Best time for son to start shaving? It's up to him

FROM TOTS TO TEENS

April 06, 1993|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,Contributing Writers

When is the best time to start shaving? My 14-year-old son wants to start, but I think he's kind of young.

As far as we know, there isn't any law of nature or biological fact that allows us to say with certainty when an individual should begin shaving. The decision, therefore, should be according to your son's desires, although some schools or businesses have codes regarding beards and mustaches.

Facial hair growth proceeds in an orderly sequence during the latter stages of puberty (around age 13 or 14). Most young men first notice it at the outer corner of the upper lip; soon the entire upper lip is covered. Hair appears on the upper cheek and in the middle of the lower lip, then along the sides and lower border of the chin. The amount of hair present is largely determined by genetic factors.

Many African-American teen-agers (up to 80 percent) will note that their skin becomes irritated when they begin to shave and that they develop small bumps that can look inflamed and unsightly. This condition is known as folliculitis barbae. Because their hair follicles are curved, shaving gives the hairs a sharp point, and they turn and penetrate the skin.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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