What To Say When Your Kid Starts Asking About Their Body Hair
If they are starting to notice or feel self conscious about body hair, it’s a good idea to start talking about it.
One summer back in 1989, when we were about nine years old, we were hanging out in one of those blue plastic pools in one of our backyards. We were having popsicles. We were splashing around and giggling and having fun — until one of us said these four words to the other: “Your arms are hairy.”
Huh, the other thought, looking down — so they were. Maybe we just hadn’t noticed the hair before, or maybe we hadn’t thought anything about it, but once we had made the observation that we were, in fact, hairy, there was no going back. Body hair was suddenly sprouting everywhere and we didn’t like it. So, over the next 30+ years, between the two of us, we tried all kinds of hair removal. Depilatories. Shaving. Waxing. Threading. Plucking. Even laser hair removal.
Fast forward to the 2010s: When our own daughters noticed the hair on their legs around age eight, and asked if they could shave, we said, “Sure, go for it.” We bought them safe razors, showed them how to shave carefully, and left it at that. Four years later, they’re on-again, off-again shavers. Most often, they don’t bother. Sometimes, they do.
Body hair definitely seems to be less taboo among today’s kids, thank goodness, and it helps that influential people and brands are normalizing it. Just go to TikTok and you’ll see that Gen Z and Gen A are on board with body hair. The hashtag #bodyhairisnatural has 200.7 million views on the platform, while #bodyhairpositivity has 145.7 million views.
In a recent Bustle cover story, Rachel McAdams showed her armpit hair in photos to much fanfare; many other celebs have shown their body hair as well. Earlier this year, Amazon released an ad about rocking a “tache,” showing a teen embracing with her lip hair, and before that Billie, a shaving and body care company, ran an ad with a tween dismantling the so-called “rules of body hair.” Research shows that almost half (46%) of people ages 16-34 have no preference on whether women get rid of armpit hair.
But, if your kid is starting to notice or feel self conscious about their own body hair, it’s a good idea to start talking to them about it. You can explain why we all have body hair (the biological reasons are pretty cool) and, if they’re interested in hair removal, you can discuss the options with them. Just remember, you don’t want to tell them what to do here — you just want to give them what they need. In that spirit, we put our heads together and brainstormed a list of questions your kids might have and how you might answer them.
Why do we have body hair and why do some people remove it?
The short answer is hair keeps us warm, protects our skin from the sun, and blocks germs from entering our body. Of course, today, we also have clothing and sunscreen to help with these issues, but millions of years ago, our predecessors only had hair. We don’t know for sure why people initially made the choice to remove their body hair, but a good guess is that it was for hygiene. Body hair would get infested with lice or other parasites and would also get wet and freeze in the cold making them more susceptible to frostbite. Historically, the less hair you had, the better your chance of staying alive. But eventually, less hair also became a societal and fashion norm.
Why is my friend less hairy than me?
Everyone has hair on their body, but the amount of hair we have is largely determined by genetics. So if you have a lot of body hair, chances are your kids will too. More specifically, most people have approximately 5 million hair follicles on their body, with hair covering about 30%–90% of that total. Adults might grow hair on their face, areolas, feet, back, stomach… anywhere. It’s not gender specific.
Am I old enough to shave or wax?
Probably. There’s no “right” age to start removing body hair, if it’s something you want to do. Let’s talk a little more about what’s on your mind and then we can figure out how to do it safely.
What are the safest options for hair removal?
Shaving, depilatories, plucking, threading, waxing, and laser treatments (after puberty!) are all reasonable options. Shaving, depilatories, and plucking are all at-home options. Threading, waxing, and laser might be things to do at a salon or a dermatologist’s office. And, of course, it’s also totally okay to just let it grow. Thankfully, in our increasingly body positive and gender fluid world, hair removal has become much more of an “if” than a “when.”
Looking for more information about body hair for your kids? For more on the topic, check out: A Kids Book about Body Hair, Laxmi’s Mooch, Karma Khullar’s Mustache, and Plucked.
Keeley McNamara, a certified nurse midwife, and Jen Swetzoff, a writer and editor, are both parents of tweens and the co-founders of Anyway, a new magazine focusing on health, wellbeing, and culture for kids 9-15. Find them at www.anywaymag.com and on Instagram @anywaymag.