As I decide where I fall on this spectrum, I spoke about my own experiences with body hair anxiety with Juliette Iacovino, PhD, a Boston-based clinical psychologist, who lamented that there isn't a big enough conversation around body hair and how it can impact our sense of identity and worth happening in her field at the moment. “Just from my experience, there are ways that the gender expectations, which body hair goes along with, absolutely influences women’s mental health, and there are a lot of intersectional concerns," she says.
Two obvious ones here are sexuality and gender. But another, less discussed, is race. “A lot of white women tend to have lighter, smoother hair on their skin," says Dr. Iacovino. And as is common in the world of beauty, standards tend to be skewed toward this demo here in the U.S. (Body hair standards vary by culture, so you may find that you feel differently about it depending on where you live or who you hang out with. For example, Dr. Iacovino says that meeting her parter, who is European and is more relaxed about body hair, helped her to become more accepting of her own.)
And texturism, the idea that certain textures of hair are better than others (think: straight vs. curly, fine vs. coarse), exists in body hair, too. "Just like how there is texturism for the hair on our heads," says Alyssa Lynn, a positivity therapist based in Philadelphia. "Imagine if you had 4C hair but it’s on your arms, your legs, your armpits. And then you have to think about how that is going to be perceived to people.”
Often, how other people feel about the way we look influences our perceptions of ourselves. This is normal; it's called being human. But as more people push back on conformity in their beauty routines in favor of individuality and beauty standards continue to shift post-pandemic, don't be surprised if you start seeing more diversity in the way people wear their body hair this summer. And if you're considering keeping yours, but still have some body hair anxiety flare up, try some of these tips from Dr. Iacovino and Lynn to work through them.
- Go out with your body hair and see what happens or take pictures of yourself (even just for yourself)
- Notice what comes up for you when you do this and journal about it.
- Talk about your concerns with supportive friends and peers. It’ll help you realize you aren’t alone.
- Seek out role models for body hair acceptance via social media
- Practice gratitude—your body does so much more than just producing hair follicles
- Talk positively to yourself and practicing positive affirmations
- Remember who you are outside of your body hair and using that to change your focus
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