I’ve never thought much about the history of shaving for women, and was fascinated by this article that chronicled some of the key dates. Apparently, shaving for women only started 100 years ago when Gillette introduced a razor for women and introduced the idea that women needed to shave their underarms. From then until now, the idea has become so entrenched that it’s nearly universal in our culture, and pretty much a given that women will shave their legs, their underarms, and their bikini lines (at least during swimsuit weather).
But apparently, the percentage of women shaving is going down these days. From the article: “A 2016 Mintel study reported that between 2013 and 2016, the percentage of women who shaved their legs fell from 92 to 85 percent. Mintel cited several possible reasons for the change, including the popularity of the wellness and natural-beauty movement and a desire to buck societal expectations. Celebrities who don’t shave, such as Monique, Julia Roberts, Madonna, and Bella Thorne, have also given the phenomenon more visibility.”
It made me wonder, is the current generation of parents passing on the idea of “needing to shave” to our daughters? And will the practice continue to aggressively decline?
I can imagine my own daughters not shaving, or at least being very casual/intermittent about it, or making it a very low priority. I can already see it’s not something they stress about. Especially compared to me and my friends as a teen — I remember feeling like it was totally not okay to go swimming without being recently and thoroughly shaved (legs, underarms, and bikini line).
My personal habits of hair removal have definitely changed over the years — always moving in the shave-less direction, but I think I’m indoctrinated enough to the idea of shaving, that I don’t know if I would be comfortable going out in public with my underarms hairy.
If hairy women becomes the cultural norm, will I get on board? Or will the idea always feel sort of strange in my head? And will the meaning and intention behind shaving change in a way I can’t predict?
I’m reminded of a story that my mother-in-law tells about her mother, Jennie Groberg. When bras were first widely introduced as undergarments, Jennie was taught they were immodest and inappropriate. She wouldn’t wear them. By the time she passed away, in her nineties, the opposite idea was true — our culture had decided it was immodest not to wear a bra, and school dress codes everywhere confirmed it. But Jennie still thought they were totally immodest and never wore one her whole life.
Will shaved legs or shaved underarms be considered inappropriate at some point?
What are your thoughts? Do you shave regularly? Have you shaved less and less as you’ve aged? If yes, is it because you are making a statement? Have less hair? Just don’t care what anyone thinks? Is there anyone reading who has never shaved? If yes, what made you bypass the cultural pressure? For the parents reading, have you taught your daughters to shave? Or will you? Or perhaps you’ll teach them specifically not to shave? I’d love to hear!
P.S. — Vintage shaving ads. And caring for teenage skin.
83 thoughts on “Did You Teach Your Daughters To Shave?”
Funny you posted this – went swimming with some friends and their families this past weekend, and I noticed one of the little girls had thick, dark leg hair already. I wondered how one would handle that as a parent. Obviously, the girl is still very young (7) and you don’t want to start giving her a complex so soon, but then again, other kids will let her know if you don’t.
Anyway, as for me, I don’t shave as often as I used to, because I’m lazy and have blonde hairs. :P I did laser my bikini area years ago, so once I stopped having to deal with one area, I think I must have gotten out of the habit.
Both my husband and I hate the feel of stubble more than anything else. I’ll shave my legs before wearing dresses to work, mostly, but otherwise… I’d rather feel soft and pettable than scratchy and hands-off. And my body hair grows fast enough that I get stubble a half-day after shaving, so… nope. My husband has a beard for the same reason.
My daughter is currently 3, and asked when she saw me shave my legs one day, and I basically told her that sometimes I like to not have hair but mostly I don’t care so it stays on, just like on her daddy’s face. We’re a ways off, but… if she wants to shave as a teenager? Whatever. And if she doesn’t? May she tell off anyone who gives her crap for it and I will back her.
This is so timely for me. Just last week my 10-yo daughter told me that someone at school commented about her armpit hair (she’s a bit of an early bloomer so far). She didn’t seem to feel overly conscientious about it and it didn’t seem to be too negative an interaction but my immediate reaction was to let her know that when she was ready I’d teach her to shave. It didn’t really occur to me to discuss not shaving.
Thinking about this again today, it makes me think I need to have a more in-depth conversation about it with her. She is also a competitive swimmer, with every indication that swimming will be her sport long-term. So I imagine her bikini line is going to become an issue at some point, I’m going to have to think about options for her with this one. I’d give her the option of not shaving, but I know I’m firmly entrenched in the don’t-go-out-in-a-bathing-suit-without-shaving camp for myself. SO many things to think about and talk about with her! Makes me wish I had a close friend with a daughter a bit older than mine to talk to!
Thank so much for your straight-forward talk and honesty here, it’s really valuable to me.
At every age, parenting seems to bring up so many questions. I value the comments here too!
I remember getting into an intense screaming match with my mom about starting to shave, maybe in 6th grade? I must have been feeling some social anxiety about it, and judging by her reaction, she must have been feeling anxiety that I was growing up too fast. It was almost as if some alarm bell was going off for her, saying “your daughter is growing into a sexual being” or something, she was so horrified. In reality, of course, attention from boys had nothing to do with it for me – it was about what I perceived my female peers to be doing. Looking back, I wish she had approached this situation (and many others!) with empathy and not fear. This is something that is constantly on my mind as I raise my own daughter.
I remember my mother caring if I shaved or not (mostly she didn’t want me to when I started, and then she wanted me to when I lost interest…) and I was mystified as to why she cared, because like… my body, my legs, I’m not causing myself physical harm so… my business?
That’s also kind of how I’m hoping to work it with my daughter.
Totally! I wish my mom could have had a conversation with me about it, bringing up different options and considerations (not unlike what’s being discussed here in the comments). Like, why did I feel pressure to do it? What would make me feel the best? Etc. Instead, she made me feel worse about it and missed an opportunity to strengthen our connection. I understand that being a parent is hard (duh!) and I can see her point as a mom, but I’m hoping I have the strength and wherewithal to do things differently for my daughter.
This was my scenario exactly! My mom didn’t want me to start shaving (not ready for me to grow up and all that, I guess) and by the time I got up the courage to finally ask her in 7th grade, I had full armpit hair. I actually quit ballet because I didn’t know how to deal with the underarm hair issue. Then, when I stopped shaving for a couple of years as an older (hippiesh, vegan) teenager, she completely freaked out and enlisted older friends to try to cajole me into it.
It’s made me determined to change the whole narrative with my 9 year old daughter. Great topic!
I love this conversation because I don’t have an answer for myself yet. I stopped shaving my arms once she was born because I don’t want her to feel her natural body needed to be adjusted to fit in and my bare arms contradicted that. I’ve also stopped wearing make up for the same reason. I often go without shaving but it’s not intentional like the arms and make up so I don’t know. I live in SF so it’s shrugged off pretty quickly though a girl at church doesn’t shave her legs and my now 2.5 year old daughter was totally intrigued. Before she was born I did decide I wouldn’t get bikini waxes or maintain that area much because that trend was normalized by porn which again seems to contradict what I stand for.
My daughter was first self-conscious about hair on her forearms, which was long when she was little, like 5 or 6 years old.
She starting shaving her legs when she was 10 because she was on a dance team and all the other girls did. I told her I didn’t think it was necessary, but she wanted to.
Now she’s seventeen, not on a dance team, and admires a few friends who don’t shave, but she still does.
Who knows what the future holds?
I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately! I quit coloring my hair a year ago—somewhat in defiance of the cultural norm that says gray hair is not okay, and somewhat in exhaustion from paying for color and putting chemicals on my head regularly. After I did that I began to wonder about other societal norms we’ve bought into, including body hair. Body is hair is **natural** but we get rid of it because… why again? I’ve read article that state that shaving pubic hair—a very recent phenomenon–is actually unhealthy, and wondered why on earth we shave our pits and legs anyhow. I’m not quite ready to give up the practice, but it’s certainly on my mind.
I’m encouraging my daughter to shave in order to fit in. Now, before everyone gets riled up, I have a kiddo who marches to her own drummer and struggles academically. She needs some encouragement to pay attention to people around her and needs more encouragement to make friends. Those skills don’t come easily to her so I’d feel irresponsible telling her that armpit hair is NBD. Sigh. But I feel gross for pushing a societal norm that I’m now questioning too.
I’ve heard that about shaving pubic hair too — that instead of being cleaner, it actually invites more infection.
There is not good evidence to suggest removing pubic hair is neither more or less hygienic. The cross-sectional study that the pop-science world picked up was 1) based on people’s recollections of both how frequently & “aggressively” they groomed as well as their memory of how many STI’s they had been infected with in their life time, 2) the study did not ask about timing – did the hair removal or the infections come first?, and 3) the study did not ask about safe(r) sex practices or number of partners. This leads to a huge number of questions. Did the people who remembered grooming also remember their infections more thoroughly? Do people who groom visit the physician and have STI’s diagnosed more frequently? Did people who contracted something like syphilis or pubic lice then start grooming themselves more in order to detect symptoms more quickly? As with so many studies, this one raised more questions than it answered. But the headlines were “shaving is bad for you! Put down that razor!” And this is why people feel like everything causes cancer.
Please find the link for the study, as well as another on US women’s motivation and prevalence of shaving below. :-)
Something shifted in me when I realized that, typically, the only naturally hairless females are children and suddenly It occurred to me that a culture demanding women shave their bodies was essentially sexualizing prepubescence. The problem is not our body hair; the problem is that we seem to think the pinnacle of sexual attractiveness is childlikeness.
You’ve hit the nail on the head, Kelly. When I hear of women getting Brazilian waxes the first thought that comes to mind is that their husband/boyfriend is a pedophile. Women don’t do this for themselves.
Whoa. I wax my pubic region, and I definitely don’t do it for my husband, and he definitely IS NOT a pedophile! Before my hysterectomy I suffered with a chronically inflamed cervex which caused me to have extreme vaginal discharge. I started waxing so that it would be easier and quicker for me to keep myself clean. That’s something I wanted for myself. My husband couldn’t care less. I continue to wax from time to time because I want to. I think we should be care with how we characterize men. It’s simply not fair to lump all men in the same bucket. Women (myself included) don’t like it when men do that about us,, so why should we do it to them (and it such a vile way). Pedophilia is a serious problem and the label shouldn’t be thrown around so casually.
YES! Exactly this. It’s so creepy when you think about it.
And yet I can’t imagine not shaving my armpits…
I’ve definitely thought the same thing about Brazilian waxes.
Great point. I totally agree with you there.
So true. Have you ever seen those old Baby Soft fragrance ads? They are focused on this same concept and so disturbing.
As for Brazilian waxes, I tried one once. I think it was about 8 or 9 years ago, because I was living in Colorado at the time. Beyond the waxing pain (which was significant), I didn’t like being bare down there at all.
I completely disagree with this argument. I am from a different country, and a different culture. I wax my hair, including pubic hair and I don’t do it for my husband or for sex. I am from a different country -and a different culture- and I find it deeply troubling to read a generalization which argues sexuality is tied to childlikeness in American culture, and that American men are pedophiles (I know you didn’t write this last part, but another commenter did below).
I can see both sides. I started shaving approximately 15 years before I became sexually active. It is a comfort thing for me. I shave my pubic hair because I am more comfortable that way. I don’t like how pubic hair feels under tight fitting clothes (like women’s’ underwear, pantyhose, or leggings). I don’t shave for men, I shave for me.
That said, if I had never shaved my pubic hair, it would seem strange to me. Why remove a mark of adulthood? Is the purpose to make cunnilingus more comfortable or appealing for men? If your relationship is healthy, would that really be a bad reason? When I first married, I needed all sorts of accommodations from my partner because sex was new and scary for me. Thinking about sex makes us all a bit uncomfortable! Ha!
All of this to say: I can totally understand why hair removal (from legs, axilla, etc) isn’t for everyone (feels foreign, wrong) and why you might want to get rid of every trace of body hair (more comfortable, cooler, like the way it looks). I don’t think shaving or not makes anyone a pedophile or their SO a pedophile.
I love this post!! As a teen and early 20s I was very heavily indoctrined that you had to be recently shaved to be out swimming, or wearing a single top or shorts etc. I had children at 22 and slowly but surely (I’m 33 now) and mostly because of laziness and a much reduced social calendar, I hardly shave at all. Recently I have started questioning why I should have to in the first place. As I sit here now my armpit hairs are about two centimetres long and I have been surprised by how much they have softened and lightened by just letting them be. I hate the fact that your armpits have to be shaved basically every few hours if you want them without five o’clock shadow!! Then they are spiky and black and gross. BUT, I am not confident enough that I wouldn’t shave them if I was wearing a strapless dress out to a function because everybody I know is also heavily under the influence of women shaving. I really, really want to grow that confidence though. I have an 11 year old daughter and her armpit hair is really quite long and noticeable. We have had some really great discussions about why she or I should feel the need from society to shave it. I know that she has had some interested comments/questions at school but not enough to make her unhappy in the slightest, however I have told her that if she really wants to shave then I’m okay with it. So far she’s not going for it and I’m really hoping to help raise the generation that questions why parts of women’s bodies are “supposed” to be hairless to fit in with men’s ideas and society’s requirements. I have two sons (8 and 4) and I am hoping to raise them to find hair on a woman’s body as normal and to find it strange that it would be shaved off.
Don’t think I’ve ever shaved more than once a week. After I graduated HS, I think I shaved my legs six times in as many years. These days I average less than 10 times per year. I’ve gotten all kinds of reactions–neutral, positive, amused, grossed out, being called out over the pulpit (not by name, but yes, that really happened and was definitely referring to me.) Anyway, I dated 3 guys, including my husband. Two of them didn’t care, and one of them did, which was one way I knew we weren’t destined to be together. 😉
Called out over the pulpit? Oh dear!
When I was 12ish I asked my Mom if I could shave…she said no. I went directly to the bathroom and shaved…and cut my legs up… I shave everyday..
Ha! Sounds about right. Every time my daughter asks if she can shave I reply, “Whatever you want, it’s your body.” She’s 15 and still hasn’t shaved yet.
Whoa, weird! I’m watching Irma updates on the Weather Channel just now while also scrolling IG and saw your post about this article. Right when I clicked over here to read it, a commercial came on (that I haven’t seen before) with a dad teaching his daughter how to shave her legs. What a funny coincidence!
Okay, back up to read now, lol.
The Irma updates are rough. It feels like everyone is just getting a small glimpse of the total damage.
I have family in Fort Myers and Tampa area. Thankfully, they were very lucky as far as we can tell, with Fort Myers folks just returning home after evacuation.
Heartbroken for so many who lost so much…
I have very blonde hair but I am also very hairy so sometimes I still feel self conscious about not shaving my legs. My mother was very opposed to me shaving my legs for the first time so I did it in secret in the 6th grade after some ribbing from my classmates in gym. Over the years I have shaved my legs less and less – it feels like a chore. I often times have “shave legs ” written a list while packing for a trip and I swear I never get around to it…my husband said to me before our summer beach vacation “why bother” so I might be done with it for good! I never thought I was doing it for any specific reason I guess I always preferred to venture into fancy places with freshly shaven legs for some reason it seemed like I could pass for a woman who wore makeup, brushed her hair every day and had her girly shit together! Which is totally not me.
My first time shaving my legs was in 6th grade too! My brother who was 2 years older than me told me I needed to. I think he was afraid I was going to be teased by my peers.
I decided in high school that I wouldn’t date or give attention to anyone who was grossed out by any of my hair. I still shaved sometimes because of my BFA in ballet and sometimes still do.
Now I am married to a handsome man with a unibrow and hairy face, but I still have thicker body hair than he does. Our little boys are also growing unibrows. My husband has a big following and sometimes one of his little fans will comment on social media and say something like, “no offense, but it looks like your baby has a unibrow” and it is frustrating that people think it’s ugly. My kids are still toddlers and they were already judged from the time that they were babies. It’s frustrating.
I hope my kids understand how beautiful they are naturally.
Oh. That is so frustrating. Why in the world do people feed compelled to make comments like that about our children?
And when are people going to learn that if you’re about to start a sentence with “no offense, but…” then you shouldn’t say it at all.
I have extremely thick hair, both in terms of the thickness of each hair, and of the number of hairs I have growing from each follicle. Some of my armpit hair follicles have three hairs growing out of them! When I was a teenager, I stopped shaving both my legs and my underarms for a long time. My legs were super hairy, which didn’t bother me, but my underarm hair was so thick and so long that it actually hurt my underarms! My underarm hair would constantly pull against my clothes, and I was EXTREMELY sweaty all the time. By the time I was 18 I began shaving my underarms again, and still do, which keeps my underarms feeling comfortable and non-sweaty. I only shave my legs in the summer, when my legs will show, because I seriously have legs that have the same amount of hair as a man’s.
When I turned 30 my, ahem, other hair became super thick and long and unruly, so now I keep it very closely trimmed. I do not shave it, but I definitely give it a regular buzz cut. If I don’t maintain that hair, it pulls against my pants and I become extremely sore–it feels like a bruise!
So, shaving for me is a definite comfort issue, rather than a social one. Being super hairy can be super painful!
I remember in jr high we had a teacher ask us girls if we shaved and we all did! Because of course we did! We didn’t want to be the hairy ones! He laughed and said wait till college, like we be enlightened and change our minds then! It wasn’t until I went on a semester at NOLS that i stopped shaving, just not a place to shower much less shave! The first time you feel your leg hair blowing in the wind is something to be remembered! Since them I’m on and off shaving all areas.
I’ve chosen to not wear deodorant and I’ve noticed that the longer my armpit hair the stinkier my pits get, so I actually shave them, more often then not and more often then other areas.
My daughter who is 8 already think she needs to shave, she’s not hairier then any other 8 year old. We are having her wait a little longer! I’m chaulking this up to outside influence!
Also my husband started shaving his armpits in the last couple years for comfort, I think?!
I did read an article recently about shaving and how society is always trying to make women look like little girls- hence shaving. I feel like it is pretty culturally ingrained for those above 35. Food for thought!
Definitely fascinated to hear about your husband starting to shave his underarms. I know male swimmers and body builders sometimes do this, but I haven’t met a man who does it just because. So interesting.
I started shaving as a young teenager, reading the YM magazines and the articles about how to shave, because my mom never did. My mother incidentally, took to shaving after I moved out of home – she had never previously considered it – grew up in Europe and said she had never even heard about it until years later. Now I don’t really shave my legs because I can’t be bothered and my hubby hates day 2 post shaving stubble (as do I) so it’s easier not to bother. I have only a few times waxed the edges down below and didn’t enjoy it. I trim with scissors if its getting uncomfortably long. Armpits though I keep shaved regularly. Great discussion!
This was a fascinating read, and something I have thought a lot about since I have three girls. I myself shave much less than I used to because a. I have less hair, and b. I don’t go out as much. It is really important to me that when/if my girls start to manage their hair, that they do it for themselves and not because of anyone else’s opinion. I also am sensitive to women in our culture being held to porn standards of hair maintenance. It is such a personal thing, managing your hair, whatever you choose to do, that it’s too bad our culture has made it what it is.
One thing you didn’t mention is how to deal with hair that grows in the mustache area, out of moles, or on your neck – are those areas to the same standards as our legs, arms, and pits? My mom and I have a joking agreement that if we are ever in the hospital, the other will pluck any unsightly hairs.
I was thinking the same thing about those other hairy spots. Also want to add nipple hair (what do people do about that? I’ve never had the courage to ask!)
Your pact with your mom cracks me up. And I have definitely made my sister and husband promise me they will point out any crazy neck hair after once finding one that was 3-4″ long (how did it miss it for so long!?!?)
So true. There’s all the other hair to be dealt with.
As for me, I:
-pluck chin hairs
-generally ignore any upper lip hair (I don’t seem to notice it)
-used to plus my brows regularly until about 10 years ago, now they are just wild
-pluck any other random long hairs (nipples, nose, etc.)
I my case, the hairs in other places are fairly rare so I don’t need a system for them. I’m sure I’ll feel differently if that changes as I age.
I hadn’t given it a lot of thought before today, but I definitely shave less as I grow older. I think it’s a combination of 1) not caring as much 2) having a partner who doesn’t care, and 3) not really having the time with two young kids. I do shave my armpits because I have found it to be true that they are stinkier when not shaven, and I find it uncomfortable. On the other hand, I find a shaven bikini line to be incredibly uncomfortable (itchy and prickly), so I rarely do that.
I have struggled with how much to care about upper lip and chin hair. I had a really traumatizing experience as a 6th grader before I started managjng eyebrows, lip, etc. For years I managed it pretty religiously to avoid further harassment and because I got a lot of compliments on my eyebrows. Now I go thru periods of not caring as much and then periods of being super self-conscious, especially when I meet someone new.
My Mom wanted me to hold off shaving as long as possible. She always said, “Once you start shaving, it comes back thicker.” Her friend told me it would make my legs look skinnier! That did it. I shaved while her friend was there and I walked out to show them. My Mom was so angry. But my Mom was right. My leg hair is so thick. I could shave twice a day. I should have listened.
I’ve heard that same thing before, about hair coming in thicker after you shave, but couldn’t tell if it was a myth. Maybe it’s similar to waxing — hair growing in after waxing feels more fine and thin than the stubble you get from shaving.
I am in my sixties and haven’t shaved my pits since college. I’m not very hairy, however. Yes, deodorant is more necessary. I do shave my legs in the summer when I’m wearing shorts a lot. I don’t like the feel of stubble and long hair. I mostly leave the bikini area alone, but occasionally shave a bit, like going on vacation. my daughter shaves more than I do, including pits and a lot of bikini-area trimming. I am sure she is much more influenced by her peers than by me!
I hate shaving b/c my skin is very sensitive. I wax, and over the years the hair does get much thinner and I can go longer. I mostly go in warmer months. At some point in the last 2-3 years I told my daughter (14) that when she is ready I am happy to take her to be waxed, or but her stuff for shaving. She chose waxing, I none of hope that I am doing her a favor by investing the money now for her to have a simpler time later.
I dress modestly, so only do lower leg and eyebrows. I will do underarms once in a blue moon is I feel like it, have never done bikini.
I started using an epilator on my underarm hair in my late twenties, and after a few years it was basically gone. I would need a touch up for a few random hairs maybe once a week. And these days, it’s more like every other month there are a few random underarm hairs (which I epilate).
I remember having this talk with my grandmother, who related that in her “flapper” days, things began to change. In *her* mother’s age, only the prostitutes shaved, evidently to ease the chance of getting lice – eeeew! So essentially any proper woman wouldn’t ever have a need to shave. hmmm. ok.
In 7th grade, just by chance my English class was ALL girls, and we had a male teacher. He let us know we were his favourite class, and talked with us as if we were his girlfriends instead of his students. After Spring Break he mentioned he had “gone to Europe where the women don’t shave their legs or armpits!” Needless to say all we talked about that day was “how weird Europe” was.
My mom was a nurse, so she had the theory that clean shaven was best in regard to cleanliness, however she begged us to wait until the last possible minute, because “if you shave/pluck 1 hair, 3 will come to its funeral.” As I grew into adulthood she informed us that after her menopause, her leg and underarm hair had stopped growing on her legs and arms and just relocated up to her chin and mustache…so beware of menopause!”
I disagree with the “funeral” expectations, however her prophecy about menopause has proven true. : (
Actually, shaving is not at all a recent phenomenon–women in Renaissance Europe removed their body hair, as did ancient Egyptians, to name two examples. It’s simply a fashion that comes and goes like everything else.
That said, here’s my personal experience: my hippie-turned-Jesus-people mother was adamant that I not shave. (She wore no makeup, thick cotton tights and clogs, and only natural fibers while all the other 1980s moms had perms and wore pantyhose and heels and polyester power suits.) And all I wanted was to look like everyone else. My parents held up the example of European women (we had lived in Germany for a time), but this meant nothing to me. I still cringe when I remember the profound embarrassment of tucking my legs out of sight and forcing myself to keep my arms at my sides out of fear of being laughed at. When I was 16, they grudgingly allowed me to shave. 32 years later, I still shave every time I shower, because I love the smooth feeling. My college roommates made fun of me because I shaved so much, but ironically, I didn’t care about that. ;) I don’t want my daughters to grow up too early–I’ll definitely have them wait on pierced ears and makeup other than that required to cover up blemishes–but as far as I’m concerned, they can shave whenever they start feeling the need. Of course, watch the fashion change so much that they don’t want to at all!
I don’t know. I think of “fashion that comes and goes” as things like bell bottoms or red lipstick or Birkenstocks. For me, something that a certain culture did a thousand years ago doesn’t really fit in that category (though I understand Americans in 1915 were certainly not the first women to shave).
For years in high school and college, I didn’t shave. But, now that I’m in my mid 30s, I love having silky smooth skin and shave at least every other day. About a year ago, my husband and I joined The Dollar Shave Club, and I love it so much! My biggest pet peeve about shaving was the cost of women’s razors and DSC removed that by giving us options and great products at a low cost, and best of all, every other month, we get a box shipped right to us. (I sound like a commercial, but promise, I’m not- I just love their products and service so much!). Regarding shaving, to each their own!
There is a beautiful book– The Alchemy of Womanhood that has a great chapter on body hair. Actually the whole book is phenomenal–
a totally different, honest and exquisite way of talking about your changing body . . . .
Thanks for the recommendation!
American girl has darling puberty books, ” The care and keeping of you ” 1 & 2. It talks about shaving or not shaving in such a great non-shameful way AND, they FINALLY came out with a boy one, “Guy stuff” and it is darling too, even talks about nocturnal emissions in an unembarrassing way – can’t recommend these books enough for tweens!
We were on vacation this summer, wearing swimsuits a lot, and my husband noticed my 12-year old daughter had armpits that hadn’t been shaved in a while. She’s got quite dark body hair and hasn’t shaved her legs yet, but had been periodically shaving under her arms. He said to her “You need to shave!” So I responded in front of her and my three sons “Women shave when they are ready and want to shave, and not because anyone, especially a guy, tells them they have to. Our bodies are our own to keep how we want to keep!” (Luckily my husband is a total sweetheart and was like “Oh! okay.” He hadn’t even thought about what it must feel like for her!)
Then later privately to her, I recommended that she choose a hair “style” and then go for it, but not to be lazy about taking care of her body. 12-year olds are tricky because they’ll go days without showering and wear dirty clothes, so it’s a balance between teaching a growing girl to be kind to and take care of her body, and also be in charge of what she decides is comfortable and feels right.
I really think we can teach our boys and husbands about traditional unrealistic beauty expectations for women so they can understand that the maintenance takes work and can be very uncomfortable, so it is loving to expect women to completely find their own settled place of what feels great.
I love your message to your daughter, “to be kind to and take care of her body, and also be in charge of what she decides is comfortable and feels right.”
That is a beautiful message to your daughter!
I have a male massage therapist – who shaves his arm pits. It is sweaty and up close work – he does it for the comfort of his clients. That was a new one for me!
Also a male friend who has multiple tattoos and shaves arms and legs so that the art is cleaner looking.
I am a random shaver – I have fair skin/hair and I shave when I think about it = maybe once a month?? I’ve never shaved my bikini line (haven’t actually worn a bikini since I was 18!) – I do trim the edges when needed. My husband doesn’t seem to care/notice so I’m good with it.
I shave my legs and armpits about weekly, a little more in the summer, but I don’t shave my bikini line. I find it much more comfortable if I don’t shave. For swimming I switched to more of a board short style bottom and tankini top so I don’t think anyone notices. I’m more of a player in the water and boogie boarder than actual swim work out swimmer anyway. I do this so that I am comfortable in my suit. I think my mom stopped swimming with us because she didn’t like to wear a suit in public. I don’t want that to be me.
I recently took a trip to Malaysia. On the way, I found out that my bags had been left behind in Europe and there would be a fair bit of a delay, so when I reached the airport I ran around trying to buy a couple of essentials. I went to the chemist and asked the man and woman working at the counter where I could find a “woman’s razor”. They were both completely bemused by my question, as if I had asked something totally bizarre. “For women…?” she said, “err I don’t think we have that…”
As a majority Muslim country, it just mustn’t be the done thing. It surprised me how embarrassed their reactions made me feel. Needless to say, I actually did find what I was looking for in the shop… I guess just no one had ever asked before!
I don’t know about Malaysia, but traditionally Arabs remove all their body hair except the top of their head and eyebrows. When I got married in Egypt, my sister in laws to be were aghast that I wasn’t’ preparing my body to be what they perceived to be pristinely beautiful for the wedding night. But hair removal is done with a caramelized sugar paste–a little like waxing I suppose though I have never tried it.
This is a tough one for me. I grew up in Germany (which seems to hold the image of hairy capitol of the world) and my mom, who grew up in the seventies never shaved during her teens. She says she never even considered it and she was very popular and has an amazing self-esteem. I on the other hand have VERY thick black body hair (not kidding, it’s on my fingers, arms, armpits, nipples, upper lip, chin, belly, feet…) and growing up in the 80s and 90s I have been teased about it CONSTANTLY. All I remember about my time in school is being bullied and trying desperately to get rid of as many hairs as possible which was nearly impossible. I would spent hours locked in our bathroom to shave my body and still, I was the hairy girl. To this day (I’m in my thirties now) I struggle with my body hair and as much as I’d love to be confident enough to just let it grow – because seriously how much time, energy, water, money would I save each day?! – I can’t.
Our culture had decided it was immodest not to wear a bra, and school dress codes everywhere confirmed it
I don’t shave. Haven’t since I was about 19. I never thought much about it… just stopped and didn’t start again! My daughter is 14 and started shaving her underarms last year. She asked me one day and said it would make her more comfortable so of course I told her to do whatever makes her feel comfortable in her own skin. She hasn’t shaved her legs yet and I am secretly hoping she won’t anytime soon. But I don’t express this and I am very careful not to make comments about her or my own body hair.
This is really interesting to me… I live in Germany and have a 14 year old dark-haired daughter who has just announced she can’t be bothered to shave anymore. She had been shaving legs & armpits, starting at about 12. I must say, I was certainly suggestive that she start doing so, having been mercilessly teased in my own childhood (in Australia) about being hairy. I bought her an electric shaver at her request. She swims and is very confident, and even though her female peers here almost all shave, she doesn’t feel afraid of judgement and says “I’ve really got better ways of spending my time”. She also says it’s a feminist issue, and that any comments are the commenter’s issue and not hers. I must say, I caught myself wanting to warn her (to protect her) but it really is her business and not mine. She’s definitely tougher than I was…
I still can’t go hairy-legged in summer, even at 47. Where we live almost all the women have shaved legs & underarms despite the legendary standing of Germany in the world body hair rankings.
Interestingly, my son, who is now 18 and finished school, came across much more criticism & ribbing in the locker room, poolside, etc. from other boys!! They all shaved, legs and under-arms (a few even forearms), at 15-16, and claimed it was much more hygenic, one even cited areodynamics as the reason :-) Liam did some reading about how shaved skin invites much more bacteria due to micro-nicks, decided it was the reason they needed bucketsful of Lynx and gave them a lecture, and cemented his standing as a weirdo. And he never shaved under his arms.
I also live in Germany and have noticed at the gym how very clean-shaven *everywhere* almost everyone is, even older people. My 12 year old daughter felt uncomfortable with her thick, dark armpit hair so I help her wax it when she wants but I’m trying to persuade her to wait with removing her fine, light blond leg hair.
I wish I were confident enough to leave my hair alone – I really think there’s no good reason to remove it aside from societal pressure . . . but I caved and had my pits, legs and bikini line lasered (and I must admit that I absolutely love the smoothness)
we just talked about this topic at the dinner table with my children and husband. my daughter asked why i hadnt shaved my legs.
i told them about an interview i had just read with a woman where she said that one day, her partner asked her why she shaves her legs. if she is doing it for herself, then ok, if she is doing it for him, then she should stop doing it. so she stopped.
we also talked about:
– why are woman shaving and men not?
– is it good that woman shave only to please men?
– are woman shaving because we see it in (advertising) pictures all around us?
we didnt say shaving: yes or no, but i think its important to raise an awareness for it in my children
I wax because I hate stubble. I get my forearms and legs done a few times a year – hardly at all in winter. I wax my own underarms – much less itchy than shaving.
I don’t have daughters, but had to take my sons with me when I got waxed this summer as they were off school. They just sat in the coffee shop downstairs but were HORRIFIED when I told them what I was going to do.
There was an article on the BBC website last summer about the female olympic cycle team having problems with saddle sore and that they had been recommended that it is better for skin not to remove hair in the bikini area because it helps to protect the skin and wick moisture.
My 1970s feminist (British) mum alway blamed Americans for the expectation to shave!!
I started shaving legs and pits at 13 because I was being teased about it at church. My mom felt sad that I made the decision based on peer pressure but helped me learn how. And once used to it–no
My girls (15 and 13) do not care. We swim regularly. They are the only girls not shaving that I notice. I talked to them it, discussed how many women do shave their legs and armpits and pluck their eyebrows where we live in Canada, but that other women other places have other practices. I warned them that if they buck the trend they might get unwanted attention. They just do not care at all. Empowered.
I have very early memories of my mom bleaching the hair on her arms. The women of my family have dark, black hair and very fair skin. I remember my mom advising not to tweeze my eyebrows into thin lines as she did in the 1970s. She was mad I started shaving my legs without telling her, but I matured early and was self-conscious; I feared I looked like a 15-year old that didn’t take care of her appearance rather than a 12 year old girl.
The bikini line/being bathing-suit ready has always been a source of stress and I wish I had invested in laser hair removal years ago. But at the same time I think I might have chosen to remove ALL the hair, and now I would only remove some. My arms and legs aren’t especially hairy, but black hair/pale skin makes even the slightest stubble obvious. Yet, I don’t worry so much about legs and underarms as I do about the bikini line and mustache, eyebrows, and random whiskers.
My grandmother, mother and I (and I’ll rope my daughter into it as well) promise that when we are old or otherwise unable, we will make sure that facial hair is not ignored!
Grooming is big business where I live. Waxing, threading and even laser hair removal facilities are all accessible, but the time/cost can really add up. So I try to take care of as much myself as I can, but definitely go to the professionals.
My daughter is 8 and she knows I do these things, but I try not to say anything that makes it seem like EVERYONE should be doing what I do. It’s my choice, but yes, I definitely grew up in a culture of “remove hair to be feminine.”
I started shaving my armpits in 3rd grade- no joke. I hit puberty pretty early and one day as we were lining up after recess a boy in my class made fun of my armpit hair. I was too embarrassed to ask my mom about it, but I had watched her shave her armpits before, so I figured it out on my own. When I was in middle school, she was like “I’m going to teach you how to shave”. I didn’t want her to know I’d already been shaving for years, so I just pretended I didn’t know how. My hair isn’t super dark or thick on either my armpits or legs, but I regularly shaved both from about 6th or 7th grade on. I’m currently living in Moldova, where most women over the age of 30 don’t shave but younger generations seem to (the older women believe it’s wrong as you’re removing something that God gave you- some of them don’t believe in make-up, dyeing your hair, or cutting your hair). For the first time last fall I stopped shaving anything at the beginning of November and didn’t shave again until probably March or so. I’m not sure about not shaving my legs- they seemed to be a lot more dry when I didn’t shave for some reason, but I think I’ll try not shaving my armpits over the winter again- they felt so incredibly healthy and smooth when I finally did shave them. I’ve shaved my bikini line like two or three times in high school. I found it incredibly uncomfortable and it irritated my skin terribly so I haven’t tried that again.
Thank you for this topic/ discussion. My daughter just started Middle School so this suggests to me that maybe its time to have pre-emptive mother-daughter discussions about this before it becomes a peer discussion at school.
She is 11 and luckily the only hair that has concerned her yet is the ‘big, think hairs’ on her big toes. She asks me to trim them for her when I cut her toe nails. Ha!
My leg hair has never been thick or dark, so I mostly shave just on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings before church. I spend less time worrying about my underarms because they’re mostly always covered by sleeves, so it’s about once every other week or so. My daughter who is only three has a lot of dark hair on her legs already and I’ve thought about shaving her legs already… just as a once a year thing to tame it down. She will be a gorilla if I let it go until she’s 12. But I’ve still never done it because as soon as I say I shaved my three year olds legs there are going to be a million people telling me how awful it is.
Maybe if you do it, try hair clipper/trimmer instead of a razor to avoid stubble.
I was a pale skinned child with very thick, black arm and leg hair. My mother, who shaved her own arms, pits and legs, periodically shaved my arms and legs in elementary school, because my being hairy really bothered her.
The problem was, it would grow back fast, and so I was left with stubble. I wore knee socks every day for many years to try and hide the hair or the hairy stubble.
I was also the tallest child in my grade until middle school, so neither my knee socks nor my skirts were ever long enough to cover it all. I was endlessly teased, called a hairy ape, and alternately jolly green giant.
My son has less body hair than I do, and it is light in color (mine has significantly diminished as I age) and thinks he is hairy. My daughter is just as hairy as I was, and initially began shaving her legs and armpits in middle school, I think it was. Later she shaved her arms. Now she generally doesn’t shave anything, and does not remove any of her increasing facial hair.
I have always encouraged her to do what makes her comfortable, although I did suggest that she did not need to shave her arms. I know she had a rough time dealing with being so hirsute, and offered to help her if she wanted. I’m proud that she is now refusing to do remove body hair to follow some cultural expectations or peer pressure.
When I became a feminist in college, I quit shaving my pits or legs. However, I don’t have a lot of body hair and mine is not all that dark, so it wasn’t quite the statement that some women were making. In my 20’s and 30’s I became less adamant and sometimes shaved. I found that my pits smell worse when I DO shave — and I’ve tested this theory a number of times because it does seem counter intuitive. Now I’m in my late 40’s and perimenopause has definitely resulted in less hair everywhere but my head (the only upside so far). While mine dwindles, my 12 year old daughter is blooming with hair! She has shaved her legs once, but she has more pit hair than her older brother. We recently went to the beach in the more traditional south and I have to admit to feeling a bit nervous. I asked her once if she wanted me to show her how to shave her pits, but she shrugged and wasn’t interested. She’s also a budding feminist, though I’m not even sure that body hair and feminism are connected for her. For me, having or not having body hair has become less of a statement and more of a practical consideration – though I totally get that our culture has prescribed hair norms that are gendered and sexist.
I have 4 daughters and thanks to my husband’s strong genes, we have a serious eyebrow situation. I’ve been waxing/plucking his unibrow for 20 years. But I refuse to shape and manscape. That’s too much- Center is enough. Now with my girls….when my now 9 yr old was 8 year old, she was growing self conscious of her eyebrows, (“kids say I have boy eyebrows”) I went ahead and waxed the center. I asked her if she wanted more shaping. And she did. I wax below her eyebrow for a gentle clean arch. And they look amazing. And she is thrilled. It boosted her confidence. My then 4 year old saw it happening and said “do mine too!” So I wax her center only. No arch shaping. But I think even a 5 year old deserves two eyebrows instead of one. My teens are definitely vain teenagers and appreciate a waxed shaped brow. So I know this isn’t about shaving legs per se, but this is the body hair issue at my home. We have a once a month waxing sesh on a Sunday evening. And this works for us. I tell my husband his eyebrow genes are the gift that keeps on giving. (My girls have started shaving legs/pits around 6th grade and keep it up).
I’m 33 and have always only intermittently shaved. Maybe it’s because I’m blonde, or maybe just because I’m pretty low-maintenance in general? Interestingly, though, my husband does not like his overly hairy legs and has begun his own leg hair management process. Perhaps this is a step towards more relaxed gender roles?
My mother is Latina (me, too, but I don’t “look” Latina) and didn’t shave most of her life. She would occasionally wax her legs, but doesn’t even do that anymore. So I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood where I thought it was odd that she didn’t shave. Having dark hair and fair skin, I used to sneak-shave and my mom was furious when she found out. She wanted me to wait until I was 13 to shave and I broke her down, begging her that I was the only 6th grade who wasn’t shaving.
Now I shave, but I’ve gone a few weeks without doing so. My daughter asked me the other day why people don’t shave their arms if they are so focused on shaving their legs. Ha!
I’m more concerned about the expectation these days for young women to not have any pubic hair, and what that does in terms of empowerment. On the other hand, people should do to their bodies what they want, if that’s what they want.
Also, growing up in Madison, Wis., we are surrounded by people who choose not to shave, so I’m glad she’ll have that experience. I want her to do what feels right for her, knowing that that will be a long road, but one that’s hopefully paved by her own set of hopes and goals.
I won’t know until we get there. My daughter is 2 and my mom pushed me (basically made me) to shave at 11. I wanted to because my sister did it, but I didn’t like it once I did it and my mom told me once you start, you can’t stop and it became not a choice. In my teens, I became more strong willed and didn’t shave much – only in the summer when we were going out. In the winter and any time we were staying home (homeschooled), I didn’t shave. I feel now I was bullied by my parents and siblings for this, being called a were-wolf by my younger brother for instance. I didn’t let it make decisions for me, even though it bothered me. I quit shaving after my daughter’s birth because I realized, how can I set an example for her to be strong and do what she wants, instead of what society’s sexist standards want. I know I will be her main example in the early years, plus I hate shaving. Within the hour, I’m prickly. Within a day, I’m unpresentable. My skin is sensitive and it hurts to shave, let alone every two days. I get razor burn and bumps and cuts unlike anyone I’ve known. I’ve tried everything I can find to have less painful hair removal. No luck. I’m happy with non shaven legs. It’s au natural. My husband and my family have sexist reasons for why I “have to” shave my legs. It’s because…gasp…I’m a woman. Naw, we already get the menstruation. No need to make puberty to mid life any harder than nature makes it. I will talk to my daughter. If her reason is something like it hurts to wear socks, I feel itchy, etc., I will teach her all, I know and inform of the potential side effects and trade offs. If it’s, people make fun of me, then we will be having a different conversation. If she allows others to bully her in submission over mere body hair, what else will she succumb to? Will she start being closed minded towards others for bigoted reasons? I won’t bully her into not shaving her legs, but she needs to understand her value is based on how smooth a body part is, especially since this isn’t it’s natural state. She will have to earn the money to buy expensive razors and shaving cream, maybe scrubs to help with razor burn prevention. I can teach her how to get items cheaper than their original price tag, how to shop sustainably, and how to pick the right product for her skin type. I don’t want to see her hurt herself, waste her time, be uncomfortable (those backaches from leaning or bending to shave for 40 minutes), and waste her hard earned money on something so unnecessary in reality, though deemed necessary by a flawed society. It’s hard to stand up and say I don’t care because at these ages, it’s a lie. It took me over a decade to mean it when I say, I don’t care. I’m not suffering more because I’m a “woman” over something that’s not biological, but rather a made up societal rule. It’s strange, the same people I know disagree with other cultural sexisms like women shouldn’t drive believe women have to shave because it’s gross on a woman or men won’t like you. I can at least laugh at these things at my age now, but at 11 or 15, I could only ignore them.
I would say that the reason the study in 2016 showed that less women are Shaving their legs — including celebrities, is because we have chosen to have Permanent Hair Removal here in this country, which completely removes any future need to shave.
I was a kid with pale skin and dark hair on my arms & legs. I was teased & embarrassed about it. My mom taught me to shave my under-arms early when they sprouted at age 10. But my legs & bikini line were what caused me the most frustration because my coarse hair went from my ankles all the way up my thighs. That is a lot to shave!
As soon as laser-hair removal technology arrived on the scene, I saved my money to get all the hair removed.
No more painful shaving cuts. No painful waxing sessions. Finally at the age of 45 my hair-embarrassment was put to an end. That was years ago. Its been great.
It was shortly after my 18th birthday when the Sex and the City episode about Brazilian waxes came out.
I was in my own apartment with my two much older roommates and when I saw the episode, it totally fascinated me. My roomies and I booked our appointments the very next day, and it was our monthly routine for the next 10 years. Due to my early age, and the over all fine texture of my hair, now all that is left of my once proud bush is a few, strangely bits of peach fuzz. I will never have a bush again, and while I do feel a bit embarrassed about that, overall I’m VERY satisfied with the look and my early decision to be a hairless girl.
I think deep down, I had always really enjoyed the feeling of soft, silky cloth on my smooth, freshly shaved skin, so the idea of that level of hairlessness intrigued me. I had begged my mom to let me shave when I was 10. She said no, same when I was 11 and 12. So I started shaving my legs anyway, I was very careful, and managed to get most of the hair off without cutting myself.
Mom was furious, and grounded me, but it was so worth it. My legs and arms finally looked the way they SHOOULD look.
I was a weird kid. Don’t ask. Anyway, I since I’m a brunette, I have really dark body hair, so it was okay for laser hair reduction. When I turned 16, I started as a waitress at Hooters on the beach to save up for my laser hair treatments. I wanted it GONE!! ALL of it!! I did extensive research, and followed the advice of the websites and my ethcitician to the letter. I saved up my tips, and when I had enough for the recommended 6 consecutive treatments, I went to the Lilly Beauty Design Spa, and had my entire body lazered.
I was very sore, and my skin was chafing, but it was SO WORTH it! Within 9 months and about 6,000 dollars, I am now totally hairless!! I have NEVER been happier with my appearance in my entire life.
So, looking back on my own painful relationship with hair, and knowing I can never take the Au Natural approach, since my own body hair has been completely obliterated, I feel it came down to my daughter feeling good in her skin. So, on her 7th birthday, I took her to Target, bought her her own Venus Ladies razor, shaving cream, Defoliating scrub, and coconut oil.
On the way, I talked with her about being a big girl, and that big girls take care of themselves and their hair and bodies. I then asked her if she thought she was old enough to be a big girl, and to help mommy take care of her little brother. Laura looked deep into my eyes, nodded her head solemnly and said, “yes mommy, you can count on me.”
So I took her to the beauty shop, got her the cutest little pixie haircut, with the ears cut out. Then on to get ice cream. We came home, I showed her how to shave her legs and arms. She doesn’t have underarm hair yet, but I’m sure when she does, she will let me know and I will teach her to shave there to.
She has been shaving every other day now all by herself. Thanks to my teaching her how to do it the first time, she has never cut herself, or missed any patches. I know, I know, some of you will probably say I’m a bad mother, and I get that.
But, she never had to deal with being teased, harassed or bullied about something as trivial as body hair. And I would MUCH rather her feel she can come to ME if she has problems than to feel she has to go behind my back and sneak it.