July 10, 2012 at 8:11 AM ET
Most of us celebrated the Fourth of July with fireworks and family barbecues. But the folks at Uni K Wax Centers have a different idea: body waxing for girls 15 and under.
A recently launched ad campaign, featuring an ecstatic-looking bikini-clad girl leaping into the air, encourages girls to "Celebrate Freedom and Independence in July" by taking advantage of a 50 percent discount on all waxing services.
"During the month of July, girls 15 and under can enjoy their FIRST waxing experience and find it NATURAL, SAFE and PLEASANT," reads the advertising copy for Uni K, which has 25 franchises in Florida and New York.
All of which begs the question: Do girls that young even need waxing services?
"You'd be surprised," says Julie Arcey, assistant manager at the South Miami Uni K Wax Center. "Some girls get hairier than others. We have a lot of young girls, a lot of teenagers, who come in."
So far, the ad campaign has attracted a few new clients, but "nothing crazy," says Arcey.
"Most of them are doing a regular bikini wax," she says. "They want to look good in their swimsuits."
The ads have, however, attracted a lot of attention and criticism from adults who say the waxing offer is too mature for young teen and tween girls. As Alexis Brunsell wrote on TODAY Moms' Facebook page:
"As a mom of three girls, I think that this is horrible. It's another instance of trying to sexualize young girls, and make them believe that you have to be perfect, flawless, and model thin to be beautiful. I think that girls should be girls as long as they can without the worries about being beautiful and perfect. If I could have my way, my daughter would be playing dolls until she's 30!"
According to Arcey, parental consent is always required for underage girls. In fact, the one girl who responded to the ad in Uni K's Flatiron location in New York was turned down.
"We've only had one girl come in so far, but she didn't have a parent with her so we couldn't take her," says Melony Aponce, receptionist for the salon.
Aponce says waxing for the under-18 set isn't all that uncommon.
"We had three girls under the age of 18 come in last month," she says. 'They mostly get Brazilian or bikini waxing. Although some come in for lip waxes, as well."
Noemi Grupenmager, CEO and founder of Uni K Wax Centers, says that despite the fact that the ad shows a young girl in a bikini, the campaign isn't trying to encourage young girls to get bikini or Brazilian waxes.
"I cannot take responsibility for what people think," she says. "I saw the picture and saw a beautiful young girl having fun on the beach. I don't see anything wrong in the picture. I believe that people hear waxing and they think Brazilian and bikini waxes. In this promotion, I wasn't even talking about bikini waxes. We do legs, underarms, upper lips -- we do everything."
Grupenmager, who's been in the waxing business for 22 years, says that most girls 15 and under don't come in for bikini or Brazilian waxes.
"Mostly, what I see is the upper lip," she says. "Or the lower legs. It'll be 95 degrees out and I'll see girls wearing jeans because they don't want anybody to see the hair they have on their lower legs."
Grupenmager says if underage girls do want to have bikini waxes, though, that's fine, as long as they have parental consent.
"There are some girls who have a bikini line and there's nothing wrong to do a bikini line," she says. "But we don't do it unless the mother comes in and we have written consent."
Hema Sundaram, founder and director of Sundaram Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery and author of Face Value: The Truth about Beauty-- and a Guilt-Free Guide to Finding It, says that even though the advertisement doesn't mention bikini waxing, the implication is clearly there. And that bikini waxing -- or any body waxing -- isn't something she would recommend for a young girl.
"We need to think carefully about what we're doing when we encourage that generation to be waxing their bikini regions," she says. "It's all part of what we call 'growing up too fast.' These are sexualizing procedures designed to make these young kids more sexually attractive."
In addition, Sundaram says some women who wax can experience side effects, ranging from ingrown hairs to burns or allergic reactions.
What's a hairy young girl to do?
"As the mother of a teenage daughter myself, I would not be comfortable with my daughter going in and getting waxing of any area without my being there to counsel her about it and make sure it's the right decision for her," says Sundaram.
Not everyone is horrified by the waxing offer. On TODAY Moms' Facebook page, several moms said hair-removal should be no big deal. As Richelle Werth wrote:
"As long as the girl feels comfortable with it, why not? I'd rather have my 14 year old get waxed by a pro then shave anyway. I'm getting ready to be a licensed esthetician by the end of October, and if my daughter decides that she wants to wax when she hits puberty I will be more than happy to help her."
Other parents are torn between not wanting to let their daughters grow up too fast and not wanting them to be teased for their body hair. Christine McKeown wrote:
I am also a licensed cosmetologist and have seen girls in the salon/spa for all various areas to be waxed. I am also a mom of 3 children and 2 of them are girls. One is very very hairy and the other is blonde and no hair what so ever.....My hairy beauty is almost 8 and she is self conscious of her leg hair especially now in the summer. I am torn about starting the waxing on her only because once you start, you don't stop. Is she young? Yes...Are kids cruel? Yes, and to me I would rather not have my kid tormented over hair.
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