Welcome to the Jungle
By Anna Sachse
One of those moments when I realized my fiancé really was the man for me came when he announced that he didn’t understand why women shaved off all their pubic hair in order to look like 10-year-olds; in fact, he didn’t understand why women shaved at all. He preferred his women wooly.
Because I am a woman of Russian descent, his words were more than enough to set my hairy loins on fire. Don’t get me wrong—I, like most women and many men, will continue to prune the hedges so that I don’t frighten people at the beach, but there is a case to be made for forgoing the clear-cut. This week we take a long, hard look at the hair everywhere, but especially down there.
In exploring the nature and nurture of body hair, I found much of the practical, not-simply-appealing-to-vanity information I was looking for on the Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health website, www.kidshealth.org. According to Larissa Hirsch, MD, an expert reviewer for the site, there are two different types of hair on your body. Most women have Vellus hair on their chest, back and face. Vellus hair is usually soft, fine and short, although it can be darker and more noticeable in some women, especially those with darker complexions. This hair helps maintain a steady body temperature by providing insulation (sometimes anorexic people will develop more of this hair, almost like a soft fur, because the body severely lacks fat and is struggling to stay warm).
The other type of hair is called Terminal hair. Meant to provide cushioning and protection, this hair is coarser, darker and longer than Vellus hair. It’s the type of hair that grows on your head, but, around puberty, men begin to grow it on the face and other parts of the body such as the chest, legs and back. It’s also the hair that, whether male or female, sprouts from your armpits and pubic region.
Basically, rather than being freakish or unhygienic, your pubes keep your private bits warm and safe, and are a sign of sexual readiness. Nevertheless, for aesthetic reasons, people use razors, delipatories (chemical creams or gels such as Nair or Neet), wax and electrolysis to rid themselves of their overgrowth. Each person simply has to decide how much energy and money they are willing to put into their own crotch.
Shaving, which simply removes the tip of the hair shaft, is relatively quick and inexpensive, but it usually only lasts up to three days and can lead to razor burn, bumps, nicks and ingrown hairs. In order to avoid the “chicken skin” caused by ingrown hairs, shave in the direction the hair grows.
Depilatories, which react with the protein structure of the hair so that the hair dissolves and can be wiped away, are also quick and cheap, and can have effects that last up to two weeks. But they also have a nasty odor and can cause seriously painful rashes or inflammation.
Waxing—a sticky warm or cold wax is spread on the skin, and then a cloth strip is applied over the wax and quickly pulled off, taking the hair root and dead skin cells with it—usually lasts from three to six weeks and hair regrowth often looks lighter and less noticeable. It’s cheaper to DIY, but when it comes to your genitals, you may want to trust the professionals at a salon.
Finally, if you want to flatten the forest for good, you can always mortgage the house and spring for electrolysis. During several expensive, long, painful appointments, a professional electrologist inserts a needle into each follicle and sends an electric current through the hair root, killing it. The bikini line can take eight to 16 hours, but the results are usually permanent.
Or you can just skip it all, rent a few ’70s porno flicks and celebrate the bungle in the jungle.