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I have extremely sensitive skin. Right now, I use four different topical prescriptions and am trying to wean myself off an antibiotic. My dermatologist isn’t sure exactly what’s going on, but her guess is some combination of perioral dermatitis, sebhorreic dermatitis, rosacea, and keratosis pilaris — give or take a few. So it probably goes without saying, but my skin never took kindly to waxing.
When my friends started getting their eyebrows waxed, I played along, heading to the salon every couple weeks to have hot wax spread on my face and promptly ripped off. I’d spend the rest of the day with two pink halos surrounding my now-too-skinny brows, and the next couple weeks with the little bumps that took their place. I hated it, but I was so bothered by the little dark hairs that were starting to line my upper lip, I decided to subject that especially sensitive area to a wax job, too. It took exactly one painful treatment for me to decide, NOOOOOOOOOPE. Never. Again.
In college, I also stopped getting my eyebrows waxed, conveniently in time for thick, messy brows to become cool again. (Thanks, Cara Delevingne!) But I was still bothered by my upper lip hair, so I tried other methods. Bleaching mostly worked, but I didn’t like putting the chemicals on my face. For a little while, I just used those tiny grooming scissors to trim it, which — shockingly — wasn’t that effective.
Finally, my mom asked me, “Why don’t you just shave it?” WHAT! MOOOOOOM! This was an option this whole time, and you’ve been keeping it from me? I was equally outraged and intrigued. I asked her about the laundry list of shaving myths: Won’t it grow back thicker and darker? Once I start, will I have to shave every day? She assured me none of this would happen, and that she herself shaved regularly. Later that day, I grabbed my Venus from the shower (which I wouldn’t recommend) swiped it over my upper lip a few times, and the deed was done. And you know what? A few years later, everything is fine.
I shave maybe once a week now. I upgraded from the Venus to the effective but unfortunately named Touch n Brow ($5). I’m not that bothered by hair elsewhere on my face, but plenty of other women opt for a full shave. My hair is the same thickness as it was to begin with. There are no complaints about stubble from my boyfriend. I don’t have to spend the money getting a wax that would just aggravate my skin anyway. But while shaving isn’t expensive (although it’s more expensive than it should be), it does take up a lot of time — about 72 days over the course of the average woman’s life.
Of course, the idea that women are supposed to appear hairless everywhere — except the top of their head, where they’re supposed to have a full mane of flowing, suggestively fertile locks — is total and complete patriarchal bullshit. Hair removal and maintenance are a personal preference that shouldn’t be based on or suggestive of gender. We’re animals! We all have hair that grows places! I hate that I hate the hair on my upper lip, but at least for now, shaving’s a convenient, affordable and safe way to deal with it.