It seems like yesterday you were playing “pretend shave” with your little one—with them getting shaving cream everywhere other than their face. Now they’re coming to you asking to do the real thing.
How can they actually be ready to shave? Where did your little baby go?
With puberty, there will be lots of changes as your child slowly (or in the blink of an eye) transforms into a full blown adult. And one of the changes will include new hair growth here, there and everywhere.
While your child is going through a very natural phase in life, you may wonder if they’re in fact ready for their first real shave. Or if you’re even ready!
We cut through this hairy topic, answering some common questions and concerns you may have about adolescent shaving with helpful tips to guide you and your child.
At what age will my child start growing facial, underarm, leg and pubic hair?
Puberty typically starts earlier for girls than boys but can vary from child to child. You’ll start to notice not just physical changes, such as facial hair and breast buds, but also emotional changes as well.
“Most boys, on average begin to grow facial hair (also called “peach fuzz”) between the ages of 9 and 15, but in some cases it can be younger or older—it just depends,” said Brenda Kronborg, DO, a pediatrician with Banner Children's. “Much like with boys, the age girls start puberty can vary too. When they reach puberty, however, the increase in hormones will cause darker hair to grow on the legs, under the arms and in the pubic area.”
At what age can they start shaving?
“There is no right or certain age to start shaving,” said Rashell Orey, a licensed master social worker at Banner Health. “Some may be eager to start very early, while for others, this could be a scary thought. It’s a conversation that you’ll need to discuss with them.”
“Some girls start shaving their legs as early as age 10 or 11, some girls don’t even think about shaving legs up to age 20 and others don’t want to shave at all,” Dr. Kronborg added. “The same goes for boys. They may want to try and grow a full beard while others feel more comfortable shaving.”
It’ll really come down to their individual decision, which will depend on many factors including cultural approaches, genetics, society expectations and family traditions. All children are different with different hormonal development and different cultural habits.
Why does my child want to start shaving?
Your child might simply be anxious to grow up, or there would be some social and emotional reasons they want to shave—especially if they start puberty early.
“When children start puberty earlier than their peers, there may be self-image issues that will have to be dealt with,” Orey said. “If they are getting bullied or teased about not shaving or if they are uncomfortable with the new hair, then it is suggested to sit down and discuss it.”
In your regular conversations with your child, explain to them what's happening with their body, so that they won’t be concerned and worried that their the only one going through it. In the absence of clear information, adolescents tend to talk to friends or look for answers online. This may lead younger children to be uncomfortable around their peers and create a desire to start shaving.
“Make it easy for them to discuss these topics with you,” Dr. Kronborg said. “You can discuss the pros and cons of shaving. For example, Pro: She doesn't get teased. Con: She changes herself to please others. “Most adolescents, especially girls, have absorbed cultural messages that tell them there are things "wrong" with their body that require fixing. Kids need all the help they can get navigating peer pressure.”
What if I’m not comfortable with them shaving?
If your child comes to you wanting to shave but you feel like they aren’t ready or you aren’t comfortable, sit down and discuss with them. Listen openly and take into consideration their reasons for wanting to shave (i.e., their embarrassed, being teased or pressured), share your reasons for waiting and come up with a plan together that you are both comfortable with. It will most likely be an ongoing discussion versus a one-time thing.
“For example, for your daughter, you might be able to reach some sort of compromise, and in the meantime, you can suggest that she wear pants or tights to cover her leg hair,” Dr. Kronborg said. “Many young tweens are self-conscious about their armpits, pubic region and even the hair on their arms, knuckles and toes. Parents may be tempted to set strict parameters around what hair may be removed, but they should approach the topic with care.”
Are there any risks to starting to shave early?
While removing body hair can be quick and easy to do, shaving tools like razors are sharp—making it easy for your child to cut themselves. Hair removal tools like razors, waxes and hair creams can also irritate the skin, causing things like razor burns, skin infections or ingrown hairs.
“Talking about body hair is an ongoing conversation,” Dr. Kronborg said. “It’s important for parents to continue discussing with their children about hair removal and ensure they are following healthy practices, including taking care of nicks or cuts, changing out razors regularly and using the proper supplies.”
Electric or disposable: Which razor is better for them to use first?
“It really just depends on their preference,” Orey said. “Let them be fully involved in the decision process.”
Today, there are so many options when it comes to grooming care. There are disposable razors, razors with disposable blades, electric razors, creams and waxes and even electrolysis to get rid of unwanted hair. You can try out a few at-home options first to see which one they are most comfortable with. If they choose a razor, however, make sure they use only their own and don’t share.
“Don’t risk them using their friends’ razors, etc.,” Dr. Kronborg cautioned. “Bloodborne diseases, such as Hepatitis C and HIV can be transmitted by sharing razors. Explain to them the risks of sharing, show them what a dull blade looks like and what to do if they cut themselves.”
Tips for those first few shaves
Here are some helpful tips to help guide you and your child during their first few shaves:
- Choose a single-blade disposable razor or electric razor to reduce nicks and bumps.
- If using a disposable razor, make sure you don’t share and do dispose of the blade or razor after four or five uses.
- Wait to shave after or several minutes into a shower or bath as warm water helps soften hair and open pores.
- Use a shaving gel or cream to help reduce the risk of nicks and cuts and soften the hair.
- Make short, slow strokes and move the razor against the hair growth.
- Do not go over the same area too many times. To help make it easier to see where they’ve cut, use shaving cream or gel.
- For legs, start at the ankles and work your way up.
- For armpits, start shaving up before shaving in all different directions.
- For face, start on the sides before moving to the tricky spots, like the upper lip and chin areas. Stretch the skin so your child has a flat surface for the blade to go over.
- For the pubic area, they should use a new, disposable two-blade razor each time they shave to prevent bacteria spread to other parts of the body. Make sure they go slowly and use a mirror, if necessary, to avoid cuts.
- If they cut themselves, clean the area with warm soapy water. They can also apply a small amount of antiseptic or antibacterial ointment to the area and use a styptic pencil, aka a nick stick, to help with the bleeding.
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