled across the skin

  • Epilators (mechanical devices that rapidly grasp hairs and pull them out).

  • Drugs that directly attack hair growth or inhibit the development of new hair cells. Hair growth will become less and less until it finally stops; routine depilation/epilation will be performed until that time. Hair growth will return to normal if the use of the product is discontinued. Products include the following:

    • The pharmaceutical drug Vaniqa, with the active ingredient eflornithine hydrochloride, inhibits the enzyme ornithine decarboxylase, preventing new hair cells from producing putrescine for stabilizing their DNA.

    • Antiandrogens, including spironolactone, cyproterone acetate, flutamide, bicalutamide, and finasteride, can be used to reduce or eliminate unwanted body hair, such as in the treatment of hirsutism. Although effective for reducing body hair, antiandrogens have little effect on facial hair. However, slight effectiveness may be observed, such as some reduction in density/coverage and slower growth.[citation needed] Antiandrogens will also prevent further facial hair development, despite only minimally affecting that already there. Except for 5α-reductase inhibitors such as finasteride and dutasteride, antiandrogens are contraindicated in men due to the risk of feminizing side effects such as gynecomastia and other adverse reactions (e.g., infertility). They are generally only used in women for cosmetic/hair-reduction purposes.

Permanent hair removal


 Electrology has been practiced in the United States since 1875. The FDA approves it. This technique permanently destroys germ cells[citation needed] responsible for hair growth by inserting a fine probe in the hair follicle and applying a current adjusted to each hair type and treatment area.[citation needed] Electrology is the only permanent hair removal method recognized by the FDA.

Permanent hair reduction


  • Laser hair removal (lasers and laser diodes): Laser hair removal technology became widespread in the U.S. and many other countries from the 1990s onwards. It has been approved in the United States by the FDA since 1997. With this technology, light is directed at the hair. It is absorbed by dark pigment, destroying the hair follicle. This hair removal method sometimes becomes permanent after several sessions. The number of sessions needed depends upon the amount and type of hair removed. Equipment for performing laser hair removal at home has recently become available [when?] years.

  • Intense pulsed light (IPL)

  • Diode epilation (high-energy LEDs but not laser diodes)

Clinical comparisons of effectiveness


 A 2006 review article in the journal "Lasers in Medical Science" compared intense pulsed light (IPL) and both alexandrite and diode lasers. The review found no statistical difference in effectiveness but a higher incidence of side effects with diode laser-based treatment. Hair reduction after 6 months was reported as 68.75% for alexandrite lasers, 71.71% for diode lasers, and 66.96% for IPL. Side effects were reported as 9.5% for alexandrite lasers, 28.9% for diode lasers, and 15.3% for IPL. All side effects were found to be temporary, and even pigmentation changes returned to normal within 6 months.

A 2006 meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that alexandrite and diode lasers caused 50% hair reduction for up to 6 months, while there was no evidence of hair reduction from intense pulsed light, neodymium-YAG, or ruby lasers.

Experimental or banned methods


  • Photodynamic therapy for hair removal (experimental)

  • X-ray hair removal is an efficient and usually permanent hair removal method. Still, it also causes severe health problems, occasional disfigurement, and even death. It is illegal in the United States.

Doubtful methods


 Many methods have been proposed or sold over the years and have yet to be published clinical proof that they can work as claimed.

  • Electric tweezers

  • Transdermal electrolysis

  • Transcutaneous hair removal

  • Microwave hair removal

  • Food and dietary supplements

  • Non-prescription topical preparations (also called "hair inhibitors," "hair retardants," or "hair growth inhibitors")

Advantages and disadvantages


 There are several disadvantages to many of these hair removal methods.

Hair removal can cause some issues: skin inflammation, minor burns, lesions, scarring, ingrown hairs, bumps, and infected hair follicles.

Some removal methods are not permanent, can cause medical problems and permanent damage, or have high costs. In addition, some of these methods are still in the testing phase and have yet to be clinically proven.

One issue that can be considered an advantage or a disadvantage depending upon an individual's viewpoint is that removing hair has the effect of releasing information about the individual's hair growth patterns due to genetic predisposition, illness, androgen levels (such as from pubertal hormonal imbalances or drug side effects), and/or gender status.

In the hair follicle, stem cells reside in a discrete microenvironment called the bulge, located at the base of the part of the follicle that is established during morphogenesis but does not degenerate during the hair cycle. The bulge contains multipotent stem cells that can be recruited during wound healing to help repair the epidermis.

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