Shaving on the Spectrum
January 28, 2019 6:06 AM   Subscribe

I'm the mom of a 15 year old boy on the spectrum and need help picking an electric razor. If that's what's best. Really, I have no clue, hence this ask. And yes, I spoke to him about his feelings on this and talked about asking here.

Okay, my son has hair that is almost translucent because he's so pale and fine. But up close he looks a bit unkempt.

He's on the spectrum and two of his co-morbids are anxiety disorder with panic attacks and SEVERE ADHD. Like severe, severe. Even medicated he has trouble with short term memories until something is repeated enough times to enter long-term and muscle memory. He has very little impulse control and panic attacks can be sudden and go right into meltdowns. This is why the razor thing is so fraught.

When he was about 5 or 6 years old, he managed to crack open the back of his head enough to need staples to close the wound. They had to shave his head. He was confused and scared and it took me, his dad, and two nurses to hold him down to be shaved and the staples put in. It was super traumatic for him. After that anything that sounded like the hair clippers freaked him out.

Ten years later and he's had a buzz cut a couple times, but prefers scissors. He uses an electric toothbrush but still startles when he turns it on. He hates the whirring dental arm at the dentist's office.

Up until now we've been using the Gillette Treo which was made for caregivers to shave other people. He jerks away from me over and over because it feels weird on his face. We tried a normal razor but he cut himself and got scared and he can't stand hand-over-hand instruction.

It's important he be able to do this life skill on his own to be as independent as possible. Not just for his future but because he had to give up a chance a year or so back at competing for Special Olympics past the state level, because athletes have to be able to take care of themselves completely for three days in a hotel without their coaches, aides, or family. Families aren't even in the same hotel. I don't want him to lose opportunities like that if I can help him be independent.

I need a shaver he can operate one handed with a slight hand tremor that can stand up to being dropped in the sink and floor a couple times. One that he can't hurt his fingers with if he gets in his mind to touch it before his brain tells him it's a bad idea. And we need a shaver as quiet as possible, because the less it sounds like hair clippers the better.

He wants a mustache and goatee like his dad, so it's mostly for his cheeks and neck. Something that he can maybe use shaving cream with. Also, something that doesn't break the bank because, friends, we make poor church mice look like millionaires.

Don't say ask his dad, because that avenue is pretty useless. It's on me to teach him these things.

I'd appreciate suggestions, especially from other men on the spectrum. And if you had a guide, social story, or video that helped you, I'd appreciate links to that as well.

Thank you.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
Tough question, because my general counsel would be to stay away from electrics entirely, but I understand why that is preferable here. I think you might get more traction with this in an autism forum or Facebook group.
posted by killdevil at 6:10 AM on January 28, 2019

I need a shaver he can operate one handed with a slight hand tremor that can stand up to being dropped in the sink and floor a couple times. One that he can't hurt his fingers with if he gets in his mind to touch it before his brain tells him it's a bad idea.

I use a model very similar to this on my neck and cheeks. Having dropped it a few times over the past ~4-5 years, it still works fine.

The model I linked to can apparently be used wet or dry. I only use mine dry so I couldn't speak to its effectiveness. (I do sometimes like to use aftershave gel, though, which helps with occasional irritation that this type of shaver can cause.)

The only way I think I could injure my fingers with this is while disassembling the heads for cleaning, which I imagine you could do for him (it's simple). I guess one caveat there would be, sometimes when I drop the unit, the heads disassemble themselves-- but even then, the rotary blades are shaped in such a way that the odds of serious finger injury should he pick them up seem minimal to me.

Noise-wise, it seems quiet enough to me-- quieter than anything at the dentist (in my experience), and it definitely doesn't sound like the GRRR of hair salon razors. Mine "whirrs" in a thin, reedy fashion.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:18 AM on January 28, 2019

I'm wondering if something like this would work, although he would have a closely trimmed beard as a result
posted by cacao at 6:24 AM on January 28, 2019

I initially thought of suggesting the Philips Norelco OneBlade, but listening to video of it in use, it does sound a bit louder than I hoped.

Rotary shavers like the one that CheesesOfBrazil mentioned are definitely the quieter of the electric shaver options. They make a noise that sounds more like those lint/fabric shavers, which might not sound enough like electric clippers to bother your son (definitely less of that deep buzzing sound). They're also crazy hard to hurt yourself with, and they need very little precision or muscle control to be used, although he might have to go over spots more to get a clean result. However, they aren't great for precision shaping of a mustache/goatee, although several of these models do come with trimmer attachments. In my experience, trimmer attachments are fairly safe, although if he (for example) passed it over a part of the skin like an earlobe or the rim of a nostril, it might pinch/scrape a little. It's not dangerous, but it can be unpleasant, and he might have a low threshold for that.

This is my input as a guy who shaves, but not as someone with any sensory or motor issues. I hope you guys can work out a solution that gets the job done and makes him feel good!
posted by wakannai at 6:28 AM on January 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's not going to be the best answer for his whole life, but I wonder if something like a pen trimmer would be quiet and small enough for him to get used to shaving his face on his own. They're about the same size and weight and make the same noise level as the electric toothbrush he can already manage, so it wouldn't be a big change all at once. And it's also kind of scary to not be able to SEE the part of your body you're shaving--a pen trimmer is small enough that he'd get good visibility.

It'll be slow but maybe it'll be easier for him to manage, for now.
posted by phunniemee at 6:42 AM on January 28, 2019 [11 favorites]

I know you have asked about electric shavers but have you looked into Schick Intuition Razors. They come not only with built in shaving soap so no need to soap up to lubricate but also have safety wires over the blades so it is very hard to cut yourself with them. I'm a woman but actually use them on my face as I have a problem with facial hair, & use them in the shower with minimal skill and no mirror have yet to cut myself unless I shave a zit. I saw them recommended for a legally blind man to use for their ease of use which is what made me try them. I am very sensitive to unpleasant sensations & the lubricating/soap thing just makes it feel like a bar of soap running over your face and is rather pleasant. I know they can handle leg & other coarse hair fine too so they should work on a beard.

If you go electric I think a rotary shaver would be the way to go if you go that route as the noise is different to that of hair trimmers. My husband uses both & it's definitely a different sort of buzzing noise.
posted by wwax at 6:54 AM on January 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Similar to the suggestion of a pen trimmer, a T-trimmer in this style has a little more oomph than a pen trimmer and also only emits a small whirring noise.
posted by desuetude at 6:58 AM on January 28, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'm writing down your suggestions and then going to Best Buy and places that have them set up to look at. Then he can hear them and see how bad the sound is.

As to the intuition razor, my only concern is the smell and how his skin will react. He has really sensitive skin and an aversion to strong perfumes.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 7:34 AM on January 28, 2019

I know this might not be the answer you want, but I am on the spectrum, and i have had a beard since i was 16 bc shaving is the worst.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:00 AM on January 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Re the Intuition razors. They have a range of scents & one for sensitive skin, but I can totally understand your concern.
posted by wwax at 8:06 AM on January 28, 2019

Along the lines of desuetude's suggestion, some beard trimmers (usually the cheaper ones) have really small shaver heads for cleanup work. I haven't used one in a few years (since I got myself a nicer beard trimmer), but my memory says they're pretty quiet. Probably not all that durable long-term, but I'm wondering if the combination of quiet, small area, easy to see and lots of control would be useful for your son.

Moving beyond that (since, with a ~1-1.5" wide shaving path, they're a slow way to shave one's face), the Norelco rotary electric razors are generally pretty quiet and durable.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 8:11 AM on January 28, 2019

One thing that Metafilter has taught me is that nearly all electric razors have a money-back guarantee that essentially allows you to experiment with different ones until you find one that works. This is something that will work in your favor. If he selects one at Best Buy that then turns out to be too loud, you can return it and try another one. In fact, you don't actually need to do the testing at Best Buy if you don't want to. Just buy all the different models, try them out at home, and return the ones that don't work.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:14 AM on January 28, 2019

If he's really still only got downy hair, another thing to consider might be an epilator. These are quiet, vibration-free, and impossible to cut yourself with. They do hurt some to use. They pull out hairs rather than cutting them short, so you can get away with using them less often. They don't work well on adult men's coarser beard hairs, so at some point as he moved further past puberty he would need to find a different solution, but this would be a way to get started on the habit.

(Epilators also tend to be marketed to women, which he -- or his dad -- might find offensive.)

I think the pain factor will probably make this a non-starter. But it does well enough on your other criteria that I could imagine it coming in as a wild longshot and ending up as the lesser of the various evils.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:24 AM on January 28, 2019

Nebula's suggestion reminded me of other products typically marketed to women which may work. I've tried this before, and you CAN strangely basically just sand the hair off your face.

Hair Off Facial Buffer, 1 kit (Pack of 4)
posted by cacao at 11:23 AM on January 28, 2019

I'd recommend against epilators for facial hair - especially very fine hair. Unless the grippers are absolutely clean (and the hairs are absolutely dry and oil-free) facial epilation commonly leads to painful and awful looking ingrown hairs.

You know when epilating works - it hurts a lot. If it doesn't, it's just breaking hair off instead of pulling them out by the roots, and the residual hair turns into an ingrown.
posted by porpoise at 1:50 PM on January 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

I went and checked the sound of my Phillips Norelco OneBlade and compared it to the Series 3000 Pen Trimmer and they sound the same but the OneBlade is just louder. So, same frequency and sound of buzzing, just differ in volume.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:23 PM on January 28, 2019

Although it may not help with the sensation of buzzing, if the noise is particularly annoying, he could have a pair of earplugs on a band stored with the shaver to damp down a particularly annoying sound. Making a 'ritual' of shaving is something some people really enjoy (warm/hot towel, shaving soap (maybe less scented than shaving cream), shaving, finishing with a skin product of choice. A ritual of his own choosing may help make the whole process more manageable for him, especially if there is a 'reward' at the end (like women I know who go for coffee and chocolate after a wax...). You're a good parent for helping him figure this out!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 6:08 PM on January 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

N-thing the rotary shavers. You can get various models cheaper at Walmart. I use scissors for the beard and 'stache trimming. The few times I've dropped them, they are fine. They even fall into pieces sometimes but are not broken and are easy to put back together.

Would it be necessary for him to even worry about shaving over a three day Special Olympics event? Just a thought.
posted by lhauser at 8:03 PM on January 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

I don't have any suggestions for the razor end of things, but as a male with light-colored hair, I regularly go without shaving 2-3 days at a time. I don't know why shaving would be considered essential for the Special Olympics.
posted by Aleyn at 10:22 PM on January 28, 2019

Response by poster: I asked this question here and on two autistic adult groups and the most recommended for ease of use and quiet was the Norelco One Blade.

I picked up one along with the Aveeno sensitive skin unscented shaving cream and Nivea after shave in sensitive skin and sent it into school. The boys are learning to use their razors as a group, and so far so good!

Thank you so much for the help, I really appreciate it.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 4:11 AM on February 8, 2019

« Older Is there a real chance a pro could fix my >$10K...   |   How do I get Mac's icon on menubar? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.