'I truly think underarm hair looks wonderful on a woman, or anyone.' Why I stopped shaving my armpits.

This week, movie star Rachel McAdams appeared on for a profile, and to promote her upcoming film Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The headline image featured the 44-year-old reclining on a red velvet couch, looking fresh, gorgeous and relaxed. And under her arms – so subtle you could almost miss it – peek out the light brown tufts of hair of her unshaved armpits.

It’s not something you see very often on celebrities, or anyone, really. While culturally, the removal of body hair is different everywhere, in the Western world shaving your armpit hair is what the vast majority of women do, right from puberty. Those ‘rules’ however, don’t apply to men.


In this profile, she speaks about her childhood, career so far, and family life, but it’s her underarms that have dominated headlines for the last few days. Because, even in 2023, armpit hair is still considered somewhat of a statement.

I stopped shaving my armpits a few years ago now. For a while before that, I’d stop shaving in the winter, knowing no one would be seeing my armpits for months on end. But I made the more deliberate choice to embrace hair all year ‘round, no matter who would see it, for two reasons: feminism, and laziness.

Both are pretty self explanatory. Firstly, laziness, which includes being comfortable to me. As Rachel says in a video for Bustle accompanying her profile, “Shaving is intense”, and she’s not wrong. Dragging a razor over my soft skin every day for years resulted in ingrown hairs, painful bumps, and meant I was trying to time my showers for when I could get the smoothest underarms for whatever I was doing that day (and I refused to consider dropping hundreds of dollars to laser them). When I stopped shaving, and got past a few days of regrowth, I realised I loved the soft fuzz that sprouted there. My shower routine was simplified, and there was one less bit of preening I had to do to feel ready to leave the house. Plus, I truly think underarm hair looks wonderful on a woman, or anyone.

Watch: 6 facts about body hair that will surprise you. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

And of course, feminism. A lot of my choices come down to this simple criteria: if it takes a lot of time, money, or is painful, and men don’t do it, neither will I. That is not to say that shaving your armpits is ‘anti-feminist’, of course. We all have the right to choose what we want to do with our bodies, but when the overwhelming choice most women make is to endlessly shave, painfully rip the hair out with wax, or shell out money for laser, it’s worth examining whether you feel like you’ve made the choice because you want to, or because you feel like you have to. 

Men aren’t expected by society to remove any body hair at all, except maybe facial hair, and we all know beards and stubble are generally accepted everywhere these days, even in corporate environments.

Often the argument I’ve heard is that it’s not hygienic to have underarm hair. A point easily refuted by the fact that almost all men have armpit hair and are not less hygienic than us. In fact, like all our body hair, it serves a purpose, by reducing friction when doing activities like running and walking. Shaving, on the other hand, can cause sensitivity, ingrown hairs, razor burn and even skin tags.

Listen: Are We Allowed To Say We Hate Our Bodies? Post continues after podcast.


Rachel would have known that her armpits were going to make a splash when lifting her arms for that photo shoot, and was brave enough to do it anyway. And before you roll your eyes at my use of the word brave, consider how radical it is for a woman to step outside the norm of what is acceptable for us to look like, especially on the public stage. From Justine Bateman’s untouched face, to Andie McDowell embracing her grey hair, it actually makes headlines (and garners criticism believe it or not) when women refuse to conform to the invisible guidelines forced upon us by society.

And these are beautiful, white, cis and able-bodied women; the stakes are higher when different types of women and people do the same. I know that my underarm hair looks nothing like Rachel’s; my Greek heritage bestowing on me thick and dark hair that you can practically see even with my arms by my side. 

At the end of the day, shaving or not is a personal choice, up to each individual person. But how free are we to make that choice, when our culture is constantly bombarding us with images of hairless bodies, retouched faces, and slim, smooth bodies. I’m grateful to Rachel McAdams for embracing her underarm hair, and hope that it might mean someone considers the option of not shaving if they don’t want to. Because they like how armpit hair looks, or because they don’t want to conform to what society expects of them, or simply because they can’t be bothered to shave. But the choice is there.

Featured Image: Canva.

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