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How Did People Remove Hair in Medieval Times?

For centuries, people have been removing unwanted hair from their bodies. Hair removal has been a practice that is not only hygienic but also a way of expressing beauty. In medieval times, the methods differed significantly from those used today. The medieval era was characterized by a lack of advanced technology, and people relied on traditional methods to remove hair for various reasons.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hair removal was significant in medieval times and was driven by the need for hygiene and beauty standards.
  • People used tweezing, plucking, shaving, waxing, and depilatory creams to remove hair in medieval times.
  • Some unconventional methods of hair removal were also employed in medieval times.

Importance of Hair Removal in Medieval Society

During the medieval era, hair removal practices were exceedingly important for both men and women. The people of this time period held hygiene and beauty in high regard, and the removal of unwanted hair was a critical component in maintaining these standards.

Hygiene was especially important, as people were plagued by diseases such as lice and fleas. Therefore, hair removal was viewed as essential to preventing the spread of these pests. Additionally, those who removed their hair were believed to have better hygiene overall, and were therefore viewed as more respectable.

Beauty also played a significant role in medieval society, with both men and women placing great importance on physical appearance. Having a smooth, hair-free body was seen as desirable, and those who achieved this were often admired and held in high esteem.

Overall, hair removal practices were deeply ingrained in the cultural norms of medieval society. They were believed to promote hygiene and beauty, and were thus integral to maintaining a respected and desirable appearance.

Traditional hair removal methods

In medieval times, people utilized various traditional methods to remove unwanted hair. These practices may seem unusual by today’s standards, but they were effective in an era where personal hygiene and beauty were highly valued.

One popular technique for hair removal was the use of a pumice stone. People would rub the stone over the skin to remove hair from the body. Another method involved using a simple tool called a “razor.” These razors were made of bronze or iron, and men often used them to clean their faces of hair. Women also shaved their bodies with razors, although they were less commonly used.

Other traditional methods included using a depilatory powder made from quicklime mixed with water or vinegar. This mixture was applied to the skin and then washed away, taking the hair with it. Some individuals also used a technique called “sugaring,” which involved applying a paste made of sugar, water, and lemon juice to the skin and then pulling it off in the opposite direction of hair growth.

Despite the lack of modern technology, these traditional methods of hair removal were effective and widely used during medieval times. They were an important part of personal hygiene and beauty practices.

Tweezing and plucking in medieval hair removal

One of the most common techniques used to remove unwanted hair during medieval times was tweezing and plucking. This method was widely employed by both men and women to maintain smooth and hair-free skin.

The process involved using a pair of tweezers or simply plucking the hair out with one’s fingers. It was a time-consuming and painful process, particularly when removing hair from sensitive areas such as the face, legs, and underarms. Despite the discomfort, many individuals preferred this method over others, as it provided a longer-lasting result compared to shaving.

Tweezing and plucking were often done by female attendants or handmaidens who were trusted to follow specific beauty practices. Men also used this method, particularly in the case of facial hair, where they sought well-groomed mustaches and beards.

Despite the popularity of tweezing and plucking, it was not without its risks. The process could lead to infections, ingrown hairs, and even scarring in some cases. However, the risks didn’t deter those who sought to achieve hair-free skin through this method.

Shaving as a Hair Removal Technique in Medieval Times

Shaving was a popular hair removal technique during the medieval era, employed by both men and women to achieve smooth skin. The razor, invented by the Romans, was the primary tool used for shaving. However, razors during the medieval period were different from those used today, usually consisting of a single blade made from materials such as flint, obsidian or copper.

Shaving was mostly practiced by upper class individuals and was considered a luxury. During medieval times, barbers were responsible for performing the act of shaving, which inevitably became an essential grooming practice amongst the aristocracy.

The process of shaving was simple- a soap or oil was applied to the skin to lubricate it, and the hair was then scraped away with the razor. It was an effective technique, but not without its risks, as nicks and cuts were a common occurrence.

The Different Types of Razors Used

Type Material Description
Fixed Blade Razor Bone, Ivory or Wood A single blade made of bone, ivory or wood that was fixed into place and not disposable.
Folding Razor Metal A blade made of metal that was folded into a handle for safekeeping. It was more commonly used by men.
Straight Razor Steel A blade made of steel that was straight and disposable. It was considered a luxury item and was also used for self-defense.

Shaving was not only employed for hair removal purposes but also for the creation of elaborate hair designs. Shaved patterns on the head and face were trendy during the medieval period, used to signify different ranks and social standings.

The use of razors was a significant step forward in hair removal practices, as it allowed people to achieve a clean-shaven appearance easily. However, it also came with its own set of drawbacks, including the risk of infection and the painful reality of cuts and nicks.

Waxing in Medieval Hair Removal Practices

While many hair removal techniques used in medieval times may seem barbaric by today’s standards, waxing was one surprisingly sophisticated and effective hair removal method.

The waxing procedure in medieval times involved a mix of various ingredients like honey, sugar, and lemon. The mixture was heated over a fire, applied to the skin, and once it cooled, it was rapidly removed, taking unwanted hair along with it.

Waxing had several advantages over other hair removal techniques in medieval times. Firstly, it was able to remove hair both quickly and effectively. Secondly, it allowed for hair removal from nearly any part of the body, making it versatile. Thirdly, it meant that hair wouldn’t start growing back for a longer time than other methods.

Though waxing was popular, it was still a luxury as it required ingredients that were costly and not readily available. It was used especially among wealthy women seeking smooth skin in their beauty regimens. It was also used by men during specific times of the year, such as the summer months, to deal with excess body hair.

Overall, waxing was a relatively innovative hair removal technique for the medieval era. While it required a specific set of ingredients and skills to master, it was highly effective and proved popular among the wealthy and elite of society.

Depilatory Creams and Concoctions in Medieval Hair Removal

In medieval times, people were always searching for new ways to remove unwanted hair. Along with traditional methods like tweezing and shaving, they also experimented with depilatory creams and homemade concoctions. These were often made with natural ingredients that were easily available, such as honey, sugar, or lemon juice.

Depilatory Cream Ingredients Instructions
Alum Cream Alum powder, grape juice, and gum arabic Mix ingredients until you have a thick cream, then apply it to the desired area and leave it for a few hours. Rinse off with warm water.
Sulphur Cream Sulphur, quicklime, and egg whites Mix ingredients until you have a thick paste, then apply it to the desired area and leave it for a few hours. Rinse off with warm water.

Depilatory creams were popular among women in particular, as they didn’t want to risk injuring themselves with other methods like shaving or plucking. These creams were also thought to leave the skin smooth and soft.

“I swear by this homemade concoction of sugar and lemon juice. It gets rid of all my unwanted hair and leaves my skin feeling silky smooth!” – Lady Edith, 14th century

Concoctions made with sugar and lemon juice were a common home remedy for hair removal in medieval times. The mixture was applied to the skin, left for a few minutes, and then washed off. It was thought to not only remove hair but also exfoliate the skin.

  • Another popular concoction was a mixture of ash and goat’s milk, which was rubbed onto the skin and then washed off after a few minutes.
  • Some people even used a paste made from crushed earthworms to remove hair, although this method was not widely practiced.

The use of depilatory creams and homemade concoctions declined as more modern methods of hair removal were invented, but they remain an interesting part of medieval hair removal history.

Hair removal through unconventional methods

While tweezing, plucking, shaving, and waxing were popular methods for removing hair during medieval times, some individuals experimented with more unique practices.

For example, a common technique involved using a mixture of vinegar and ground cloves to remove hair. This concoction was said to weaken the hair follicles, making it easier to pluck or remove. Additionally, some individuals used a mixture of honey and lemon juice as a sort of makeshift wax to remove hair.

Other unconventional methods included applying a paste made from crushed red ants to the skin to remove hair, and rubbing a mixture of talcum powder and soap on the skin to prevent hair growth.


Overall, hair removal practices played a crucial role in medieval era society, with hygiene and beauty being the main driving factors. People in medieval times employed various traditional methods to remove unwanted hair, including tweezing, plucking, shaving, waxing, and the use of depilatory creams and concoctions.

Although many of these techniques may seem primitive and unconventional by today’s standards, they were effective in maintaining a level of cleanliness and aesthetic appeal. Unconventional methods, such as natural remedies and talcum powder, were also utilized by some individuals in the medieval period.

In conclusion, the hair removal practices of medieval times offer a fascinating glimpse into the culture and attitudes of the era, highlighting the importance placed on maintaining hygiene and beauty standards.


How did people remove hair in medieval times?

People in medieval times used various methods to remove unwanted hair. Some common techniques included tweezing, plucking, shaving, waxing, and the use of depilatory creams and homemade concoctions.

What was the importance of hair removal in medieval society?

Hair removal practices in medieval times were closely linked to notions of hygiene and beauty. Removing excessive hair was considered a way to maintain cleanliness and adhere to societal beauty standards.

What were the traditional hair removal methods in medieval times?

Traditional methods of hair removal in medieval times included tweezing, plucking, shaving, waxing, and the use of depilatory creams and homemade concoctions. These methods varied depending on personal preferences and cultural norms.

How was tweezing and plucking used in medieval hair removal?

Tweezing and plucking were commonly used techniques in medieval hair removal. Both men and women would use tweezers to pluck out individual hairs from the roots, providing a longer-lasting solution for removing unwanted hair.

How was shaving used for hair removal in medieval times?

Shaving was a prevalent method for hair removal in medieval times. Men and women would use different types of razors, including straight razors and safety razors, to shave off unwanted hair from various parts of the body.

What was the role of waxing in medieval hair removal practices?

Waxing was a popular hair removal technique in medieval times. It involved applying a mixture of heated wax, often made from ingredients like beeswax or resin, to the skin. The wax was then quickly removed, along with the unwanted hair.

How were depilatory creams and concoctions used for hair removal in medieval times?

Depilatory creams and homemade concoctions were used in medieval times as a means to remove unwanted hair. These creams and mixtures, often made from natural ingredients, were applied to the skin and then wiped off, taking the hair with them.

Were there any unconventional methods of hair removal in medieval times?

Yes, some individuals in medieval times employed unconventional methods for hair removal. These included using natural remedies, such as lemon juice or honey, and even applying talcum powder to absorb excess moisture and reduce hair growth.

What can we conclude about hair removal practices in medieval times?

Hair removal practices in medieval times were diverse and played a significant role in maintaining hygiene and beauty standards. People employed various methods like tweezing, plucking, shaving, waxing, and the use of depilatory creams to achieve desired results.