Written by Doctor G

Girls and Shaving – When is the Right Time?

My daughter is 9 years old. She is a dancer, and her leg hair grows in dark. I’m shaving it every other day for her because I don’t want other girls to be mean to her. What do you think? — Anonymous, in PA

Anonymous, shaving your daughter’s legs at this age might be a completely reasonable choice. I have two questions for you:

Does your daughter WANT her legs clean-shaven?

  • She is old enough to have an opinion about this! If she does, fine.
  • If she doesn’t, then respect her wishes. You can gently express your concern to her that she will be made fun of, but try not to put too much of your own past experiences on this for her. If she is not interested in what the other kids say, then be proud of her! That is a strong girl you are raising.
  • Teach the valuable lesson here: Self-respect is what is important about personal grooming – doing what your body needs to be healthy and comfortable, not what others need in order to “accept” you. The truth is, as you know, if there are mean girls they will find something to be mean about.

What reason do you give your daughter for doing this? 

Chances are, most of her 4th grade friends are not yet shaving their legs.

  • Put this in the context of cleanliness and comfort.
  • Avoid talking about beauty when you’re addressing personal care of any kind. We don’t want our daughters to focus on “making” themselves beautiful, we want them to focus on:

Whether or not it’s appropriate to shave your daughter’s legs is a decision for the two of you. And the conversations you have about it together are an opportunity for you to pass along the life lessons of self-respect and resilience!

At what age did your daughter start removing body hair? Or does she not?

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16 thoughts on “Girls and Shaving – When is the Right Time?”

  1. From what she describes in the letter, this was initiated by the mother, and based on the mother’s fears — not the daughter’s fears nor her reality. Were kids already being mean to her? Doesn’t sound like it.

    She missed some good teaching opportunities: to be accepting of her own body, to learn how to deal with (these not-yet-encountered) mean people, and about cultural norms in different societies.

    The mother has now essentially told her daughter that there is something about her body worth being insecure about. And, with this kind of example, I would bet that the daughter (only 9!!!) will grow up to have many more insecurities about her appearance.

    And cleanliness, really? Are shaved legs really cleaner? Certainly not.

    Most of my disagreement is with the fact that it’s the mother – NOT the 9-year-old daughter – who is initiating this practice (which is how the scenario is presented in the letter). Were she responding to the daughter’s fears and helping her work through her own insecurities, I wouldn’t see this as mother-fear-driven, and could definitely imagine how the conversations around shaving – and possibly shaving itself – could be positive for the daughter.

    But it’s not.

    I read this as Mom Pushing Own Insecurities Onto Very Young Daughter, and respectfully disagree with the response that was given — especially the ending. She has undermined her sense of self-respect and resilience, NOT capitalized on an opportunity to help her daughter bolster these very important pieces of a healthy emotional foundation.

    1. Thanks Christy, both for your opinion and the time you took to share it! If you’re right – and I see why it seems that you are – then this mom is creating stress where there wasn’t any and could easily undermine her daughter’s natural confidence and positive self-image.

  2. My mother in law shaves my daughters armfit hair without my consent she’s jjust 9 and shes not bothered about having armfit hair. I was shocked and devastated knowing what they did. I told my daughter not to shave until she had her period.

    1. I’m sorry – I hear that you feel hurt and betrayed. Your mother-in-law should not have done this without your consent. It’s possible your mother-in-law did this because she was worried about your daughter having a negative consequence from being unshaved, not from a desire to hurt you or undermine you rules. Even so, she should not have done this. Your daughter may be very confused, she is supposed to honor her grandmother and may not have known how to follow your rule with her grandmother suggesting (or insisting) that they do the opposite. I hope you can speak to each of them about it, but separately, and that they each understand your feelings.

  3. I have custodybof my granddaughter. She is 10 yrs old and has bad body odor. she uses deoderant but still has that smell about her. She started her period right after her birthday. she has left side weekness due to strokes she had as a baby. She suffers from seizures and takes two different medications to try to control them. Is it ok to shave her underarms?

    1. As long as she doesn’t hate the idea, it is fine. I’d actually recommend using Old Spice deoderant, it works well for girls as well as boys – and she can pick the scent she likes best.

  4. I have two granddaughters the eldest is 10 years old she came to me a little while ago as she didn’t want to talk to her father he is.a single parent to ask how to she her body parts as she has started to grow hair and she wants to stay like her friends. I have no idea how else to respond I have talked about how she is growing she doesn’t see that as she has not started to bud yet. Any ideas on how to allay her feared of being different she is normally a happy confident independent young lady. Will the desire to remove hair fade if I leave it or just fester and cause issues later.

    1. Audrey, it’s great that you’re stepping up for your granddaughter. She needs to have someone trustworthy to ask lots of things in the next few years. I don’t suggest letting this fade, because then she’ll learn not to come to you with her uncomfortable questions. She’ll go to someone else, or her friends, or the internet, or feel alone. There are some great books you and she can look at together – I suggest The American Girl book “All about Me” as a great, age appropriate place to start. Read it together or ask her to read a bit (and you do too) and then come back for more conversations.

      Some girls shave at this age. Whether you think that’s alright or not (and talk to her Dad if you can), what’s most important is that she have an open relationship with you. She needs to know that you’ll take her questions seriously and help her navigate growing up.

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