Our ancestors were not hairy, unshaven beasts. The modern trend for smooth legs and shaved armpits dates back to the pre-Christian era, when hairlessness was a sign of socio-economic status. Wealthy types would use everything from pumice to tweezers to creams to scrape, pluck, or dissolve away unwanted hair from head to toe.
Regional preferences varied. Europeans tended to focus on removing facial hair, while in Middle Eastern cultures, body hair was the enemy for both men and women. All cultures had multiple customs to effectively remove unwanted bits of hair, especially since body lice were prevalent in those days.
Many of those customs were lost when the first razor was invented in 1760. When King Camp Gillette invented the safety razor in the 1880s, the modern shaving age arrived, and the introduction of a women’s safety razor in 1915 sealed the deal. Now we depend on fancy shavers and specialty salons to get rid of hair … but you can do it yourself without a single sharp edge.
For eyebrows and facial hair, threading is the most gentle and widely accepted solution. Threading is not as well known in North America compared to other parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. It has been the go-to method for Asian and Middle Eastern cultures for thousands of years.
Threading uses simple household thread. Mastering that part is easy enough – shorter lengths for areas you are closer to and longer lengths for more distant parts or to work on others. The next part takes a bit of practice. You knot the ends of your thread to form a circle and then put both hands into the loop. Twist one hand to make 6 – 7 twists in the thread. You then move this twisted area back and forth along the loop by opening or closing your fingers, and when laid on your skin the moving twist effectively pulls out the unwanted hair.
Skilled threaders can remove single hairs or quickly remove rows of hair from brows, cheeks, and lips. It is particularly effective on fine hairs, but even stubble can be taken off with thread. Use more twists and heavier string to get the tough ones.
This method is simple and cost effective for smaller areas. For larger areas, there’s another way that comes to us straight from the Egyptians.
Sugaring—a.k.a. Sugar Waxing
To prepare a body for burial in ancient Egypt, embalmers had to be hairless from head to toe. As a result, they set the standard for effective hair removal using only locally sourced ingredients – sugar, lemon juice, and water.
- Hair that is at least ¼ inch long
- 2 cups of sugar (brown is more traditional, but white is fine)
- ¼ cup lemon juice (store-bought is okay)
- ¼ cup water
- A candy or meat thermometer that goes to 250 degrees Fahrenheit
- Popsicle stick or dull knife
- 1-inch wide strips of clean cotton cloth (old T-shirts work great)
Heat the ingredients in a heavy saucepan until it hits 250 degrees without letting it all boil over (about 25 min of simmering at regular altitudes). It will look a bit like a candy ball or the beginnings of peanut brittle. Remove it from the heat and let it cool briefly before transferring it to another jar. Make sure you use a jar you can reheat later.
Let the mixture continue to cool until it won’t burn your skin. Then use the popsicle stick or knife to spread a layer of the mix over your ¼ inch or longer hair. Cover the mix with your strips of cloth and let it set for a few moments. When you’re ready, take a deep breath and pull off the strip.
Since you’re taking the hair out by the root, pull firmly and quickly for the best results. Chicken out in the middle, and you won’t get the job done. Yes, it may smart a bit, but you quickly learn what to expect and it gets better. There is some debate among practitioners about which direction to pull (with growth or against), so feel free to experiment to see what gives you the best results.
When you finish, remove any excess sugar mix with plain water. Reheat your base as needed to finish the job, but note that you only need to raise it to just above room temperature on subsequent uses. Cotton strips can be rinsed and re-used, and results from sugaring last for four to six weeks. You can eat extra mix in a pinch, but that’s not part of the original recipe.
Men and women can use sugaring, and like threading, there’s no need for a sharp edge. Simple solutions for a day when there may be no more razors to buy – so why not try them now and share your results in the comments?
©2012 Off the Grid News