Like many men, I had to learn how to shave on my own when I was a teenager. I clearly remember staring into the bathroom mirror with a can of cream in one hand and plastic razor in the other, having no idea what I was about to do. My son was 12 when we decided that he could no longer go to school with his wirey whiskers and lengthening sideburns. Introducing my son to shaving was a great father-son moment, and a good exercise in patience and communication for me. He is now 13 and shaves about once or twice a week under supervision. I'm proud that I was able to give him a positive introduction to a task that he can enjoy for the rest of his life.
When your preteen or teenage boy is going to begin shaving, it is important to buy him the right starter set. Start your son with quality products and teach him the benefits of traditional shaving so he doesn't have to endure the years of razor burn and drudgery that you did.
A double-edged (DE) razor is by far the best razor a shaver can use because it provides more comfortable shaves and is far less expensive than using mass-market cartridges. For your son's first few shaves, however, let him use a cartridge razor, such as a Mach 3, so that he can have an added level of safety as he becomes accustomed to handling a razor and changing blades. He needs to learn the contours of his face and patterns of hair growth, and a cartridge razor is suitable for this because it is easy to handle, and his facial hair is probably not dense enough to make it difficult to cut.
Using a cartridge razor for the first few shaves gives your son an easy introduction and transition to using a DE razor, which he will want to use as he gets older and his facial hair becomes thicker and coarser. Anybody who has a teenage boy certainly knows that straight razors at this stage are not a good idea; however, your son will quickly overcome the awkwardness of handling a razor and will be ready to begin shaving with a DE. I recommend either the Merkur 34C or the 23C, which you can learn more about in the article titled Your First Razor. Start him with a mild blade, such as a Derby, and save the Feathers for when his skills are up to par and his beard growth justifies the need for a sharper blade.
Your son's first shaving brush should be a decent quality pure or best badger brush. There are many benefits of using a shaving brush, so expect to spend about $30-50 for a starter brush. Avoid high-end brushes because they are delicate and a new shaver is likely to damage the brush because of his inexperience. Lathering a high-end badger brush with too much pressure can cause the tips to break or hairs to split, so it's more appropriate to learn on a brush that is a little more durable and can take a beating. All reputable brands make brushes and models that fit this need well.
Remember that your teen has never done any of this before even if he has seen you do it a million times. Ideally the skin is best suited for shaving right after a shower or at least thoroughly washed with hot water to soften the hair. Take extra time to explain and show him the processes of soaking a brush, creating lather, holding a razor, and how he can safely move the blade across his face. Teach him how to tell if the lather is proper and the different techniques it takes to lather a cream vs. a soap. I recommend starting him out with a quality shaving cream, such as Cyril R Salter, because it is usually easier to lather for beginners.
Going Through the Motions
With a razor in hand, my son's first shave was the most basic approach. He shaved with the grain, top to bottom. I emphasized keeping the razor straight as he started with the cheek area, with the sideburns down to the jaw line. He continued one cheek, then the other, neck, mustache, and chin.
Make sure that your teenager understands the concept of cutting with the length of the blade, never slice sideways. Also, don't go against the grain because you don't want to trigger ingrown hairs or irritation at a stage when his skin is really delicate. If you son has teenage acne, it's likely that there is going to be a little bleeding. You may want to warn him ahead of time that he may experience some nicks; however, the process of shaving helps exfoliate the skin and as part of a skincare regimen can help him alleviate acne problems. At this age, his skin is tender and sensitive.
For the first few shaves, do no more than two passes lathering each time to allow him to be comfortable with the process. After shaving, rinse the face with cold water and apply aftershave while it's still moist.
If you were like me, you probably slapped on your dad's aftershave and set your face on fire! Fortunately for your son, you'll offer him an aftershave that is gentle to the skin that has a low percentage (or no) alcohol. DR Harris Pink is a good choice because it is gentle and has a mild traditional rose fragrance. Another recommendation is any quality aftershave balm, such as Musgo Real Balsam because it is inexpensive, yet good quality.
Teens with acne should not experience burning or irritation from a good aftershave or balm. Any nicks due to acne should be minor and shouldn't continue bleeding. If they do, you may want to consider purchasing him the Pacific Nick Stick, which is inexpensive and effective at stopping any small cuts or nicks.
After the shave, teach your son how to care for his shaving brush, rinsing and drying it properly. He also needs to clean any soap or hair from the razor to keep it in top condition. A basic shaving stand is a good investment for keeping his brush and razor stored. Place it on a higher shelf to keep it away from younger siblings, but not in an enclosure or medicine cabinet, which can be a damaging environment to brushes. Suggest he reads articles on avoiding brush damage and drying your shaving brush.
Learning to shave is a rite of passage to manhood, and I am proud that I was able to be there for my son as he began this journey -- even though I'm usually annoyed by the time we get to the aftershave. This journey is a test of patience, since it takes a lot of repetition and supervision, but it's fun to see what fragrance he chooses and how he runs to show his mom that he's not scruffy afterwards. By taking the time to be patient with your son and teach him how to shave properly, you can make sure he learns to do it right and enjoys his morning routine as much as you enjoy yours.