Hair Removal: The Ancient Price of Beauty

While you may not feel like you have much in common with early man, cave paintings show that our ancient ancestors used seashells that looked a lot like modern tweezers to pluck unwanted hair from their bodies.

When he wasn’t filing down his teeth, Neanderthal Man was likely pulling hair from his body. Even then, the less hair one had, the easier life was. Little hair meant less hiding places for critters like lice to hide out. A less-hairy body also meant a cooler body, and quite likely, a less stinky body.

The next time you’re shaving your legs or underarms, consider this fun fact: Men, woman and children of ancient Egypt shaved their heads bald, preferring to wear specially designed wigs. They also plucked, used early versions of depilatory creams and rubbed unwanted hair off with a pumice stone to get rid of unwanted hair.

Egyptian priests considered hair “shameful,” while the average Egyptian citizen associated an un-plucked body with the low-class. After all, in their minds only animals were meant to be hairy. Anyone who had an ounce of class addressed the issue by removing hair.

In the 5th century BC, the Greeks considered a young, athletic, hairless man to be the epitome of attractiveness while hairy bodies were associated with barbarians, satyrs, and the cult of Dionysus.

Flint blades date back to 30,000 BC. An added benefit of shaving with flint was that early man could use it to cut designs into his skin. Once he added dye to those cuts he had an instant tattoo.

We may think of depilatories as a modern convenience, but women were making their own depilatory creams using a combination of arsenic, quicklime and starch as early as 4,000-3,000 BC.

By 50 BC Roman men were imitating Julius Ceasar by plucking their facial hairs out one at a time. The ritual was repeated each and every day.

We don’t know for sure when threading became a mode of hair removal, but we do know that it is such a common method in the Middle East and India that young girls learn to do it with ease.

The process we know as waxing was born in ancient Egypt. Called “sugaring,” a mixture of sugar, lemon juice and water were heated, forming a syrup that was rolled into a ball, pushed against the skin, and stripped away, removing unwanted hair.

No matter which method of hair removal you choose, you can be grateful that you’re not an ancient Greek woman. It was not uncommon for certain Greek women to remove hair from their legs by singeing it with fire.