Monday, May 27, 2013

Beauty- Cultural Differences

My pasty white legs. I need more sun.

It's almost summer, and once again I'm faced with my yearly concern about my hair... or rather, body hair. See, Japanese girls shave their arms. I don't. I've always been perfectly at ease with my fine, pale arm hair (which I got lucky with considering my Italian background)- that is, until I moved to Japan.

I became self-conscious about it when I saw people staring at my arms on the train, and blatant students calling me kuma-chan (little bear), and referring to it as my 'fur'. Every year I'm tempted to shave my arms just so I stop people from commenting, but I can't bring myself to do it, as it would grow back thicker, require constant care, and well, I have enough on my hands with every other part of my body.

It's strange to me that Japanese girls shave their arms, while they don't really pay the same attention to other grooming areas. For Western girls, it's the opposite: we don't shave our arms, but we pay meticulous attention to pretty much every other part, and obsess over getting rid of every single body hair through shaving and waxing. Even my favourite beauty spa Nua was telling me that it's not very popular yet with the Japanese clientele. The technician also convinced me to keep my arm hair, and after much debate and questioning my close Japanese friends, they all told me I should, and that it was kawaii. Sigh.

This made me think about other cultural differences. For example, in the Western world we tend to spray perfume directly on our skin, while Japanese spray it around them, resulting in a more subtle and delicate scent. This is a tip I really like, and now have adopted.

Can you think of other beauty-related cultural differences? Do you shave your arms?


love.heart.boom. said...

Love this post! I don't shave my arms either and I have black hair (thanks to my Portuguese father!). One of the weirder (maybe not weird but different) is the eyebrow situation. How everyone shaves their eyebrows off and draws them back on or cuts them really short. Guys too - I dated a guy who had better shaped eyebrows then me! I dye my eyebrows when I get my hair done and one time afterwards my hairdresser asked me if she could "touch them up" read cut them really thanks!!
Ohh and lucky you have Nua in Tokyo. I heard about them from a friend and was so jealous (a weird thing to be jealous of - waxing) as we have nothing of the sort in Hiroshima..we have to DYI literally down south!!

Unknown said...

When I lived in Japan I shaved my arms although I abandoned the practice after returning to the US. The reason I shaved my arms for the year was because I was out to dinner with a Japanese guy, it was a date, and he casually mentioned that my arms looked hairy. That night the arm hair came off. I am happy to report that now that my hair has grown back in it is no thicker or darker than it was before.

Chiara said...

I've been shaving my arms for many years now and before I was using wax but since I'm here in Japan everything changed and I'm using shaving creams (the one you find at the supermarket)for my arms. As for the other parts, I kind of gave up since having legs or bikini wax is insanely expansive in Tokyo!! When I first arrived in Japan I was going to a brazilian salon in Harajuku but then I started shaving with the razor to save money (ouch! for all my life I've been against razors!!!) This is when I miss Italy, with the correspondent of 4000 yen I was able to wax arms, bikini and legs(!!) and sometimes also an eyebrow retouch :P
Thanks for the post because I really would like to go back to my old good habits and I will try the Nua salon!

Beauty Box said...

I don't shave my arm hair either but I never knew Japanese girls did. I thought they had naturally hairless arms. Japanese beauty are obsessed with lotion but they pat it onto the face instead of toner on the cotton pad routine. They believe it preps the skin to absorb moisturizer better. I skip this step because I tend to break out if I use too many products.

Kate said...

My mother went to a Swiss boarding school when she was in high school. At the time, the girls there didn't shave anything, so when they noticed my mom, the American girl, was shaving her legs… the girls shaved off everything! LOL! It is interesting how different cultures approach body hair. But what really struck me about your blog post this time was that you think your legs need more sun! I am recovering from melanoma skin cancer that was found near my knee, and I'm only 32 years old. I never tanned, and my parents can't remember a single time that I burned growing up. Skin cancer, especially melanoma, Is the most common form of cancer in girls our age!

Kate said...

And P.S. - melanoma is super deadly. I was given only a 10-20% survival chance at first, but we fortunately caught it before it had spread. It can be a quick cancer, and the only thing I could see was a freckle on my leg that was slightly darker than the others on my body. Use a fake tanning cream! Then load up on SPF! :)

Vivian said...

love.heart.boom: Oh I know, shaving eyebrows is even weirder!! It doesn't look good either, you can totally tell. Especially on guys, yikes. I can totally relate to your situation in Hiroshima, it was the same when I was in Shikoku- DIY all the way!! Take a trip to Tokyo, let me know if you do!!!

Unknown: That's good to hear it grew back just the same. So it's just an old wive's tale?!

Chiara: No way!! I want to go to Italy, so cheap!!! I miss those kinds of cheap treatments. Well, I recommend Nua- it's affordable and I think it's worth the money, just doing nice things like waxes, facials and manicures is like therapy.. which we all need living here, haha.

Beauty Box: Interesting info about the lotion, I didn't know!! Same as me, I need to keep my routine simple. Thanks for the info!

Kate- Yikes, I wasn't aware of those high risks, definitely made me rethink my sun exposure. I'm always extra careful and wear sunscreen daily (I really do). I'm happy to hear you caught it early and was able to recover. I wish you all the best, and thanks for the words of awareness.

Unknown said...

My roommate used to shave her arms with a little cup of water while sitting on the couch watching TV. I thought that was so funny.

Don't shave your arms!

Hey, did you know a lot of J-girls shave their faces, too? The black hair looks like sideburns on some people so they get it shaved off.


Vivian said...

No way! Face shaving is wrong!! They could wax?! Guess they don't wax here according to my beauty spa...

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