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 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.
Giving Him the Right Tools
When your preteen or teenager is going to begin shaving, remember that he 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 a 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 because they are usually easier to lather for beginners.
Your son's first brush should be a decent quality pure or best badger shaving brush. You can 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.
A double-edged razor is by far the best razor a shaver can use; however, a young, inexperienced teen needs some training wheels besides a DE, since he's never touched a razor to his face. So, at least for the few attempts at shaving allow your son to use a cartridge razor, such as a Mach III. This affords him 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 easier to handle and his facial hair is probably not dense enough to make it difficult to cut.
Once your son overcomes the awkwardness of handling a razor after the first few shaves, allow him to begin shaving with a double edge, since that is the ideal shaving tool for any man. Once he is familiar with moving the cartridge blade down his face and you feel he's ready to move to a safety razor, then I recommend either the 34C or the 23C. You can learn more about them in my article titled Your First Razor. Start him with a less agressive 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.
My rationality wasn't to delay my son from using a double edged razor, but to give him an easy transition from having no experience to using a more advanced shaving tool. Anybody who has a teenage boy certainly knows that straight razors at this stage are not a good idea.
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 straight, never side-to-side. 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 (see Shaving101.com review), 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 from Shaving101.com 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 teenage boys aren't the sharpest tools in the shed, but it's fun to see what fragrance he chooses and how he runs to show his mom that he's not shaggy 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 that he'll enjoy the ritual as much as you do.