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The appearance of body hair, under the arms, on the legs and in the pubic area, is one of the first signs of puberty. Some kids may have body hair as young as seven or eight. But what does a parent do? The dilemma described time and again on the Mumsnet Talk boards is that if pre-teens do have body hair and want to remove it, it's usually because they're being teased about it at school – or they're worried that they soon will be.
And however feminist-minded you are, and however much we all know that body hair is natural and not something to worry about, we also know how important it is for children not to feel 'different'. So, try to see things from your child's point of view. What it comes down to is: if it's bothering her (and it usually is girls in this situation) then you need to address it. A brisk “it doesn't matter” probably isn't the right response.
By the same token, Mumsnetters generally agree that if body hair isn't bothering your child, the best thing is to ignore it unless they raise it as an issue. So don't rush in with the Veet as soon as you see the first wisps in your daughter's armpits – it's something you need to help her with only when she feels it's an issue, although you might need to be on the lookout for signs of self-consciousness.
What method of hair removal is best for pre-teens?
Some Mumsnetters reckon shaving is best, while others say hair removal creams are best for this age group. If your daughter is concerned about her body hair, the best thing is to talk to her about the different methods and see which she feels most comfortable about – maybe she'd like to try both and then decide. However, waxing generally isn't a good idea for girls in this age group, and salons won't treat children this young.
Philips SatinShave Essential Lady Shaver, £18
If your child is just getting to grips with hair removal, shaving can seem like a scary prospect – for both of you. An electric shaver – also known as a Ladyshave – is a great way to keep the process quick and easy while minimising the risk of cuts. The protection cap also prevents skin irritation. Best of all, an electric shaver can be used wet or dry, so your daughter can practice using it in the comfort of her bedroom.
“I had a thread on here about my DD, aged eight. I bought her a Ladyshave and she gets on fine with it. She uses it once a week or so. She was getting funny about swimming and gymnastics and is much happier with it removed.”
“I'd get a Ladyshave, because they don't have the risk of cutting herself because its not super close to the skin. She probably wouldnt even need to do it that often.”
“Shaving is the gentlest on the skin, and a Ladyshave is gentlest of all. They wont get smooth smooth, but they wont look hairy.”
Gillette Venus, £13.11 for a handle and three sets of blades
If your child can manage a razor safely, Mumsnetters recommend opting for the ones with replaceable heads, which are better for the environment and tend to be sturdier than fully disposable models. They especially like the Gillette Venus razors that have a built-in moisturising bar, as this helps ensure the blades glide smoothly and reduces the risk of nicks.
“I really like the Gillette Venus razors with replaceable heads, they are much better than the disposable basic type in my experience, as they're flexible and glide smoothly. Get a set with some nice gel (again I use the Venus brand) as this makes it really easy.”
“DD uses a Gillette razor thing with the Olay head on it as then you don't need shaving gel. She doesn't shave often, just when the hair is long enough to annoy her again.”
Veet Hair Removal Cream for Sensitive Skin, £8.66 for 400 ml
Due to the angle at which the hair is cut, shaving can make hair appear thicker and darker. If you'd rather your daughter didn't start shaving, but she's still to young for waxing, hair removal cream is a good option. Regrowth from this method happens more quickly than with waxing, but it should be less spiky than after shaving. Mumsnetters recommend using the cream specially designed for sensitive skin, at least at first. Make sure to do a patch test 48 hours before trying a new hair removal cream and to supervise your daughter while she gets the hang of using it.
“DD uses Veet under her arms. Doesn't need to do legs yet. No pain and very easy.”
“DD began using Veet from the age of 11.5 as she was feeling self conscious in her leotard. She moved to shaving around the age of 13.”
“I agonised about it for ages but used sensitive Veet a couple of months ago and a couple of times since and my daughter's way happier. I had built the whole thing up thinking that, if I did it, she would have some kind of complex about it – but it seems to have lifted a weight in terms of her being less inhibited about clothes.”
Tips for safe body hair removal
- Make sure she only shaves when she has plenty of time – rushing will increase the risk of nicking her skin, which is very painful
- Suggest she shaves her underarms using a mirror rather than tying herself in knots trying to see what she's doing
- Advise shaving her legs in the bath, using gel or soap on her skin, as this will be most comfortable
- Tell her to shave her legs in upward strokes, starting at the bottom of her leg near the ankle and going against the hair growth
- Suggest she uses a body moisturiser suitable for sensitive skin after hair removal – this will help with the dryness that shaving can make skin prone to
What Mumsnetters say about body hair removal for pre-teens
"I was bullied during PE lessons for having hairy legs at that age because my mum wouldn't let me shave them. It was awful, and I was so mortified. Show your daughter how to do it carefully and properly. There is no harm."
"For hair removal, I'd suggest the Ladyshave razor, which is cheap and easy to use. It also means they do it in their own rooms and don't hog the bathroom! My daughter was 14 and a half before that that wasn't a smooth enough shave for her."
"I'd be wary of using chemical creams on young skin. A battery shaver is probably safest."
Prices correct at time of publication.