The never-ending debate about how to handle your body hair may be thought of as a modern-day dilemma, but in fact goes all the way back to the dawn of time. Ever since humans have had hair, we’ve been baffled by the best way to manage it. From cavemen all the way through today’s supermodels, here’s a closer look at hair cleaning trends through the ages.
The Roots of Hair Removal
The earliest records of hair shaving as a regular practice date back to ancient Egyptians, although it’s certainly likely that hair shaving trends existed well before then. Egyptian women invented a waxing-like technique known as sugaring to remove hair by the roots, while men used bronze or flint razors, with both sexes sharing the goal of going bald from head to toe.
The close-shaven look was seen in Roman soldiers as well, but for practical reasons: keeping beard and body hair short meant that enemies had a harder time using your luscious locks as battle leverage. On the other side of the ocean, Native Americans are said to have used sharp clam shells to scrap hair from their bodies.
Hair Removal as High Fashion
It’s hard to say whether the famous nude paintings of the Renaissance featuring body-hair-free women were a case of art imitating life or the other way around. In either case, Queen Elizabeth’s absent eyebrows inspired other highborn women to remove theirs, too. Shaving the forehead to make it look larger was also popular for the time.
Keeping up with all this hair shaving got a whole lot easier once the straight razor was invented in 1760. By the 1800s, the first depilatory creams hit the market, although razors designed for women didn’t appear until the early 20th century. The first magazine ad featuring a woman with entirely hair-free underarms hit shelves around the same time, and shaving the legs regularly became popular in the 1940s due to the wartime nylon shortage.
Enter Laser Hair Removal
The earliest version of laser hair cleaning was developed in the mid-1960s, but quickly gained a reputation for severe skin damage rather than a comfortable hair removal experience. The laser used was ruby-based with a short wavelength, which heated up not only the hair follicle but also the surrounding skin. On top of that, treatments were slow, because they could only hit a few hair follicles at a time.
Still, while the technology needed a little work, the idea of laser hair cleanup itself was sound. The development of alexandrite laser technology in the mid-1970s made the idea of commercial laser hair removing again seemed promising. However, the lower heat levels, while safer for the skin, were sometimes too low to be effective for actual hair removal, and years of treatments could be needed to prevent regrowth.
New variations on the same theme continued being tried and tested, until a safe, consistently effective laser hair shaving solution was approved by the FDA in 1997.
Laser Hair Removal Today
In the 21st century, laser hair removal for face and body has become as commonplace as shaving. The development of pulsed diode array lasers allow for adjustable wavelengths and pulse durations, which makes laser hair removal possible for a far wider range of hair and skin tones. Similarly, the use of long pulse lasers now allows for LHR to be performed even on darker skin. The combination of safety, accessibility, affordability and effectiveness has made laser hair shaving one of the most popular nonsurgical cosmetic procedures performed in med spas today.