Second installment in Lisa's Single Dad series
Men, do you remember when you used to watch your father shave in the mirror every morning? It's entrancing; not least because hair on your smooth face was hard to contemplate. The concentration required meant he couldn't talk to you at the same time. Shaving made the bristly bits go smooth and he smelled nice afterwards. You dreamed of the day when you could be a man and shave too.
Well, it's not exactly the same with girls and shaving. Most women shave in the shower, without an audience. It's hard to see what you are doing, but easier than contorting yourself like a Chinese acrobat to get one foot in the sink and keep the other firmly on the floor, while naked or in a nightie. If you don't have an older woman in the house, your daughter is going to need some help from you. Step up.
A lot of us women were raised with the message "no pain, no gain." In other words, you have to suffer to be beautiful. I suffered plenty; I used a disposable razor on my legs and invariably skinned my knee, shin or ankle every week. Bloody disaster zone. Of course, it's not universal that women must have shiny, hair-free legs, but in most Western countries you can take it for granted. However, you do not have to suffer too much for your beauty if you are smart about it.
One thing you have to keep in mind, (and this goes for hair, skin, teeth, breasts and fingernails) is that women, and even pre-teen, women-to-be, check each other out at every opportunity. If a girl discovers that her classmate or camp bunkmate is shaving, she will want to do it too. The other motivating factor can be if she noticed that her legs or underarms have more hair than any other girl she knows. Take into account:
- her age;
- how noticeable her body hair is;
- her level of interest;
- peer pressure; and
- your ability to teach her what she needs to know.
When your daughter first mentions shaving her legs, mentally go through this list and casually ask her why it has come up. Obviously, a razor and shaving cream aren't cult items, but you may be surprised to find out that she knows a lot about them. Ads on TV and in girls' magazines make it sound very grown up and either exciting or terrifying. She doesn't need the razor. What she really needs is a solution to a problem, as she sees it. That goes back to whether she is really hairy or whether she just wants to do what the other girls are doing.
Girls are coming to these milestones earlier these days. I think I started shaving my legs and underarms in 8th grade, age 12 or 13. It just seemed right at the time. My own child first asked me at age 9, which I thought way too young. She then wore knee socks with her school uniform, or trousers, until I gave in the following year. It intially bothered me, as a mother, that she was rushing into teen-hood when she wasn't even "double-digits" yet. However, if faced with an unhappy child, you have to ask yourself if the principle of a minimum age is a worthy one. I think not. The compromise could be that she doesn't shave, but can use a depilatory cream, such as Veet, that is spread on, left for 5 - 10 minutes and washes off in the shower. Very uncomplicated and blood-free, as it should be.
Moving on to other body hair: face, arms and tummy. I'm not talking about werewolf levels of hair. Your daughter may think she has a noticeably hairy upper lip, forearms or the vertical line from belly button to bikini line. If she is dark-haired, she may be right. If she never noticed before, but suddenly it bothers her, it is probably because aother child pointed it out to her. Do not let her shave these areas, or when it grows back it will be blunt-edged and bristly.
There are choices here; home-bleaching kits like Jolene Creme Bleach (a.k.a. Jolen) and Boots Expert Hair Lightener. Take it from someone who has had more than a few home-grooming disasters;
- Do not let your 11-year old, or even 13 yearold do this for the first time by herself. That's why you are there;
- Follow the directions, do the patch test it recommends and don't leave it on longer than you are meant to;
- Beware: some people can have an allergic reaction to the ingredients, so do the suggested test patch first. Also, her hair may go blond, but it could also go strawberry blond, which is reddish. Again, do the patch test first.
- Don't let her brothers, if there are any, see your daughter with bleach on her upper lip. It leaves the door open for much teasing, and tears.
This is a very viable option and usually does the trick, however, if it doesn't work for her (too much hair, reddish hair, etc...), the alternative is waxing.
Waxing body hair has its pros and cons. The pros are that it leaves your skin smooth and hair-free, with no blunt edge as it grows back over the next month or so. You can wax pretty much anywhere (pro), as long as you she can stand the pain (con). If you are there, she will scream and cry louder (con) and you will wince with each strip of wax (con). I would always recommend you take her to a professional who is experienced in waxing, because they do it very quickly. Yes, it hurts, but it works (Big Pro).
Threading is the new tweezing, though it isn't new at all. Eyebrows are funny things; on a young girl's face they are often quite thick and feathery,which looks fine with her soft features. However, women, who want to look more sophisticated, prefer a sharper line to their brow. Over the past 10 years or so, brows have been promoted by beauty therapists as the "frame" for our eyes, evidenced by the creation of "brow bars," where you can go for 1 or many methods of hair removal.
If a girl has heavy eyebrows, she will eventually want to shape them. In Western countries, this was traditionally done by plucking hairs out with tweezers. A whole company, Tweezerman, was created to sell trendy, but excellent, tweezers. The concept includes limited edition colours and patterns decorating the arms of the tweezer; such as pink for a breast cancer campaign. While tweezing and waxing obviously work, threading has been taking the beauty world by storm. It comes from Asian and Arabic cultures like Iran. Practitioners use a pure, thin, twisted thread which is rolled over untidy hair on the face, plucking it at the follicle level. Threading can remove an entire row of hair, resulting in a straighter line. It's not for the squeamish, as many practitioners anchor the cotton thread between their teeth,which can be very off-putting.
Whatever the situation with your daughter, take it slowly. Either you will have to be observant, so as to notice that she needs some help,or you will have to be there to comfort her when she decides that it bothers her enough to do something about it.
- Ask her if a friend is already shaving, waxing, bleaching, tweezing or threading. Ask her if she minds you calling that friend's mother for a consultation.
- Ask her aunt, cousin or older friend to take her to the store to buy whatever she wants to try.
- Ask if she needs help, and even if she says no, stay outside the bathroom door in case of a crisis.
- Keep it in perspective; it's just hair, not health, but if it matters to your daughter, it has to matter to you too.