My son turned 13 this week and promptly grew a mustache.
Well, not exactly, but we are beginning to see the first shadows of facial hair, and it's got me thinking about that first shave.
While shaving may be new to my son, it turns out it's been around a long time. As early as 3000 BC soldiers would pluck hairs using two clam shells as tweezers. Alexander the Great encouraged his shoulders to shave so their hair couldn't be pulled and twisted in combat. The word barbarian comes from the image of a man who was hairy and unshaven, basically unbarbered.
The Egyptians were famously enamored with shaving their faces, heads, and bodies, and were among the first found to make a habit of daily shaving. Before razor blades came along, early shavers used rocks, tools, or pumice stones to simply rub the hair off. (Ouch!)
Shaving has come a long way. In fact, the choices for that first shave seem almost overwhelming. Yet the rite of passage seems monumental, like a baby's first haircut, so you want to think through it and get it right the first time.
First off, have your son watch Dad shave several times. If there isn't a shaving male in your house, have him watch a few YouTube clips to get an idea of the process.
Next, select a razor. There are two main types: manual and electric. (There are also safety razors, which have made a big comeback on the shaving scene, but for purposes of simplification, we'll stick with the two above.)
Electric may seem like the easiest way to go at first, as there is little risk of getting nicked. However, electric razors have a high upfront cost and don't give the closest shave. If you have one on-hand, you could consider having your son try it out.
However, at some point, all boys should learn to shave with a manual razor. It's like learning to drive a stick shift—he may not use the skill on a daily basis, but it's a good one to know.
Plus, the first shave will seem more significant if your son gets to lather his face in cream and sing barbershop tunes in front of the mirror like his favorite Gillette commercial.
1. First, have him moisten his face with warm water or a warm, damp towel to soften the facial hairs and open up pores.
2. Have him apply a shaving cream or gel. If he has sensitive skin, find a cream that is hypo-allergenic.
3. Using a razor with a sharp, new blade (dull will increase the risk of cuts or nicks), have him follow his facial hair grain. For most males, facial hair grows down the face. Show him how to make a pass with light, even strokes, not pressing down too hard. Two or three light passes is better than one hard stroke, which could lead to cuts. Have him rinse the blade under water every two to three strokes.
4. Keep a styptic pencil on-hand for the inevitable nicks. (They can be found in the drugstore near the shaving supplies.) Dipped in water, the white alum tip can be touched to the cut to stop bleeding, and it also reduces risk of infection. Bits of toilet paper can also help stop the bleeding.
5. Rinse the face with warm water. Apply a gentle after-shave, and he's good to go. Make sure he replaces his razor often, or, if he's using an electric, cleans and oils the blades on a regular basis.
If your son is like mine, he won't need to shave every day, and those first shaves may just be a pass over the upper lip. But encouragement from his parents will help your son remember that shaving should be part of his daily or weekly hygiene routine. After all, he's on his way to becoming a man, not a barbarian.