• Tue, Aug 19 - 4:00 pm ET

Why I’m Growing Out My Armpit Hair

hayley hoover

It kind of doesn’t matter what I say in this post, because there are going to be people who form unshakeable opinions about it just from the headline. Some people think armpit hair on women is gross, unhygienic, disgusting, unacceptable. Some people think shaved armpits are a sad symptom of being held captivity by the patriarchy. Others fall somewhere down the middle, with a “do whatever’s right for you” mentality. I’m a member of the latter group… or, at least, I want to be. My relationship with my body hair is a complicated one.

On the one hand, I can agree that women probably wouldn’t be shaving their armpits smooth every day of their lives if we hadn’t been told time and again that that’s what attractive, reasonable women do. I can understand the argument that by not taking a stance against certain beauty standards, you’re letting the bad guy win. On the other hand, I like participating in some of the standards, because I like performing femininity. I want to live in a world where nobody feels compelled (or forced) to follow strict and sometimes oppressive gender guidelines, and I also want to follow the ones that work for my personality and style. At least at this point in my life, a lot of aspects of traditional femininity resonate with me, and I enjoy the girly rituals of painting my face, spraying stuff on my hair, and shoving my feet into strange objects to make my hairless legs look hot. I started to enjoy these things even more once I got a better understanding of how gender identity worked, and when I realized that I get to pick and choose which feminine qualities I want to exhibit. I present my girliness consciously, on purpose. That’s why it’s really frustrating that I can’t decide what to do with my pits.

Removing armpit hair is one of my least favorite parts of the beauty routine, but I’d never really considered skipping it until very recently. Would I feel self-conscious in a tank top if I knew black hair could come peeking out? Would I feel more relaxed and in tune with my natural body if I didn’t have to worry about razor burn or dull blades under my arms every morning? I’m not sure, because I’ve never tried. I’ve shaved that hair away since I was eleven years old. I don’t even know what it looks like, what it feels like. Maybe I would completely hate going without a shave, or maybe it would feel so right that I’d never look back. Maybe I… should try it.

armpit stubble

I still haven’t decided that I’m going to really do it– grow out my underarm hair, I mean– but I’m going to give it a little bit of a shot. I’m going to go four days without touching it, and I’ll reevaluate how I’m feeling after that. If anyone else is interested in embarking on this odd experiment with me (or if you have experience with letting your body hair roam free and you have some advice for me!), don’t hesitate to let me know. This is going to be weird, but I hope I’ll learn enough about myself to make it worthwhile.

Photos: Ariana Rachael Photography, Shutterstock

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  • asdf1234

    Seriously, only 4 days? In my opinion, you should give it at least a week. The more time, the softer the hair will become. In 4 days all you’ll have is horrible, itchy, stubble. (isn’t there an article about bikini growout around here somewhere?!)

  • embee83

    I did this earlier this year for similar reasons! I enjoyed having armpit hair, but once it got very warm out it was kind of (everyone hates this word, but it’s vert apt here!)…moist. I think I will grow it out in the fall/winter and shave in the summer going forward.

    I found that putting a bit of perfume oil in the hair made me feel kinda sexy and got rid of any self consciouness about smelling too, erm, earthy?

    The first few days are going to be itchy, baby powder helps (for me at least)!

  • Samantha Escobar

    You go girl!

  • JennyWren

    I would second waiting for longer than 4 days, as things will get a lot less prickly after about a week. I grew my leg hair out over winter (not conciously, I was just sick, stressed, and living alone and it slid to the absolute bottom of my priorities list) and it was a horrible slog for the first week or two. After that the hair tips softened out and I just didn’t notice it any more.

  • Charmless

    I went two months without touching my body hair during the winter a few years ago. My legs sucked. I’ll never grow out my leg hair again. It poked through my tights and the friction made it itchy even after it was past the stubble stage. The only thing I found inconvenient about my pits was that I’m a sweaty gal and it got worse when there was hair. It’s the same reason I don’t go full bush in the nethers. if I don’t keep that area trimmed up a bit, I feel like I’m sitting in a swamp.

    That… was gross. Sorry.

  • Bennett

    I stopped shaving my armpits about a year ago, at first because I was lazy and also wanted to experiment, and then because it made me feel super-awesome and also more feminine. Now my hair is actually pretty soft and I haven’t felt more sticky through the summer. If anything, I think the hair might wick sweat away? idk if it works like that but…yeah.

    • itpainsme2say

      yes that is exactly the reason we have underarm hair to wick the sweat and control the smell

    • NotTakenNotAvailableWTFDisqus

      I had to shave my armpits a couple weeks back for a part in a local film, and I hated the resulting smell! I can’t wear antipersperant, just deodorant (yay skin allergies!), and since this happened to coincide with typical August weather, I wound up gagging every time I had to raise my arms just a couple hours after leaving the house. So yeah, shaving actually makes me feel grosser.

  • http://sarahhollowell.com/ Sarah Hollowell

    Honestly once I stopped shaving both my legs and armpits, and got through the first couple weeks of feeling really paranoid and anxious going out in public unshaved, it’s been HEAVEN. I feel so much happier now that I’m not constantly worried about if the stubble is showing, if I missed hair (I’m not good at shaving, probably because I didn’t even start until I was 17 and also I hate it), or if I’m even going to feel like it. It’s also a pretty good deterrent for the kind of dudes that I know I won’t want to date.

    I also definitely want to second going longer than four days. It should be a week at the least. Four days is right around when it’s going to be at its prickly, hellish worst, but if you can power past that, you’ll probably forget all about the hair (at least, I do).

  • Serena B.

    I’d be happy to try this with you in the winter, when I wear sweaters and can decide how I feel about this in private before accidentally showing my armpit hair to people / possibly having to answer questions about it

  • amp

    I shave my legs like once a month and my armpits once a week, but I am a hairless freak when it comes to my legs/arm pits.

  • Granger94

    I choose to not shave my armpits this summer. I kinda liked it. It’s really soft and not that long at all. And I didn’t sweat as much this summer. I was a quite concious about it in the beginning, still am, that someone might see or notice. but I don’t really see any pros with shaving now, except that it follows the beauty standard.
    So now I’m at a point where I only shave for special occasions, or outfits that makes me to hyper concious if I don’t shave. Stupid but… yeah.

  • melinda

    i’m a burlesque dancer and i perform with full-on pits… i feel sexy with my ‘french hair’ and the fact that i feel sexy translates to the audience who then perceives me as such. it’s an awesome cycle.

  • NotTakenNotAvailableWTFDisqus

    I don’t shave unless it’s absolutely necessary for a role I’m playing. I smell worse when I do, I hate the feeling of clothing seams against bare skin, I have enough nicks and scrapes from fighting mountains to add to them by fighting razors as well, and I can think of just about anything I’d rather be doing in the morning, not least of which is sleeping! But I understand it’s also a personal preference, and that others may have exact opposite reasons from the ones I gave for why they continue to shave.