No Shave November: The History of Facial Hair Removal


It’s the last Wednesday in November, which means it’s time for the last installment in our history of shaving series in honor of No-Shave November. We’ve talked about the regular shaving topics: legs, underarms, and, of course, the bikini area. Now it’s time for facial hair removal.

As you’ve read in earlier articles, removing body hair is not a new thing for women. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all had their own tools and body hair preferences. Taylor Barringer writes in her article “History of hair Removal,” that one of the first trendsetters of removing facial hair in the Western World was Queen Elizabeth I.

While Elizabeth and her followers removed the hair from their faces, their body hair remained untouched. Barringer explained that since large foreheads were in during Elizabeth’s reign, “the fashion of this era was to remove eyebrows and hair from the forehead…which women did by using walnut oil, or bandages soaked in amonia [sic] (which they got from their feline pets) and vinegar.” That’s right, English women were soaking bandages in cat urine and then applying it to their faces to remove unwanted hair.

Note: While I doubt you’ll harm yourself if you apply cat urine to your skin, please don’t try this beauty trick at home. It just seems really unsanitary.

In her Chicago Tribune article “Shaving and fashion: A storied history,” Lauren R. Harrison explains that our modern obsession with body hair removal might have some more recent roots. While there were some women removing body hair in the 19th century, it didn’t gain the popularity it had under Elizabeth I’s rule until Gillette invented the first women’s razor in 1915. Harrison quotes Russell B. Adams Jr., author of “King C. Gillette: The Man and His Wonderful Shaving Device,” that Gillette’s Milady Decollete was “the first razor designed and marketed specifically for women.”

Razors weren’t the only option for women looking to remove body hair. The early 20th century saw plenty of ads, just like the ones for the Milady Decollete, for depilatory creams that could help women with their body image woes. Barringer writes that “in 1907 an ad for X-Bazin Depilatory Powder began circulating, promising to remove ‘humiliating growth of hair on the face, neck, and arms.'”

For those of you wondering why neck hair was an issue to women of the 1900s, take a look at your own neck in the mirror. The hair line is most likely irregular. With all the glamorous up do’s of this decade, trimming and shaving these hairs into a uniform shape was the only option.

By the 1920s and 30s, short hair was the new trend. Instead of having your neck exposed with pinned up hair, the Flapper Girl of that era had hair that barely passed her ears. The trend remains today. Ask any girl with a pixie cut and they’ll tell you that their stylist takes a razor to their neck with every trim.

Barringer states that by the 1950s hair removal became more widely accepted. Rather than completely removing their eyebrows like they did during Elizabeth I’s time, women began using tweezers “to groom and shape their eyebrows.”

Now there are dozens of options for women to remove unwanted hair from their face and neck. They range from at home options like tweezers and shaving to luxurious spa offerings at waxing bars and eyebrow threading studios. There really is no limit to how women can alter their natural body hair.

There’s only 4 days left in November, so hopefully you’ve taken part in No-Shave November by educating yourself on men’s health issues as well as raising awareness by putting down that razor and letting your body hair grow. For those of you who did take part in the no-shaving fun, how did it go? What body part did you not shave? How long did you participate? Share your stories in the comments below or on social media!

Brown, Ian. Eyebrow Work. 22 Apr. 2012. Online image. Flickr. 26 Nov. 2014.


3 thoughts on “No Shave November: The History of Facial Hair Removal

  1. Pingback: No Shave November: The History of Leg Shaving | How Resplendent

  2. Pingback: No Shave November: The History of Underarm Shaving | How Resplendent

  3. Pingback: No Shave November: The History of the Bikini Wax | How Resplendent

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