The Strange Secret History Of Hair Removal Will Blow Your Mind

From Rome to Peaky Blinders, the 21st century has blessed our Netflix accounts with an array of period dramas praised for their attention to historical detail. But somewhere between Elizabeth I’s apparently on-fleek eyebrows and multiple 18th-century sex workers with full-on Brazilians, the details get a little hazy.

While it’s true that people have been shaving, waxing, sugaring, and tweezing on and off since the beginning of time, practices — and preferences — have varied wildly from generation to generation and across the globe. Ahead, discover some of the weird and wonderful things our ancestors got up to when it came to their hair…

Cropped Cavewomen

Though it’s fair to say that body fuzz is a feminist issue in 2017, hair removal began with equality between the sexes. Archaeological evidence suggests that both female and male early humans shaved their heads and facial hair to avoid frostbite from water becoming trapped and frozen against the skin. This was pre-history and well before the invention of the wax strip, though, so the main hair-removal method was a razor made from clam shells, animal teeth, and sharp flints. And we thought dry shaving was bad.

Pharaohs’ Facial Hair

Ancient Egyptians were big fans of full-body hair removal, as they believed it was a signifier of hygiene and cleanliness — and we still use some of the methods they pioneered today, including waxing and sugaring. Archaeologists even discovered a razor alongside other toiletries in the tomb of Queen Hetepheres. (Fortunately, we’ve ditched the less appealing methods, like the early depilatory concoctions of arsenic and quicklime described in Victoria Sherrow’s Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History.) But for the female “kings” of the time, sporting a tie-on false beard was common for lady pharaohs like Khentkawes I and her successor, Hatshepsut.

Ancient Greek Unibrows

The trend of hair removal continued into Europe, where Ancient Greek women were expected to remove their pubic hair. A full bush was considered “uncivilized,” Sherrow writes, and the artists of the time did not show signs of pubic hair on statues portraying women. Above the waist, though, hair was definitely in — especially the prized unibrow — and women used powdered minerals or soot to darken and define their brows. Meanwhile, in Rome, some women were actually fashioning fake brows made of fur, as Michael Sims describes in Adam’s Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form — with both Ovid and Petronius referring to the practice in their writings.

For the female “kings” of [Ancient Egypt], sporting a tie-on false beard was common for lady pharaohs.

Medieval Foreheads

By the Middle Ages, the attitude toward all body hair had taken a complete U-turn. The edicts of the Catholic Church meant women were supposed to grow out their hair as a display of femininity but keep it completely concealed when in public. As Paul B. Newman writes in Daily Life in the Middle Ages, wealthy and fashionable women of the 14th century started plucking the hair from their foreheads in order to raise the front of their hairlines, creating the illusion of a higher forehead and an elongated face.

When the flame-haired Elizabeth I came to power in 1533, she revolutionized the brow game in England. Many of her subjects chose to dye their hair and brows similar shades of strawberry blonde, with some using a corrosive mixture of rhubarb juice and oil of vitriol (now called sulfuric acid) to lighten theirs. Ouch.

17th-Century Sex Workers

Trends of all sorts come and go, and by the 17th century, women were loving a bit of fake hair down there. In 1714, Alexander Smith wrote in A Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen about “the hairy circle of [a] prostitute’s Merkin.”

For those who are unfamiliar, a merkin is a wig placed on the vagina to replace natural pubic hair that’s been removed, which was common practice among sex workers who didn’t want to catch pubic lice — and also those who had something to hide under there, in the days before penicillin.

Victorian Virgins

During the 18th and 19th centuries, women were again expected to display as little open sexuality as possible, and that included showing no body hair under long sleeves and even longer skirts. One Victorian doctor, William Acton, was even quoted as saying, “The majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled with sexual feeling of any kind.” Clearly, he had never watched The L Word.

There’s a very famous, very long-standing rumor that John Ruskin, England’s leading art critic of the time, left his five-year marriage unconsummated as he fainted on his wedding night in 1848, allegedly at the sight of his new wife’s pubic hair. While much-disputed, the tale can’t be ruled out — and the silence around female body hair probably did leave some Victorian virgins extremely surprised.

The shortage of nylon during [World War II], combined with the shorter skirts in fashion, even led ladies to shave their legs and paint on a fake seam to recreate the look of stockings.

20th-Century Baldness Begins

The turn of the 20th century brought in a new age of hair removal. The first women’s branded razor, the Milady Décolleté, hit the open market, and an advertisement for depilatory powder, published in a 1915 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, advised “the removal of objectionable hair,” warning would-be flappers that “Summer Dress and Modern Dancing” could lead them to flash too much underarm hair.

By the time World War II began, women were shaving regularly, as well as plucking their eyebrows to get those perfect ’30s pencil-thin arches. The shortage of nylon during the war, combined with the shorter skirts in fashion, even led ladies to shave their legs and paint on a fake seam to recreate the look of stockings.

Mid-Century Mixed Messages

Things started to get a little more complicated in the 1960s, when the first modern wax strips hit the market, and Raquel Welch’s iconic portrayal of a prehistoric cavewoman wearing nothing but a bikini made from the skin and hide of a deer sent many women running to remove hair from almost everywhere.

The fuzz-free swimsuit trend continued until the 1970s as the first “safe” electrolysis was approved, and some women jumped at the chance to be hairless from head-to-toe. But at the same time, the ’60s and ’70s were also the decades of free love and a full bush — in 1972, The Joy of Sex brought illustrations of a distinctly unshaven woman’s genitalia into almost every home.

A Bald Brave New World?

The close of the 20th century was a chilly time for body hair: Fashion trends like ’80s Daisy Dukes and ’90s micro-minis meant there was just no room for body hair. In the 21st century, Brazilian waxes hit the real world and the small screen: Who can forget the infamous Carrie-gets-a-wax scene from Sex and the City, or the time that Jennifer Love Hewitt devoted a chapter in her book to all matters of vajazzling?

It wasn’t just our hair down there that we started to invest in; the brow industry more than tripled in value from 2011 to 2016. But the future of body hair might not be all about how to get rid of it: Amber Rose’s call to #bringbackthebush, for example, has inspired a whole Instagram movement, while even Emma Watson has given the thumbs-up to luxury pubic-hair grooming products. Big brows are back and bolder than ever, and inspiring icons like activist Harnaam Kaur are breaking down gender stereotypes every day.

Perhaps the most game-changing body hair trend of 2018 won’t be how much fuzz women have, but the freedom to grow whatever the hell we want, wherever we want.

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This Japanese Politician Got Kicked Out For Bringing Her Baby To Work

Yuka Ogata, a member of the city assembly in Kumamoto, Japan, had been asking whether she could bring her baby to work ever since she got pregnant last year.

But after getting the runaround — the secretariat reportedly insisted she hire a babysitter — she decided to go ahead and bring her 7-month-old son anyway. On November 22, the day she brought him, male politicians surrounded her, questioning the child’s presence, according to The Asahi Shimbun.

Finally, she left, escorted by Chairman Yoshitomo Sawada, dropped off her son with a friend, and returned alone. The assembly meeting started 40 minutes behind schedule.

Today, the Kumamoto city assembly issued a written warning to Ogata, saying she broke the rules, according to The Japan Times. Visitors “are not allowed to enter the chamber during a session under any circumstances,” according to the rules, though it says nothing specifically about members’ children.

“I wanted to highlight the difficulties facing women who are trying to juggle their careers and raise children,” Ogata said after the session, reported Asahi Shimbun.

Sawada said that the secretariat will “hear her request again and discuss the issue at the assembly steering committee.”

Ogata was elected to the assembly in April 2015, and also has a 4-year-old daughter.

Japan ranks 114th out of 144 countries when it comes to gender equality, which is one of the lowest rankings among industrialized nations, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum. (The U.S. is in 49th place.) Both mothers and fathers are entitled to childcare leave until the child turns 1, and receive two-thirds of their salary for the first six months of leave and 50% after six months. According to a government survey conducted in 2015, 31.8% of full-time employees went back to work within a year of giving birth. But while fathers get the same amount of leave, only 2% of them chose to take it in 2015, according to a report by Business Insider.

Bringing babies to work has been a much-discussed topic as of late, with more companies instituting pro-baby policies. But mothers, including lawmakers, are still running into discrimination. In June of this year, Australian senator Larissa Waters made news for being the first politician to deliver a speech while breastfeeding. While the Australian parliament changed its rules to allow female lawmakers to nurse their babies while in the chamber, she still got a considerable amount of criticism on Twitter and otherwise.

Female politicians in other countries, including Iceland and Spain, have also attempted to normalize bringing their children to (and breastfeeding in) lawmaking chambers.

Women are changing what it means to be a mother who works, and we applaud Ogata for taking the initiative.

Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you’re thinking about kids right now or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it’s time we talked about it that way.

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This Is The Second Year With A December Supermoon — Here’s What It Means For You

We are in for a stunning display this weekend, stargazers. When the moon waxes to fullness this Sunday, December 3, it will be at a point in its orbit where it is particularly close to Earth, causing it to appear larger and brighter than usual. It is known as a supermoon and, if your eyes were on the sky last year, you might recall that December 2016 saw this phenomenon coincide with its full moon, too.

Around that time, psychic Rose Smith told the Daily Mail that a supermoon could throw our holiday plans into complete peril, describing visions of relationships hitting the rocks and people fighting over high heels while shopping. Seeing as how last December’s supermoon was the third one in a row and it occurred later in the month than this year’s will, and thus closer to the holidays it would affect, Smith’s predictions were quite specific. Her warnings of chaos might not apply to us this year, but that doesn’t mean you should sleep on this weekend’s lunar event.

Given the moon’s perceived size and brilliance during a supermoon, it’s believed to wield a greater amount of influence over us than a regular full moon would. Psychic medium Natalia Kuna writes that supermoons have a magnifying effect — experiences, sensations, and memories may feel more intense under these moonbeams. A supermoon’s energy can prompt you to react strongly to news that you’d normally let roll off your back. If it feels like your emotions have been cranked up to 11, you might have the moon to thank.

Of course, the holiday season can have similarly jarring effects, regardless of what’s going on in the sky. When this time of year coincides with such a powerful celestial event, the urge to duck and cover until springtime is all too real, but there are ways you can use the moon’s influence to your advantage.

Sure, this supermoon’s early arrival will kick off December on a high-intensity note, but, given the right mindset, it’ll also be the kick in the pants you need to tackle your holiday plans with gusto. In the same way that this big and bright moon can make us feel a little, er, touchier than usual, it can also be a great motivator. If you’re ready to hit the ground running, the supermoon will serve as the wind beneath your wings.

The key to making this lunar moment work for you is to go into it prepared for success. Make your shopping lists and start browsing options for flights now, before this Sunday rolls around, and you’ll deftly avoid being a sitting duck to the moon’s powerful beams.

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Here's How You Can Smell Like One Of Music's Biggest Icons

Diana Ross: living legend, musical icon, queen of glamour. So how is it that the woman who brought us Mahogany chic and pioneered the wet hair look long before Kim K. never entered the beauty biz in her decades-long career? (To be fair, there was that capsule MAC collection in 2005, in which the singer offered a “playful, no stress ” take on makeup. And it was good, but way too limited if you ask us.) Which is why we were particularly excited about Ross’ latest foray: a signature fragrance hitting HSN on December 5.

It’s fittingly named Diamond Diana, and looks every bit as glamorous as Ms. Ross herself. The black box opens like a fine jewelry case, hinged from one side and ready to be closed on your fingers like a scene from Pretty Woman. The bottle inside is shaped like a faceted diamond. Its rollerball counterpart? A sleek black pen, tipped with a big fat rock nestled into a gold-prong setting.

The scent itself has clean, citrusy top notes of mandarin, bergamot, lemon and apricot before giving way to a sexier, musky base of sandalwood, black rose, and coriander. It feels every bit the icon we’ve come to know on the stage. But as Ross tells Get Out Magazine, the impetus of the eau de parfum drills down to a more relatable core: rhythm, nostalgia, and heart: “This personal fragrance is inspired by the powerful connection between music and sensual memories,” she says. “Sensual scent vibrations are carried from heart to heart like music.”

Not that Ross is going too earth goddess with the release: The fragrance is priced at $95, and as she also told the publication, “Everyone should have a diamond!”

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