When I was 16, I stopped shaving my armpits. Four years later, I'm still growing strong. But I wasn't always razor-averse.
For years, I shaved my armpits because I hated having hair there. The self-loathing began when I was in seventh grade, playing on the monkey bars. A girl looked up at me, my armpits exposed, and said, "Wow, Racheal, looks like you need to start shaving!"
I'd put zero thought into it until that moment, but her statement triggered a hatred for my underarm hair. And so, at 13, I started shaving my armpits.
As I grew up, I continued to feel shame and embarrassment for having body hair. Thanks to magazines, movies, and music videos, I was constantly shown images of women with hairless legs and smooth armpits. I thought that "being hairless" was one of the things that made these women beautiful.
It wasn't until my junior year in high school that I started to really question these beauty standards. I wondered why I thought these things were beautiful. I wondered why women color our hair, apply makeup, shave or wax our body hair and follow extreme diets.
And what I concluded was that it all leads back to money and how companies choose to market their products. They try to make us feel bad about ourselves and our bodies so we'll buy their products to feel better.
Realizing this made me question not only everything I did, but also the people around me. Why was I wearing makeup? Why did my curly haired friend flat iron her hair every day? Why did my mother feel the need to cover her gray hair with dye? Why do women shave, armpits in particular?
And so, at age 16, I decided to stop shaving my armpits to challenge these ideals. Why couldn't I be beautiful while having hair on my body that grows there naturally? We're told body hair isn't OK on women but totally cool for men. We both grow it, yet one is more acceptable?
Here's the thing about hairy armpits: Not only do I feel more beautiful with hair under my arms, but I also find it more comfortable because I feel less sweaty.
The fun thing about body hair is it's totally your choice to do with as you please, because it's on YOUR body. For the most part I keep my pits long, but with my leg hair, it all depends on my mood. I like clean shaved legs, HATE stubble and dig it once it's long enough to feel soft again.
Around six months after I started growing out my armpit hair, I decided to color them to match my then-bright pink hair. I've been experimenting with funky colors ever since. I enjoy my classic natural brown but since I'm a hair stylist, I like to keep things interesting.
Your body is yours to do with as you please and you shouldn't feel pressured to do something you don't want to. Some of you may say, “Well I like shaving," and that's totally cool, but I just ask you to stop and think why that is. Do you like it for you? Or because that's what others say is attractive? I say do what makes you happy and feel comfortable.
Photo courtesy of the author