It’s been a few months since we’ve been pushed into isolation. With everything else that’s changing, so is our beauty routine. Our makeup habits have changed, our clothing preferences have changed, and our skincare needs have changed too. I want all of us to realize that it’s okay to accept all these changes. We’re in isolation, we don’t have to look our best at all times. This includes waxing, a painful process that almost all girls are familiar with.
When I had newly entered early adulthood, I was told that getting waxed was a hygiene need. Later on, however, I learned that it’s a lot more than that.
As a little girl, I used to accompany my mom on her beauty parlor visits. I used to see her eyes water when the women there plucked out her facial hair and waxed her arms. It hurt her. But then she emerged neat and clean—hair-free. It was worth it, or so she’d say. I used to ask my mom why did she get her hair removed if it hurt so much. She always told me that it was important from a hygienic perspective. But only my mom stopped herself at the hygiene part. Other people had more to say regarding the process of hair removal.
I had thick eyebrows when I was younger. And I still do. I vividly remember so many women—my mom’s friends, parlor ladies, my friends’ moms—telling me that I’d look so much prettier if I got my eyebrows waxed. I’d look neat. Some of them couldn’t wait for me to grow up just so that I could get my eyebrows thinned.
Eventually, I started getting my eyebrows waxed and upper lips threaded. I was supposed to look neat, wasn’t I? But then I was told I should also wax my chin hair, my sideburns, and my forehead. And of course, the rest of my body. Sculpting my eyebrows wasn’t enough for them.
When I waxed the rest of my body, I experienced immense pain while they ripped out the little black strands from my skin. I was doing it under an illusion that it was important for me to be clean. Over the years, however, I realized that a perfectly waxed body has become more of a beauty standard. Girls are expected to remove their hair because hairy arms, legs, and faces are unpleasant to look at it.
If waxing really was for personal cleanliness, then the need to suffer the pain of removing our hair won’t fall on girls’ alone; everyone would’ve felt the need to get waxed regardless of their gender. But waxing is gendered. It is a beauty standard that girls are expected to abide by on a weekly or monthly basis.
In normal days, I’m always conscious about covering my body if it’s not perfectly waxed. I wear full sleeves, I don’t pull up my pants too high so that my legs don’t show, I pencil my eyebrows so that they don’t look too thick—because I know I’ll be judged if I’m not hair-free. I won’t be a pretty girl if I’m hairy.
While in quarantine, I thought that I wouldn’t have to get waxed so regularly. I thought nobody cared if my body was covered in hair or not. For once, I felt that I could go without waxing myself for a longer stretch of time without hearing any unsavory, judgemental remarks. But my dream of not putting myself through so much pain, at least while quarantine lasted, was crushed when a girlfriend told me on a zoom call, that small black threads of hair were visible on my arms even across the screen. I ended the call feeling more conscious than ever.
These beauty standards are so deeply embedded in our society, that it’s almost become impossible to extricate ourselves from them. They’ve even followed us in quarantine, a time when we’re supposed to stay indoors and not meet people. I didn’t think it mattered anymore if my body was hairy. But it does apparently.
Waxing is a norm in our society but for the wrong reasons. If you’re doing it for the sake of personal hygiene, or even just to feel good, then that’s still okay. You can wax for different reasons, but it shouldn’t be to measure up to self-imposed beauty standards.