“All-Natural” Depilation

Gaiam.com, Inc

Let me warn you ahead of time: There are pictures of my pasty-white, hairy legs ahead. Brace yourselves; it’s not pretty.

I’ll admit it, folks; I can’t carry off not shaving my legs.

I feel too self-conscious, too grody. To be honest, I wish I didn’t give a damn whether people noticed my dark brown leg hair blowing in the breeze in this early spring weather, but man… I do.

an unshaven leg

Last year around this time, I Tweeted something to the effect of, “I suppose it’s leg-shaving weather again.” My friend PHawk wrote back, “send me $5 or I’ll tell the world about your lack of depilation!” I replied, “send me $5, or I’ll send you photos!” Ha, ha. See? Because women’s leg hair is gross (mine actually is, though.)

I confess with much shame I have been brainwashed by our cultural distaste of female body hair. I hate admitting this!

Intellectually, I know it’s bullshit. Mammals have body hair – it’s a defining feature. Leg hair is not naturally un-female – prior to razors, most women had plenty of leg hair, I’m sure, and it didn’t make them less feminine. Female traits are curves, breasts, et cetera. However, 40 years of marketing has done a job on my head, and here I am, feeling Manly with all this hair.

Rats.

a bottle of nairBut what am I doing today? Posting photos of my own leg hair. Why? Because I think a lot of women fall into the same camp I do – hating shaving their legs, hating hairy legs, not wanting to use nasty, toxic things like Nair, and hoping for a longer period of time between hair removal than shaving can provide.  Too, I hate the feel of the post-shave stubble which crops up overnight, and razor cartridges are Ridiculously Expensive.

When I retreated to the woods this past December, I decided to stop shaving my legs, just to try it out. Spring and shorts weather was months away, so I would have time to test-drive things for a bit.

Not having been blessed with fine, baby-soft, light-colored leg hair, I have shaved my legs for the last, oh, thirty or so years. The exceptions were in high school, when I was on the swim team. Not shaving our legs was encouraged then, to “build up drag” in the water. Then, at the season’s end for the big league meet, we would shave our whole bodies. It sounds weird, but wow – diving into a pool with a shaven body after 8 months of not shaving feels like diving into melted butter. It’s awesome.

But I digress (what a shock.)

This past week, I started wearing shorts (in public) for the first time this year, and everywhere I went, I felt Eyes Upon Me. I’m sure they weren’t really, but I was fairly confident people were whipping out the digital zoom on their cell phones to capture this hideous Leg Hair Situation at the coffee shop. I disliked the feeling of the breeze blowing through my damn leg hair. Ugh!

Bless his heart, The Engineir never once complained.

amanda palmer at the golden globes, unshaven

Do I mind other women who don’t shave their legs, pits, et cetera? Of course not – heck, I admire them. Amanda F. Palmer and Mo-Nique showing up at the Golden Globes in full body hair? Totally. Awesome. Related: A risque but totally dance-able music video (with ukulele) decrying shaving one’s pubes (I wonder if the words “pubes” and “ukulele” had been used in the same sentence prior to that video?)

I wish I didn’t feel disgusting with unshaved legs, and it annoys me to no end I can’t out-rationalize my subconscious. Grrr.

But alright. It is what it is, and I found myself in need of a hair removal solution.

In the hair removal section of our local Meijer’s, I gazed upon the various options – everything looked horrible and full of nasty stuff of which I wanted absolutely no part. Then I spied this: Nad’s Natural Hair Removal Gel. Aha!

a package of nad's natural hair removal stuff

I read over the list of ingredients, somewhat skeptical; sure, it may be “all-natural,” but uranium is “all-natural,” and I don’t really want to slather that all over myself. Upon first glance, it looked ok, so I made my purchase. An added plus, the cotton strips are reusable.

Let’s have a better look, now that I’m home and have easier access to The Googles:

In the gel itself: Glucose, Fructose, Water – Ok thus far! Phoenix dactylifera (Date) fruit extract, Honey, Vinegar, Citrus medica limonum (Lemon) juice, Citric acid – all good. But then, Cl 19140 (Yellow 5,) Cl 42090 (Blue 1,).

Cl19140, commonly called Yellow 5 or Tartrazine, is not awesome stuff. Cl 42090, commonly called Blue 1 or Brilliant Blue FCF, is likewise not good. Both are synthetic colors.  Shit.

Still, these colorings are used in foods everywhere, so I’ve assuredly already ingested some this week. I was willing to tolerate this impurity, but if you’re sensitive to dyes, don’t use it. I have an alternative later in this article.

In the prep wipes: Water, Sodium cocoamphoacetate, Coco glucoside, Decyl glucoside, Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, Fragrance (unspecified.)

drawing of a moleculeNow, just because a product lists a scientific name (which can be long and include word parts like “hydroxy,” “methyl,” et cetera, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “Bad.” Those word parts indicate nothing more than a chemical structure, so we have to figure out what each bit is. We could do that by breaking the word down into its parts, but I’m going to be lazy (and probably more accurate – it’s been a few years since I’ve had Biochemistry) and hit the Googles again.

Sodium cocoamphoacetate – Not bad. As one might surmise from the name, it is derived from coconuts, and is a biodegradable surfactant – it will clean skin oils off the leg.

Coco glucoside – Also not bad, also from plants.

Decyl glucoside – Also not bad, also from plants.

Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate – It’s an organic acid, and seems to be used in conjunction with perfumes a lot, which makes me suspicious – perfume is notoriously toxic. Apparently, this ingredient is “formaldehyde-releasing.” Yick.

Fragrance – this could be anything. Probably not great.

My best advice would be to skip the wipes, and to wash your legs with a natural soap with no moisturizers, and to dry thoroughly before waxing. We do need to remove the oil before trying to apply the gel, because otherwise, it simply won’t stick – it’ll roll off the skin and stick to our spatula (ask me how I know.) Be sure to wash and thoroughly dry the waxing area at least 15 minutes prior to waxing to ensure the residual moisture has evaporated.

In the Moisture + Soothing Body Balm: Water, Cyclomethicone, Caprylic/Capric triglyceride, Cetearyl alcohol, Glycerin, Ceteareth 20, Theobroma cacao (Cocoa) seed butter, Butyrospermum parkii (Shea) butter, Glyceryl stearate, PEG-100 stearate, Tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E,) Retinyl palmitrate (Vitamin A,) Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, Phenoxyethanol, Carbomer, Citric acid, Fragrance, Coumarin.

I am straight-up not using the “balm,” and instead am using plain coconut oil.

On the whole, the Nad’s variety of leg wax is less toxic than its competitors; however, it’s not perfect and I won’t be purchasing it again. Rather, I’ll be making my own, which we’ll cover later.

The wax itself was quite pretty, and I spent some time photographing it – perhaps delaying the inevitable – before gritting my teeth, girding my loins, and diving in.

sugar wax

sugar wax

sugar wax

Initially, I did not heat the gel up in the microwave – this was a huge mistake. At 65 degrees, the stuff is nearly impenetrable with the wooden spatulas, impossible to spread, and generally unpleasant.

sugar wax

sugar wax

sugar wax being applied to leg

sugar wax being applied to leg

It took several minutes and a lot of finagling to get the gel to a thin enough state, and it pulled out rather a lot of hair in the process.

sugar wax being applied to leg

After I heated it for 15 seconds in the micro, it behaved much better.

Have you seen “The Forty-Year-Old Virgin?” If not, I recommend it. There’s a scene in which the main character is having his extremely hairy chest waxed. They actually did wax him and filmed it in real time. His reactions are… not entirely over the top. Waxing is painful. Language warning: There is exceptional foul and very creative language in this clip.


While my “annoying sensation” threshold is really, really low (like with itchy things, or subtle stimuli,) my pain threshold is quite high. While waxing isn’t something I’d do recreationally, it’s not so painful as to deter me from doing it if it lives up to its reputation of allowing a couple of weeks between waxings.

The kit recommends testing a small area to ensure no bad reaction will happen. I picked a spot, and tested. I really didn’t want to wait the full 24 hours, so I waited like 5 minutes. All was well.

cotton waxing strip with leg hair

I dove in.

cotton waxing strip applied to leg

cotton waxing strip applied to leg

At this point, I recommend taking a really deep breath and blowing it out as you rip off the cotton strip. Yelling is optional, but does help to mitigate the pain a bit.  Rip against the grain of the hair, quickly, keeping a low angle of attack relative to the leg.

cotton waxing strip with leg hair

This was Rip One. Not bad.

waxed strip on leg

There are some stray hairs in there which didn’t get fully ripped out. Balls. About ten minutes later, my skin registered its dissatisfaction with this process. However, the irritation was minor, and passed after about 15 minutes.

skin irritation from sugar waxing

You know what I noticed most about the hair stuck to the cotton strips? The nearly complete lack of roots.

cotton waxing strip with leg hair

Ostensibly, when one waxes, the stubble takes longer to reappear because one is ripping out the entire root, and that will take longer to grow back. No roots getting ripped out? No real benefit over shaving. Shit (again.)

Waxing one leg took the better part of an hour. It was messy.

messy sugar wax

Everything in a five-foot radius has some measure of wax on it.

The back of my calf was nearly impossible to get the gel spread upon evenly.

tweezing leg hair

There are a lot of stray left-over hairs, which I’ll need to go back and individually tweeze.

On the whole, it took about 10 times longer to wax one leg than it would to shave. Will the results be worth it? We’ll see, and I’ll report back.

My leg is not as smooth as it would be post-shave, but the stubble starts growing back in a matter of hours after a shave, anyhow.

One other minor nuisance: It may have been because I applied to gel too thickly, but the container of Nad’s is nearly gone after only one leg. Bah!

empty sugar wax container

All things considered, I give Nad’s a grade of “B.” It’s more natural than the competitors, but still has toxic gunk in it. It’s messy and fussy to use, though they all are. It washes off easily and quickly. There’s no fragrance in the gel itself, which is nice.

Here’s a comparison of legs, post-wax:

waxed/unwaxed leg comparison

Thus, I’ll be making my own leg wax using this recipe:

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water

Preparation:

To make sugar wax, cook the ingredients over low heat for about 45 minutes until the sugar caramelizes. Once the sugar mixture cools you should be left with a sticky taffy-like wax. Apply this with a plastic knife or wooden stick in the direction hair grows.

I’ll be using an old kitchen towel as my cotton strip, since the ones that came with the Nad’s are currently drying. They’re not kidding when they say a.) the gel washes off easily, and b.) if the gel gets wet, it’s useless. Any measure of moisture renders the stuff non-sticky. It cleaned off the cotton strips in a matter of moments, which is an added plus over the true, non-sugar-based waxes.

So, I’m off to the kitchen to whip up a batch of sugar wax. Wish me luck; I’ll let you know how it goes.

Here’s how that went: Part Two

Have you tried to make your own? What are your personal politics with women and body hair? Are unshaven women just dirty hippies?

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12 responses to “All-Natural” Depilation


  1. benjaminC

    Let me know how your recipe goes. I’ve used Nair before many, many times and it ‘does the job’ but I’d much prefer a natural alternative

  2. Erin D.

    Will do! It’s cookinating right now. 🙂 I’ve used Nair in the past maybe a dozen or so times, and I just hate the mess, the fumes, and the toxic BS in it. Skin being our largest organ, it just doesn’t make sense to me anymore to do that to myself. If the homemade recipe fails, or if the hair comes back just as quickly as shaving, back to shaving I go. >.<

  3. Juli

    Had to laugh about your “foul and creative” language disclaimer. Science has proved that swearing reduces pain: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1913773,00.html

  4. Erin D.

    I remember seeing that, but had forgotten! Ha! GO SCIENCE. 😀

    Having a relatively foul mouth myself, I don’t think much of it – however, I know a lot of people are incredibly sensitive to bad language, hence the disclaimer. 😉

    I’m currently sitting here, one leg waxed, one not, waiting for the homemade version of the sugar wax to cool off sufficiently to use.

  5. Never tried making my own wax before, but then again my leg hair grows in a rather erratic way…half of it seems to have given up growing at all!

    At least with your wax if it doesn’t work, you could eat it. 😉

    Honestly though, I don’t care if other women shave, wax or not…it’s their decision. Not all non-waxing/shaving people are dirty hippies.

    • Ps. Don’t try waxing your underarms yourself! I tried and just ended up with a lot of pain, wax stuck in hairs and bleeding hair follicles.

      Or it could be that I am just not co-ordinated enough to do so!

      • Erin D.

        Yeah, I could see that being… unpleasant! I’ve never waxed my pits, but it’s an interesting idea! I think I’ll probably take your advice, though, and not try it myself.

    • Erin D.

      I hadn’t tried it before, either – but it worked better than the Nad’s stuff! I was very pleased, once I actually got it to a workable consistency. Thus far, it doesn’t seem like much stubble has cropped up overnight, which is nice. And seriously, the stuff tastes like hard candy, lol. 😀

      I was also kidding about the “Dirty Hippy” comment – it’s a sarcastic remark a lot of my friends make when they’re kidding around. 😉

      • Oh I know it was a joke, I guess written word sometimes doesn’t quite get across the intended meaning [on my behalf!]. I get the dirty hippy comment occasionally from my partner, hehe. Often because he’ll get home to me covered in dirt and with hay in my hair!

  6. nopinkhere

    I shave my pits but not my legs. They resemble yours: light skin, darkish hair. I’ve just decided if anyone has a problem with my legs, tough. I shave my pits because I don’t get as stinky and it’s easier to apply deod. and have it be effective. But I have no practical reason to shave my legs.

    That said, if I ever come into a large amount of $, I’m heading to a laser hair removal place fast!

    • Erin D.

      Good on you, NPH! I do wish I had that lack of giving a shit. I’ve actually thought about laser hair removal, too, pretty seriously… but man, I’m opposed to the whole cosmetic surgery industry.

      I think I’d be more likely to let my pits go, except for the exact reasons you list here.

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