To Nair, or Not To Nair — Why is that a question?

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“The less you wear, the more you need Nair!”

What a catchy singalong slogan for such a chemically caustic product!

Has anyone ever thought about exactly why Nair came into being? Not necessarily how — it would not surprise me if a few scientists made one too many booboos in the lab and all of a sudden the compound that they were handling burned their hair off. And, like Lucy from the Peanuts Christmas special, they shouted “THAT’S IT!” And then there was Nair.

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Yes, I do acknowledge that Nair and other hair removal products are probably more effective for that newly shaven look many days longer. I will also admit that Nair takes many steps to be sure that their customers use the product for the short time period required. But I ask once again: Why do we use Nair?

I think that part of my answer can be found by a simple game of comparison of two different websites: Nair for Women, and Nair for Men. (Perhaps I live in the Stone Age, but I had never heard of Nair for Men until I Google-searched for the hair removal product in general. Or maybe, like most of the general public, I had never seen a commercial for Nair for Men, so I simply assumed that their only consumer audience was women.) Anyway, I started searching the websites to look for any explanation for the use of Nair. It was much easier than I thought — both sites have a “Why Nair?” tab on their home page.

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For the most part, these tabs were the same — they provided a short blurb on the Nair products, and then had little video demos explaining how each product worked — lotion, waxing, etc. There was one glaring difference, however, and that was in the delivery of the product’s social benefits. The men’s page was stating that Nair was convenient because of what appeared to be rational reasons: no itchy stubble, and apparently  “there’s a formula to suit every guy’s personal preferences”.

The women’s Nair page used the same language for the most part, except they throw in this little nugget after expounding the negative effect of shaving: “When those cut edges emerge, you can feel that rough, stubbly sensation as you run your hands over your skin. Not to mention how it feels to someone else!”.

Ah. So that’s why we use Nair.

Old habits die hard: a 1940 Nair ad, using similar language to sell their product.

Old habits die hard: a 1940 Nair ad, using similar language to sell their product.

The advertisers of Nair Hair Remover take advantage of established social implications for women’s bodies and how they are meant to be represented. Instead of giving the realm of the body wholly to the woman, like the Nair for Men explanation, their bodies must also fulfill the purpose of enjoyment for “someone else”. Any autonomy that a woman has to control how her body looks and feels was eliminated with that advertising tactic. The burden of social expectation was placed on the woman, as though it is her duty to have extra-smooth legs for other people.

It would be a stretch to claim that Nair is brainwashing women into a socially constructed corner about their bodies. But they are most certainly not helping women reclaim their bodies and establishing what is an acceptable image to present to the rest of society. You don’t “need” Nair, but they would like that to be true.

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One thought on “To Nair, or Not To Nair — Why is that a question?

  1. Nancy says:

    Apparently it is ALL about someone else! I don’t want someone else to rub against my unshaven leg–that’s my only concern, not that it is irritating ME long before it can even irritate that elusive someone else.

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