Shaving Legs

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How young is too young to shave legs?

One Tween Mom asks:
“My almost 9 year old (3rd grade) wants to shave her legs. Her legs are unusually hairy for a girl (this seems to run on hubby's side). They have been this way since she was 4 or 5 years old, but they are getting hairer and more obvious as she gets older. She also has pale skin, which makes it more obvious.

So what do I do about this. I told her that we would talk about it again in the spring when warm weather (and shorts) approach. She said that she hasn't been teased about them, but she doesn't like the way they look. I do think that other kids could easily make comments about them. In general, she's become far more body aware in the past few months. I've gotten her all the American girls books that she reads with me and on her own.

So 9 seems pretty young to shave your legs (or use some other form of hair removal) and, of course, I feel like I'll be reinforcing all these norms and expectations about girls and bodies if I let her do this. It just 'feels' wrong. On the other hand, if its not this summer, I'm pretty sure it will be next and what is the point in waiting and having her feel self conscious. Any wisdom to share about this?”

Responses:

“This is a tricky one for sure. I can't believe I'm saying this, because I am pretty old-fashioned--I don't let my 9-year-old daughter wear nail polish or anything else that seems inappropriately grown-up to me. But if she feels self-conscious about her hair, I would let her go ahead. In this particular case, I think it's better that she feels good about the way she looks, even if it means bowing a bit to conventional ideals of feminine beauty, and at an age when she really shouldn't have to think about such things. Which doesn't mean we should let them get breast implants or botox, obviously, but shaving legs seems a relatively harmless intervention.”

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“I have four girls, two in their twenties. What is interesting to me in hindsight is that I never had to have this conversation with any of them. There were always razors available in the bathroom and at some point or other they made use of them on their own and started shaving. I am a feminist, but I see no conflict regarding the reinforcement of gendered norms or stereotypes. I have seen many men who shave their legs or chests. I personally shave only in the summer months. I think it is a personal choice. However, because your daughter is only 9 , I would think you might have to teach or supervise her in this process.”

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“We haven't reached this moment with my 9 year old - her leg hair is blond at the moment, though I know it will change and am just waiting - BUT I went through this when I was in elementary school, and was the first in my class to have noticeably (very) hairy legs. I wouldn't have dared asked my mom if I could shave them because I knew she would say no, so I took matters into my own hands and found an old electric razor of my dad's under the sink and attempted to shave them myself. This resulted in a huge scar along my shin bone that I have to this day. My best friend's mother would only let her shave to right above the knee - until college. I remember being totally torn up about having hairy legs. When I think about this with my own, although I know I would be encouraging a ridiculous norm in our society, I think I would let her do it. The internal turmoil at this stage of the game is so intense. Waiting until the summer sounds reasonable.

I personally have no experience with chemical hair removal. I did used to bleach my facial hair. Waxing? Threading? Any European ladies that didn't grow up with such an intense negative experience to body hair, do you have a "go to" response for this?

You know what else, when she realizes what a pain in the ass it is to maintain, she'll probably take it down a notch. I know I did.”

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“I would concur with everyone else- let her get rid of the hair. If she developed breasts early, got her period early, or otherwise showed signs of early physical maturity- I think it would be clear that you would want to help her feel comfortable with those changes and any behavioral/style changes that might contribute to her comfort.

As someone who had boobs before 12- I remember that it felt terrible to not be like everyone else. And I was teased for sure.

As someone with hairy legs - you might see if she could tolerate waxing- so much nicer as the hair grows back in. It took me till age 35 to go that route and I'll never go back.”