Do I shave my armpit hair to keep the peace with my family?

October 22 2018 | bijouxandbits
Do I shave my armpit hair to keep family peace?
Photo by Billie
Several months ago, I committed to stop shaving my armpits. My husband is on board with my decision, and doesn't think it makes me any less sexy. BUT I'm not sure I can convince my extended family that it's not the most disgusting thing I could possibly choose do do.

My cousin is getting married in a couple of weeks. The wedding is a big deal, and will be pretty formal. I have my dress and jewelry already picked out — I love it, and am excited to wear it. My armpit hair is getting pretty long and luxurious. My extended family dynamic is such that it will likely be perceived as a personal attack to the bride if I show up with hairy pits. I'm really conflicted.

On one hand, I want to stand my ground. This won't be the first time I have to defend my decision about other people's standards of beauty. It might be a good test to see if I can handle some pushback about cultural norms.

On the other hand, I really don't want to stir the pot with my family. My cousin and I have never really seen eye-to-eye, especially about weddings. I've been trying to tread lightly, because I know her wedding day isn't about me. I can already sense the family outrage, and I know many people would see this as another act of defiance on my part. I can even hear my mother saying, "Why can't you just let your cousin have her day, instead of always trying to make a statement."

I could choose a dress with sleeves, but I've had this one picked out for months. I have my heart set on wearing it and I genuinely feel beautiful in it. (I also have a new baby so I don't get a chance to get gussied up very often.)

Do I just shave for the sake of keeping the peace? Do I hide my hairy pits? Or do I just say "Fuck it!" not make a big deal of it, and let my family and my cousin think what they think?

It always baffles me that women's body hair is so contentious. It's just hair. Even Julia Roberts sported some pit hair on the red carpet (albeit to loads of controversy in the tabloids). But still, it's so innocuous. That said, I do know that some people are offended by rogue hair on a woman (oh, the humanity!), so I totally get why you're wondering what to do.

I think the only scenario where you may get a comment or even any judgment would be if you're dancing, arms high, waving your hair in the breeze. Otherwise, most people probably won't even notice it. For me, I doubt I'd worry about shaving and just rock it. Shaving all our body hair is a relatively new thing (it didn't even start happening until mid-century razor commercials!), so it's certainly not a long-standing tradition.

However, if rocking the pit hair will make YOU feel self-conscious and like you couldn't move your arms up while clapping or dancing, then I'd choose your own comfort first. If you think you'll have more fun if you're hair-free (and drama-free), then let it take a day off and grow it right back after. Or if you'd just rather fly under the radar and pick another battle at other time (assuming you think there will be a battle), then that's another notch in the comfort vote. Otherwise, wear your hair, it's meant to be there!

Let's hear from our fellow Homies:

Have you ever rocked au naturel pits? Was there any controversy? How did you handle it?

Do I shave my armpit hair to keep family peace?
Green Goddess print from
Rachie Jenn Originals

  1. I rarely shave my armpits (or legs) and enjoy the fuzz most of the year! but if I'm getting super dressed up, I usually shave my pits for the day.
    my sister-in-law remarked on my hairless armpits at my own wedding and I was like sure, I don't usually shave, but I don't usually wear a lacy dress or fancy shoes every day either — I went with a different look for today!
    If you really think it will cause a scene, it might be worth if for your own enjoyment of the day to just shave — and then let it grow back! I just think of it as part of my style for the day — hair, make up, different pit styling… NBD 🙂

    21 agree
  2. I take it that you're in a role where you have to wear a certain thing, or are otherwise committed to wearing a certain thing, which would show your armpits? Because I would think a good compromise here would be to wear something with sleeves that hide the hair…if that's possible.

    3 agree
    • That might work for another time, but she specifically said "I could choose a dress with sleeves, but I've had this one picked out for months. I have my heart set on wearing it".

      4 agree
      • but a bolero or shrug wouldn't change the dress but could circumnavigate the family stress without ruining the current state of pit play…

        7 agree
  3. Well, you should be you, but – is having armpit hair, or not having armpit hair, what ultimately makes you, 'you'…? We are all so much more, than one thing! If you love it, great…..but if it will cause you to stress, or be uncomfortable, sure, shave it for that one day, & then you just don't have to think about it. The great thing is – hair grows! The second you shave it, it'll start growing, and you'll be rocking the length you prefer in no time at all.

    11 agree
  4. It's a difficult situation but the best option seems to be to shave. You said you don't always see eye-to-eye with your cousin and don't want to make her day about you, which means it's unlikely you can have a deep discussion with her about not shaving where she can understand exactly how you feel. Coupled with your statement that your unshaven pits will be perceived as an attack on the bride by other family members and it all points to more trouble than it's worth.

    If your relationships were different I'd advocate talking to the people concerned so they know where you're coming from and that it's not intended to upset them, but in this case that doesn't seem an option. If you shave your pits it's a relatively minor thing that will make everyone happy without impacting you too much. It would be different if it was a moral choice (such as being vegan, or not wearing a dress made in a sweat shop), but this is a personal style choice that's not much different to bridesmaids having to wear a hideous dress to make the bride happy!

    There will be other opportunities for you to stand your ground in a more neutral setting, where you're not a guest at someone else's event (and that's probably the biggest event they'll ever have).

    13 agree
  5. It's funny how the poor armpits get blamed bringing the drama, when really it's everybody else because unless your hair pits like to hit the bottle and then goose Aunt Mary and repeatedly call Uncle Richard "Dick", only something with a voice box can raise Cain on this issue. All the people claiming that you're "ruining" your cousin's "special day" are really the ones doing all the ruining.

    Having said that, I still would be inclined to sacrifice the wee beasts because I am of weak moral fiber and can't abide confrontation. (Plus they're a renewable resource.)

    I can however suggest some alternative approaches for people gutsier than I:
    If somebody ( including my mother ) is uncouth enough to point out your hairy pits ( or any other aspect of personal adornment that's your business alone ), you can simply say "Oh you know I'm so used to it, I forgot about it until I got to the wedding."
    If somebody pushes you on the issue, you can say, "You're right – I didn't forget. I'm just enjoying this wedding and I'm not really in the mood to talk about this. Now what did you think of the ceremony? Wasn't it lovely? I really liked….". Etc.
    Or if you're feeling a little more salty:
    "I was just embarrassed by your lack of tact and couldn't think of a nice way to say 'this is not your business.'" ::mic drop::

    15 agree
    • Good replies. I think if you're only a guest, there's absolutely no reason for you to shave. if you were a bridesmaid it would be a different deal. Bring a bolero or shrug or shawl if you want (you may want it for warmth anyways), and be prepared with your response .I think the above ones are really good.

  6. Have you considered a cardigan/crop jacket etc that way you could still wear the same dress, wouldn't need to shave if you don't want to and can wear it at different intervals depending on how you're feeling/the temperature.

    15 agree
  7. Coming from an intensely drama-thriving family, I would just shave them or change your dress for something with sleeves. I guess you have to decide if this is worth an epic battle for you. (Or maybe tons of outraged whispering behind your back that go awkwardly silent when you approach.)

    The sad truth about some families, namely mine and possibly your cousin's from how you describe the dynamic, is that some people are simply looking for an excuse to team up on someone for some perceived slight. If I just want to relax and party, I don't purposely poke the bear. Unless it is REALLY important to me. You will already face all kinds of comments and unsollicited advice in regards to child-rearing from people you see only twice a year and think they know better; is going to the barricades for pit hair worth it for you? (Personally, I have long given up hoping my family will quit acting like tantrumming fourth-graders and just generally don't get involved. )

    11 agree
  8. Body hair rules! Right now, I'm in an embrace-my-lady-'stache-but-pluck-my-chin-hairs phase. I've gone for months without shaving my armpits only to pick up a razor and depilate on a whim. My high school students get an eyeful of hairy shin nearly every day! Body hair, like head hair or jewelry, is an accessory to be worn and styled and changed, depending on your mood and the image you enjoy or wish to project. Maybe sleek, shaved armpits are appropriate for the formal occasion. Maybe not. Maybe you should split the difference and shave one but leave the other luxuriously hairy!

    But seriously, here's the issue as I see it, especially coming from a drama-prone family that falls all over the spectrum of believing in bodily autonomy, feminism, ascribing to conventional beauty standards, etc.

    1. Your family will be getting together for a large, significant gathering.
    2. There will likely be drama, with or without your armpit hair making its formal debut.
    3. You have the power to steer clear of any obvious you-centered drama by wearing something with sleeves or shaving your armpits (however unfair or unjust the expectation is that ladies have hairless armpits).

    Now decide whether it's worthwhile to betray your personal resolutions just this once or die on that hairy hill defending your natural pits.

    You committed to stop shaving your armpits several months ago. You selected a (sleeveless) dress to wear to the wedding, also several months ago. I wonder if you're a little bit interested in stirring something up. Regardless, do what feels right for your mental & emotional health and those two thatches of underarm hair you've been cultivating these many moons.

    7 agree
  9. As has been pointed out on offbeatbride, you can do you, but if "you" = "offbeat" then you have to own it. Wanna get married in clown suits? Go for it! But when people (politely) ask, "Why the clown suits?" be prepared to provide a polite answer. No outrage or indignation. A civil response ("Oh, our first date was at a circus.")

    Also, be prepared for some folks not to "get it".

    That having been said, from the tone of the OP's post, it sounds like she's not willing to own the consequences of hirsute pits at a possibly judgy wedding. I don't blame her. In her place, I'd rather break out the razor rather than die on FuzzyPit Hill.

    The point about it not being about HER, but about the bride and groom is very true. If you can't attend a wedding in a spirit of love and/or support, it might be better to stay home. A wedding ain't no place for a picket sign, so it might be best to leave the causes at home.

    Or just pick out a different dress with sleeves…? I mean, even Corporal Klinger would shave his back if he was going to wear a strapless.

    10 agree
    • Oh so true! There was another OBB post about a bride refusing to let her wedding dress be mistaken for a bandage. (I've always loved that metaphor.)

      Similarly, it's probably not a good idea to treat it as a Call-To-Arms battle flag, either.

      Be yourself, but don't go out of your way to bait the "judgie-wudgies." No good will come of it.

      5 agree
  10. I don't shave (anywhere), but for a recent fancy event I buzzed down with a beard trimmer the hair that would be visible with my cocktail dress.

    It felt like a good compromise- still not shaving, but it's less noticeable to people who would disapprove.

    The event was an awards banquet for my father, and while he didn't care about my hair, his boss was there, as were many of his colleagues, and I just didn't want to make any of it about me.

    FYI- if you have a deodorant routine that's working for you, shaving or waxing after growing your hair out will destroy the antiperspirant effects.

    6 agree
    • That seems like a good compromise – don't SHAVE, but just trim so you look as tidy and groomed as possible. It's what most people would do for a fancy occasion anyway, right? Combed and potentially styled hair, tidy nails, wrinkle-free outfit, etc. My dad maintains a full beard, but if we ever go to a fancy event, you bet he brings out a razor to touch up his neck and upper lip and nail scissors to trim stray hairs. This will probably lead to you having less hair visible, so it's possible that fewer people will notice. Plus, if your family is aware of your body hair style, a significant reduction in what is visible might just send the message that you ARE taking your family's conventions into consideration.

      16 agree
    • This is my compromise too – and my family couldn't care less. But I still get self- conscious sometimes, and I can either spend *way* too much time arguing with myself about what I *should* do or why I shouldn't care, and worrying about it… or I can just trim it. I pick whichever will take less of my time (it's usually a trim). If you're going to worry about how they'll be, a trim is an excellent compromise. You get to hold on to your principles, and they don't get to pick at you.

      Think of it like someone with a beard – they wouldn't shave it off, but they'd trim it up around the edges for dressing up. Either way you go, I hope you have fun. =)

      2 agree
  11. I rarely shave, mostly due to mental health issues. What helps me feel comfortable is following when it'd be "appropriate" for a man to show his body hair. So if a guy wouldn't be out of place in shorts or a tank top, then I won't shave or worry about covering. And so far no one's commented, though I think I've seen a few odd looks. But if I'm going somewhere like work or anywhere more formal, I'll either shave or wear something that covers my legs/under arms.

    But that's just me, and I'm pretty much only upset by the double standards applied to body hair, so it doesn't feel inauthentic to me. Also, it'd be ridiculously rude of the family to say anything about this. That said, if your goal is to avoid family drama, I'd recommend a shrug or a bolero, maybe just for the ceremony and dinner/toasts. Then, once the spot light is off the couple, take it off for dancing if you want.

    5 agree
  12. I don't shave my arm pits, and my mother recently begged me to shave them in preparation of a wedding where I was MoH in a beautiful halter gown I picked myself.

    As a compromise, I trimmed my pit hair. That way it was still there, I wasn't compromising my view on western beauty standards or the integrity of my very sensitive skin, but literally no one noticed my pits weren't sparkly and completely hair free.

    There's a great article on Offbeat Bride that I turned to when making my decision, titled something like "how to be an offbeat bridesmaid for an onbeat bride" that may be useful to you. The gist is essentially to be open and honest, and remind your bride that you're excited to be a part of her special day but want to do it in a way where you both feel comfortable, heard, and like the best version of yourself.

    For my bride, she kind of laughed it off and said we would just be really careful around the photographer. For me, that meant trimming the hair so I didn't HAVE to be careful around photographers.
    For you and your cousin, it might look different, but just talking to her gently about it and how you both might come to an agreement might be a great place to start.

    4 agree
  13. Sigh. This was me – my sister and brothers weddings. I normally do not shave my pits but did so for the weddings. My figuring was, my sister was already panicked enough and upsetz it was a small thing I could do to set her slightly more at ease. (I also caused quite a fashion panic/stir by being the only bridesmaid with a pixie cut, but that's a different story.) I can't advise you on your situation, only offer what I did, because it was only one day and I wanted to make my siblings not have to stress. *shrug*

    3 agree
  14. I was just a bridesmaid at my best friend’s formal wedding. I stopped shaving my pits years ago but I do trim every couple of weeks – it’s short enough not to be obvious but you can still tell it’s there if you’re looking. So that’s what I would recommend as a compromise.

    And as another commenter suggested earlier – if anyone brings it up and tries to start drama – turn it around on them “I’m trying to enjoy this wedding – I cant believe you’re bringing this up” or something.

    3 agree
  15. I had a similar dilemma when I was a bridesmaid for a friend. I hadn't shaved anything for a couple years, but my friend did not know (cold climates hide these things lol) until her bachelorette party. She asked me to shave for the wedding. I agreed, and did.
    I felt really awkward about it though. Like, why should she ask me to do that? It definitely hurt my feelings, and subtly strained our relationship.
    But now years later, we remain friends. She was under a lot of pressure from her family about doing the whole wedding thing a very specific way, so I can put a lot of my hurt feelings on them instead.
    But it still hurt; I wouldn't ask anything of my friends or family like that. I don't think it's my place to tell anyone how to dress, even my own wedding. Seems like a weird power dynamic to me, I want no part of it.

    2 agree
  16. I do not think you should compromise at all. Would a man shave his beard or facial hair to attend a wedding? I doubt it. Women all over the REST of the world have no problems with their bodily hair. It probably a male who decided women should shave. I do not shave my legs or pits. If doing so offends someone, that's their problem not mine. I am sick of women having to live with what the male population deems the correct thing to do.

    3 agree
  17. Honestly? You do you. Don't call attention to your armpits because it's not generally a socially acceptable thing to do, hairy or not. The people who think it is weird and tell you are the ones being rude and making it a thing. I don't shave and I just don't feel weird about it anymore. My mom thought it was a reflection on her, which was annoying and I told her so. It always bugs me when people try to make me feel bad for doing something that ultimately has no impact on them at all.

    2 agree
  18. This has to be your decision, obviously, but if I was in the same position, I would be inclined to shave. It sounds like you already know the likely outcome to this situation and it doesn't sound like it would be good. This could be brought up for years to come and it just doesn't seem worth it to me to be blamed for "ruining" your cousin's wedding for the next 25 years. If your family is unstable as mine, if she gets divorced, she may even somehow spin this as causing her divorce ("We haven't been truly happy since Karin ruined our wedding.")

    Additionally, it sounds like your family have not yet been introduced to The Fuzz yet and I don't think the wedding of cousin you don't see eye to eye with is the place to do it. It's one thing to be accused of being declared trying to be the center of attention at the family 4th of July picnic, but a complete other on "the bride's day" (I'm just guessing here that they are that type of people).

    3 agree
  19. Talk to the bride!!!!! She's obviously asked you to be there, her opinion counts. She loves you as her cousin, you respect her because it's her day. You're not in this wedding for you, you're there for her. If she doesn't care nor should you. Don't let the 'others' and their opinions call the shots, talk directly to the bride!

  20. I am honestly disappointed by how few comments were just: "Fuck 'em"
    Maybe I'm old, or surrounded by open-minded weirdos, or maybe I'm just loud and shameless, but I say "Fself for -day-afrter-shaving uck 'em!"
    It is your goddamn body, and you're not doing it for them.
    (Cue Dr. Frankenfurter saying "I didn't MAKE him for YOU.")
    Let 'em be scandalized – sounds like they'll find a reason anyway – and how much worse will it be if they are all smug about you shaving?
    Fuck 'em.
    Don't set yourself up for day-after-shaving prickles. OR day-of raw-naked-razor-burny pits.
    Just…
    Keep your hair
    and fuck 'em.

    1 agrees
  21. Thanks everyone!!! I ended up caving and shaving (before I read these comments!)

    These comments were such fun reads!!

    My mom said she was "proud of me for doing the right thing." Which didn't help me feel less like I was making a sacrifice.

    The wedding was fun, but I saw my cousin for all of 3 minutes.

    I chaffed for three days and decided that next time, I'm skipping the razor!

    1 agrees
  22. For my own wedding, I trimmed my armpit hair a little shorter (and yes, I was wearing a dress that would show hair when raising my arms above my head.) Perhaps this is a nice middle ground that works for the letter writer if "fuck it, just keep your hair" seems a bit too on the nose (although that would be my first suggestion)? It makes the hair a tad less visible, really only to those who are paying special attention to the body hair grooming of others, and I would hope everyone has better things to do on that wedding!

    For me, it also helps if I just don't make a big deal of it. People come at you all aghast at not having hairless armpits, I think the best reaction might be to turn it back on them and go "well-spotted, oh don't you just love the bride's dress/the groom's vows/the flowers/the speech so-and-so just gave/&c." If they keep trying to make a big deal about it, ask them why. Isn't this day supposed to be all about the happy couple, why are they focussing on your armpits?

  23. The first time I brought my girlfriend to a family wedding was already a huge deal (first openly gay couple in a large conservative family). The fact that she's also heavily tatted was another deal. She chose (not me) to wear sleeves just to avoid old people staring at her and focus on pleasant conversation instead.
    It's a time for picking battles. Maybe shave the pits but engage in a polite conversation about feminism with someone new?

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