Laser hair removal has been a game-changer for men and women worldwide, but getting a handle on unruly hair hasn’t always been so easy.
In fact, throughout history, hair removal practices have ranged from mildly unsettling to absolutely, well, hair-raising.
Perhaps the above shouldn’t be surprising — per the Cleveland Clinic, we’re all born with more than five million hair follicles on our bodies. An eagerness to keep such a jungle in check was bound to crop up at some point in history … but did you know it began in the time of cave drawings and mud huts?
1. Rocks and Shells: Hair Removal in the Prehistoric Ages
Early humans weren’t in the hair removal business for glamorous reasons. Mites and other insects often formed nests and laid eggs in their hair (sorry about that mental image), and frostbite from trapped water against the skin was a profound concern in cold weather regions. As such, cavemen and women turned to personal grooming for entirely pragmatic reasons. The tools of choice? Rocks and shells!
Yes, really. Typically, a sharpened rock was used to painfully scrape hair from the scalp and body. However, shark teeth, flints, and clam shells were also repurposed to keep bugs and calamities at bay.
2. Razors and Paste: Hair Removal in Ancient Egypt
You may have walked like an Egyptian before, but have you shaved like one? For your sake, we hope you haven’t.
Sure, our pyramid-building pals had it a lot better than our prehistoric ancestors, but their grooming was still a sensationally far cry from the luxury of laser hair removal. They’re credited with the “sugaring method” of hair removal, which involved a sticky paste of water, lemon juice, and sugar. This was the predecessor to our waxing techniques of today, but it was anything but painless. Fortunately, the Egyptians also wielded some of the first razors around 3,000 BCE, which they crafted from copper.
While often inconvenient, hair removal was well worth it for the Egyptians — the pharaohs saw shaving as a mark of status.
3. Tweezers and Creams: Hair Removal in Roman Times
Centuries later, the Romans also turned to hair removal to emphasize their class and social standing. Facial hair was strictly for the young and for servants, and it was seen as positively uncivilized to possess pubic hair.
While razors, singing with fire, and pumice stones were used at times, upper-class women in the sixth century BCE often turned to tweezers and depilatory creams to remove unwanted hair. These creams weakened and removed the hair at the expense of potentially painful side effects — certainly not the walk-in-the-park experienced with modern laser hair removal.
4. Plucking and Strange Solutions: Hair Removal During the Renaissance
Unlike their forebears, Elizabethan women weren’t into taming their body hair. But their facial hair? That was a different story altogether.
Queen Elizabeth I herself (1533 - 1603) led the charge for facial hair removal in western culture. She fastidiously shaved back her hairline to create a longer-looking facial structure and plucked her eyebrows until they were scarcely visible. Beyond tweezing, women of the age also often turned to an ammonia, vinegar, and oil solution to stymie hair growth.
5. Brazilian Waxes and Laser Hair Removal: The Modern Era
Matters in the modern world advanced quickly following the Renaissance. King Camp Gillette debuted the first women’s razor in 1915. Brazilian waxing went bonkers in 1946. And finally, laser hair removal has become a worldwide sensation in recent years.
Per WebMD, laser hair removal is now among the most commonly performed cosmetic procedures in the United States. So if you’re tired of tweezing and sick of shaving, you now have a golden ticket to looking and feeling better than ever — without the hassle experienced by your ancestors!