A ritual that’s practically become a necessity for women today, waxing has taken a few centuries to become a social norm. Legs, arms, armpits, eyebrows, bikini line, everything goes now: a study led by Patinel in 2006 showed that 20% of young French women only wax in the summer, and the remaining 80% wax all year round.
In ancient Egypt, body hair was considered to be impure and a symbol of animality: pharaohs and the religious had to remove all body hair, and women weren’t allowed hair in their pubic region. Muslims were very early to wax their legs, using sugar-based wax that they prepared themselves. But the arrival of Catholicism in the West prevented the spread of such practices. Catherine de Médicis even went as far as banning female hair removal, apart from plucking the forehead which was fashionable during the Renaissance. Waxing as we know it didn’t take off until much later, in the 1920s, with the arrival of short dresses, followed by paid holidays (1936) and transparent nylon stockings from the United States (1946). The first advertisement for female waxing (see opposite) appeared in 1915, it reads: “Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair.”