So What’s the Deal with Waxing? (Because My Arms Feel Naked Now.)

Okay, kittens. We’re done with body treatments. We’ve mastered facials. Makeup applications are but a distant memory.

At Beauty U, the time has come for waxing.

A quick disclaimer to the supportive family members who read this blog: Now might be a great time for you to take a little break. Maybe catch up on that pile of unread New Yorkers in your bathroom. See what’s on TV.

I’m just saying. Things are going to have to get a little bit graphic round these parts. Continue reading at your own risk. That’s actually good advice for anyone who gets squeamish about body hair.

Because we’re going to have to talk about body hair.

And to start with, maybe we should talk about why it makes (many of) us so squeamish.

“If men had to remove their body hair, don’t you think we would have figured out how to make this hurt less?” asks Blanche, as we gear up for our first waxing practice. My forearms are deemed the most appropriately hairy subjects. Everyone is nervous. The wax is hot. The wooden Popsicle sticks and muslin strips that we’re supposed to use to paint it on and then rip it off seem clumsy and awkward.

The general consensus is hell yes, there should be a better way. And also that hair removal is something we only do for the pleasure of men anyway.

“Except now we like it better that way too,” adds Stephanie.

“I’m not sure that we even like it, I just think everyone does it, so it seems like that’s what normal is,” says Miss Stacy. “If everyone went around hairy, we would think that was normal too.”

And yet. Miss Stacy removes all of her body hair (for the uninitiated that means, arms, armpits, legs, bikini zone to some degree, and any extraneous eyebrow, lip, and chin hair) on a regular basis. Even though she has pale, sensitive skin that raises up in red welts for days after every treatment. “You get used to it,” she says. “And it’s so great later because you don’t have to shave and the new hair grows in finer.”

So, we get down to business on my forearms. Which, in the space of ten minutes, go from this:

Arm before wax hair removal photo

To this:

Photo of arm after wax hair removal

To be honest (and don’t worry — I’m always honest, but especially about what hurts in waxing), it doesn’t hurt as much as I expect. Like ripping very large (but not super sticky) Band-Aids off your skin, as fast as possible. Or being snapped repeatedly with a large rubber band. I mean, it’s not awesome. And those red welts feel hot and strange to touch. But it’s bearable. I discover a tiny scar on my left forearm that I’d never noticed when it was covered in hair.

It feels weirder the next day, when it looks like this:

Photo of arm post wax hair removal, after redness

My arms aren’t sore, and they are undeniably smooth — but they feel fragile, like the skin might peel off, and a little numb as I slide into my coat sleeves. I am acutely aware of my lack of hair. And feel sort of plastic.

“You’ll have to remind your clients that hair does serve a purpose,” says Miss Theresa, one of the day teachers who is filling in tonight. “It’s not the best idea to take it off every part of your body just because you like how it looks.”

So here’s the thing. Before I started at Beauty U, I didn’t even know that arm hair removal (as in, wrist to elbow or even higher) was Done. I’ve met a handful of women (of Italian or Jewish descent, with pale skin and very dark hair) who shaved their arms. But I thought that was a bit of an anomaly, a hassle that only the very hairy or very self-conscious subjected themselves to. Turns out (at least from what my peers and teachers tell me) it’s pretty common from women of all colors and cultures.

Which makes me realize there’s a lot about waxing (and hair removal in general) that I don’t understand yet. So as I delve in deeper, I’d love to do a little pulse-taking with you guys. This seems especially relevant in light of last week’s cross-post by Emily Heroy, on how you can love fashion and still be a feminist. After all, what says “stereotypical feminist” more quickly than hairy legs and armpits?

So: Do you love hair removal? Do you consider it a necessary evil? Do you eschew it completely as a sign of patriarchal oppression? Why or why not?

And if you have a hair removal line — some kinds of hair removal seem totally normal to you, but others sound freaky — do share your thoughts on all of that, too. Not to mention: Where do you think your preferences come from? (Your family, your friends, hairless Hollywood starlets, that Babysitter’s Club book where Kristy shaves her legs for the first time, you get the idea.)

I have my own preferences/theories about how I ended up with these preferences, and I’ll be sharing them (and analyzing them and over-analyzing them) as we go along — but I really want to hear from you. So go!

[Photos courtesy of the trusty iPhone.]

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  1. Kate
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I shave legs, armpits, and bikini line. I never wax, because frankly I find the grow-out period annoying, and it never lasts more than a couple of weeks for me. (And it’s expensive.) I’ve never waxed or shaved my arms, although when I was a teenager I was horrified by the hair on my arms and stomach, which turned (naturally) the color of the hair on my head (brown).

  2. anne schreiber
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    I did a bikini waxing all by MYSELF when preparing for a senior trip to Florida with my friends.
    Let’s just say I put way TOO much on and it took YEARS for me to get it all off. Piece by piece. Bit by bit.
    I wore shorts over my bathing suit that entire trip and most of the following summer. Had a funny “limp” in my walk as well.

    I’ve never gone near wax again….except to light a candle.

  3. Paige
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I wax my eyebrows all the time, but I’m nervous (or too self conscious) to do it anywhere else.

    As for everything else, I like to shave my legs for special events (when I’m wearing a skirt, going to a beach/pool, etc.), but I don’t freak out if I forget or suddenly want to wear a skirt and haven’t shaved in weeks. It’s easier for me to say that since I have blonde hair that doesn’t show up much.

  4. Posted April 6, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I waxed my eyebrows once. I tweeze them regularly instead. It takes longer, but it’s free to do and I’m a cheapskate.
    My arms are full of hair, as is my bikini line (except during swimsuit season).

  5. Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I shave under my arms — daily.
    I shave my legs — when it starts to get prickly and/or I have a special event.

    I am pretty fair, so I can get away with plucking the rogue eyebrow and lip hairs…If I have a very special event, I’ll make an appt. to have my brows and lip waxed. This happens 1 or 2 a year.

    And I get a brazilian bikini wax every 6 weeks, rain or shine, bikini-weather or not bikini weather. I’ve been doing this for 7 or 8 years now, and my hair “down there” is much less in quantity and it’s very fine. Why do I do this? I love not having to worry about if it’s a jungle down there. Does it hurt? Hell yeah! But I have the best braz bikini waxer ever, and she’s worth it. She cracks me up, and takes my mind off the pain. ; )

  6. Melissa
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Arm waxing?? I had never ever heard of that before…

    I pluck my eyebrows regularly, shave my armpits daily, shave my legs only when it “matters,” (that is, when I’m going to be wearing something that shows my legs and/or when I think there’s a good chance of getting “intimate” (wink wink nudge nudge), and get a Brazilian every 5-6 weeks. I really really hope this arm waxing thing doesn’t turn into an expectation too, though. The last thing I want or need is having to spend more time, energy, and money on removing the hair from yet ANOTHER part of my body!!!

  7. Katie
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    My fiance once told me that he couldn’t care less about my body hair (and I am a very hairy girl), and suddenly I went from a strict shaving/plucking routine for face, legs, arm pits, and bikini area to very sporadic shaving. I’ve always let my bikini area get a bit unruly because I honestly like it that way. Legs and armpits I shave when I feel like it–usually about once a week. The only thing I’m strangely obsessed with keeping my stomach hair-free. That tends to get more attention than anything else.

  8. Posted April 6, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I didn’t realize arm waxing was such a popular thing either. I’ve got the dark Italian hair going on but never thought it was something to be grossed out about – I’ll do eyebrows/bikini/pits/legs but to wax my arms is taking it a step too far.

  9. KNB
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I am a religious lip and brow waxer…cause…well, I am mediterranean and I would look like a man. And I don’t want to look like a man.
    But the armpits get shaved when it is important, or regularly in the summer. I got an armpit wax before my senior prom and remember laying on that table praying for my own death, tears streaming down my face into my armpit, as I held my arm over my head. Maybe it had something to do with the proximity of the lymph node? I don’t know, but the pain was worse than a bikini wax, as I remember.
    Legs, too, only “event” shaving, but again, I have had the backs of my thighs waxed in an attempt to curb ingrown hairs back there…the verdict is still out if it helped.
    As to bikini…truth be told, I would LIKE to do it more often, but can’t afford it. It cuts down on the hassle down there, and that is preferable. But it is absolutely NOT something that my gentleman expects or mentions. Ever.
    As for the rest of it…It makes me genetically who I am, and while I am willing to rip my ‘stashe out, my arm hair stays where it is.

  10. Posted April 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I shave my legs, but only up to my knees usually. I usually use the dude’s electric shaver that he uses on his head, because I can’t see too well to shave in the shower. I used to have my brows waxed every 6 weeks but moved and don’t trust anyone to do it. I pluck them out or else I’d have a unibrow. I shave my upper lip and underarms. Sometimes the dude shaves them for me. I don’t shave but trim the bikini zone, and buy swimsuits with the boy cut legs so I don’t have to worry about it.

  11. Josh
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    My students suggested this title: “Ouch! The Hairy Truth.” We’ll work for a commission!

  12. Dawn.
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I might be an anomaly. I keep my underarms and mound/bikini line/genitalia completely shaven. I also pluck my eyebrows and chin regularly. But I completely ignore my legs.

    I pluck for personal aesthetic reasons only, and I shave what I shave for both personal aesthetic reasons and lowering my chances of accumulating excess sweat/body odor in those areas. I see no reason to shave my legs because I find hairy legs aesthetically pleasing and my legs aren’t an area I’m concerned about sweat/body odor.

    Perhaps my aesthetic reasons for shaving my mound/genitalia in particular relate to what I like to see in other women (I’m queer). I dig shaved pussy, in other words, lol. Why do I dig shaved pussy, you ask? (Okay, I think I just like saying that, haha.) Maybe I consciously reject some beauty standards and subconsciously embrace others. Or maybe that’s just what I like. Actually, I think it’s probably both. No personal taste exists in a vacuum, after all.

  13. FM
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    I have fairly dark body hair against my skin (even though the hair on my head isn’t so dark), so I was dying to start shaving by the time my mom let me in middle school. I always felt self-conscious of having visibly hairy legs and armpits even though I grew up in a hippy community and had lots of friends who never shaved. I went through phases later in life where I purposefully let the hair grow in line with my hippy friends, but in my adulthood I generally try to have low visibility of hair on my legs, bikini area and armpits. I hate shaving because not only is my hair dark, but it seems to grow barely hours after shaving, especially when I shave often. I still shave my armpits, but only about once a week in the cold months and every other day or so in the summer (and don’t expose the armpits when they’re not freshly shaved). However, I started getting my legs waxed almost 10 years ago and haven’t shaved since. I love it! About a year ago I got an epilator and that really helps maintain the legs for less money, but I still get waxed every few months. It never gets all the hair, but it gets enough to allow me to feel comfortable showing the skin for a while, and then I plan my outfits around not showing the skin until I wax or use that epilator again. The wax/epilator leaves hairs but they really aren’t as noticeable (not as dark and pokey) and also the hair on my legs is much sparser at any given moment than when I was shaving. Also, I get brazilians every few months (or more if I’m putting on swim suits). As a VERY naturally hairy girl, it is SO nice not to have to worry about pubic hairs sticking out (which pretty much would happen with any bikini shaving or waxing I ever did). Also, it feels kinda cool (afterward, not during, which of course hurts like hell at least in parts). I always thought it was weird before I did it (which I did on a whim just to see if I liked it), but now I love it as a sometimes-thing. Eyebrow strays and rogue dark, long or wirey chin hairs get plucked as needed (would never trust anyone else to do that), and stomach and toe strays get plucked or waxed if they don’t charge me extra for it. Would never let anyone rip off my arm hair – I think it looks weird on others. I do kinda hate my upper lip hair and someday want to get it electrolycized, but I never do anything to it except pluck a wirey hair that shows up every once in a while.

  14. Michelle
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Now that I’m regularly belly dancing in public, my hair removal regime has changed.

    I used to just pluck stray dark hairs off my chin and neck (started doing that when I was a teen and the only hair removal thing I’ve done more or less consistently since) pretty much ignored everything else unless I was doing something where my underarms would show and then I would shave those.

    Now, I regularly shave my underarms (about once a week) and pluck my eyebrows every few days, with a serious pluck (with a magnifying mirror) the day before the performance.

    I used to trim my bikini line more often than I do now. I guess the novelty has worn off.

    I’ve not shaved my legs in eons. I’ve got fair, sparse leg hair and most of the time they’re covered. When I dance, the harem pants or fishnets I wear cover them up sufficiently that they don’t need to be shaved.

    The hair on my arms and upper legs are so pale as to be unnoticeable, so they’ve never been a concern.

  15. L
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I know this is an old post, but I found my way here via Google search.

    I’ve been struggling on deciding what to do about arm hair removal for as long as I can remember. I am extremely pale, but I suffer from hirsutism due to PCOS and have very dark and thick hair. The hair on my arms has been a constant source of shame, humiliation, and misery–I was taunted constantly in my youth, and even though I’m older now I know people still notice and I’ve even had friends make veiled jabs.

    I read waxing can make it grow back finer OR thicker, same with epilators and depilatory creams. I’m straight out of college and there’s no way I could afford laser or electrolysis. I’m completely lost and tired of feeling ugly in my own skin. Your post was informative though, so thank you!

  16. Jennie
    Posted July 4, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m Mediterranean too (Greek) but a light haired one. I epilate my legs, started with waxing the first year to thin it out but only because I was too lazy to shave so often in the summer. That’s only from the knee down too since the hair on my thighs is so fine and blonde. I also have arm hair and was thinking of waxing but again, it’s so light and fine that I don’t think I’ll bother. It’s just another thing to worry about and we have enough worries in our lives as it is!

  17. Ana
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    For the most part I do my own hair removal – I like to do it so that I am nice and smooth after that “time of the month”. Self-wax brazilian and armpits monthly (sometimes armpits more often, depending on growth and season), pluck eyebrows monthly (sometimes self-wax but I find it easier to go wrong by removing too much hair this way), and legs every 1-2 months in the summer (shave if need to wear skirt in btwn growth), 3-4 in the winter (when with a bf, will avoid shorts :P ) Last hairy part left is arms and recently learned from an Indian coworker that she shaves her arms but I am worried mine will get even darker if I wax :/

  18. Sara
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Wax arm pits every 4-5 weeks. Brazilian bikini wax( tried shaving which causes insane itching), epilate full arms and half legs. Pluck eye brows and self thread upper lips.

    • annie
      Posted April 6, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      How do you do self-threading and does it grow back in softer and more “laid down” like hair once did before hair removal? Im trying to find something to use one last time so I dont have to remove it any more. I made a mistake and waxed upper lip for a wedding photo but didnt need to and now I want to let my no-color finr peach fuzz grow back in.

  19. shade
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always hated my hairy skinny arms and used to wear long sleeves for years during the summer because of it. Now I bleach my arm hairs every few months but don’t like to since it increases sensitivity to the sun and I’m a pale skinned girl who likes to protect her skin. I too, recently noticed arm waxing getting more popular in NYC. I’ve been considering the arm wax thing, so this post helps, thanks!

  20. Joan
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    I pluck my eyebrows whenever I see strays, but I re-shape them about once every 2 months.
    I shave my underarms almost every day (I can’t stand the feeling of stubble in my pits), and I shave my legs only during the spring and summer (or whenever I know my legs are going to be exposed).
    I wax my upper lip with Nads hair removal strips about once a month, and I only shave my bikini line when I know I’ll be wearing a bathing suit.
    I trim my pubic hair whenever I feel it needs to be trimmed, which is about once a month. I tried shaving my pubic area completely, but it felt really weird and I hated having stubble down there.
    I’m of Italian heritage and I have dark hair, so my arm hair is quite long and noticeable. I tried trimming, but it just didn’t do the job. I don’t want to damage my skin by bleaching, and I don’t want to shave it because the LAST thing I want is stubble on my arms, so I’m considering waxing.
    Thanks for the article, very informative!

    • Lulu
      Posted August 13, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Wow I seem to be an exception on here! I pluck my eyebrows whenever I see a stray, but check daily. I shave my armpits daily, because I can’t stand even one day’s regrowth. I have a full leg wax and Hollywood bikini wax every 3 weeks. I am also considering arm waxing.

      I cannot stand body hair!

  21. Crystal
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    Im a sixteen year old girl and I hateeee body hair. I absolutely can’t stand it. I doubt anyone put the idea into my head of disliking body hair besides legs,armpits, and eyebrows. I used to just shave whatever unwanted hair I have. Everynow and then I get my eyebrows waxed when i feel like they are losing their shape but other than that I pretty much just pluck them. As for my legs, arms, armpits, bikini area, and upper lip I now wax them myself. I hate extra hair somi learned to wax and it’s the best decision I ever made especially because it is way cheaper then having someone else wax you! Even if I were a guy I would wax off my body hair. I wouldn’t care if it made me less manly lol that’s how much I despise body hair >.< btw, I am also the only person I know who waxes their arms. I meet the occasional arm shaver but never a waxer! I have never met anyone as obsessed with being hair free as me…

  22. camille
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    hey! i just waved my arms and i started panicking because i got a few large white bumps on my arms right after.. it cant be an allergic reaction because i didnt use wax, but an electric waxing machine..
    seeing your 2nd pic makes me feel a bit better, i guess the white spots are normal? and if my skin reacts as good as yours did, they should be gone by tomorrow?

    the bumps are a bit itchy too.. i wax my legs all the time and never got this problem before..
    is it normal?

    • Posted October 19, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Hi Camille,

      Sounds pretty normal! Waxing is super rough on your skin, especially skin that isn’t used to it. Our bodies don’t actually want or need all those hair follicles ripped out! Your skin should calm down in a day or two. (If not, definitely see your doctor — I am not a medical professional, just a girl who has waxed her arms before!)


  23. Megan
    Posted January 8, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Have you continued waxing your arms? Did the hair grow back lighter/thinner?

    • Posted January 9, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Hi Megan,

      I continued waxing my arms sporadically throughout beauty school but definitely let it go once I graduated. I never noticed it growing back thinner or lighter — these days, my arms looks exactly like my original waxing-virgin arms did!

  24. Stephanie
    Posted April 26, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Hi! I found this article because I am considering waxing my arms. My biggest worry is the growth in between waxing. Is it very stubbly and gross feeling to the touch? How did it look?

  25. Sheila
    Posted June 10, 2014 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    Having Italian roots, I have always been embarrassed by my dark and excessive hair from my toes to my arms. I shave practically everything except my arms because I don’t want to have prickly arms and it would be time consuming. After recently investing a waxing kit (the wax, the thing that heats it, and the cloths) I have started to go wax crazy.

    My first feat was waxing my arms as in the article but I didn’t have anyone do it for me. I didn’t get any crazy bumps like her except for one spot where I pulled in the wrong direction. I barely felt any pain except for my upper biceps. I waxed my legs and it hurts but its manageable the work around the ankles and the inside of my legs. I just waxed knee down. Personally, I thought the inside of my legs and ankles hurt more than a Brazilian wax. The armpit is up there too, but thankfully it doesn’t require much wax so the area is finished quickly.

4 Trackbacks

  1. By Seniors. « Beauty Schooled on April 21, 2010 at 9:26 am

    [...] 10. So What’s the Deal with Waxing? (Because my arms feel naked now.) Where we are now. [...]

  2. [...] mine waxed a few weeks ago (no, I’m not going to show you the scary pictures, but remember what my arms looked like?) the natural hairy state is even [...]

  3. [...] so it involves you assembling a whole big kit of supplies, and then demonstrating how to do an arm wax, a lip/chin wax, an eyebrow tweeze, a facial, and a daytime makeup [...]

  4. By [Back to Beauty U] Test Time | Beauty Schooled on January 24, 2011 at 9:27 am

    [...] poised to multiple choice my way through 100 randomly generated questions about makeup, facials, waxing, and a motley assortment of anatomy, skin histology, chemistry, and electricity that you’re [...]

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