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Study Up For 'Think': The Hairy Truth Of Hair Removal

Daniel Horacio Agostini, flickr
By 1906, Gillette was selling more than 300,000 razors a year, thanks to a contract with the US Army.

Waxing, shaving, tweezing, threading, epilating, lasering ... while the methods vary, the vast majority of Americans have tried removing body hair they find unsightly. At noon, Krys Boyd will sit down with historian Rebecca Herzig, author of Plucked: A History of Hair Removal.

The average male beard has the same number of hairs as a woman's legs and armpits combined, but the hair grows much faster and denser. The average American man spends about a month of his life shaving.

Women spend even more time removing their body hair; in fact, 85 percent of women regularly alter their faces, legs, armpits and bikini lines. While the practice of hair removal among women can be traced back to the cave women--who preferred to use depilatory creams made of arsenic, quicklime and starch--it didn't hit the American mainstream until the 1940s and '50s.

There are tons of theories as to why people remove their body hair. Some hypothesize that the hair removal trend can be attributed to the influence of pornography. Others say it's merely part of a larger trend of humans evolving towards hairlessness for health or heating reasons. Scores more point to its popularity among women as an example of internalized male gaze.

Listen to 'Think' on KERA 90.1 at noon and 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday. You can also stream the show live online.