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Kristen Howerton

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Kristen Howerton is a professor of pyschology and mom of four children within four years via birth and adoption. She's been blogging at Rage Against the Minivan as a coping skill since 2006. In the spring of 2010, Kristen lost her long and passionate battle against the minivan. It now sits in her driveway covered in crushed cheerios and remnants of her self-esteem.

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Should teenage girls be getting bikini waxes?

By Kristen Howerton |

A recent post at New York Times reports that there is a new trend troubling many modern parents: teenagers and bikini waxes. The article suggests that as summer camp approaches, more and more girls are lining up for some hair removal. “For some female campers, that process may now include a visit to the waxing salon for removal of the hair on their legs and underarms, above the lips and even at the bikini line,” the article says. The idea of teenagers getting a bikini wax has many commenters clutching their pearls, but I have to wonder, why all the outrage?

Should adolscent girls be getting a bikini wax

At the end of the day, waxing is a legitimate (and longer-lasting) form of hair removal. We could probably debate until the day is long why our societal beauty standards require women to render themselves nearly hairless, but the fact is that a majority of women engage in hair removal, and approve of their daughters shaving their legs and nether regions as well. I’m curious as to why a bikini wax, then, is so controversial. To be clear, I’m not talking about a bikini wax that involves serious landscaping downtown. But I see no problem with a teen using this or other methods to assure that she can go swimming without fear of a stray public hair. Adolescence is a time that is wrought with self-consciousness, and girls are typically self-conscious about being in a swimsuit AND about the bodily changes that are brought on in puberty. Hair “down there” is surely an embarrassing predicament for many young girls, and shaving that area can be difficult and can lead to bumps, itching, and irritation. Why, then, if girls are expected in polite society to keep their pubic hair groomed, should waxing be off-limits?

For families who have the budget for waxing, I think it’s a reasonable way to remove unwanted hair. I do think that there are a few caveats. I think that waxing should be at the child’s request, and only done with informed consent. I don’t think it is something that should be forced by a parent, and if it proves too painful, then other hair removal options should be explored. That being said, there is nothing overtly sexual about hair removal, and a modest bikini wax should not be shameful. In fact, I think parents do well to make sure they are giving their young girls the tools they need to feel confident around their peers, and hair removal may be part of that.

I still remember a shaving episode that occurred when I was at summer camp as a young teen. I was shaving my legs to go to the pool, and a large grasshopper hopped into the shower. I was so startled that I pulled back on the razor and nicked myself deeply on the shin. It bled for hours, forcing me to spend the day at the nurse’s outpost. I still have a scar. I also remember not wanting to go swimming at camp because shaving created unsightly bumps that I was mortified that other people could see. I would have much preferred my mother to have taken me to get my legs and bikini area waxed. Unfortunately, my mother’s view of bikini waxes reflected many of the comments I’ve seen related to this trend: that bikini waxes are for the sexually active.

I certainly don’t think bikini waxes are for everyone, but I don’t think that we should be projecting judgment onto families who choose this as a hair removal method for post-pubescent girls.

What do you think? Are bikini waxes appropriate for minors, or is this an example of girls being sexualized at a young age?

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About Kristen Howerton


Kristen Howerton

Kristen Howerton is a professor of psychology and mom of four children within four years via birth and adoption. She's been blogging at Rage Against the Minivan as a coping skill since 2006. var sc_project=8124762; var sc_invisible=1; var sc_security="ea310306"; Read bio and latest posts → Read Kristen's latest posts →

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16 thoughts on “Should teenage girls be getting bikini waxes?

  1. natalie says:

    I wore short swim shorts over my suit and that awkward hair was a big reason why. I wish I had been able to have it waxed and avoid painful shave bumps and feeling uncomfortable being active in the pool.

  2. Melanie says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the sexual aspect, not that I believe it is sexual, but we femmes are taught to keep those bits under wraps for a very long time. Getting waxed is exposing them AND forcing parents to face their babies’ growing bods and minds (no easy task). Slapping the sexual label on it or considering it too grown up an easy way out, yet it might be a good way for good way to become more comfortable with their bodies.

    It has never come up, but I don’t think I’d have an issue with my daughter getting waxed. It’s her body and I’m confident that she knows what she needs to do to feel good about it. I know how much of a struggle it is to deal with its unruliness through teen years.

  3. Jo-Lynne {Musings of a Housewife} says:

    I agree – why is that different than shaving?? I don’t get it.

  4. Carolyn says:

    I’d be interested to ask someone who is opposed to it if they would mind if the girl bought an at home waxing kit and did it themselves – is it the idea of WAXING they object to (which does SOUND like an adult activity. I think people are used to the idea of girls shaving now, but waxing sounds more sophisticated, despite the fact that it’s really just another way of achieving the same goal!) or is it the idea of someone else helping them with the waxing? (And if that’s the case, have those people gone to a nice salon to have a bikini wax, themselves?) If it were my daughter, I’d want to help choose the location (there are some sleazy looking places that do waxing, but there are also really nice ones!) but after that it’s her choice.

  5. Patty says:

    I totally agree with you. There are many women (including myself) that have more body hair than most women do. Growing up I was teased about my hairy arms and legs and began shaving as soon as my parents would allow it. I was VERY self conscious about it as a teen – especially since I was fair skinned and had darker hair on my lower and upper legs. Up until two years ago I shaved my legs EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE! I finally began getting regular waxing done. Bikini area every 5 weeks all year and legs waxed during winter months. Over time,I have less and less hair and shave my legs a few times a week. The gal that does my waxing told me that if I had begun waxing my legs and bikini when I was a teen I would have had virtually no leg or bikini area hair within a year and would have avoided all of those years of constant shaving.

    For women with very little body hair, it is hard to understand. But for those of us with a lot of body hair, it can be a very humiliating thing. I say if it gives a teenage girl more confidence in her appearance, why not? I spent too many years (the years I looked really good in a bathing suit too!) avoiding bathing suits or spending hours getting ready before I could get in a bathing suit. I don’t view it as a sexual thing – more as an easier way of maintaining yourself.

  6. Shannon Bradley-Colleary says:

    When I was twelve I remember being mortified by my friend’s mother’s pubic hair. We were at the beach when she pulled off her shorts and I literally saw a pubic jungle emerging from her bikini trailing south to mid-thigh. As God was my witness I did not want to inflict my flourishing pubes upon the masses so I spent the better part of my teen years shaving. If my girls want to wax, so be it. They’re stronger women than I.

  7. Penny says:

    I do think it’s ridiculous for waxing to be instantly associated with sexuality or being sexually active, but I can understand that some parents might hesitate. I think a lot of teenage girls who shave their bikini areas usually do so without their parents’ knowledge – after all, it’s not like they need permission or a ride there, and it’s probably (hopefully) not at the top of their mom or dad’s mind. Maybe waxing brings their child’s physical adulthood to the front of their minds? I personally just wish that a greater variety of hair removal options were considered, like IPL, which can actually be pretty affordable if you get a home-use machine like LUMI.

  8. [...] this post, I’m talking teen girls and bikini waxes, and specifically asking if this is a harmless form [...]

  9. CJ says:

    Hmm, interesting. I grew up as a shy child in a family with a mother who was not comfortable addressing some of the realities of growing up, adult bodies, etc. The family standards required quite modest swimwear, which I pulled down at the legs before getting into or out of the water. I did not shave the bikini area, but likely would have if I had been more comfortable with considering something like that. Thankfully, with the combination of the right swimwear and not having a lot of body hair, I managed. As an adult, I have always been more comfortable with skirted swimsuits and boy shorts, so that I can move more freely from all angles. In thinking about the issue at hand, and reading replies, I tend to agree that the act itself doesn’t sound like a big deal, and that the issues are more about openness between parents and teens, careful selection of service providers, AND discussion about swimwear choices (because I expect some girls would do just fine without shaving, simply by choosing other swimwear…and that is a whole other discussion that will definitely come up in my household once our daughter begins choosing her own clothing…I love fashion, and a fun, stylish look, and believe that can be found easily enough even while paying attention to coverage, which leads me back to the hair removal topic).

  10. nikkiana says:

    If I had a teenage daughter who was interested in having a professional wax done, I’d be supportive. I don’t personally see why it’s a big deal.

    However, I do think that there’s a taboo in our culture about the hair on our lady bits… as in, you’re not supposed to talk about it. A huge deal is made over the fact that you’re supposed to shave your armpits and your legs, but not once in my teenage years was there a recommendation about the hair on the lady bits. I remember spending days as a teenager and even into my early twenties agonizing before going to things like doctors appointments because I was afraid I was doing it wrong… no matter if I was sporting it with hair or bare.

    It took a long time before I realized it didn’t matter and it was personal preference…. but I wish someone had at least talked about it when I was younger.

  11. susie says:

    I’m 36 and leg/bikini waxes were pretty much de rigeur when I was a camper (circa 1986-1992) at overnight camp.

  12. Brinna Bell, says:

    This is such an interesting post, a part of me thinks bikini wax is no big deal, but another part of me wants to see some statistics. How many of these girls getting bikini waxes at a professional salon are sexually active? and how many of these bikini waxes are the more innocent “bikini” region, as opposed to the popular brazilian wax. As a very hairy southern mediterranean woman I started using Veet on my legs and bikini region around 12. I even did some at-home waxing. I wasn’t sexually active. By the time I was 16 though, I was sexually active, and I was going to the salon (with my own money, on my own) and getting the intense brazilians. Now as a mother, I think I will be happy to take my daughter to get waxes or do them at home so that I can be involved and talk to her about sexuality. Even if she isn’t sexually active, having something like this can lead to good discussion about sexuality.

  13. Beverley says:

    I don’t see the problem with girls getting bikini waxes, my concern would be more about who was doing them! I completely understand how troubling and embarrassing it can be for young women to feel like the whole world is watching them. Lets face it, when you get to be older and you have mortgages, jobs, children, etc etc to worry about then a few stray hairs might not be top of your list. However if you are a teenager and the biggest thing you have to worry about is the fact you have a few stray hairs, then removing that problem to me seems the way to go. Its all about proportion of problem I think.

  14. Katie says:

    I haven’t thought about this one but it does make sense. My daughter has inherited the German hairiness from my side of the family. Unfortunately the back patch all the women in my family have is all over her back complete with a calic between her shoulder blades. So yes, if she wants to wax for the summer, I think that is just fine. I might even be open to a bit of laser hair removal if she helps pay for it. I’m just sayin’.

  15. sheriji says:

    There’s an uproar about bikini waxes? Seems like there would be more important things to worry about.

    I do love your way with words — serious landscaping? Hysterical!

  16. Traveller says:

    IMO the reason the idea of teenage girls paying for bikini waxes is troubling to people because it DOES highlight how sexualized women are in our society. I do not have any religious or moral objections to hair removal but I do find it a very sad commentary on the position of women. I think young girls are just reacting to increasing media and social focus on their appearance and sadly, an ideal image that is often based on a very narrow definition of sex appeal.

    I personally do not even have strong objections to teens being sexually active as long as it is within a healthy, loving, informed and consensual relationship. I DO have strong objections the way we expect women to look and believe it has a strong connection with the oppression of women. Why are feminists always condemned as “hairy”? Why is this accusation so revolting? Why would young women prefer to make waxing a trend instead of going natural?

    For me, these are the more important questions.

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