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The Earliest Hair Removal Is Older Than You Think

Skin Aesthetics Clinic

It is easy to think that the desire for silky smooth legs and arms free from the scratch of stubble is a relatively recent cosmetic goal aided the ability to receive high-tech treatment from a laser hair clinic in Birmingham.

However, hair removal is an art that has evolved over a much longer time period than you may think, with the first evidence of shaving existing over 100,000 years ago.

Here is a brief history of the main historical moments that have shaped our love for shaving and hair removal.


The Ice Age

As early as 100,000 years ago, it is believed that early humans have pulled out body hair, with the primary tool of choice being seashells that were pinched together like tweezers to pluck out hairs, with early shaving using obsidian (a naturally forming glass) and shards of clamshells evolving over the next 60,000 years.

Given that most depictions of humanity in the Ice Age often depicts them as very hairy and animalistic, it turns out that body hair and especially facial hair can be a problem in the extreme temperatures found during the period.

Along with being a home for mites and parasites, body hair once it got wet could easily freeze, which would hold water close to the skin, reduce body temperature and increase the risk of frostbite.

As well as this, it was believed that in a fight, shaving would provide an advantage by reducing the ability to grab excess hair and throw someone to the floor.


The Trailblazing Ancient Egyptians

As humanity moved from small hunter-gatherer groups into early sophisticated civilisations, cleanliness became both an obsession and a necessity for one of the most important civilisations in history.

The Egyptians had the opposite problem to those early humans dealing with the Ice Age. Egypt is an extremely hot place which having long or thick hair can make even worse.

As a result, people who lived on the banks of the River Nile would shave their entire bodies from head to toe as a practical necessity. However, it would soon evolve from a need to a compulsion and a symbol of status and class.

The typical tools for hair removal include a pumice stone, early depilatory creams made from a mix of starch, quicklime and arsenic, early razor blades and even beeswax. Many of the techniques we use today for hair removal can be traced back to Ancient Egypt.

The treatment most associated with the Egyptians, however, was body sugaring, which is where a waxy paste made from sugar, water and lemon juice is spread on the skin before being ripped away with a cloth strip, either removing body hair entirely or ensuring it grew back softer.


Alexander The Great Hair Stylist

Much like in Egypt, Ancient Rome saw shaving as a symbol of class and wealth, although not without controversy.

Early historian Herodotus described the regular bathing habits of the Egyptians as them setting “cleanliness above seemliness”, but pumice stone treatments and razor blades were as common in Rome as in Giza, and the person to thank is a rather unlikely hero of hair removal.

Alexander the Great, one of history’s greatest military leaders, once ordered all of his men to shave their bodies, which whilst initially a strategic move to stop enemy soldiers from having anything to grab onto, soon became a fashion statement in itself, and one that endures to this day.