Too Young? Finding the Perfect Time to Start Shaving
“When should my daughter start shaving her legs?”
“When is too early?”
“Help! My daughter wants to shave her legs but I’m not ready for it! It seems so young!”
Concerns around shaving and when is the right time are some of the most common queries we receive here at Pippin Girl. Shaving seems to be a significant milestone marking the transition of our daughters into womanhood and the pressures to “keep up appearances.” Perhaps it is this entrance into the “beauty race that no-one signed up for” that elicits a sense of emotion in mothers as our daughters are awakened to the realisation that society expects them to look a certain way. Or are we just overthinking it all? In this piece, we will explore the history of hair removal for women, the reasons our girls want to remove hair and the “right time” as well as some tips for conversations around shaving.
A brief history of hair removal for women
Historically, shaving has followed fashion trends. Up until the 19th century, women typically wore long sleeved dresses that covered their bodies from the neck to the ankles. For this reason, up until then women had only ever removed hair on their neck and face as it was believed that a woman’s face reflected her character and porcelain like complexions were considered beautiful. Shaving for women was not yet a thing and women removed any unwanted hair by using tree resins or waxes.
1920 saw the arrival of the sleeveless dress and hence, women began to remove the hair from under their arms to look neat and tidy. Women also began to trade in their waxes and resins and borrow the men’s razors as they were cheaper and much less painful.
WWII caused a shortage in nylon which meant that women were unable to wear stockings everyday. What a shame, right? Their only alternative was to walk bare-legged which was initially considered socially unacceptable. Knee length skirts arrived in the 1950’s (hellloooo) and sporting bare legs was now considered culturally appropriate and women began to shave their legs to keep up the appearance of clean, tidy and neat. Around this time, bikinis were introduced to the world and the removal of pubic hair has been a rollercoaster ever since.
For some reason, despite men wearing singlets, shorts and bathing trunks, these same tidy standards have never been applied and men have slipped under the “razor” so to speak; with hair often being associated with masculinity. Just as smooth, hair-less bodies are now strongly tied to femininity. There’s a whole lot of systemic social construct stuff going on here which we will save for another day. I love it, but sometimes it just makes my head hurt.
Reasons and timing for hair removal
Most girls become interested in shaving as they start going through puberty which can be as early as 8 or 9 years old, with the average age for girls starting puberty being 11 years old. The increase in hormones that triggers puberty cause the hair on our girls’ bodies to change. Leg hair will generally get longer, darker and thicker initially, followed by pubic hair and lastly underarm hair. These physical changes are accompanied by an increased self-awareness leading to many of our girls becoming aware of their bodies in comparison to others and those portrayed in the media. Enter the pressure to look a certain way and body image issues. Eeekkkk! Not to fear, just do not stop reminding them of their value and worth. Ever.
Do our girls NEED to be hairless? No they don’t. There is no health benefits either way but as history shows, there are long-standing cultural ideals at play here. In response to this, our message needs to be one of no judgement.
“You want to shave?” Great, do it!
“You don’t want to shave?” Fantastic, don’t!
Hair is normal! Girls having hair is normal! They won’t see it in ads or on social media, but all girls have hair!
The biggest drivers for our girls wanting to shave are body shame and teasing by peers, wanting to fit in, they have seen it in the media or they have seen you shaving or removing hair.
It’s important for our girls to know that they don’t need to change or alter anything about themselves and that their true beauty is not found in their appearance but rather in their character and how they live their life. Taking care of our bodies is important and so is learning to feel comfortable in their own skin.
Bottom line is, there is no right or wrong age to start shaving. There is no harm in starting early (whatever that looks like for you) but of course she needs to be mature enough to safely handle a razor and she does need to understand that once she starts, she will feel the need to shave regularly. It is an ongoing affair.
Conversations around shaving
My daughters are slightly pre-puberty so we haven’t got there just yet, but I know our conversations around shaving are already very judgement free. I have made sure my girls know that one day they can choose to shave or remove hair IF THEY WANT TOO but THEY DON’T HAVE TOO!
In any conversation around body image and beauty, it’s important to ask: what message do I want my daughter to come away with?
My key message is always respect and appreciation of their body for all it can DO and a focus on inner beauty over the pursuit of external aesthetics.
Another great question to reflect on is: how are they going with body image and why?
When it comes to shaving, it is important that if she hasn’t come to you, then you initiate this conversation. Talk to her about all the options (shaving/waxing/not removing hair) and let her know that you are ready to help her and walk her through it, if and when she chooses too. It is her personal choice and part of her expressing body autonomy. It’s not permanent and it’s not dangerous so I think best not to overthink it. The last thing we want is our girls to begin to feel self-conscious as this can be crippling as they go through puberty. If removing hair helps them to feel confident and free to move and live and hold their head high, then it's no biggie. We can't make these cultural beauty ideals disappear, all we can do is work with our girls within the system to be as healthy and wholesome as possible.
The first time I shaved my legs, I “borrowed” my Dad’s razor after being teased horrendously that very day at school for having such hairy legs. It took me so long to shave just one leg and with my sister banging on the bathroom door for me to get out of the shower, I had to abandon the mission. The next day at school, I spent the entire day trying to hide my one unshaven leg until I could get home and do the other that night. Don’t let this be your girl haha!
When it comes time to start removing hair, ask her what her reason is?
Are her friends already doing it? Is she being teased? Is she feeling self-conscious? Does she feel like she needs to start doing it in order to fit in?
These questions are open doors to having some wonderful conversations around her worth, value, beauty, sense of belonging and even what a good friend looks like, someone that doesn’t judge her outward appearance. Your girl does not need to adjust her appearance to fit in. A kind friend doesn’t care how someone looks, they care how they make them feel. You may find that just by talking about hair removal, chats around peer pressure and fitting in arise. Great!
At the end of the day, majority of you reading this have all removed hair at some point in your lives and you’re okay. Kind of, right?
The perfect time for shaving is when she knows she doesn’t have to but freely wants to, she can safely handle a razor and she knows that her worth and value is not attached to her appearance.