A horror for some, a normalcy for others… Our hairiness is sometimes at the heart of our concerns. What are they for, what is their significance in the artistic world? The program “Bienfait pour vous” asked the question to two specialists on the subject.
In ancient Egypt, people shaved completely
Texts show that certain ancient societies had openly declared war on hair. In Egypt in particular, men, women and pharaohs shaved completely, including the scalp. The objective was to avoid “lice and the various small critters that come to lodge in the head”, explains Virginie Girod, doctor in history and author of the Ambitious. “They preferred to wear wigs, it was more hygienic,” she adds.
Shaving has existed since prehistoric times
Even at the beginning of the appearance of the human race, hair was already beginning to burst into everyday life. “There are very beautiful razors on archaeological sites”, recalls Virginie Girod. A little later, during the time of the Roman Empire, women even began to develop strategies to permanently eliminate hair.
Techniques hardly enviable today. “They were burning walnut shells, heated to white heat to burn their hair”, develops the historian.
Body hair can reveal things about our eating habits
Indeed, the hairs can store part of the food or drink that we consume. Virginie Girod relies on the example of Napoleon, whose inclinations for alcohol were, in part, revealed thanks to his hair. “By testing strands of Napoleon’s hair, we found traces of Arsenic. Some people said that Napoleon had been poisoned with arsenic. But very serious historians told us that he consumed time in time an alcohol which contained arsenic and which was a pick-me-up that was given to soldiers at the beginning of the 19th century and which caused a small intoxication in the long term”, she explains.
In art, the hairs sent back an erotic image
In classical art, removing the hair made it possible to “deseroticize” the body, explains Virginie Girod. “This censorship was perpetrated on photography, but also in the cinema. Film actresses waxed, they were the only ones at the beginning of the 20th century.” The historian thus explains that hairless bodies have become more popular on the big screen, hence their very relative presence in the 7th art.
In everyday life, body hair is of little use
There was a time when hair was simply used to protect against the cold. But in the meantime, man has developed many techniques to deal with the significant drop in mercury. “This allows us to protect ourselves from UV rays, bacteria, a little like the eyelashes which are protective. But it’s tiny”, tempers dermatologist Laurence Netter.