By Fiona McKim
Well, here we are in year who-knows-what of The Big Thing we’re all tired of thinking about but can’t stop talking about. How are you doing? How is your bikini line doing?
That was a sharp left turn, wasn’t it? But assuming your mental airspace is already congested with matters large and small and perhaps if you’d like a diversion from lingering existential dread, let's talk about the hairy bikini line.
As we crawl cautiously back into a brave new world, the beauty spotlight is shining once more on which bits of your grooming routine you were secretly doing for other people all along. Personally, heat styling my hair has been as swiftly picked back up as it was dropped. My skincare routine has never been so extensive but, my god, I appreciate a professional facial now and salon gel manicures remain usurped by the gratifying efficiency of a DIY file and clear polish.
The biggest surprise has been that despite claiming, and truly believing, I enjoyed wearing makeup “for me” it still rarely leaves the drawer save for my best eyebrow pencil for the odd brow scribble. And that’s only because, left unfilled, my gappy left arch appears permanently, sneerily raised and I’d like to keep my relationships intact now we’ve been unleashed back into society.
Otherwise, my face remains almost entirely pigment-free and—spoiler alert—it’s been extremely liberating. That’s not to say you can’t genuinely love lipstick and find it cheering in these dour times, everybody's different. The point is, society has undergone a necessary clearing of the smoke and mirrors between the beauty practises that uplift us and the ones that oppress us, and it’s interesting. Even more interesting are the bits we preen that other people (mostly) don’t see. I’m talking about body hair, specifically the bikini line.
Hairy bikini lines are becoming more popular
Could the rise in popularity be due to our inability to pay a stranger to whip off our pubic hair for several months? Did that legally-enforced breather on our social lives offer up a 'what the hell was that all for?' moment? It did for me and got me wondering, why do we prune our bikini lines?
A brief history of bikini lines
Widespread bikini waxing may be a relatively modern phenomenon (and lets not even start on vajazzling) but body hair as the subject of nonsensical fashion diktats isn’t.
Women have been finding new and toturous methods of intimate grooming since the Egyptians (who used pumice stones) Classical-era Greeks (plucking) and Ancient Turkish women (an alkaline hair-melting concoction called rhusma – think Nair, 3000bc Edition). By the middle ages a full bush was back for fashionable English women, albeit an artificial one to cover de-fuzzed nether regions as a lice-prevention measure. So if you ever wondered what on earth merkins were about, now you know.
Subsequently, the world ping-ponged back and forth telling women ‘be hairy’ or ‘don’t be hairy’ for centuries, until the early 1900s when two things happened: Gillette invented the first razor for women, and clothing started to become skimpier. As hemlines rose and the bikini was born, razor adverts kept up, informing women that their newly exposed flesh must be as smooth and shiny as a baby salmon.
A brief ‘70s pendulum swing dictated that the full bush was actually pretty groovy, baby, but the slippery slope to sleek hairlessness prevailed. This was almost certainly linked to a combination of capitalism—new hair removal technologies to sell, persuasive adverts telling us why we need them—and the early ‘90s waxing explosion, brought to New York’s J salon by a group of Brazilian sisters’ and immortalised in an episode of Sex & The City.
Porn's effect on bikini lines
These days, much is said about the influence of internet pornography, and rightly so.
Although arguably those most impacted are young men and their partners, whose expectations of women’s bodies are shaped by porn well before they come into contact with an actual naked woman. For the rest of us, it’s fair to say a slow drip feed of several hard sells, some centuries old, brought us to the point where for many, the prospect of going several months without a bikini wax is a source of real panic.
Why you should let your garden grow
And so here we are! And look, the point with tending to a hairy bikini line, as with all beauty, is absolutely do it if it makes you feel good. But also, interrogate that choice. The unfairness of the lifelong shave, pluck and rip-athon women are expected to carry out to make our bodies ‘acceptable’ is no secret. And despite articles surfacing every few years claiming The Bush Is Back (usually based on one extremely rich, powerful and conventionally gorgeous celebrity with a token sprout of fuzz) many of us can no more switch off the hardwiring that tells us a hairy bikini line = unattractive than the even more insidious one that says we should all constantly strive to be a dress size smaller.
We can’t help how we’ve been conditioned, but we can acknowledge that conditioning and consider trying something different.
So why not have a go at letting your garden grow? Just to see what it's like. You don’t have to go full 1970s bush, maybe just a little fuzziness round the sides, a trim length but fuller shape, whatever you fancy. This is about choice and embracing an opportunity for some very low-stakes grooming experimentation. You might find you love feeling a bit softer and fuzzier down there in which case—brilliant—you'll be liberated from the expense, pain and general life admin attached to a lifetime of battling your body hair.
Whatever you choose to do, I hope this brief deep dive into, well, the contents of your briefs has got you thinking or at least diverted your mind from the matters we could all use a break from fixating on. Say what you like about beauty, but there’s a lot to be said for a bulletproof distraction technique when we need it most.
Beauty editor recommended products for a hairy bikini line
Tried a hairy bikini line and hate it? Counting down the days to your next wax? These two products will help
As woman&home's Senior Beauty Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more beauty products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about a brilliant beauty find on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair dye experiments and cute shih-tzus)
Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013, working under legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know about the industry (clue: learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism).
In a previous life, Fiona studied journalism back home in bonnie Scotland and honed her skills as a features writer at publications including Junior and Prima Baby, with a brief and terrifying stint on the showbiz gossip pages of a tabloid newspaper in between. She's a skincare fanatic who can’t resist adding an extra step to her routine if it’s all the rage in Japan, loves fragrance, has fun with makeup and never turns down the chance to test a new hair tool. Basically, she loves it all.
When not slathering herself in self tan or squinting at a tiny ingredients list on a moisturiser, you’ll probably find Fiona enjoying something to do with food - cooking it, eating it, cajoling her friends into trekking across London to try a hyped pop-up in a dirty car park.
Come to think of it, the hot dinners and beauty products are probably about even.
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