The onset of puberty comes with many surprises, one of which is growing hair in unexpected places. While your teen might feel weird or embarrassed about their new leg prickles, armpit fuzz, or pubic hair, it’s something that happens to everyone. Whether they choose to remove the hair or not is totally their choice.
Read on to learn more about why we grow body hair, what it means, and how to deal with the changes going on in your body right now.
Wait, what’s puberty?
Puberty is what happens when the body begins to mature thanks to an influx of new hormones – either estrogen or testosterone. Everyone begins their puberty journey at a different time, anywhere from eight all the way to fourteen. (The average age is 11-12.) If your teen was assigned female at birth (AFAB), then the first sign of puberty will be sore and tender nickel-sized bumps called breast buds indicating thier breasts are beginning to grow. Shortly after, pubic hair will start to arrive near their genitals. At first, they'll likely have a few thin, soft hairs sprouting up. Over time, it will grow in coarser, darker, and often curlier. After a few years, it might also spread to their inner thighs as well.
Why do we grow body hair?
Hair on our arms and legs and genitals is all part of being a mammal. Just like a cat or dog (or horse or cow), we’re all covered in hair. Pubic hair is a sign of sexual maturity. It’s the universe’s way of letting you know that you’re growing up and in the not-too-distant future, your teen might start developing an interest in sex. It’s also a form of physical protection. Those fluffy hairs help trap dirt and germs that would otherwise enter the vagina if they didn’t exist. Other types of body hair, like leg hair and arm hair, are a natural form of sun protection and also help trap heat to keep us warm in cold weather.
What do we do about body hair?
So, do you encourage your teen to reach for the shaving cream? Ask them if they want to book a wax appointment? The decision on whether to remove body hair is totally up to them. Body hair has been stigmatized in some cultures (though that’s changing), which is why many people choose to remove it – but that doesn’t make it the right decision for them necessarily. They should do what makes them feel the most comfortable; it’s their body and no one else’s.
Plus, hair grows back, so they can always experiment with it. They can try shaving one leg to see if they like feeling smooth or not. Heck, Miley Cyrus once dyed her armpit hair, so that’s an option, too. Test it out, and see what makes them feel the best. There is no right or wrong answer.
At the end of the day, body hair shouldn’t make your teen feel gross or weird. It means they're a human being and their body is growing. The only thing they need to do is be kind to themselves.