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Januhairy: What I learned when I stopped shaving

Laura Jackson Image copyright Laura Jackson
Image caption Laura Jackson said she had been overwhelmed by reaction to her Januhairy campaign

Women all over the world put down their razors and wax strips to grow out their body hair for Januhairy. While some were praised for helping to promote body confidence, others were branded disgusting. This is what four participants took from the experience.

'Telling people seemed intimidating'

Image copyright Sonia Thakurdesai
Image caption Sonia Thakurdesai feels more comfortable in her own skin after taking part

Sonia Thakurdesai was "quite hesitant" about announcing her decision to grow her body hair.

"I remember seeing a lot of tweets around the time Januhairy was getting popular, from both men and women, bashing it [and] saying it's disgusting.

"Despite being happy to take part, the task of posting on social media and telling people seemed intimidating.

"Body hair has always been something I have felt self-conscious about. I always felt people would see me as dirty or gross if I did open up about it."

The 19-year-old, from Heckmondwike in West Yorkshire, said despite the negativity and initial fears, the campaign has improved her confidence.

"It has opened up the topic for discussion - women across the world are sharing their experiences and it is challenging those who feel they have to remove their body hair to think why that is.

"It has made me feel more comfortable in my own skin and accept my body in its natural fuzzy form."

'I'm not doing it for approval'

Image copyright Sabine Fisher
Image caption Sabine Fisher said that her body hair is beautiful

Sabine Fisher was shocked when those close to her expressed disgust at her participation in Januhairy.

"I have had a couple of people tell me its 'disgusting' and 'unnatural', which made me feel hurt and confused as they were close friends, but now I'm OK with people not liking it.

"I'm not doing it for them or their approval - I'm doing it for me."

The 18-year-old from Rotorua in New Zealand said some cultures had been "brainwashed" into thinking body hair is "wrong and weird".

"I think body hair is so beautiful, but when people see my armpit hair they won't make eye contact with me, or they stare at it.

"I don't know if it will be a thing I continue to do forever, but for now it feels good and right.

"My beauty and self worth have nothing to do my body hair - or what other people think about it."

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'I felt feminine'

Image copyright Crystal Marchand
Image caption Crystal Marchand, 32, said one interaction caused her to shave off her hair

Crystal Marchand is transgender and decided to grow out her body hair for the first time since her transition last year.

"I was called horrible names. I was cursed at in public. Some stared, others wouldn't look at me."

One abusive interaction, halfway through the month, caused her to shave off her facial hair.

But in spite of the negative reaction, the 32-year-old from Montreal in Canada said she learned more about herself through the process.

"There is some danger in pushing the boundaries and that risk worried some of my loved ones.

"But I discovered I could feel feminine despite all my body hair, which has troubled me since its arrival.

"Other people's perceptions of my gender are not as important to me as my own self-awareness, self-acceptance, and my ability to love and express myself freely."

'Less of a monster'

Image copyright Laura Jackson
Image caption Laura Jackson has received many messages of support

Laura Jackson never expected Januhairy to blow up like it did. The 21-year-old campaign founder had one simple aim - to encourage women to embrace their body hair while raising money for Body Gossip.

She said one woman, who has a beard caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thanked her for making her feel like "less of a monster".

"I couldn't believe someone could say that about themselves," the Exeter University student said. "It made me tear up a little."

Laura also described how a 13-year-old with excess body hair on her arms and legs contacted her to say the campaign had made her cry and helped her realise she is "not alone".

"It gives me a lot more confidence in humanity and the changes this generation can bring to the world.

"But it's not just about me. Women have been inspiring other women with their stories.

"This needed to happen, and I'm just grateful to be a part of it."

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