Morgan Mikenas put down the razor more than a year ago.
The bodybuilder and Instagram fitness guru, based in Indiana, posted a photo of her slightly visible armpit hair last week, embracing her strands.
“It’s just nice to embrace the natural beauty that you are.. the beauty that’s on the inside AND the outside☺💙 What is beauty anyway? To me.. it’s to be beautiful before someone else told you what beautiful is supposed to be.. Just as you are, you are beautiful,” she wrote on Instagram.
In March, Mikenas posted a video on YouTube to explain why she decided to forgo shaving altogether. And while the purpose of her video wasn’t to shame people who shave or to convince others to stop shaving, she said going razor-free has helped her feel more comfortable with herself.
“My number one reason why I stopped was that it just took so much time,” she said in her YouTube video. “One day I was like, ‘why am I doing this anymore?'”
Mikenas said she started noticing her body hair was softer and not itchy and uncomfortable.
She also recalled a time when she was in middle school and was made fun of for having hairy legs. “What does that say if that is how these kids are being taught?”
“If I let me leg hair grow out in the past… I would feel dirty, I would feel kind of ashamed because I just didn’t feel feminine,” she continued. “I would feel obligated to go shave my legs so I feel good and feel sexy, but not anymore.”
Mikenas said these days she loves her body hair and it doesn’t matter where it grows.
“I just like being my most natural and human self.”
Embracing body hairy in pop culture
Even some celebrities have jumped on the body hair-loving bandwagon. In March, Paris Jackson said she was proud of her body hair, especially her armpit hair, Teen Vogue reports, and although some people were angry at her remarks about body hair, Jackson simply told them to “get over it.”
And who could forget actress Julia Roberts on the red carpet of the premiere of Notting Hill in 1999, with full bushy armpit hair?
Not everyone can go hair-free so easily
But body hair still seems to be a taboo topic. For anyone who grew up with more visible body hair than their classmates, it is a reminder of how “ugly” you felt.
Sana Ahmed, a 33-year-old artist and writer based in California, says the practice of hair removal for some can start when they are infants. Some, for example, would rub dough on children, let it dry and peel it off to remove unwanted hair.
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“After spending some of my pre-teen years in Karachi, Pakistan, I learnt that beauty was simple: fair meant beautiful, hairy meant ugly — an inconvenient truth, that rest assured, can be attested by most South Asian, as well as, Middle-Eastern women,” she says.
And although shaving was frowned upon in her household, she turned to more painful methods like waxing to get rid of her upper lip hair, unibrow and sideburns.
“As I finally get comfortable in my own (hairy) skin, I scarcely fret about superficial hogwash, that’s floated in popular culture, in glossy magazines, and ultimately, passed down from generation to generation. The concept of hair removal, deemed disgusting by most, is as old as time, and is likely to stay for a long time to come.”
What our body hair can do
Dr. Jennifer Pearlman of Pearl Rejuvenation in Toronto says although Western society has generally accepted hairless female bodies as the acceptable beauty standard, body hair serves biological purposes as well.
“These may include temperature control and protection,” she tells Global News.
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Pearlman says body hair can protect the skin from physical trauma, sunlight and any other foreign parties.
But Pearlman understands the appeal of why some women want to be hair-free. Besides these so-called standards of ideal beauty connected to being hairless, shaving is painless, affordable and convenient.
However, she adds, it can also be damaging to your skin.
Shaving can cause quicker hair growth, redness, irritation and ingrown hairs, she says. You also increase your risk of potential cuts and scars.
Shaving is also temporary, which means you can increase the risk of infection.
And while the removal of body hair continues to be a personal choice, she says laser, waxing or chemical hair loss are other options.
And for Ahmed, she has learned to not care so much about these beauty standards anymore.
“Now that I am the mother of a girl, who is a product of not only her mother’s genes, but also, her father’s Irish hairiness — I have come to care a lot less, or, sometimes not at all, about aesthetic standards. As trite as the saying is, it still rings true: beauty is, after all, only skin deep.”