I Grew Out My Leg Hair and You Can Too

I quit shaving my legs in August 2016. Having leg hair had begun to feel more in line with my gender expression — one that is gender neutral/androgynous — and since shaving also took so much time and effort for such a short-lived impact, I decided it was important for me to feel as comfortable in society with leg hair as without.

When roommate is away other roommate will put on their bathing suit and play

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Despite minor annoyances, I’ve been really happy with my decision to grow wild in the leg department. If you’re considering growing out your leg hair, here are a few tips based on my experience.


1. When it comes to patterns of growth, expect the unexpected.

All photos by Marie McGwier

My lower legs and the backs of my thighs are quite lush, but the tops of my thighs are pretty bare. I had no idea how my leg hair would fill out, and admittedly have wished a handful of times that it was all a bit more consistent. Wearing tight pants and socks also has the potential to modify hair growth over time, not to mention create really interesting itchy scenarios, which is fun. Also, depending on the kind of grooming or lack thereof you do with your nether regions, you may have to experiment to find your optimal leg-to-groin hair ratio.

2. On the other hand, there will be literally zero upkeep.


You know when you’ve recently shaved and you think you’re all silky smooth, until you get goosebumps that immediately undo all your hard work? That situation will disappear completely. I’d obviously still prefer not to have goosebumps in the first place, but the absence of the “Ugh, I just shaved!” feeling is pretty sweet.

3. If you’re still feeling out your boundaries around your body hair, that’s okay.

Waking up in the morning & emerging from your room to realize your roommate totally trolled you late in the night.

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If you’re feeling anxious about when to start the process, fall is a great option. Since people generally tend to shave less in the colder months, you won’t be operating too outside of the norm — plus, you’ll have ample time to build confidence for when next shorts season rolls around.

4. But once you commit, you could save major money.

corrugated cardboard is MAGICAL

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My super sensitive skin means I’ve never been able to skimp on more expensive hair removal items. Cheap razors left me looking like I’d sprinkled red pepper on my legs; between the fresh Venus razor heads and the “mens” Cremo shaving cream, for what felt like minutes of smoothness, I was putting in around $30 a month. Now, I spend that money on things like cool socks that really fit my “grandpa skater chic” look!

5. And finally, know that people will comment, but not always in a bad way.

Just feeling so damn INSPIRED by culture as of late. #starbucks

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“You’re a reflection of your father and me,” my (wonderful) mother said this past holiday season, having caught sight of my impressive recent hair growth. I appreciated the irony; 15 years prior, she’d gotten mad when I’d asserted my autonomy by sheering my original pubescent leg fuzz.

Having said that, expect looks and commentary from a lot of folks, including but not limited to:

• Your family
• Your friends
• The mailperson
• Random passersby
• Your co-workers (the ones that are also your friends)
• Your partner
• Your friend’s partner
• Your roommate
• Random people on the internet

It’s not all bad news, though. I’ve also had really cool conversations with all kinds of people who want to engage about leg hair; my hairy legs have created an easy access point for discussion around my identity and expression (which I’m generally keen on talking about), standards of beauty, and expensive gendered social norms. If you’re open to these conversations, there’s a lot to dig into!

Marie is a Brooklyn-based User Experience Researcher and Designer, queer tech industry diversity watchdog, and colored pen aficionado who loves to get things done. They make great eye contact with canines and spend a significant chunk of their non-paid life working in support of queer folks. They have a lot of fun on their Instagram and Twitter.

Marie has written 1 articles for us.

45 Comments

  1. I love this! I also grew out my leg hair recently. I came to the conclusion that I genuinely prefer the look/feel of smooth legs, but I also don’t think twice about going out with hairy legs anymore. If there’s one thing I can thank this administration for it’s that I no longer GAF.

  2. I have also grown out my leg hair and find that I love it! I never really cared about shaving my legs and when I figured out how much money I’d be saving just to fit societal norms, I said “eff that.” The underarm hair has been the more interesting growing process as I’ve also changed from a deodorant to an antiperspirant, then to a natural deodorant stick once I found out about what all that aluminum does to you. #leghairdontcare

  3. I am pretty inconsistent in the leg hair removal sector, however, I’ve pretty recently discovered that I am in love with my arm pit hair, I feel like it just looks much better and more importantly feels much better. 10/10, do recommend.

  4. This is great!

    Last night at dinner I thought this femmey woman in a pink sundress had great hair on her legs, but alas, her boyfriend had stretched out his legs next to hers. Sometimes I forget that not everywhere is camp.

  5. I always grow my leg hair out and am so proud, but then a small thing makes me self conscious (like wearing shorts to see my parents) and I immediately shave them and regret it.

    • I’ve done the same thing. One thing I found that helped was bleaching it so that it sort of matches my skin tone. I used to do it pretty regularly, but now only when I’m in a situation that makes me particularly uncomfortable, like wearing shorts around extended family.

  6. I go back and forth about leg hair. On one hand, it’s a hassle, and I can only be bothered to shave about once a week. On the other hand, I really *do* like the look and feeling of shaven legs (especially since I’m trans, and while HRT has significantly reduced my body hair, I still have quite a bit on my legs).

    Basically, it’s a constant war between laziness and mild discomfort 😛

    • I can certainly relate to this. When puberty arrived, leg hair, facial hair, and chest hair became the enemy and I started shaving to try and look like I was still on the team I identify with; and then the other stuff started happening with the girls and smooth skin was the only thing I had still had going for quite awhile..

      I definitely also enjoy the look and feel of smooth legs and, on introspection, chalk it up to individual perception rather than something I’m culturally programmed for.

  7. I present mostly femme and have recently almost completely stopped shaving my legs. I’ve gotten some commentary and weird looks, especially for having hairy legs with a flowery sundress and full face of makeup. I don’t mind the hair though and I LOVE not having to bother with shaving anymore (and, even worse than the wasted time, the stubbly legs literally the day after shaving).

  8. I prefer shaved legs on myself, but stopped shaving my underarms a couple of months ago and am totally digging it. Also, I loathed the trend for nude-colored lacy tights a few years ago, because more than once I’d see a super-femme woman in a dress and heels and makeup with hairy legs, and I’d be thinking YES RIGHT ON, and then I’d get closer and it’d just be the texture of her lacy tights. Booooo.

  9. I haven’t shaved my legs for a few years now and I love it! Helps with femme invisibility, saves effort and I feel like I’m sticking it to the patriarchy on the reg. (For what its worth, the only negative comments I’ve ever got have been from my mama. I think most strangers on the street don’t even notice.)

      • Hi Athena!

        Thank you so much for your comment – you’re right – I had absolutely no idea about the roots of the term. I only knew it as far back as the Peanuts comment strip.

        This is my last little bit of internet before being off the grid for days – but if anyone af Autostraddle wants to refine the language I am not opposed!

        Thanks again for your critique and your support.

        – m

  10. Marie, me too! I’m a nonbinary femme, grew my leg and armpit hair out because it made me feel more confident in my gender identity. (Also to stick it to my shitty transphobic ex, whose fragile masculinity was hurt by my not shaving for three days.)

    I love my armpit hair, which I trim a bit, but my leg hair is really heckin thick and I’m kind of self-conscious about it, especially around cishet folks in formal settings when I’ve decided to wear a skirt (business things, formal events). But fuck it, I’m not going to shave or wear tights in the summer so I don’t scandal the grans at the opera.

  11. I’m a lazy-as-fuck cis femme(ish) woman and I haven’t shaved anything in over a decade because fuck the patriarchy. My leg hairs are barely visible, but I’m super proud of my armpit hairs (especially when I wear a dress).

  12. Nope nope nope. I want it gone yesterday. I’ve been doing laser now for nearly a year, and still got about another year left, but it has been a god send. I hated shaving — all those itchy and red bumps, and it takes so much time. Laser makes waxing look like a cake walk. It is hands down the most excruciatingly painful, agonizing and miserable experience of my life… but oh so worth it ^__^

      • Hi @abibelle

        Hmmm… if I could give any advice, it would be, if they offer you any restorative gel or methods that improve recovery or lessen irritation, BUY IT. Also, avoid sun like the plague 2 weeks before or after any treatment. They also sell a numbing cream that helps a lot; just put some on the morning of, and then wipe if off when you get there. The last thing is – do not under any circumstances wear any type of lotion, makeup, whatever. Bare clean skin will make you happy later.

        Also, make a promise to yourself to do something special after each treatment as a reward for surviving the ordeal ^_^ Mine is pancakes at Ihop!

  13. Yes, same here! Stopped shaving when I realised I only put in the effort because I was told that I would otherwise be repulsive. Helps with the femme invisibility indeed.

    All the same, the hatred of body hair is so deeply ingrained in me, I do find myself looking at my legs and going, oh boy, I wish that were a light blond dusting of hairs, rather than this little carpet. Any advice on the double consciousness from other non-shavers?

  14. I am absolutely in love with my unshaved and untrimmed body hair!! I am so happy with my style when I’m wearing a cute strappy sundress and heels, with my lush pit hair and leg hair on full display.

    Another thing that caught me by surprise when I started growing it all out: not just the growth patterns, but the COLOURS. The hair on my head is blond, my eyebrows are coffee brown, my leg hair and pubic hair are also coffee brown, and my pit hair is a truly delightful auburn. I love it all.

    I will also add that it’s weird to me that I delight in growing out my body hair, but I am absolutely obsessive about plucking the two dark hairs that grow at the edge of my left areola, hahaha.

    • Yea, how strange is the color variation? That caught me off guard at first, too. The hair on my head is dark/dishwater blonde, my pits look either pale brown or ginger red depending on the lighting, my legs and pubic hair are dark brown, almost black.

      And I also feel the need to pluck out the long, dark hairs that grow around my areolas, and the smattering on my chin/neck. So, you may feel weird about it, but at least you’re not the only one.

  15. I relate to this post so hard, especially the mother commentary. I remember being in middle school and having to fight my mother to get her to let me start shaving. “You’ll have to do it every day!” she said. Even made me mock-shave with a capped disposable razor every night to “prove” I could “handle it.”

    Three days ago she loudly exclaimed, “Ew! You need to shave your pits!” when I was stretching. Which seems pretty hypocritical, because she shaves about once every two months, so it’s not like she’s all silky smooth herself.

    But, mothers, I guess.

  16. Thank you for posting this! The longest I go is maybe 2 months without shaving, but I every time I feel more confident about wearing shorts. It’s always baffled me that I’m expected to shave in the first place. I just do it because I don’t enjoy teasing :/

  17. Thanks for this! It’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to. I didn’t shave my legs for about a year once, and one day was having a bath and looking at my legs and just didn’t like the way they looked so I shaved them. I can’t figure out if I genuinely prefer the way they look shaved, or if I prefer it because I’ve been conditioned to think it looks better. It takes so much mental energy for me to feel even a bit comfortable with hairy legs (like, fully hairy legs, not just 1-4 weeks of stubble) and honestly I’d rather put that energy towards other battles. Much admiration for folks who decide to let their body hair grow.

  18. Not leg but body hair related story:

    Laying on the ground playing with the toddlers at work, one of the girls notices my pit hair and pokes it. “What’s that?” She asks in an adorable child voice.
    “It’s hair, bebeh. You grow it when you get big.” Her eyes get big. “Really?”

    Yes, and people will try to tell you that you have to shave it, but you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do!”

    “ohhhhhh, okay.” Goes back to trying to jump on my stomach.

    Molding young feminists.

  19. My one tip if you are stopping shaving your legs os to carry on moisturising them as if you were. Nothing drastic, just slap on any old emollient about once a week to keep feeling great.

  20. Re point 5, only one person has ever commented on my body hair uninvited, and I stopped shaving in 2012. Then again, I am very much the acceptable face of feminist body hair (white, skinny, no noticeable facial hair) so I understand that has massively shaped people’s reactions to my choices.

    • Yeah me too. Since i stopped shaving for good i havent had any issues. There’s not been a time when ‘i just dont want to’ hasn’t been a good enough answer. And honestly people dont mention it unless i say something abiut it first. But for the years beforehand when i was shaving every few months i think i got more comments (and one memorable joke from my mum saying i can be as gay as i want but not butch, it was a joke and she is supportive now but wow). I dont know if maybe my own insecurity about it drew criticism or mayeb i just hang out with chiller people now. Whatever, I wear shorts almost exclusively in the summer and no one bats an eyelid. Like you say, probs an advantage of being a palatable white queer.

  21. I also stopped shaving this summer. I was bullied horribly for thick, dark body hair when I was in middle school (fuck you both, Pitton twins) and no matter what I did, it never quite worked. I realized it was making me more uncomfortable to shave than not. I’ll still shave for cosplay and I do my armpits about once a month, but I’m done with the leggies.

  22. I totally love my leg & armpit hair but always feel a little awkward in skirts or anything femme. I tend to wear stockings, knee-high socks, and/or boots in order to hide the hair, plus cardigans or something. Any tips on how to embrace the gender fuckery?

    • Hi Liane!

      It’s interesting – because part of my journey of “being able to be as comfortable with or without leg hair” also included “being able to wear whatever I want and still feel valid in my gender.” That being said, until I bought a dress and started wearing the occasional lip color last year I had not presented femme at all in many a year.

      My best advice is that – gender fuckery is just that. Gender. Fuckery. So, if and when you feel comfortable to throw people for a loop, try it out! Maybe in a space you feel very safe in, first. 😀

  23. I used to be soooo insecure about body hair, especially on my thighs/bikini region. Also would get nervous if I forgot to shave my pits or let my legs for too long.

    As soon as I stopped removing it, I became infinitely more confident with/at home in my body, fuzz and all. I imagine the constant anxiety around removing it was really stemming from an underlying discomfort with not having it.

    Plus now it gives me something to absentmindedly twirl since I can’t grow a handlebar mustache.

    And yes, the constant comments from family is a thing. My mom poked me pretty hard in the pit by accident with a pair of scissors while joking about snipping it off in my sleep, lol.

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