The hairlessness norm: The removal of body hair in women

Marika Tiggemann, Sarah J. Kenyon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    68 Citations (Scopus)


    This study aimed to investigate the frequency and meaning of the removal of body hair in women. Participants were 129 female university students (mean age = 22.3 years) and 137 female high school students (mean age = 14.3 years). Almost all (>95%) were Caucasian. It was found that, as predicted, the vast majority (92%) of women remove their leg and/or underarm hair, most frequently by shaving. This was irrespective of their feminist beliefs, but was negatively related to self-esteem in university students. The reasons cited for hair removal were primarily concerned with a desire for femininity and attractiveness. However, the reasons provided for starting to remove body hair differed between the groups, in that they were relatively more normative for the university students than for the high school students. It was concluded that women's stated reasons for starting the practice of hair removal reflect primarily their vantage point as an observer. In fact, removing body hair is a practice so normative as to go mostly unremarked, but one which contributes substantially to the notion that womens' bodies are unacceptable as they are.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)873-885
    Number of pages13
    JournalSex Roles
    Issue number11-12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 1998


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