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She’s Got Legs…and Knows How to Shave Them!

Intrigued?  You should be.  Especially if you are a parent or teacher of a pre-teen girl.  Despite the fact that most of the country is still buried in snow or hovering below freezing, the calendar does say its spring, and eventually, warm weather will come, bringing with it an innate desire to don cute shorts, skirts, swim suits, and caprice once again.  But whether you’re blind or not, there is nothing that will detract from one’s cute summer outfit faster than a pair of stubbly, harry legs peeking out from underneath it. 

Feeling a bit awkward about this subject?  You’re probably not alone.  Talking about shaving (for females) is something us women usually save for conversations with our girl friends or for the day spa, or if you’re a guy, just something you’re not interested in talking about.  AS a parent though, this topic can be extremely awkward as it’s generally a sign your little girl is growing up, and a gateway to more difficult conversations to come—puberty, sex, dating, and boys.  YIKES!  As a parent of a blind or low vision daughter, you might even have greater trepidation about this topic.  You worry your daughter will harm herself because she can’t see what she is doing, or you are unsure as to how to show her how to do this in general, let alone safely.   

            A couple of days ago, this issue came up on a listserv I follow, which inspired this post.  .  Of course, the list was flooded with replies from blind females sharing their own experiences of how and when they learned to shave.  Some common themes I saw however were that most blind females learned much later than their sighted peers, and most learned from someone other than their parent—like a blind mentor or friend.  One female even shared how her mother was so concerned about her using a razor that she purchased leg waxing sessions for her instead which turned out to be disastrous—in her opinion. 

sThroughout my experience working with blind youth, I’ve come across a lot of adolescent and young adult females who did not know how to perform a lot of these kinds of “personal or “socially age appropriate” practices.  (For example, how to shave, put on make up, do their own hair, choose their own clothing, etc.) Hopefully,

This post will help ease some of the anxiety parents may have about at least the issue of shaving, and share some practical advice for teaching your daughter how to safely implement this skill at an age appropriate time.    So, here we go.

 

When is it the right time for girls to start shaving?

            For starters, this is something that you will need to determine based on your own principles and values for your children.  (i.e., some people may have other cultural issues about shaving, or rules about when certain “rites of passage” practices like shaving, dating, wearing make-up, etc. will begin for their children.) Generally, however, most females start practicing this habit as “pre-teens” or when they begin entering puberty( around ages 11-13) or around the time they are in junior high (grades 6-9).   Again, this is something that you as a parent will determine with your child, but in so doing, remember to keep in mind what is age appropriate for your child and to try not to let blindness be a factor in making your determination as there are ways to teach this skill in a nonvisual and safe way—which we will discuss later in this post. 

 

Who should be the one to teach this?

            I add this section because there are a number of teachers of blind students who read these posts.  Perhaps you have an adolescent student whom you think needs to learn this skill, but are unsure of what your role is.  In that situation, I would suggest you speak to the parent.  Given that this can be a bit of an awkward topic because of its ties to puberty or just that it’s a practice that we all generally do when we shower or bathe, it seems more appropriate for you in your role as a teacher to not be the one to provide the instruction.  However, you can be a resource for a parent or even connect a parent to a blind mentor if they do not feel comfortable teaching this to their child themselves. 

 

Why should I teach my daughter to shave rather than just allowing her to wax her legs or use other alternative ways for hair removal?

            This is certainly a personal call which you and your daughter can decide together.  However, in making this determination, I encourage you to not let fear or blindness is a determining or detouring factor.  As I have said, there are safe ways for a blind person to use a razor.  Knowing this skill can still be valuable for other reasons (i.e., alternatives can be expensive, time consuming, result in skin irritations or unexpected reactions, or not as effective).  Learning to use a razor safely and effectively can

Also help establish confidence in your daughter’s ability to tackle something that at first might seem scary.  I would encourage you and your daughter to give the basic practice of traditional shaving at least a try at first before ruling it out and moving on to other alternatives.  Then, if you and your daughter choose another method (and many women do) at least your daughter will know that she made an informed choice and not just a choice because of any fears blindness may have presented. 

How do I teach this in a non visual way?

            Contrary to how callace this post may sound, I really do understand where a lot of parents are coming from with respect to their fears or anxiety of their daughters using a razor which could potentially inflict harm.  My daughter fell down our outside stairs yesterday and scraped her forehead nose, and lip –didn’t even draw blood–and I cried for a half hour after it feeling like the most terrible mother in the world.  Yes, Unfortunately there is a possibility that your daughter could cut herself a time or two, but with a little practice and some nonvisual techniques, she can minimize or eliminate these risks entirely.  .  It is also important to keep a little perspective—most of the hand-held razors on the market are pretty small blades which can’t inflict too deep of a wound, and shaving the surface of the shins, thighs, or under arms has a pretty low risk of hitting any major arteries, .         

To get started, I would suggest you find a razor with a cap or guard on it.  Disposable razors might be a good choice for this as they are light weight, have a very small blade, and have a cap which protects you from the blade.  With the cap on, your daughter can explore with her hands what the razor looks like and how to distinguish the side of the head with the blade and the side without.  This is an important first step which will allow you to explain how the blade sits on the skin and the way to hold the razor safely. Next, decide whether you want to demonstrate the motion of using your hand to move the blade along your shin (or arm if easier for demonstration purposes) while your daughter holds her hands over yours to feel the motion, or if it is more effective for your daughter to hold the razor and you move her hands in the right motion.  Even a combination of these two hand-over-hand methods may be effective.  With her hands under or over yours, she will be able to feel the motion of how to pull the razor up in straight rows along her shin or arm.  The other hand will serve as a guide and move along each row to feel if it is clean.  You’ll also want to help demonstrate to her her how much pressure to apply with the razor to her skin surface so that she doesn’t press too hard and risk a cut, or too lightly so as not to be effective.  Instruct your daughter that she will start the shave of the next row to the side of where she did the last swipe.  Don’t worry about preciseness of even swipes as the other hand will feel patches that might get missed in the actual process.  In some ways, shaving nonvisually may be more effective in preventing missing spots and leaving stubbly patches.  Just encourage your daughter to swipe each time as close as she can to where she last finished.  This is where the other hand can also be a guide.  After working her way around the leg , it might be effective to encourage her to go back over the surface one more time to make sure she doesn’t miss patches between swipes –until she gets more comfortable with the practice.  Sometimes I even run my other hand right behind the hand with the razor at the same time to feel if I miss anything.  Shaving with a lather of soap or cream will also help with this as your daughter will be able to feel where she wiped the foam away and where to make the next swipe. 

            Once your daughter has demonstrated that she is comfortable with the motion and concept while doing the dry run with the blade on, you can move to the real thing.  You’ll definitely want to supervise the first time or two.  I recommend sitting on the side of the bathtub with your feet soaking in the water.  You’ll also want to demonstrate how to work up lather or how to apply shaving cream to the skin surface too before beginning.  You may even want to do a couple of practices with the blade still on while using water and lather.  There’s not much more to it after that except more practice of the real thing.  To be honest, I think over the dozens of years since I started shaving, I’ve only cut myself once or twice—and usually this was because I ran the razor across the scaly part of the back of my ankle or was using a really dull razor.  The worst “pain” I’ve ever really inflicted on myself while shaving was to shave on dry legs (not in the shower as opposed to dry skin) with no lotion or anything.  I don’t recommend doing that. And if you think, “Well, sure, you can see a little bit,” I can assure you that I’d have to be a ballerina with a magnifier to get my legs close enough to my face to see if they were smooth. 

            Once you’ve helped your daughter master this skill, your next problem will be having to deal with her pestering you to take her shopping for all those cute new shorts and skirts she’ll want to wear to show off her smooth legs.  Good ludk.  This might even be a bigger challenge than the shaving instruction!

 

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