Body hair is natural, and yet most women are quick to shave off the slightest hint of stubble if there's even a chance their strands might be exposed. London-based photographer, filmmaker, and artist Ben Hopper published his Natural Beauty project in 2014 to showcase a portfolio of women embracing the natural beauty of armpit hair because there really is something so stunning about letting your body grow and progress in the way nature truly intended.
I'm not proud of it, but in high school, I used to pack a disposable razor in my purse just in case I caught a stray hair. Absurd, I know, but between my mother making a big deal about my first shave, to the mainstream media's total lack of representation of female body hair, I couldn't help more comfortable hairless than hairy.
But enough is enough. A woman's body should be valued, respected, and recognized as the masterpiece it truly is, and the last thing that should matter is whether or not she remembered -- or even wants -- to shave.
For starters, armpit hair serves a purpose.
Social norms teach us that smooth is sexy and hairless is cleanliness. Most of us are taught from a young age to properly groom ourselves by shaving hair in intimate places, but similarly to how pubic hair protects the vagina from bacteria and harmful pathogens, our bodies grow armpit hair for a reason.
Haven Spa esthetician Marta Camkiran told Good Housekeeping that underarm hair "reduces friction between the upper and lower arm during vigorous labor or motion, covers exposed parts of the body with vital arteries, and facilitates the release of sex pheromones.”
In other words, shaving is completely optional, and not necessary at all for good health.
We need to stop teaching young girls that bare is the only way to define beauty.
If someone tells you to shave your hair from the moment your body even starts to develop it, it becomes virtually inevitable to associate body hair with a negative self-image. But beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and if young girls are being subjected to these blinders from the start, it's an injustice.
Hopper told Metro.co.uk,
The reason why the female nipple is such a big deal right now is that you don't see it very often, and it's the same thing with the armpit hair. The reason it's such a big deal is because you don't see it that often. If you see it more often, it won't be a big deal.
Women are fighting for body positivity, and for the acceptance of who they are. Every woman has the right to define what's beautiful for herself, but she deserves to have access to all of her options.
Even some celebrities are embracing armpit hair.
When you think about it, women (and men) are living a catch-22. Parents tell their children they can be anything they want to be. Teachers in grade school classrooms encourage individuality, self-expression, and that everyone is beautiful in their own way. But then you get your hands on a fashion magazine, and all those positive messages go right out the window.
Despite the many body-positive movements and efforts to make the media landscape more inclusive, not everything that's natural is accepted. The sad truth surrounding media acceptance, is that trends start and end with a celebrity.
Hopper told Metro.co.uk,
The culture right now has been designed by celebrities, so if you take someone like Kate Moss and she has armpit hair, a lot of women would start growing their armpit hair. The whole idea behind the project was kind of using the system to f*** with the system. That was the whole trick in the project – the fact that all the women look like models, and people are not used to seeing them like that. All of a sudden they have armpit hair, and people are more accepting towards that look. They are more willing to reconsider female body hair.
The upside to this is that, slowly but surely, more female celebrities have started to grow out and show off their armpit hair.
While I wholeheartedly believe celebrities should not determine how we think or feel about our bodies, it's still refreshing to see those with such a strong platform taking a stand for natural beauty.
So, when it comes to armpit hair, whether you choose to love it or lose it is your decision -- either way is still beautiful.