At some point during the teen years, both boys and girls usually begin to try their hand at shaving, whether it’s in response to the beginnings of male facial hair (the “teen ‘stache” as one mom calls it) or unwanted female leg and underarm hair.
Dr. Shannon Humphrey, a medical and cosmetic dermatologist and mother of three from Vancouver B.C., says there’s no “right age” to start shaving, and that parents need to talk to their kids to determine the right time. “Of course, children who enter puberty early and develop significant adult hair may be inclined to shave earlier. However, it’s also an issue of maturity. Shaving is a practice that requires an ongoing commitment and attention to safety,” she says.
While some kids become self-conscious at the appearance of new hair growth on their bodies (with peer pressure playing a role) others seem unfazed, and are in no rush to take action. Last year, my then seven-year-old niece asked if she could shave her dark leg hair – before her two older sisters showed an interest – and her mother helped her. She hasn’t mentioned it again since.
As a parent, you can let your child know that you’re there whenever they’re ready to start thinking about hair removal and, if possible, the same-gender parent can take their teen shopping for shaving products. This makes it feel like an exciting and important rite of passage.
“Shaving is actually a social ritual and not required for overall health or hygiene,” says Dr. Humphrey, so follow your child’s lead and comfort level to ensure a “smooth” transition to this phase.
Dermatologist Dr. Shannon Humphrey says “methods like depilatory cream, waxing or threading may be preferable to shaving because of their favourable safety profiles. Depilatory creams are widely available and technically easy to apply, though unfortunately most of them still have a strong odour.”
These methods also require a certain amount of hair growth to be effective, which might not be desirable at an age when many teens are already self-conscious.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, June/July 2014.