While the Crown Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act) gains political momentum, a quick search on social media reveals unfounded assumptions and microaggressions regarding Black body hair. From wild speculation questioning our ability to grow any, to bold assertions claiming heterosexual Black men find hairy legs sexy – it is clear public scrutiny extends to how we care for the hair on all parts of our body. Even though Black buying power is well documented and Black beauty consumerism is projected to reach $1.8 trillion annually by 2024, American beauty standards remain rooted in white supremacy. While the beauty industry continues to cater to white women, some of the most common Black beauty myths are perpetuated within our own community.
“I think its just the fear of the unknown and how waxing is portrayed in the media,” Deidra Green, licensed esthetician, told MADAMENOIRE. “You see it done in spas or salons on TV and it is portrayed as both painful and/ or expensive which doesn’t have to be the case.”
Deidra, who is also a European Wax Center Field Trainer Manager, states that while falsehoods exist, having a knowledgeable and skillful technician is key.
There’s also a misconception that removing our hair might require a different technique than women in other communities and I can assure you after doing thousands of waxes that you never know the texture or thickness of someone’s body hair until they are on the table, so a good wax specialist is prepared to serve any and everyone.
Proud Black pro-body hair advocates like actress and comedian Mo’Nique, who famously sported hairy legs on the Golden Globes red carpet in early 2010, helped reinforce the stereotype that most Black women embrace their body hair. Yet the same year, singer and actress Vanessa Williams penned the forward for Brazilian Sexy, a book by wax salon co-founder Janea Padilha whose A-List clientele included model Naomi Campbell. A 2013 study described pubic hair grooming as a “modern” trend most common amongst white women, but Black women’s preferences may have had less to do with cultural ideals and more to do with racism preventing access.
While individual grooming preferences vary as widely as Black hairstyles, there is still some lingering confusion regarding how Black women feel about body hair removal and if it is even a priority.
Myth #1: Black women don’t wax
Despite stereotypes, waxing is not just a “white thing”. Not only do Black women routinely get snatched, Black-owned wax studios are cropping up all over the nation to meet the demand. After running a full body waxing and sugaring studio for men and women, Velvet Wax and Beauty founder Montrelle “Montie” Green recently opened a second location nearby. She attributes a lot of her success to social media and word of mouth.
“I’d say 80% of my clientele are Black women,” said Montrelle, who boasts a loyal client base. “Black women are huge beauty and self care advocates. Someone that does not wax cannot speak for all Black women. We are not walking around saying we get filler or Botox either, but we do.The girls that get it, get it.”
Myth #2: Black women of a “particular age” prefer body hair
By the early 1900s white beauty standards had shifted to associate body hair with being masculine and less hygienic. American advertising centered hairless white women and wealthier women considered its removal a marker of class. Costlier than shaving, waxing was once considered a luxury. As the price point becomes more affordable and the stigma around women’s body hair lessens, Black wax salon owners have noticed an uptick in Black women clients over the age of 50.
“Ever heard of the term 70’s Bush? Traditionally, older Black women did not prefer to remove their [pubic] hair,” said Charmagne Parker, CEO of Mystique Beauty Lounge. “But, I am starting to see a lot of first timers as bikini waxing becomes more popular. They will say, My daughter told me to do this because she doesn’t want me embarrassing her while we are on vacation at the beach!”
Myth #3: Waxing is bad for melanated skin
While some believe waxing is damaging, many experts attribute bad outcomes to ill-trained providers using the wrong wax or improper waxing techniques on Black skin. Many Black women turn to waxing for the first time after shaving for years.
Because sugaring differs from waxing and there are various types of wax, scheduling a consultation to discuss your skin concerns and take a wax strip test to rule out potential allergies is strongly encouraged. “Sometimes clients are not given the right information about aftercare,” says Parker, who got her start at a wax center that catered to white clients. She emphasizes the importance of choosing a well-trained waxing specialist that will take time to understand your skin needs and believes in client education.