When I was a kid, I was so embarrassed about my hairy legs. It wasn’t like the blonde, almost invisible body hair of my friends. I had thick, dark, Italian hair. And it was very noticeable. As a young tween, I was at an age when every single blemish on anyone’s body was noticed and made fun of, and my hairy legs had already been pointed out to me. There really was no question about it. I couldn’t wear pants in the heat of summer for the rest of my life.
It was time to shave.
Of course, I was afraid of shaving. I had been told that if I started shaving, I’d never be able to stop. What if I decided afterwards that I really wasn’t ready to shave? I’d be a prisoner to the razor for the rest of my life! I was told that the hair that would grow back would be even thicker and darker. I imagined my legs covered in big, black polka dots of hair that I would have to chisel off to keep my legs looking bare. And then there was the question of how MUCH to shave. Do women shave their legs AND their arms? When shaving their legs, do they shave all the way up to the hip? Is a woman’s body supposed to be completely free of hair altogether?
Obviously, these were questions for my mother to answer. But I was too afraid to go to her at first. I was sure that if I asked her about shaving, she would say no. So instead of going to her, I got all my information from my other tween friends. And I took matters into my own hands. I borrowed my mom’s razor and set to work in my bathroom. What I came away with were smooth legs free of hair – and full of nicks and cuts. In the first months of shaving, I experienced painful skin flaps from slicing my leg, legs bandaged with 4 or 5 Band-Aids at a time, razor burn from using old razors, and discovered that even after the most diligent job of shaving, I could still miss patches of hair. Because of the ugly razor burn bumps, I tried Nair. I found that not only did it stink, if rubbed off it would also rub off parts of my skin. I decided that shaving was definitely the way to go. I just had to master it. It seemed to be easier to do in the bathtub, but if I soaked my legs first the shave wouldn’t be as close. However, soaking my legs first ensured that I would not cut my legs, and that razor burn was kept at bay. And I also found that soap was not a good substitute for shaving cream. It was apparent that I was now committed to shaving since I had started, but I was pleased to discover that shaving did not need to be done every single day like I had originally though. Most important, I learned that I didn’t need to use an immense amount of pressure to shave, that the razor would still cut the hair if I skimmed my skin, but would cut my skin if I pressed too hard.
By the time that I actually let my mom know that I was shaving, it was too late. She, of course, would have been cool with it from the very beginning. And she probably would have clued me in on some of the tips about shaving, and would have dispelled some of my fears from exaggerated stories about shaving. To ensure that I was shaving safely, she bought me my own package of pink razors and some shaving cream meant especially for women so that I wasn’t using up all of my dad’s.
When my daughter was born, she possessed the same dark hair of her mother. Yes, the little bit of Italian that her mother has had been passed down to her without fail. My future ex-husband and I decided early on that as soon as she became self conscious of body hair, we would not stand in her way. We didn’t have to wait long. At 8 years old, my daughter was already beginning to ask about it. And at 9 or 10, she stole my razor and shaved her legs for the first time. And just like my own mother, I told her that it wasn’t a problem at all if she felt the need to shave. I answered any questions she had about how much to shave, encouraged her to not shave her arms if she could help it, and bought her a package of razors and some shaving cream of her very own.
Is 9 or 10 too early to be shaving? Some parents might think so. It is true that once you start shaving, it’s more noticeable if you stop. But the thought that it grows back thicker isn’t true. The hair is actually growing back with a blunted tip, giving it the appearance that it is thicker and darker. Therefore, yes, once you start shaving you really can’t just give it up just because you’re tired of it. And knowing all that, it’s hard to allow your daughter to give up a part of their childhood and start doing something as grown-up as shaving. Not to mention, it’s dangerous. She will be using a sharp edge to cut the hair off her legs. One small slip could mean a bloody accident. Wasn’t it only a few years ago that we were teaching her how to use safety scissors? And now she wants to use a razor against her skin??? Scary stuff.
So what is the right age to let your daughter start shaving?
I think it depends on her. If she wants to shave just because “everyone else is doing it”, it might be time to sit her down and discuss the reasons for shaving, and the truth that shaving becomes a lifetime commitment once started, and to maybe talk her into waiting a little longer. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that she will wait, but it has opened up the dialogue on the issue. If your daughter is starting to show signs of feeling self conscious about the hair on her legs, this is probably the time to either bring the issue up yourself, or to at least be ready for the time that she comes to you about it. Teach her the proper ways to shave to reduce the possibility of cuts and razor burn. Offer her the tips you have learned in your own shaving experience. Share with her what it was like when YOU started to shave. Whatever happens, it’s in your best interest to decide a game plan for how to handle it when your daughter does get to that stage.
And be sure to stock up on lots of Band-Aids.
How old were you when you started shaving?
What were the reasons that you did?
Have you thought about when you will let your own daughter start shaving?