5 Women Tell Us Their Best Comebacks For When People Critique Their Body Hair

Body hair is natural. Body hair is beautiful. And body hair has been so dominated by outrageous patriarchal beauty standards that when a femme person lets their body hair grow out, it is lauded as a radical choice, both against societal norms and as an act of self-love. What is up with society's fascination with gendering body hair? 

Women having body hair is a painfully benign fact, akin to pointing out that the sky is blue. And yet, people love to critique women about their body hair. Rachel McAdams posed for a cover story with Bustle in April 2023, casually displaying her underarm hair, which, of course, horrified certain social media users. "This is kind of grotesque," one Twitter user commented. "Such a lazy way to get attention," another user commented. "Disgusting," another troll chimed in. All that over a little armpit hair? Give us a break! But McAdams had the perfect comeback to critics of her body even before the photos were published. "This is my body, and I think that's so important to reflect back out to the world," she told Bustle. 

Perhaps you, too, are curious about what it would be like to grow out your body hair but feel hesitant due to comments from others. Perhaps your body hair is grown out, but you're sick of explaining yourself to others. Women.com talked to five women about their decision to grow out their body hair, and how they choose to respond when people try to voice their opinions about it. 

Feel more connected to your body

Pippa Murphy, sex and relationship expert at Condoms.uk, had struggled for years with her body hair. "Every time I shaved, it felt like it grew back twice as fast and twice as thick. It was an endless cycle of discomfort and frustration," she told Women.com. "But then I started to question why I was even doing it. Why was I putting myself through this ritual of pain and discomfort just to conform to societal beauty standards? Why was I spending so much time and money on something that was ultimately pointless?" 

So, she stopped shaving. "I realized that the societal pressure to shave was rooted in patriarchal beauty standards that prioritize male desires over female comfort and autonomy. It was empowering to reject those standards and reclaim ownership of my own body," she said. "By embracing my natural body hair, I felt more connected to my own body and more in tune with its needs."

She soon realized other, unexpected perks to her decision. "This newfound confidence translated into all aspects of my life, including my sex life," she said. She also notes that the common annoyances of shaving were no longer an issue. She encourages other women to be patient with their experiences and find a community of like-minded femme people to lean on for support and inspiration. "Take pride in your decision and remind yourself that you are beautiful and worthy, no matter what your body hair looks like," she said.

Do not be afraid to serve the sass

Kelly Whitaker stopped shaving during the pandemic and never looked back. "It's one less piece of body maintenance I need to upkeep and it has been a joy not to be burdened with the discomfort of razor burn anymore!" she tells Women.com. "Additionally, I came to recognize it's a patriarchal body standard which is not something I value. This has been very freeing to release, making me feel an increased, joyous sense of body autonomy." As a communications coach at Kelly Convos, Whitaker shares several approaches when facing criticism over one's body hair. Various circumstances might call for varying levels of attitude, even though criticism itself is never warranted. 

When you want to make a civil, but firm statement, say something along the lines of: "I would appreciate it if you didn't comment on my body" or "I know you're joking/mean well, but I don't appreciate you talking to me/about my body in that way."

When someone suggests that it's unhygienic for women to grow out their body hair, you could say: "I don't agree and would appreciate it if you would respect my choices and body autonomy." Or, test out the sassy version: "Oh, are you a doctor in 1954? What a terribly boring opinion you chose to share." It's also important to note that body hair is the opposite of unhygienic, as it helps protect your body from various forms of bacteria, infections, and exposure.

When you really have nothing to lose, you can go all out with this one: "I may be hairy, but at least I don't have the bad manners to comment on someone else's body."

Try to educate others

Michelle Giordano, a community outreach advocate for mental health and addiction resource center Live Another Day, describes to Women.com that what women choose to do with their body hair is a personal choice. "My natural body hair is a part of who I am, so for me, not shaving is a way to embrace and enjoy it. Additionally, it allows me to question societal standards and expectations that state that women's bodies must be hairless in order to be seen as feminine or appealing," she says. Michelle reminds those who criticize her that hair is a normal part of body functioning. "I respond by educating them about the fact that body hair is a natural and normal part of the human body and that it serves important functions like regulating body temperature and shielding our skin from bacteria and other harmful substances," she says. "I also tell them that everyone has different grooming preferences and that no one else has the right to control how we take care of our bodies."

Michelle describes how she responds when someone comments about how her body hair would influence her dating life. "I let them know that I wouldn't want to date anybody who would condemn me based on my personal hygiene preferences. In the end, I don't let other people's ideas or expectations change my decision to appreciate my natural physique," she says. 

Be calm and assertive

Amy, 38, describes to Women.com why she decided to stop shaving. "I don't see the need to remove my body hair to fit into a certain mold or standard of beauty," she said. "I choose not to shave because it is a personal choice and not something societal expectations should dictate." She also noted that "it is also a form of self-expression and a way to embrace my natural appearance."

Amy shares how she responds to unwanted comments about her body hair. "When faced with such comments, I try to respond calmly and assertively, explaining that body hair is natural and a personal choice for each individual," she says. "I also clarify that other people's opinions or preferences do not define my self-worth and attractiveness, and that my dating life is not determined by whether or not I shave." When it comes to comments regarding hygiene, she takes a practical approach. "I remind them that hygiene is a separate matter and not directly related to the presence of body hair, and that the concept of femininity is subjective and varies from person to person." She also tries to encourage those who would criticize her to learn why it's important to support women. "Ultimately, I try to educate them on the importance of respecting and supporting women's choices about their bodies, even if they don't personally agree with them." 

Rock what makes you feel confident

Sunica, 26, relays to Women.com that growing out her body hair was both a pragmatic decision and a stylish one. "Shaving the body hair can take ten to thirty minutes, which is enough for me to take an extra sport or beauty sleep," she says. "Plus, we're dodging razor burn, ingrown hairs, and the dreaded itch of regrowth." She also simply finds her body hair to be stylish. "Some of us just dig the natural look, embracing our bodies as they are, hair and all. It's a matter of personal preference, and we own it!"

When confronted with criticism about her body hair, Sunica chooses to laugh. "When a man (or anyone, really) tries to tell me that my body hair is unhygienic or gross, I can't help but chuckle," she says. "And when they say it's unfeminine, I will just roll my eyes and ask, "Who made up that rule? Beauty standards are a creation of humans," she continues. "We have the right to redefine beauty standards if they are unsuitable for human bodies."

Sunica also notes that she doesn't want to date those who would not accept her body hair. "Ultimately, it's all about personal choice and rocking what makes us feel comfortable and confident," she says. "Whether we shave, wax, or let it grow, we're all fabulous in our own way. So, here's to embracing our bodies — hairy or not — and shutting down the haters with sass and style!"