It seems that human beings are a vain bunch, judging by the millions and millions of dollars that are raked in each and every year by the beauty and cosmetics industries.
However, this quest to look good has another deeper purpose. It goes hand in hand with our survival as a species. We try to look good to members of the opposite sex, and it is imperative that we do, because attractiveness is a sure fire aid to procreation.
Consider the birds of the air with their colorful plumage. In spring, when winged creatures come courting, they use all their wiles to attract a mate. Some do fancy dances with their feathers all puffed out. Some bring sparkling pebbles as a love offering.
The scarlet red of the Cardinal, and the sunny yellow of the Goldfinch are two striking examples of dressing to impress. Contrary to what we might think, it is the male of the species that sports the brightest colors.
Humans have engaged in some pretty bizare beauty rituals during the course of history as well. While birds keep their feathers, humans pursue hair removal.
The ancient Egyptians shaved their heads and then donned wigs to protect against the harmful rays of the sun. Wigs were an early form of sunscreen.
In the 1700's it became common for men and women to wear elaborate wigs, that were colored with powder. Men favored white, while women sought lovely pastel shades of pink and blue. This became a fashion statement, but it really was the attempt to get rid of head lice. They shaved their heads, and then donned a wig.
For a long period of time, from the middle ages to the crusades, women adopted a look that involved a lot of suffering. They endured ridding themselves of every last hair from their necks, temples, eyelashes and eyebrows.
This was accomplished by yanking out each hair, one at a time. Back then, infection could easily set in, and without antibiotics, one could conceivably die trying to be beautiful.
In the 1770s, Jean-Jacques Perret, a French barber, wrote a piece called La Pogonotomie, or The Art of Learning to Shave Oneself. He tried to develop a safety razor to reduce the near inevitability of painful cuts.
With an L-shaped wooden guard, his invention was the grandfather of our modern razors, which continue to evolve to this day. But safety came slowly, and for most men being clean shaven meant nasty cuts and much tweezing to eliminate any stragglers.
A break-through happened in 1847 when William Henson came up with the idea of putting the razor blade perpendicular to the handle. This offered much more control of the implement and effectively replaced the straight razor which required endless sharpening.
Meanwhile, in the quest to be hairless, women were experimenting with various concoctions, pulling ingredients out of their kitchen cupboards and raiding the wine cellar. Some of the potions involved immersing oneself in a tub of the stuff for as long as twenty-four hours.
The first patent for a safety razor was applied for by the Kampfe brothers in the United States. This was a one-sided version with a wire guard to protect the skin all along the side of the blade. Although it was in improvement, the blade still had to be removed regularly for sharpening.
A salesman for the Baltimore Seal Company, with a very recognizable last name, was the next inventor in the quest for a safety razor. It was King Camp Gillette that spent six years developing and promoting the first disposable razor.
He called it his dream shaver, and there is no doubt that men all over the world, and women too, hailed it as a wonderful thing.
Today, we still use depilatory creams, pluck with tweezers, apply hot wax, and rely on our safety razors. These methods are all temporary and encroach on our valuable time when we could be doing something more fun.
Until just recently, electrolysis, although painful and time consuming, was the only way to achieve permanent hairless skin. In 2009, laser hair removal is the better option. It uses a gentle beam of light, that passes through your skin with no damage, directly into the hair follicle. Soothing, cooling methods keep you feeling comfortable during the procedure. Smooth, permanently hairless skin, without pain, is finally attainable.