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Ever think of putting cat poop, arsenic or vinegar on your skin to get rid of pesky body hair? Women in the Renaissance didn’t have our modern waxes, razors and depilatory creams to keep their bodies hair-free. The University of Edinburgh’s Jill Burke, a lecturer on Italian renaissance has given some icky insight on tricks of the trade the ladies of the Renaissance used to keep skin free of hair.
Female body hair has been an undesirable trait for centuries, other than a brief stint in the 1970s. As modern ladies spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on laser hair removal, Brazilian bikini waxes, over the counter products like Nair, or just simple razors, ladies of the past were faced with the same afflictions and stigma with having body and facial hair. According to Burke, even sixteenth-century text from a physician’s handbook even belittles ladies with a little extra fuzz, condemning hairy ladies to be bad wife material, prone to be argumentative, ugly and infertile.
Ladies of the 1500s weren’t lucky enough to use lady shavers and shaving gel. Instead, Burke has found a list of horrifying recipes once used to remove hair. One recipe calls for boiling together arsenic and quicklime, slathering it on the skin, the removing quickly with hot water so “the flesh doesn’t come off.” Another equally appetizing “recipe” calls for cat poop and vinegar, spread all over the affected hair area, to burn the hair off.
Although modern remedies like Veet and Nair aren’t much different than these ludicrous sounding recipes, ladies still continue to do whatever it takes to remove unwanted hair, with supple, smooth skin being one of the longest standing fashion trends in history.