What Would Frida Kahlo Do?
So, 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!
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.
If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected]