by TakingaDayOffExpecting a history of how the ancients removed their hair (you never see the Ancient Romans or Greeks with beards, do you?), I found that Plucked: A History of Hair Removal deals with that topic pretty neatly in the first few chapters. Historian Rebecca Herzig then moves on from the mundane of how body hair was removed until modern times (waxing, tweezing, burning), to how and why it has been removed for the past hundred years or so.
The ancients have nothing on us moderns for hair removal methods. Herzig describes early 20th century x-ray treatments for removing hair from the face, a painful and largely unregulated procedure. Radiation turned out to be a less than optimal solution to body hair, but as the century and science progressed, hormone therapy became the next craze in exfoliation. As fashions in clothing and hairlessness changed, laser treatment (also painful and sometimes unsafe) emerged. As the 21st century dawned, Brazilian waxing became as common as tattoos and another painful beauty routine was introduced.
Herzig discusses attitudes, science, advertising, the money angle (doctors found that specializing in laser procedure was more lucrative and easier than family practice, for instance). She doesn't ignore men -- although they have only recently begun tending to body hair other than facial in recent years, it's become almost a given that men will do some "manscaping."
Plucked is an academic look at hair removal, but it's entirely readable and fascinating for a general reader. Plenty to ponder as you tweeze your brows or undergo the agony of a bikini wax.
(Thanks to NetGalley for a digital review copy.)
Plucked: A history of Hair Removal
by Rebecca Herzig
publication date: January 9, 2015