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Hair removal, also known as epilation or depilation, is the deliberate removal of body hair.
Hair typically grows all over the human body. Hair can become more visible during and after puberty and men tend to have thicker, more visible body hair than women. Both men and women have visible hair on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes, armpits, pubic region, arms, and legs; men also have thicker hair on their face, abdomen, back and chest. Hair does not generally grow on the lips, the underside of the hands or feet or on certain areas of the genitalia.
Forms of hair removal are practised for various and mostly cultural, sexual, medical or religious reasons. Forms of hair removal have been practised in almost all human cultures since at least the Neolithic era. The methods used to remove hair have varied in different times and regions, but shaving is the most common method.
CULTURAL AND SEXUAL ASPECTS
Each culture of human society has developed social norms relating to the presence or absence of body hair, which has changed from one time to another. Different standards can apply to males and females. People whose hair falls outside a culture's aesthetic standards may experience real or perceived social acceptance problems. For example, for women in several societies, exposure in public of body hair other than head hair, eyelashes and eyebrows is generally considered to be unaesthetic, undesirable and embarrassing. In Middle Eastern societies, removal of the female body hair has been considered proper hygiene, necessitated by local customs, for many centuries.
With the increased popularity in many countries of women wearing shorter dresses and swimsuits during the 20th century and the consequential exposure of parts of the body on which hair is commonly found, there has been an increase in the practice of women removing unwanted body hair, such as on legs, underarms and elsewhere. In the United States, for example, the vast majority of women regularly shave their legs and armpits, while roughly half also shave their bikini lines.
People may also remove some or all of their pubic hair for aesthetic or sexual reasons. However, some women in Western cultures choose not to remove hair from their bodies, either as a preference or as an act of defiance against what they regard to be an oppressive ritual.
Many men in Western cultures shave their facial hair, so only a minority of men have a beard, even though fast-growing facial hair must be shaved daily to achieve a clean-shaven or hairless look. Some men shave because they cannot grow a "full" beard (generally defined as an even density from cheeks to neck), because their beard color is different from their scalp hair color, or because their facial hair grows in many directions, making a groomed look difficult. Some men shave because their beards are very coarse, causing itchiness and irritation. Some men grow a beard or mustache from time to time to change their appearance.
Some men shave their heads, either as a fashion statement, because they find a shaved head preferable to the appearance of male pattern baldness, or in order to attain enhanced cooling of the skull – particularly for people suffering from hyperhidrosis. A much smaller number of Western women also shave their heads, often as a fashion or political statement.
Some women also shave their heads for cultural or social reasons. In India, tradition required widows in some sections of the society to shave their heads as part of being ostracized (see widowhood in Hinduism). The outlawed custom is still infrequently encountered mostly in rural areas. The society at large and the government are working to end the practice of ostracizing widows. In addition, it continues to be common practice for men to shave their heads prior to embarking on a pilgrimage.
In some parts of the Theravada Buddhist world, it is common practice to shave the heads of children. Weak or sickly children are often left with a small topknot of hair, to gauge their health and mark them for special treatment. When health improves, the lock is cut off.
In Judaism, there is no obligation to remove hair; nor is there a general prohibition to removing hair. However, there is a prohibition for men using a razor to shave their beards or sideburns; and, by custom, neither men nor women may cut their hair or shave during a 30-day mourning period after the death of an immediate family member.
The Bahá'í Faith recommends against complete and long-term head-shaving outside of medical purposes. It is not currently practiced as a law, contingent upon future decision by the Universal House of Justice, its highest governing body. Sikhs take an even stronger stance, opposing all forms of hair removal. One of the "Five Ks" of Sikhism is Kesh, meaning "hair". To Sikhs, the maintenance and management of long hair is a manifestation of one's piety.
Muslim law (Sharia) puts hair in three categories: that which it is recommended and trim mustache. It is recommended to keep (the beard), and that which is the object of recommendation (foot, hand, back, and chest hair). A Muslim may trim or cut hair on head. The hairs on the chest and the back may be removed. In the 9th century, the use of chemical depilatories for women was introduced by Ziryab in Al-Andalus.
Ancient Egyptian priests also shaved or depilated all over daily, so as to present a "pure" body before the images of the gods.
Many forms of cancer require chemotherapy, which often causes severe and irregular hair loss. For this reason, it is common for cancer patients to shave their heads even before starting chemotherapy.
In extreme situations people may need to remove all body hair to prevent or combat infestation by lice, fleas and other parasites. Such a practice was used, for example, in Ancient Egypt.
Male-to-female gender reassignment
In addition, some surgeons recommend that a part of the pubic hair be removed prior to sex reassignment surgery as well, usually by electrolysis. Since the new vagina is created using the skin of the penis and part of the scrotum, which usually has active follicles, the hair is removed from these areas prior to surgery, in order for the genitals to be fashioned without the concern of hair growth inside of the new vagina. In some cases, the surgeon scrapes the underside of the skin to remove the follicles at or near the beginning of the surgery, eliminating the need for post-surgical hair removal.
In the military
The practice serves to cultivate a group oriented environment through the process of removing exterior signs of individuality. In many militaries head-shaving is mandatory for males when beginning their training. However, even after the initial recruitment phase, when head-shaving is no longer required, many soldiers maintain a completely or partially shaven hairstyle (such as a "high and tight", "flattop" or "buzz cut") for personal convenience and an exterior symbol of military solidarity. Head-shaving is not required and is often not allowed of females in military service, although they must have their hair cut or tied to regulation length.
Armies may also require males to maintain clean-shaven faces as facial hair can prevent an air-tight seal between the face and breathing or safety equipment, such as a pilot's oxygen mask, a diver's mask, or a soldier's gas mask.
It is also common for professional swimmers to shave hair off their legs, not to prevent drag with the water from slowing them down as is commonly believed, but to remove a dead layer of skin, providing a heightened 'feel' for the water. Some professional soccer players also shave their legs. One of the reasons is that they are required to wear shin guards and in case of a skin rash the affected area can be treated more efficiently.
In the United States, during the Vietnam War, conservative students would sometimes attack student radicals or "hippies" by shaving beards or cutting long hair. One notorious incident occurred at Stanford University, when unruly fraternity members grabbed Resistance founder (and student-body president) David Harris, cut off his long hair, and shaved his beard.
In Arab countries, shaving off head-hair is sometimes used to shame and humiliate male prisoners.
During European witch-hunts of the Medieval and Early Modern periods, alleged witches were stripped naked and their entire body shaved to discover the so-called witches' marks. The discovery of witches' marks was then used as evidence in trials.
Head shaving during present times is also used as a form of payment for challenges or dares lost involving the removal of all body hair.
Inmates have their head shaved upon entry at certain prisons.
FORMS OF HAIR REMOVAL
Depilation is the removal of the part of the hair above the surface of the skin. The most common form of depilation is shaving or trimming. Another option is the use of chemical depilatories, which work by breaking the disulfide bonds that link the protein chains that give hair its strength.
Epilation is the removal of the entire hair, including the part below the skin. Methods include waxing, sugaring, epilation devices, lasers, threading, intense pulsed light or electrology. Hair is also sometimes removed by plucking with tweezers.
HAIR REMOVAL METHODS
Many products in the market have proven fraudulent. Many other products exaggerate the results or ease of use.
Temporary removal of hair to the level of the skin lasts several hours to several days and can be achieved by
"Epilation", or removal of the entire hair from the root, lasts several days to several weeks and may be achieved by
Permanent hair removal
Permanent hair reduction
CLINICAL COMPARISONS OF EFFECTIVENESS
A 2006 review article in the journal "Lasers in Medical Science" compared IPL and both alexandrite and diode lasers. The review found no statistical difference in effectiveness, but a higher incidence of side effects with diode laser based treatment. Hair reduction after 6 months was reported as 68.75% for alexandrite lasers, 71.71% for diode lasers, and 66.96% for IPL. Side effects were reported as 9.5% for alexandrite lasers, 28.9% for diode lasers, and 15.3% for IPL. All side effects were found to be temporary and even pigmentation changes returned to normal within 6 months.
Experimental or banned methods
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
There are several disadvantages to many of these hair removal methods.
Hair removal can cause some issues: skin inflammation, minor burns, lesions, scarring, ingrown hairs, bumps, and infected hair follicles.
Some removal methods are not permanent, can cause medical problems and permanent damage, or have very high costs. Some of these methods are still in the testing phase and have not been clinically proven.
One issue that can be considered an advantage or a disadvantage depending upon an individual's viewpoint, is that removing hair has the effect of removing information about the individual's hair growth patterns due to genetic predisposition, illness, androgen levels (such as from pubertal hormonal imbalances or drug side effects), and/or gender status.
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