"I do my legs and underarms every morning." "I do my legs, but only in the summer." "I do my own legs and underarms regularly, but I have my face and bikini line done professionally." For millions of North American women, it's a regular ritual, performed at home with a razor or involving a visit to a beauty salon or electrologist. Though the methods may vary, the object is the same: to remove objectionable hair from the legs, underarms, bikini line or face. For North American women the earnest removal of body hair began in the 1920s when bathing suits became more revealing and dress styles bared more skin. Today removing hair, at least from the lower legs, is widespread, and recent surveys indicate that about 86 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 65 remove hair from their lower legs regularly either by shaving or using a depilatory. But feminine hairlessness is not a new idea, and most of these methods have been in existence in some form for centuries. The earliest records of body hair removal come from the Mediterranean and Orient from 4000 to 3000 B.C., when women mixed arsenic sulphide, quicklime, starch and water into a paste-like depilatory. The "Papyrus Ebers," an Egyptian medical text from about 1500 B.C., lists a depilatory recipe of burnt lotus leaf, tortoise shell and hippo fat. Other ancient methods of depilation included bronze razors, pumice stones, waxing and even rudimentary tweezers. Complete hair removal was the fashion in ancient Greece and Rome. Hair removal in medieval Europe focused on the face. A fashion for high foreheads, continuing through the 17th and 18th centuries, prompted women to raise their hairlines by at least one inch. The preferred methods included shaving, plucking or applying a plaster of quicklime, letting it dry and then stripping it off, taking the hair with it. Even eyebrows often were entirely plucked or waxed away, replaced higher up the forehead with fakes made of mouse skin. Walnut oil was popularly used to inhibit hair growth, and the less wealthy made do with a depilatory of dried cat dung and vinegar, which was smelly and probably unsuccessful. North American doctors of the mid-1800s had tried numerous harmful procedures in futile attempts to remove hair permanently. These included: inserting into the hair follicle needles dipped into sulfuric acid, injecting carbolic acid directly into the follicle or rapidly twisting a barbed needle in the follicle. Pain and scarring were the most common results. Electrolysis remains a popular hair removal technique. In 1875, St. Louis physician Charles Michel invented electrolysis, the first successful method for permanent hair removal. The process works by destroying hair roots with electrical current. The latest technology in removing hair is an electrical device that grabs hairs, in either a rotating coil or rubber roller, and pulls them out. Older methods of hair removal still practiced include shaving and waxing. Before the invention of the safety razor by an American named Gillette in 1895, shaving was a risky venture performed with a straight razor. Today women may use electric shavers equipped with vibrating heads or hand razors of post-modern design. Waxing is virtually unchanged over the centuries. In the process, which can be done at home or in a salon, heated wax is applied in a thin layer in the direction of the hair growth. A strip of porous fabric is then placed over top so that the wax, hair and fabric all set together. Minutes later, hair is removed by grasping the fabric and quickly pulling it off -- like an adhesive bandage -- against the direction of the hair growth. Waxing also removes the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, which is why freshly waxed skin feel so smooth.