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Earlier this week, Madonna took to Instagram to share a candid shot of herself and daughter Lourdes Leon, 24, mid-selfie. Sweet in many ways, the pair's bond was sealed with an even more thoughtful caption, "Like pieces of your heart walking around outside of you," the 62-year-old pop icon told her 15.8m followers. But mother-daughter PDA aside, there's another reason this post is sparking interest — Lourdes's armpit hair.
Ah, body hair. It's the prickly subject that keeps on giving. Some love it, while others loathe it. And it's clear where Lourdes stands on that front. She has long supported the movement for normalising natural body hair via frequent displays of unshaved body parts.
In 2018 she flouted regressive beauty standards by appearing on the 2018 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Awards red carpet with arm, leg and underarm hair intact.
Perhaps it's in her blood. Afterall, Madonna herself was keen to showcase her own hirsute underarms in 2014. But, the mother-daughter duo aren't the only ones making a case for body hair.
Julia Roberts made one of the most memorable public body hair moments when she appeared at the premiere of Notting Hill dressed in a red sequin dress with a set of equally dazzling fully-grown pits to match. Then there's everyone from Miley Cyrus to former Woman's Hour presented Jenni Murray, who in 2018 revealed she hadn't shaved her armpits in 50 years, claiming "I remain proudly and defiantly hirsute."
More recently, Katy Perry knuckled down about the realities of life since giving birth to daughter Daisy Dove. Speaking on American Idol the singer admitted, "As a new mother, I don't have very much time, so I have quit shaving my legs."
Given that women have been contending the unspoken rules which dictate whether female body hair is 'normal' (spoiler alert, it very much is) since well before Sophia Loren (pictured below circa 1955), it is puzzling that in 2021 the conversation is still being had. Thankfully, a flurry of hair removal brands have started to weigh in on the matter.
Having sought to shift the narrative, brands are now actively disrupting outdated perceptions surrounding body hair by altering their campaign messages. It is no longer about removing hair, but the choice to do so. Agency is therefore being put back into the hands of women who may or may not choose to buy into the many tools on offer, as well as the progressive body care brands that offer them.
Such brands have shaken up beauty adverts. Take US-based brand Billie, a ‘female-first razor brand’ and the first to show female body hair in a razor ad with #ProjectBodyHair. Its campaigns made us question why we had never questioned the lack of body hair in commercials selling women's hair removal products – surely a razor can't be seen to be doing a very good job when it's used on skin that is already as smooth as a dolphin? They highlighted that existing adverts were not just plain bad, they were using archaic visual strategies to uphold problematic ideals of beauty.
Vegan and cruelty-free razor brand Estrid sings from the same hymn sheet. Its pastel coloured tools manage to make shaving look chic, helped no doubt by its campaigns which inclusively showcase body and hair positivity, while celebrating the plurality of choice.
Even Gillette, which ran the first advert telling women they had a product ‘that solves an embarrassing personal problem’ over 100 years ago, has moved with the times. Its Gillette Venus 'My Skin. My Way' campaign both challenged stereotypes and encouraged women to feel comfortable in their own skin.
And that's what it all boils down to: comfort, a thing that is subjective and so personal to us all.
During lockdown, many of us who had always preferred to remove body hair had no access to clinic and salon-based treatments. It meant, for those of us who did not want to take matters into our own hands, we got reacquainted with our naturally hairy selves, and are now less inclined to snap back into becoming slaves to waxing, shaving and depilatory creams et al.
It goes along with the rise of grey hair, the absence of talented colourists amid three national lockdowns has encouraged us to embrace our authentic selves. Whether going natural with the hair atop your head or that which covers your body, comfort and freedom of choice is the point here.