Between the ages of nine and fourteen, children start to grow thicker, darker hair and this can cause some anxiety, particularly if friends point it out, so the question is: how do we handle it?
This question certainly caused friction amongst a group of my friends recently. One, of Greek descent, has a nine-year-old daughter who is really struggling as the only one of her peers with dark leg hair. “Never shave her legs, wax them!” advised one parent.
“Delay it as long as you can,” urged another friend who, as a local teacher, deals with the various anxieties of tweens on a daily basis. “Teach her to embrace and celebrate this stage in her life and accept herself, hair and all.”
This subject is a really tricky one and there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there. On the one hand, we want to protect our children from being teased, and on the other we want to instil in them a strong sense of self-acceptance. So here’s what we parents need to know:
BODY HAIR FACTS Our entire bodies are covered in a layer of soft, light-coloured vellus hair, which regulates our temperature. During puberty, male hormones called androgens increase in both boys and girls causing fine vellus hair to thicken and darken, transforming into terminal hair on the pubic area, legs, under arms and on the face.
CAN SHAVING MAKE THE HAIR THICKER?
Removing the fine vellus hair too early can lead to it becoming coarser and darker prematurely so it is worth delaying for as long as possible.
WHAT IF MY CHILD IS REALLY HAIRY?
Some children develop much quicker than others, while others are genetically disposed to having darker hair on their bodies. This can make them feel really self-conscious. So having an open and accepting conversation at this stage is really important. Providing them with a solution and allowing them to decide when the time is right can be all it takes to make them feel happier: their hair, their choice!
WHAT DO THE PROFESSIONALS SAY?
I called my local day spa, Cecily in Berkhamsted, for some advice and the beautician I spoke to was incredibly helpful. “We never advise waxing or epilating for children under 13 years,” she said. “Their skin is just too delicate and sensitive and it can lead to problems.” I asked her what her advice would be to parents looking for a solution. “I would recommend hair removal creams for leg hair,” she said. “Because these creams can soften the hair and they don’t harm the follicle underneath the skin’s surface. Make sure you go for products that are gentle on sensitive skin and do a patch test first just in case.”
HAIR REMOVAL CREAMS
Veet Hair Removal Cream for sensitive skin is an option for tweens, this was recommended to us by the experts at Cecily. Designed for legs and under arms, it is gentle and hydrates the skin for 24 hours.
SHAVING KITS FOR GIRLS
One range that has truly embraced the idea of loving your body hair is the US-based MyBillie.com whose recent campaign Project Body Hair features young women showing off their fuzzy legs and armpits to prove that it is all perfectly natural and normal. They sell a $9 starter kit for girls, which includes a razor handle, five razor cartridges and a magnetic holder. They also sell shave cream made with aloe vera, sage and shea butter to keep skin soft and smooth.
SHAVING KITS FOR BOYS
It can be a rite of passage for a boy to start shaving his face and it’s important to make sure you have provided him with the right equipment and knowledge to start with confidence. Remember, he will only need to remove facial hair once or twice a month in the beginning.
The specialists at groomingmail.com advise using a razor. An electrical shaver can create spots as it pushes the oil into the pores and spreads it around the face. Starting with an old-fashioned razor makes sense, as learning the art of shaving while there’s so little hair to remove should mean fewer problems as hair thickens and becomes harder to remove.
Look for disposable razors with easy-grip handles and lubricating strips, such as the Wilkinson Sword Quattro wilkinsonsword.com . A moisturising shave cream helps the razor to glide over the skin without nicking.
When your child is ready, here are a few pointers that can help it all go smoothly (pun intended):
• Shave after a shower when pores are open and skin is moist.
Look at the direction of hair growth and go WITH the grain rather than against it to avoid in-growing hairs and spots.
Always use a shaving cream or gel that is designed for sensitive skin.
Cleanse the area afterwards with clean water and then moisturise. Look for creams with healing properties such as Aloe Vera to keep skin smooth and irritation-free.