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Why are more young men removing their body hair?

TextAlex Peters

New research reports that more and more young men are embracing hair-free aesthetics

Women have long been pressured to remove their body hair, often provoking feelings of outrage and disgust when they don’t. In 2013, a Mintel study reported that an overwhelming 95 per cent of women aged 16 to 24 said they removed hair from their underarms, while 92 per cent shaved their legs.

In the past, men have passed through the body hair conversation relatively unscathed. However, new research from Mintel suggests that this is changing, with more and more young British males embracing hair-free bodies.

In 2018, the study reports, 46 per cent of men removed hair from their bodies –  up from 36 per cent in 2016. Fifty-seven per cent of men aged 16-24 have removed hair from their pubic region, up from 40 per cent two years ago; 42 per cent remove hair from their underarms, up from 16 per cent; while hair removal from the chest has doubled in the last two years increasing to 30 per cent.

While these numbers are still a far cry from the percentage of female body hair removal (in 2018, 90 per cent of women aged 16-24 remove hair from their underarms, 90 per cent from their legs, and 75 per cent from the pubic region) they are a significant increase. The rise is thought to be being fuelled by social media and television shows such as Love Island which have normalised and popularised hairless torsos. Brands have been responding to this increase, with new product launches targeted at men from Veet and Nad’s, as well as NIVEA’s Men’s Body Hair Removal range.

The pressure for young men to look certain ways is also manifesting itself in increased steroid use by 16-24-year-olds which quadrupled in 2017, according to The Home Office, while the number of men being admitted to hospital with an eating disorder has risen over 70 percent over the past six years.

While we support the normalisation of men spending time on themselves and removing body hair, if that is what they choose to do, the pressure that social and popular media is putting on young people to live up to unrealistic aesthetic standards is becoming increasingly toxic and damaging and needs to be addressed.

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