So, I'm a single mother. I socialize with both other single mothers and people who aren't single mothers or even parents at all, and this question — "how do you teach your son about shaving as a single mom?" — has, somewhat surprisingly, popped up among both categories of people.
When my teen daughter decided to start shaving her pits, my involvement really wasn't much more intense than buying her razors and shaving cream and I think we may have watched a YouTube video. It's been a while now, and she just told me she never cut herself. So I'll say it again — this issue is really a non-issue. Having said that, let's try to make this interesting.
When do boys generally start growing facial hair?
Normal male puberty can, research tells us, start anywhere between the rather specific ages of 9.7 and 14.1, while being "all done" anywhere from age 13.7 to 17.9. Because puberty usually follows quite a predictable path, you can spot some of the signs that it's probably time to get some razors in for your son soon (though some of them are, well, private, so we'll leave those out here!):
- Somewhere around the age of 13, your son will experience a growth spurt; he'll grow taller and the shape of his body will change too.
- Your son's voice will probably break before he needs to shave — the median age for this is 13.5 years. Somewhere around a year later, he'll have a man's voice. This typically happens before facial hair appears.
- Acne typically peaks in boys who are 14 and a few months.
- The median age for the appearance of facial hair is 15 years in the United States, but some boys can get their razors out when they're 13, while others won't need to shave until they're 16.
Because that peach fuzz really doesn't look all that charming, your son will probably want to start shaving when he's got enough of it to bother him, something that will happen on his very own schedule of pubertal development.
How do men shave?
Because I don't know for sure, I asked a male friend (who now has a very impressive beard) to help me out with some tips. At first he, too, thought this was a silly fluff topic, but after talking to him for a while, I did get some helpful tips that you may want to share with your son.
- Don't shave unless you have something to actually get rid of. It will just irritate your skin. This applies both to boys who want to shave but really don't need to yet, and to boys who do have hair to shave — they may not need to shave every day at first, as smooth skin can last between two to three days.
- Start with a disposable, multi-blade, razor and see if you may want to try an electric razor later on. Electric razors can "pull" on the skin, causing pain and irritation; they are more suitable for "advanced shavers". Make sure to use sharp, new razors, or you'll cut yourself.
Then, the actual steps involved in shaving are:
- Prepare your face. Splash some hot water on your face, which prepares the skin by making your hairs stick out more. Shaving gel or cream will help you get a smoother shave and prevent razor burn, so don't skip it!
- Shave. There's no need to use too much pressure while you're shaving — this will put you at risk of cuts. My friend advises going over the skin twice and no more — first, with the grain of your hair, and against it the second time for a smoother end result. Don't do more, or you may well end up with irritated skin. Rinse your razor frequently in the process. Respect the curves of your face while shaving!
- Finish off. Splash your face with cold water to close your pores and then follow up with aftershave to moisturize your skin.
- Emergency! If you cut yourself, use a tiny piece of tissue to stem the bleeding — leave it on a few minutes, and it will stop.
What if your son gets an ingrown hair, which also sometimes progresses to folliculitis, a small infection? Ideally, he should leave the spot alone — scratching, picking, or "popping" can invite germs in. He may want to use an antiseptic to try to prevent infection, and should seek medical attention if the problem gets out of hand. Frequently changing razors and shaving in the correct way goes a very long way toward preventing ingrown hairs, however.
My friend told me that his dad had him practice shaving with a capped razor first, and actually demonstrated the shaving process a few times. This is something you can do as a single mom, as well, even showing how it's done on your own face. However, times have moved on a bit since my friend started shaving, and you can now find videos of people demonstrating the shaving process online very easily. Your twenty-first century son is more likely to feel comfortable with watching some videos than looking at you fake-shaving your own face.
Infection and cuts are the two most risky consequences of shaving incorrectly, but they can largely be prevented if your son knows what he's doing. You don't need to have the ability to grow facial hair yourself to make sure that your son has the knowledge he needs, so this, too, is a hurdle you'll be able to deal with.