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I am a documentary nerd and love hearing about how customs we think nothing of today actually become a popular thing. Waxing is one of those things! I have been going to the Brazilian Waxing Company in Manchester for some time now and it occurred to me that I had no idea how the trend of getting waxed started! If you are looking to book a waxing appointment then click here.

Cue some reading and I just had to share my findings as it is SO interesting! I have shared the sources below just so I am not accused of plagiarism...

If you thought going fully bare down there is a modern trend, think again. Turns out, women have been putting themselves through the painful routines of body grooming for a very long time — though past methods were obviously much less high-tech than the lasers we have today. According to the Encyclopedia of Hair, copper razors from 3,000 BC were found in Egypt and Mesopotamia, while paintings from the 1500s would occasionally show women with little or no pubic hairs. Meanwhile, Egyptian art showcased women with perfect little triangles.

In ancient Greece, having pubic hair was considered "uncivilised." Yep, we've all seen those seemingly hairless Greek statues — and some women, in an effort to mimic that aesthetic, would pluck or singe off all their pubic hair. Archeologists believe Samoans would scrape their skin with sharp seashells to get rid of underarm hair, and “sugaring,” a practice originating in the Middle East, called for cooked sugar and lemon to remove body hair — perhaps the first wax, ever.

But, grooming trends have changed far more in the past century than ever before. Thanks to modern technology, our celebrity obsession, the tendency to overshare, and let’s face it, porn, what people do to their body hair has become the focus of many a trend piece — and the styles are always changing. One day, Sex and the City is telling you that Brazilians are all the rage, and the next, The New York Times is saying au naturel is in. So, what’s the deal?

We chatted with Spruce & Bond wax and laser specialist Ildi Gulas, and she walked us through some of the major body-waxing trends of the last century — and what may have inspired them.

Ancient Egypt

The Egyptians may have been the forerunners of many beauty rituals, but they invested the most time into hair removal. Women of ancient Egypt removed all of their body hair, including that on their heads, with tweezers (made from seashells), pumice stones, or early beeswax and sugar based waxes.

Roman Empire

During the Roman Empire, the lack of body hair was considered a sign of the classes. Wealthy women and men used razors made from flints, tweezers, creams, and stones to remove excess hair. In fact, even pubic hair was considered uncivilized which is why many famous statues and paintings of Grecian women are depicted hairless.

Middle Ages

Just like Cleopatra was a trendsetter in her time, so too was Queen Elizabeth 1 during the Middle Ages. She set the precedence for hair removal amongst women, who followed her lead by removing it from their faces, but not their bodies. The fashion of this era was to remove eyebrows and hair from the forehead (to make it appear larger), which women did by using walnut oil, or bandages soaked in amonia (which they got from their feline pets) and vinegar.


The late 18th century ushered in a more civilized approach to hair removal. While European and American women didn’t take too much consideration into it, Jean Jacques Perret, a French barber, created the first straight razor for men in 1760 which was used by some women.


By 1844, Dr. Gouraud had created one of the first depilatory creams called Poudre Subtile. Soon after, in 1880, King Camp Gillette created the first modern day razor for men and thus a revolution was born. However, it would be another three decades before a razor specifically marketed for women would appear.

Early 1900s

In 1915, Gillette created the first razor specifically for women, the Milady Decolletée. The early 1900’s also saw ads for depilatory cream hit the masses. In 1907 an ad for X-Bazin Depilatory Powder began circulating, promising to remove ‘humiliating growth of hair on the face, neck, and arms’. A decade later, a leading women's fashion magazine ran an ad featuring a woman with her arms raised and her armpits bare, the first of it's kind.


Gillette introduces the first safety razor for men in 1904, and in 1915, the first women’s razor from the brand hits the market. (It was called Milady Décolleté). This was the start of what author Christine Hope called “The First Great Anti-Underarm-Hair Campaign,” in which ads told women to clean up their “objectionable hair.” At the same time, sleeveless dresses were just beginning to be deemed acceptable, so completely bare underarms were a new "necessity," as emphasised in this Harper's Bazaar ad from 1915.


Remington released the first electric women’s razor in 1940 after the success of a male version. Due to a wartime shortage of nylon, more products and techniques for hair removal hit the market as women were forced to go bare legged more often.

Second, the bikini was introduced to the U.S. in 1946, as Sarah Hildebrandt writes in The EmBodyment of American Culture. And, as the bikini line rose higher and higher, more and more women began putting effort into grooming their nether regions. “As this history illustrated, the more clothes women were 'allowed' (or expected) to remove, the more hair they were also expected to remove,” Hildebrandt writes. Women either tweezed or shaved their pubic hair outside the panty line (now known as the bikini line).


During the 1950s, hair removal became more publically accepted. Since many depilatory creams were still irritating to the skin, women relied on razors to shaver their legs and underarms and tweezers to groom and shape their eyebrows.


Wax strips made their début in the 1960s and quickly became the method of choice for removing unwanted hair under the arms and on legs. The first laser hair removal method hit the market in the mid-sixties, but was quickly abandoned due to its skin damaging tendencies.

The mod movement (and all those miniskirts!) meant that women were expected to have hairless limbs — and thanks to the introduction of waxing strips, getting rid of unwanted fuzz was easier than ever. But soon, things would get decidedly less high-maintenance...


Although electrolysis had been around for nearly a century, it became more reliable and safe in the 1970s with the development of transistorized equipment. The decade also saw a resurgence in the removal of bikini area hair as the swimsuit fad of the 1960s stuck around.

When the hippie movement hit the mainstream (although Nair entered the market in 1972), it ushered in an all-natural look, as Deep Throat showcased. This brief dip in grooming was soon to be over (although the expression "'70s bush" lives on). In 1974, the first “pink shot” of a bare vagina appeared in Hustler, and porn stars started shaving it all off soon after.


Today, most women rely on some form of hair removal in their everyday beauty routines, whether it is tweezing, shaving, waxing, or depilatory. Waxing bars, eyebrow threading studios, and electrolysis centers are at an all time high and continue to rise. New technologies in hair removal had made it one of the most popular beauty services out there.

One word: Brazilians. In 1987, seven sisters from Brazil opened a salon in New York City called J. Sisters (yes, all their names began with the letter J), which popularised the Brazilian wax in the States. "In Brazil, waxing is part of our culture because bikinis are so small," says the salon's website. "We thought it was an important service to add because personal care is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity."

The bodybuilding craze of the '80s meant that men were also getting into body grooming. One memorable quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger when he decided to run for governor? "It's the most difficult [decision] I've made in my entire life, except the one I made in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax." Thanks to Schwarzenegger and Mr. Olympia competitions, this trend continues into today.


Though it started in the '80s in the States, a completely bare look didn’t really proliferate until the '90s. "In the 1980s and 1990s, a landing strip was common," Herbenick says. “Before it was popularised, the bare look was being seen more often in strip clubs and in porn films, though this is less often talked about."

Then, celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Naomi Campbell started talking about their waxing regimes. The first mention of a Brazilian wax in The New York Times appeared in 1998, and a Salon article in 1999 noted the proliferation of celebrity photos on the J. Sisters' salon walls (Gwyneth wrote, "You've changed my life!") Meanwhile, men started grooming a bit more — mostly their chests and backs, but some sensitive parts, too — and it was dubbed the “metrosexual” movement.


Brazilians reach the pinnacle of cultural influence with a mention on Sex and the City. “It was definitely that episode that made it a major boom,” Spruce & Bond's Gulas says. “We’re starting to see now that people are going straight to laser, not even going through waxing; just lasering it all off.”


Brazilian bikini waxes got so popular that researchers began to predict that pubic lice would become extinct. But, as it happens with pretty much everything, there was soon a backlash. In recent years, many started shifting back to the full bush — or, at least, bush in the front, Brazilian in the back. Original Brazilian proponent Gwyneth Paltrow started talking about the beauty of going au naturel, alongside celeb BFF Cameron Diaz. In The Body Book, Diaz published an entire section titled "In Praise of Pubes," referring to them as a "lovely curtain of pubic hair." It's even popped up on American Apparel mannequins.

The Encyclopedia Of Hair: A Cultural History by Victoria Sherrow; Gillette archives

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