A recent study conducted by the Mintel agency shows that we're making progress in the fight against sexism. In 2013, 95% of women ages 16 to 24 reported shaving or waxing their armpits, but as of 2016, the number went all the way down to 77%.
And 92% reported shaving their legs in 2013, compared to only 85% last year. These numbers are confirmed by the drop in sales of razors and other hair removal products in the United States, which decreased by 5% between 2015 and 2016.
Roshida Khanom, the director of the beauty department at Mintel explained to the Telegraph that women are being influenced by the "wellness movement" and that products like hair removal lotions and shaving cream are bad for the skin, leading women to seek out more natural beauty products.
"Clean eating is behind some of those changes. They're worried about causing irritation from their skin because of these products."
In the United States, 53% of young women say they only use products with natural ingredients and they've replaced shaving with other hair removal processes.
In parallel with the decrease in shaving, women are taking better care of their skin. Khanom reported that "29% say they are adding steps to their skin care routine."
A win for feminism
The director pointed out that "there's also some pushing back against societal expectations of what women should look like." Discussion around body hair has been a hot topic in the United States for a few years now.
For example, Mic reminds us that in the series Girls, women were shown throughout all five years of the series with realistic bodies including pubic hair. Similar images are present in shows like Broad City and of course, all over Instagram.
It seems that social media has played the biggest role in allowing new representations of women to become the norm, instead of the retouched and stereotypical photos of models in fashion magazines.
According to Mic, the taboo against pubic hair went away in 2013, when photographer Petra Collins posted a photo of a woman wearing panties with her pubic hair coming out the sides.
Instagram censored the photo, so she reposted it on Twitter. Other similar posts caused a scandal, raising awareness about body hair and shaving. Ashley Armitage, for example, is an advocate for natural bodies and uses her Instagram account Ladyist to rally for the cause.
She posts photos of "normal" women, showing that unlike what we've been told, there is nothing unfeminine, unsexy or dirty about body hair.
As Armitage explained to Mic:
"Right now it seems like there's a group of girls on social media fighting for body hair acceptance, and not just fighting for body hair, but fighting for our right to choose.
It's really a fight about allowing a girl the agency of her choice. You wanna shave? Great! You wanna grow it out? Great! Any way you like it, it's your choice."
The importance of visibility
Her photos have gotten their share of negative comments, but they've also opened the minds of many. Some people have told Ashley that when they saw her photos for the first time, they were disgusted, but after awhile, they got used to it and eventually became totally comfortable seeing body hair.
That's why visibility is so important. It offers an alternative to the sexist stereotypes about what the "perfect" body is supposed to be. By representing other types of bodies as normal, the message is finally getting through.
Especially because celebrities who usually try to uphold societal ideals (actresses, singers, etc.) are leading the movement to liberate women's bodies. In another article, Mic cites Adele. When Vanity Fair asked her if her boyfriend had a problem with her not shaving her legs, she responded:
"I'll have no man telling me to shave my fuckin' legs, shave yours"
Miley Cyrus has also grown out her armpit hair several times and does not hide it on Instagram or on stage.
Millennials seem to be leading the fight by posting videos and photos all across social media. Instead of being removed or hidden, pubic hair now has its own beauty products and people are even coloring their armpit hair. Instagrammers like Caroluna have expressed relief at the new trend:
"I finally learned how to love all the things about myself i wasted so much time hating."