Sniff … Sniff … Tween Spirit?

saltcrystalI was at a Toastmasters Contest Saturday when I smelled something. I smelled it again. Unmistakable, that’s B.O.

Sniff. Whiff. I made a personal armpit check. Not me. Phew.

To my left I leaned in for a discrete snort of my husband’s pits. Freshly showered. Not him.

I looked at the 20-something chicks in front of me – they seemed perfectly groomed. Doubtful …

My daughter lifted her arm to whisper something in my ear.

Whiff. Sniff. P.U.!


There I sat, wondering how the unmistakable smell of teen spirit was already coming from my 7-year-old little girl. Her only bad smell used to be “kid-who-played-too-much.”

I did some mental math. I was 12 years old and on my way to Junior High when I finally asked my mother for a stick of deodorant. It happened around the same time that I got my first bra and finally got permission to shave my legs, wear lipstick. Around the time I started my period. Most of this became necessary because I had to be naked in front of all the other girls in the locker room after gym.

I thought I had another four or five years before I had to have the, “you’re coming to an age when you start to smell a little funky and need to step up the showering. Oh, and use this natural salt crystal,” talk.

Then I flashed back on my a few of my friends telling me their similar-aged sons are smelling pretty funky. Just last week I heard Jenny McCarthy say her 6 year old is growing armpit hair and has the beginning of a mustache. Oddly enough, Ali Wentworth agreed with this mysterious new development in her own 6 or 7 year old girl. That was Friday’s Oprah.

This is becoming so universal that doctors are calling it “Normal.” Universal defines normal.

It’s a symptom of the early puberty so common that it’s not referred to as early puberty anymore. It’s just puberty. At 7 years old.

If the doctors are calling this prematurish puberty “normal.” Then what is left for parents to do, except have the same conversation you were intending to have – but several years earlier than you were expecting?

My only advice is this: Don’t make your kid feel like a freak.

Be shocked in the bedroom when you freak out with your equally stunned spouse or stammer about it on the phone with your mystified best friend.

Then, put on your best poker face when you’re explaining things you thought you had four more years to prepare yourself for.

I do have a question for The Girl Revolution readers – if the armpit hair is coming in any second are we encouraging shaving or au’natural?

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#1 Kristin on 03.24.09 at 2:52 pm

oh my friend! my daughter has been wearing deodorant for two years now (she is 10) and i’ve had to nair her pits. i would only do it once in a while, but now it’s looking like a big patch. i feel i need to 1) because it’s almost black and 2) i would never ever let mine get like that. i will not shave it, i am happy w/nair. what i really want to do is wax it, but my sister said it would be too traumatic….i suppose! but i can’t let her just be.

#2 Tracee on 03.24.09 at 2:55 pm

I’ve Naired plenty of other places on my body – but for some reason never my pits. . . I’ve waxed plenty of other places on my body . . .but never my pits. I don’t know why. Nair has started to cause an allergic reaction on my skin. Acid Burn.

#3 Jen on 03.24.09 at 5:01 pm

I say let her shave if she wants to. I had to wait, and no one should endure forced hairy-ness not matter the age :) I can’t think of any negative outcome to shaving early?

Jen’s last blog post..We’re Back…

#4 Bonnie on 03.24.09 at 6:00 pm

I think let her make the decision to shave or not. I was forced into it by my mom and grandma as a young teenager and felt very ashamed. But if she wants to, I would let her.

That said, my dd is almost 7 and has been stinky for nearly a year now. I actually had her hormone levels checked in a blood test and they are all normal so it’s not early puberty. I took her to my wonderful acupuncturist for other things – digestion problems, uncalled for “chubbiness” – and my acu diagnosed her as “damp” (sounds bizarre unless you are familliar with chinese medicine). Dampness leads to all these things, stinkiness included. while my dd is taking her prescribed Chinese herbs, her belly is less distended and she does seem to be less stinky. All this to say – maybe there is some other explanation for it?

#5 Felicia on 03.24.09 at 7:48 pm

I definitely get where you’re coming from. My own girl-child also started sprouting in odd places at a frighteningly early age (6 or 7). I took her to a endocrinologist who deemed that she was not entering early puberty. And he was right. She started breast development and got her period at the normal time 11 (I was 12).

As to your question about shaving. It’s touchy at 7. If it’s to the point where it’s noticeable to the point where swimming suit weather is going to cause some issues (i.e. teasing from the other kids, embarassment on her part) I’d go the Nair route like Kristin. Maybe one of the gentle/sensitive skin varieties?

#6 Tracee on 03.24.09 at 7:53 pm

I confess to running those same blood tests Bonnie, plus a bone-age exam on my daughter too. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t something medically amiss. There is not, thank goodness. But, they don’t consider many things “amiss” that are making me raise my eyebrows.

I’m interested in hearing more about this Dampness though. I’d like to get rid of my own bloated bellyness – and hers too. Not to mention some other people I could name, but who would be mad at me if I did. I’ve started taking HCI prescribed on Larry King by Susanne Summers. What herbs did the Chinese Acupuncturist prescribe?

#7 Anlina on 03.24.09 at 8:14 pm

I don’t have any kids but I remember needing deodorant for the first time in second or third grade, and body hair first showing up around age 10, period at age 11 and breast development at 13 or 14 (though I didn’t fill out to more than a AA cup till my early 20s.)

I shaved my armpits for the first time so that I could wear a sleeveless dress to my grade 6 graduation ceremony. Prior to that armpit hair was not something that I thought about, but I was far too self-conscious to wear a nice, sleeveless dress with fuzzy pits.

I held off on leg shaving till I was 16 (and finally decided that I could shave my legs – I’ve never liked body hair – and still be a good feminist.) My best friend started shaving at age 10 though, and by 13 I was the only girl I knew who didn’t shave or wear a bra.

Anlina’s last blog post..Choosing the right cat litter

#8 bonnie on 03.24.09 at 9:58 pm

To be honest, Tracee, I don’t know. My acupuncturist mixes them for us and changes them as needed (often at each visit) and I trust her with my life so I never ask her although she would happily tell me if I asked… But I have a feeling it would not necessarily help you much since it’s such a personalized thing.

bonnie’s last blog post..Diastatis Recti (Katie)

#9 1001 petals on 03.25.09 at 7:04 am

Nair is really not good for you, so toxic and can burn the skin, especially delicate young skin like your daughter’s. I think if you go for that you might as well just shave.

Yes, waxing hurts but it is best to start off with that as it will decrease the amount of hair that grows back. You could be doing your daughter a big favour as if you get her started on waxing now, she may have very little hair there in the future (maybe even none! I know a guy whose mother took him to have his eyebrows waxed as a child and as an adult he has perfect eyebrows — the unibrow permanently disappeared!) You could be saving her years of effort and expense :)

Ultimately though, I think it should be up to her and all you can provide is the info and support.

1001 petals’s last blog post..Looking into a magnifying glass

#10 that girl on 03.25.09 at 7:08 am

I started wearing deodorant at about 10 I think – and my mom told me in a way that made me feel bad about it…I think looking back she was panicky and it came across as a judgement..

If you think the hair is going to be an issue w/ summer coming on, I would just ask her if she wants to? Like “Ainsley, you wanna start doing this under your arms like I do?” maybe..that way it seems like a right of passage instead of an embarrassing moment.

My mom and aunt decided I needed to start waxing my eyebrows at aunt is a hairdresser, and hypersensitive to everyone’s looks. lol. I”m sure they were just looking out for me – but at the time I was torn between feel grateful and feeling sad that some part of me had to be contantly ‘kept up’ to look acceptable. (by 14 I would surely have begged for it anyway – but the suggestion was a little hurtful.)

that girl’s last blog post..Boy-oy-oy-oy-oy-oING!!!!!!!!!

#11 Kristin on 03.25.09 at 9:44 am

in case anyone is interested, i use the nair sensitive face cream w/green tea for her pits! it comes in a tube that looks like lancomes juicy tubes! the tip is like the juicy tubes also, which makes for easy application. i wanted to make the process as easy as possible for her. it’s just time consuming, as it has to stay on 10-15min..

#12 Tracee on 03.25.09 at 10:25 am

Thanks for the tip Kristin. I will try it when it comes up.

No worries yet. But, just wondered what other moms are doing to try wrapping my brain around it.

#13 Tracee on 03.25.09 at 4:57 pm

Is that really true 1001 Petals? If you wax do you really reduce hair over time? I’m always confused about the hair myths. Do you really and truly grow more hair if you begin to shave?

My girl is kind of a wimp about pain. She thinks the blow drier is too hot and whines about having her hair brushed. I’m not sure I’d be able to convince her to rip her hair out of her pits with wax. Definitely not with a straight face.

#14 1001 petals on 03.25.09 at 5:28 pm

I personally think it probably depends on the person. I know for me waxing is better than tweezing or shaving, and the belief out there is that it reduces the amount of hair. It definitely keeps it away for longer. The friend I mentioned is the only person I’ve heard of experiencing permanent hair loss from it, but then again I don’t know any other people who were waxed regularly as young children.

There is a numbing cream you can get from a pharmacy that might help, but yeah it will hurt a lot!! I don’t think she’d want it done at all if she complains about blow dryers being too hot :) Can’t say I blame her.

It also depends on how hairy your family is, how hairy she will be. My family is VERY hairy, it is awful. . .so waxing and laser hair removal is big for us. If my daughter ends up being like me I am taking her in for laser hair removal the moment she decides she wants to get rid of it, just cause I know what a drag it has been in my life (so much time and money. . .) If she has very little and shaving gets rid of it for long enough, then that is so much easier, right.

1001 petals’s last blog post..Looking into a magnifying glass

#15 bonnie on 03.25.09 at 7:46 pm

But what if she grows up and likes hairy pits? Some women do, you know. I would not want to do anything that could permanently change her UNLESS she was part of that decision. :)

bonnie’s last blog post..Diastatis Recti (Katie)

#16 Tracee on 03.26.09 at 4:41 pm

I think I’d be OK with her growing up with hairless pits. I doubt European Chick going to make a dramatic comeback. I, for one, would be thrilled if I never had to think about her pits or mine again.

#17 PhDiva on 03.27.09 at 7:31 am

So…I don’t have a little one to base my opinion on, but I am all about pain avoidance. If her hair comes in fair, I would get one of those personal trimmers that are marketed for men to touch up facial hair. They look like miniature versions of the clippers that barbers use. This would be an easy way to get rid of the hair without the pain and potential blood loss of a 7 year old learning to shave – although Ainsley might have outstanding fine and gross motor skills :). This would also take care of the potential reaction of her hair to Nair. If the hair is dark and the dark stubble is an issue – to you or her – I would consider getting the Jolen cream bleach that you use for bleaching facial hair and lightening the hair before using the trimmer. Just my two cents…

#18 Tracee on 03.27.09 at 8:53 am

People bleach their pit and leg and wooha hair before the bleach it off? Really?

#19 Anlina on 03.27.09 at 9:16 am

I could not imagine going to the trouble and effort of bleaching everything before shaving it (and I have very pale skin and very dark hair – to the point where you can see the hair through my skin.) For a special occasion maybe, but for day to day?

Seems like if you’re that concerned about having any sign of hair you’d be best off getting it waxed or lasered off (yay laser!) rather than coating yourself in all those chemicals.

Also, dark hair might be noticeable to ourselves even once it’s shaved/Naired – I can guarantee 99% of other people won’t notice (even after a day or two of growth.) It’s your pits – not your upper lip, and most people won’t be up close enough to notice (even if they are paying attention, which they probably aren’t.)

Anlina’s last blog post..Romeo the Cat (and Pugsley too!) raise money for charity

#20 Tracee on 03.27.09 at 10:34 am

I agree Anlina. which goes back to my classic advice for how to banish “noticeable pantie lines” – Stop Looking At My Ass!

Substitute pits, legs and crotch in this instance.

#21 Susie the Geek on 03.31.09 at 2:28 pm

My daughter started wearing deodorant this year, but no hair growth yet. We celebrated by going to the store and I let her pick out the deodorant she wanted. Now I just have to get her to use it regularly! I tried to make it just normal and kind of cool, and she is mostly ok with it – she just thought she was a little early, until I told her about this blog. Now she is happier and more comfortable with the idea. Thanks Tracee!

Susie the Geek’s last blog post..HTGYG Show #29: Not All Animation Is For Kids!

#22 Tracee on 03.31.09 at 2:47 pm

Glad to have helped someone Susie.

#23 that girl on 04.08.09 at 7:52 am

About the hair regrowth thing – Shaving exfoliates the skin around the hair follicle, it also stimulates growth (same thing w/ brushing your scalp alot). That’s why it grows back at a faster rate.

Waxing sometimes damages the follicle so that over time it won’t grow back as quickly or as thick.

Places on my body that I’ve used a cream on have grown back more dense – but the hair isn’t more course.

I like the idea of the beard trimmer/clippers – that way there won’t be any stubble or rash?

that girl’s last blog post..Boy-oy-oy-oy-oy-oING!!!!!!!!!

#24 Sandra on 08.26.09 at 5:56 pm

I was an early bloomer, shaved at age 12. My daughter is 9 and has begun wearing deodorant last year, graduated to teen spirit.
As for the shaving,
In my house shaving is the law! I am practically hairless and fearless. That’s why I have permanent eyebrows, AMEN AMEN
My daughter will also be hairless and fearless in a couple of years.
We both wear short hairstyles.

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