Last summer, when Katrina Drost of Douglas, NB, was 10, she asked her mother if she could shave her legs. Her mom, Helga Rennke, said no. In part, Rennke refused because Katrina has three younger sisters — Rennke doesn’t want all of her girls grabbing razors as soon as they reach double digits, too. She also doesn’t think her daughters’ blond leg hairs are very noticeable, and she’s wary of an onslaught of other requests. “First it’s shaving, then it’s makeup, then it’s dyeing their hair,” she says. “If you say yes to one thing, others will follow. I want my daughters to stay little for just a while longer.”
Why tweens want to shave
Katrina wears shorts for volleyball, and a bathing suit for swimming, which is partly why her mom thinks she’s so body conscious. But the hair removal request also comes out of a desire to fit in. “She doesn’t want to be the only one left out,” says Rennke.
“We see some girls coming in around age 11,” says Cailey Ward, manager of Toronto’s Sugarmoon body-sugaring salon. “They’ve been asking if they’re allowed to shave, or their moms have caught them shaving.” Ward says the groin area is off limits for tween hair removal, and anyone under 18 must have a signed parental consent form.
What’s the right age?
Elizabeth Saewyc, a professor of adolescent medicine and nursing at the University of British Columbia, suggests delaying body hair removal until high school. “Puberty is a pivotal time,” she says. A serious self-esteem drop is common, and parents need to monitor insecurities that can set lifelong mental health patterns. She suggests parents initiate conversations about how much primping goes into the unrealistic images and body types on TV, for example. Saewyc also warns that young shavers are at risk of inflamed follicles and serious cuts. She advises well-meaning parents, who might have endured teasing during their own childhoods, not to let their own body issues play a part in the decisions they make for their daughters.
Talking to your tween about hair removal
Newcastle, Ont., mom Jennifer Stone started obsessively plucking her eyebrows when she was 10, prompted by an offhand comment. “I vividly remember an adult asking me if I’d heard of tweezers,” says Stone. If her daughter, who’s eight, raises the issue of bushy brows on her own, Stone says she’d rather help her get them groomed professionally than have her stew in embarrassment. Her daughter sometimes tags along for Stone’s eyebrow waxes. “She’s asked me ‘when do I have to shave?’ I tell her, ‘You don’t have to do anything.’” She teaches that body hair is natural, and that removing it — or not — is a personal choice every young woman makes for herself.
A version of this article appeared in our July 2012 issue with the headline “A hairy topic,” p. 56.
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