Trends in body hair removal as depicted through art

        Hair grooming trends have changed throughout the ages. Increasing numbers of people have permanent or transient removal of some or all of their body hair. The first hair removal devices date back to 30,000 BCE, and initial depictions of hair removal date back to cave paintings that depict men without facial hair. The propensity of men to remove facial hair is also evident in the ancient art of Greek and Egyptian civilizations from 3000 to 50 BCE. The Greeks and Egyptians idealized hairless bodies. Shaving and depilation techniques were commonly used. Greek sculptures depict men and women without body hair. This was generally felt to be a result of common infestations of body hair with parasites and the sense that a body without hair was cleaner. The exception seems to be the presentation of groomed pubic hair in male sculptures. Female pubic hair was not presented in Western art until 1800 with Goya's depiction of “La maja desnuda.” Female pubic hair was often considered erotic. Gustav's “L'Origine Du Monde” painted in 1866 depicted female pubic hair and was considered too controversial such that it could not be displayed publicly. The development of photographic film in 1884 led to the ubiquitous expression of the human body within art and popular media. The first concerted campaign to promote removal of underarm hair started in 1915 in fashion magazines. Hairless legs, pubic areas, and underarms continued to be presented in various formats. The ubiquitous availability of pornography has also played a role in the trends of body hair removal. Recent studies suggest that at least 30% of women and 10% of men remove all of their pubic hair, while up to 65% of women and men engage in some degree of pubic hair removal. The rates of body hair removal are increasing, with one recent survey showing that 70% of adolescent females shave or wax their pubic hair. In conclusion, what initially was likely a practice rooted in the removal of parasites has become part of aesthetic-based grooming rituals in our modern day society. Through an examination of the art produced throughout our civilized history, we can reflect on our current concepts of beauty and body hair.
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