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What Would Frida Kahlo Do?

Nov05

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesSo, I follow your column and I see that you write a lot of advice about babies and a lot of advice about beauty, so here is a combination of the two. My beautiful 17-month-old baby girl is developing a unibrow. She’s not quite to Oscar the Grouch caliber or anything, but it is noticeable. I’m in such a quandary over what to do. Do I address the issue and make her succumb to some routine to clean up her look?If I do, will she hate me and place the root of all of her identity issues on me when she remembers her mother trying to “fix” her at a young age? What would I even do to “fix” it? Or, do I ignore it and then when she’s older subject her to ridicule from others? Will she look at pictures and wonder how I let this go (although at this point, you can’t tell in pictures)? Am I being too shallow in even giving this too much thought? Please advise away!

-Anon

I had very, very strong personal reaction to this question, but for the hell of it, I Googled around a bit anyway to see if my reaction was the norm…or not. Things I learned:

1) There are a lot of mothers posing the same question on a lot of sites around the Internet, for both baby boys and girls. Your daughter is certainly not the only adorable kid with generous eyebrows.

2) While there’s no consensus about what’s the “right” age to wait before messing with extra facial hair, a surprising number of mothers confessed to tweezing or waxing their toddlers or young children. A rare few claimed it was cultural, while most admitted they did it because they were worried about teasing…or simply because the hair bothered them. (The mothers. Not the children.)

3) My initial reaction still stands. 100%. I am not alone in it, either.

Your daughter — who is, as you state, beautiful — is a baby. Babies are not (and SHOULD NOT be) held to traditional (read: adult) standards of grown-up beauty. It’s okay for babies to be chubby, with double chins and rolls on their thighs. It’s okay for babies to bald, or have crazy cowlicks or mullets or stick-outy ears or applesauce all over their faces or whatever. It’s also okay for their eyebrows to grow wild and untamed.

I absolutely cannot imagine putting a young toddler through the pain of tweezing or hot wax for purely vanity-related reasons. (Seriously, read some of the archived columns on waxing — home OR salon — and see some of the awful post-waxing skin reactions grown women get! Now think of the sensitive baby-soft skin on your daughter’s face!) Some people suggested NAIR as an alternative, which oh my God, that’s a recipe for disaster unless you like, BIND your child’s arms to keep her from rubbing it into her eyes while it sets. I understand the worries about teasing or having other people look at your gorgeous child and only see “that,” but for her sake, start with changing YOUR thinking about it, and let it go.

A few of the message boards occasionally mentioned a bit of an old wives’ tale: If you wax the hair while the child is still very young (under two), you can effectively “get rid of” the unibrow permanently, or at least reduce the thickness or whatever. Not…necessarily true. If that happens, it’s likely because the parent simply waxed off hair that was probably temporary and not going to re-grow anyway. Waxing removes hair at the follicle — it doesn’t inherently damage or stunt the follicle. Many women, after YEARS of waxing and tweezing, notice a significant reduction in hair density or thickness, but I think it’s misleading to tell mothers that there’s some kind of magic “window” that’s worth hurting your child over — lest you miss it and “curse” her to a lifetime of teasing and eyebrow-angst. (Though the opposite problem can ALSO happen — you overpluck your wiggly two-year-old and her brows simply DON’T grow back properly. Eyebrows are very temperamental things.)

For the record: My husband is a very hairy guy, and has very dark, crazy brows that he has to tweeze lest they turn a little unibrow-ish. Both of my boys have his eyebrows, though they are currently blond and not very noticeable. (Ezra’s eyebrows connected to his SIDEBURNS, when he was born. I thought it was adorable, but they didn’t stay that way.) At some point, sure, I can imagine maybe having a conversation about facial (and body) hair grooming with them. It’s in their genes, man. But I don’t ever want to prematurely telegraph to them that I think there’s anything “wrong” with the way their hair grows. I also don’t kid myself that I can magically prevent all teasing simply by agonizing over and “perfecting” my children’s physical appearances.

I have no idea what the “right” age will be for your daughter — it’s of course ENTIRELY POSSIBLE that her brows will change with age and puberty and ultimately become a non-issue. You could be stressing out over temporary peach fuzz, which some kids just get a darker version of. Or maybe she’ll want to tweeze her brows or get them waxed, threaded or shaped in the salon when she’s older. (I started tweezing my brows around…ninth grade? I think? A lot of my friends seemed to take notice of That Sort Of Thing in late junior high? Which means possibly fifth or sixth grade by Kids Today Standards? Ugh.) Ideally, you should wait until it’s a decision she chooses to make, because it is her face. Your job is to make her feel unconditionally beautiful in your eyes, not to prematurely introduce her to the world of “perfect” magazine faces with Photoshopped brows and false eyelashes and makeup and all the rest of the garbage that comes along with it.

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If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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26 Responses to “What Would Frida Kahlo Do?”

  1. Keely Nov 05 at 3:25 pm Reply Reply

    Amen! Even if you CAN tell in pictures, almost everybody is embarrassed by their baby pictures. It’s kind of the POINT :)

  2. Olivia Nov 05 at 3:35 pm Reply Reply

    Totally agree with Amy. Body modification of any kind is not okay for babies. This is the kind of thing that should be an individual’s choice. And FWIW, Frida Kahlo loved her unibrow. She even painted it darker in her self portraits. Maybe you daughter will wear her eyebrows with pride.

  3. Rebecca Nov 05 at 3:38 pm Reply Reply

    My neice had an extreme unibrow when she was a toddler with crazy growing head-hair to boot. Now, at 15, she goes to the salon to take care of her brow concerns, but not once has she ever looked back at her baby pictures and complained about her unibrow. She has only ever been told she is besutiful and perfect as she is. I agree with Amalah – leave it for now.

  4. heidikins Nov 05 at 3:57 pm Reply Reply

    No matter what you do she will probably be teased by kids for something. I have naturally platinum-blonde hair that would cost hundreds to replicate in a salon. As an adult it is complimented often, as a kid I was called “the white headed freak” and spent my childhood wishing for black hair. Isn’t it better that your daughter know the cruelty and teasing of any perceived “imperfections” can be blamed on stupid kids who don’t know better instead of the vanity or insecurities of her own MOTHER!?! (Yes, the answer is “yes”.) Leave the brows alone!

    xox

  5. Bren Nov 05 at 4:11 pm Reply Reply

    I LOVE this question and your response. My husband’s side of the family has HUGE eyebrows and we were just talking about this last night (mostly because his cousin’s one year old daughter has eyebrows bigger than me!). I could NOT imagine trying to pluck, wax or do anything to a baby’s (or toddler’s) eyebrows! Heck, I can barely handle the nasal asperator (I know that’s spelled wrong) let alone plucking out hairs! Wonderful response!

  6. G.G.R Nov 05 at 4:33 pm Reply Reply

    This question made me think of Madonna’s daughter and my head got a little explodey while thinking WHY doesn’t she tweeze those suckers and then feeling judgemental and bad about thinking that.

  7. Amy Nov 05 at 4:35 pm Reply Reply

    Both of my daughters are brunettes, and both of them have darkish hairs over their mouths. They’re 3 and 5, and I don’t plan on doing anything about it until 1) THEY initiate doing something about it, and/or 2) they’re at least 10 years old.

    That said, Walmart sells these awesome little hair removing things – they’re like razors, but on a stick. Ack, can’t describe. Anyway, they’re meant for eyebrows and they’d probably work much more gently on kid skin than waxing or tweezing, when the time is right. I use them on my eyebrows, mainly because I’m too lazy to tweeze.

    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Sally-Hansen-Groom-Eyebrows-Shapers-3-Ct/10794979

    (Not affiliated, etc.)

  8. jive turkey Nov 05 at 4:55 pm Reply Reply

    Anon, I feel you in your struggle to want to be proactive in warding off any teasing, but then worrying that you’re sending the message that she needs “fixed.” Think of it this way: would you rather some jerky little kids make fun of her (and they will about SOMETHING, SOMEDAY, as much as that BLOWS), or would you rather her grow up with the perception that her own mother found flaws with her appearance? I think parenthood is one big YOU CAN’T WIN in a lot of ways, but I think there is clearly a “lesser of two evils” here.

  9. laura Nov 05 at 4:59 pm Reply Reply

    all three of my boys got my crazy-ass eyebrows (the running joke in the family is that the eyebrows are the ONLY trait they get from me – sad but oh-so-true).

    when it’s blonde it doesn’t phase me, but when my oldest started having his hair darken it became bad. like, kids-making-fun-of-him-bad. and i had that too as a child too. so when he was in kindergarten (five years, not five months mind you) i started shaving his unibrow and mustache (!!!). not with a real razor but one of those safety razor things (um, my husband got it for my bikini line but dear god I NEVER USED IT THERE). it’s made my base4 and it’s called the VersaTrim.

    (no affiliates or anything)

    to me, i don’t want to mess with their little bodies or give them any “issues” unless they feel uncomfortable about something. and he use to STARE in the mirror looking at his poor unibrow. and he use to watch me tweeze mind – still does. i offer to tweeze his but he’s all NO THANKS, JUST SHAVE IT. which i do about once a week.

  10. Mama Bub Nov 05 at 5:05 pm Reply Reply

    My son has a unibrow (he’s three) that I notice, but I don’t really think anyone else does. I mean, if you’re LOOKING for it, you can see it, but who goes looking for something like that? My daughter doesn’t seem to have one, yet, but regardless, I’m not doing anything about it. And even when/if we DO do something, it would be along the lines of those shapers mentioned above. And only when they are old enough to notice/care about it.

  11. Eryn Nov 05 at 5:36 pm Reply Reply

    I am fully in love with your response. There is nothing I could have said better.

    Childhood is for childhood, we have plenty of time to hate every little thing about ourselves later.

    The world will tell my children that infinite things are wrong with them, I don’t want to be the 1st person to make them feel like they’re not perfect.

  12. Bonnie Nov 05 at 7:13 pm Reply Reply

    OMG I love you Amy!! Is there anything we disagree on? Even just a little?

  13. kelly Nov 05 at 9:03 pm Reply Reply

    Please do not do anything to your daughter’s eyebrows, for all the reasons Amy mentioned, and also because . . . how to put this. Because anything you point out / emphasize / consistently frame as a flaw is likely to stay with her forever. You are her mama, and your judgments hold a lot of power. Why not wait until she asks about how to deal with her eyebrows before suggesting solutions? Why not just let her be who she is, without restrictions, for as long as possible?

    I cannot imagine putting Nair on a toddler. 

  14. kari Weber Nov 05 at 9:38 pm Reply Reply

    I would just like to say that I have a unibrow (sort of… maybe I just look a little messy…) ANYWAY! I can not even stand to pluck, thread, wax or whatever! It drives my sister-in-law crazy, but I always say, “God gave me the eyebrows I was meant to have.”

    Your daughter is far to young to even consider changing her.
    Period.

  15. Jay Nov 06 at 2:05 am Reply Reply

    I don’t see the big deal. It’s not a huge thing unlike weight or skin color or personality or anything else my and my friends’ parents gave us complexes over when we were kids. I guess I don’t see it as really any different than !!CHANGING!! your daughter’s natural body by trimming her fingernails. Don’t wax or tweeze obviously but those eyebrow razors sound like just the ticket.

  16. Jo Nov 06 at 5:04 am Reply Reply

    This is slightly unrelated, but my daughter was born with a strawberry mark on her chin. It really bothered me (strawberry marks pop out and grow and eventually fade to being nonexistent usually). People did stare and it bothered me. ME. Not her, obviously. I realized I had quite a few vanity issues to sort out if I wanted to raise my daughter the way I deeply valued, underneath my issues. I’m just trying to say what Amy said, your job is to make her feel unconditionally beautiful, and maybe you need to do what I did: I looked back to my upbringing to see why I didn’t feel that way, why I always felt I needed to fix myself and why I transferred that to my daughter. I’m working on that so I can bring my daughter up to be more confident and accepting of things like a bit of extra hair between her (and others’) brows. Not being critical, but let’s be honest, us women are pretty screwed up about body image. Let’s change that.

  17. Ally Nov 06 at 11:20 am Reply Reply

    I have an Italian heritage and have been blessed with lots of hair. I remember the first time I was teased about having hair on my upper lip (I was in second grade) and it was awful. I started bleaching and using nair by third grade. I also started shaving and waxing very early. I have a daughter now who looks like she inherited my traits. She is 17 months and I won’t do anything about it now, but it’s hard because I don’t want her teased either. I really understand the concerns brought up here.

  18. cagey Nov 06 at 12:42 pm Reply Reply

    My hairy little half-breeds were born with caterpillars marching across their foreheads. While I could blame it on their father’s Pelt Belt origins, the truth is that I have a long, sordid history myself with hair removal.

    I have tweezed a single hair from my son’s brow. Seriously, it was in a weird no-man’s land – was it supposed to be the beginnings of a sideburn? Was it protesting his brethren in the eyebrows? What the hell? So, I tweezed it. It was quick and my kid flinched, didn’t even cry and quickly went back to his blocks.

    Other than that, I have no plans on messing with hair removal at this point. When they hit puberty, we will have to have some heart to hearts, though. However, if they want to embrace their destiny that is All Hair, Everywhere? I am down with that. But I will make sure they know their options if they decide to do some landscaping.

  19. KOGE Nov 08 at 12:36 am Reply Reply

    @Jay

    Comparing fingernails and facial hair = apples and oranges.

    We cut our children’s fingernails for safety issues.  So they don’t claw themselves or us with those little razors!  

    A few unwanted eyebrow hairs aren’t hazardous, although removing them is hazardous and purely aesthetic.  

  20. Tracy Nov 08 at 1:56 pm Reply Reply

    While I agree with Amy’s response, I wonder how many of the “don’t change your baby” responders here have pierced their baby girls’ ears, or would if they had girls.

  21. abby Nov 08 at 2:33 pm Reply Reply

    Wanna know the two things that stood out for me in my childhood, hearing them from my mom? “Your eyebrows need some…help” (at age 9), and also, “Do you REALLY need to eat more crackers for your snack???”. Umm, yeah. let’s just say I had a complex about my bushy eyebrows and my weight for YEARS, all due to what she probably thought were innocent, helpful comments on her part. Leave her eyebrows alone and let her decide when they bother her, whether that be at age 6 or at age 16.

  22. Ms. K Nov 09 at 10:43 am Reply Reply

    @GGR

    Yes, this q&a made me think of Madonna’s daughter and her absolutely gorgeous, fabulous eyebrows. I was so glad that her famous, image-savvy mother felt no need to pluck them.

    Wow. People made fun of them but they were so unique and artistic. Spiky and gorgeous.

    May Anon’s daughter be blessed with her own gorgeous features.

  23. Thérèse Nov 09 at 10:18 pm Reply Reply

    Speaking from the point of view of the kid with the unibrow who is now all grown up, I agree a million percent with Amy. Anon, your kid doesn’t know she isn’t perfect until you try “fixing” her.

    Yes, that first moment when other kids teaser and make fun is a difficult part of growing up, but it is better to keep the door open for when she is ready to talk to you about shaving, waxing, etc. Really. And if you want to be proactive about it, aim for 6th grade, or when self-awareness of body becomes prevalent.

    Also, google “not merely pretty,” and watch the YouTube video that comes up. It is worth it.

  24. Olivia Nov 10 at 8:13 am Reply Reply

    Tracy, I can only speak for me, but hell no, I am not piercing my girl’s ears. My husband comes from a culture where piercing infant girls’ ears is common, but I am standing my ground that that is a decision she should make for herself.

  25. mandi Nov 10 at 8:23 am Reply Reply

    I have the worst unibrow know to (wo)man, but I was never self-consious about it. When i was in 5th or 6th grade, a lady cutting my hair recommended that I get it waxed and I did. Not a big deal. I was never teased and never self consious about it.
    I say let it be. Your kid has many years before she has to grow up.

  26. VelvetJInxx Nov 11 at 9:10 pm Reply Reply

    Yeeps, I’ll be the bad mom here. If my daughter sprouted a unibrow, I would totally pluck it. 

    I condition her hair, paint her nails, dress her in adorable outfits (some I sew myself – BRAG!) and yes, I’d probably nip a few hairs if I felt so inclined.

    Off to mommy hell . . .

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