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Mom defends shaving 12-year-old daughter's lip hair in viral video

"Middle school is hard as is."
/ Source: TODAY

A mother who removed her 12-year-old daughter's facial hair in a TikTok video says it's a small sacrifice to support body autonomy.

"To moms: if your teen/tween asks to remove facial hair ... please do it!" Vidya Gopalan of North Carolina wrote on her video with more than 20 million views.

"I tried doing this myself secretly at her age since I wasn’t allowed to do this until (high school) and it didn't end well," she wrote.

In the video, Gopalan's daughter (whose name Gopalan omitted to respect her privacy) said, "Thank you so much, I don't like it. I don't like the way it looks," as her mom took an electric hair trimmer to her lower face.

Many of the nearly 10,000 comments were in agreement.

  • "I'm a teacher and PLEASE DO IT. You avoid so much suffering."
  • "We are healing our inner child doing this ... for our teens."
  • "My mom was so mad when I got my eyebrows done secretly in 7th grade. I will never understand that. God bless you."

One young person wrote, "I keep asking my mom but she says no and I've been getting bullied."

Gopalan, a mother of two, tells that some commenters warned that shaving encourages hair to grow back faster and thicker, a stereotype that's been debunked by the Mayo Clinic.

"I immigrated from India to the U.S. in the 1980s when shaving and waxing were not that prevalent (among my peers)," says Gopalan. "When I was 12, I asked my mom to get my eyebrows and upper lip done but she said I wasn't old enough."

Gopalan resorted to using a standard razor, while hiding under her bed covers.

About a year-and-a-half ago, Gopalan's daughter asked if she could remove her unwanted facial hair and she said yes.

"Having gone through something similar, I would have wanted my mom to support me in that way," explains Gopalan. "It's really important to listen to your kids."

Gopalan says while her daughter has never been teased for body hair, shaving is a precautionary measure.

"If hair removal makes her feel better, it's a small thing to do," she says. "Middle school is hard as is."

"If hair removal makes her feel better, it's a small thing to do. Middle school is hard as is."

Gopalan posted the TikTok video to normalize hair removal. "I know what's best for my child," she says, adding, “The last thing I’d want is for my daughter to do it herself and accidentally shave off her eyebrows or get a wax burn."

Gopalan says her husband supports their daughter's personal decisions. "He doesn't get involved, to be honest!"

And with time, even Gopalan's mother has accepted teen hair removal.

"With my daughter around the same age as I was when I moved to this country, she's very appreciative of what I do for her," says Gopalan. "She said, 'I didn't know it was a big deal!'"

According to clinical psychologist Emily Kline, attitudes toward grooming and appearance have matured.

"Some might have assumed that removing body hair had a sexualizing element or was associated with appealing to the male gaze," Kline, the author of “School of Hard Talks: How to Have Real Conversations with Your (Almost Grown) Kids," tells "Leaving hair in place was a way to protect girls’ innocence.

"Over the past 30 years, all kinds of body modifications (tattoos, Botox) have gone mainstream and hair removal doesn’t seem like a big deal in the scheme of things," she adds.

Kline notes that while new ideas can be "liberating," not all kids care about body hair.

"Parents don’t want to make children feel self-conscious about something if it doesn't bother them," she says. "An offer to pluck or shave could seem critical so it never hurts to ask how kids feel, rather than assuming they want help."