Skip to content

Skip to table of contents

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Select language English

A Close Shave

A Close Shave

 A Close Shave


IF A man spends five minutes a day shaving and does so every day for 50 years, he will have spent just over 63 days of his life removing hair from his face! How do men feel about this daily ritual?

A recent informal survey yielded these comments about shaving: “I don’t like it.” “I hate it.” “One of the hazards of life.” “Something to be avoided whenever you can get away with it.” If some men feel so strongly about removing their facial hair, why do they do it? Let’s learn a little more about shaving. Perhaps we’ll find the answer.

From Clamshells to Disposable Razors

Can you imagine shaving with a clamshell? A shark’s tooth? Perhaps a sharp sliver of flint? Humans have shown remarkable ingenuity in choosing implements for shaving! In ancient Egypt men shaved using a copper razor that resembled a small axhead. More recently, in the 18th and 19th centuries, what became known as cutthroats were manufactured, primarily in Sheffield, England. Often ornately decorated, these razors had a hollow-ground steel blade that folded safely into the handle when not in use. These devices had to be handled with great care, and learning to master them no doubt cost more than a little skin and blood. For the less dexterous, initiation must have been traumatic. However, the 20th century promised relief.

In 1901 a man in the United States named King Camp Gillette patented a safety razor with a disposable blade. His idea took the world by storm and eventually led to a variety of designs, including razors with silver- or gold-plated handles. Recent developments include totally disposable razors, razors with twin or even triple blades, and razors with flexible, pivoting heads.

Not to be forgotten, of course, are electric razors, which first appeared on the market in 1931. Their efficiency and popularity have steadily increased, but the keen edge of a blade is still preferred by many who want a truly close shave.

An On-Again, Off-Again History

From earliest times mankind has had an on-again, off-again relationship with beards. Ancient Egyptians, says the book Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt, “were not remarkable for body hair and prided themselves on being clean-shaven, using well-made razors which they kept in neat leather cases.” This custom may explain why the Hebrew prisoner Joseph shaved prior to appearing before Pharaoh.—Genesis 41:14.

Assyrians were a race of splendidly bearded men. To the point of vanity, they lavished care and attention on their beards, having them elaborately curled, plaited, and arranged.

Israelite men of old wore beards of moderate length, and they used a razor to keep them well trimmed. So, what did God’s Law mean when it commanded Israelite men not to ‘cut their sidelocks short around’ or “destroy the extremity” of their beards? This was not a command against trimming one’s hair or beard. Rather, it discouraged  Israelite men from imitating the extreme religious practices of neighboring pagan nations. *Leviticus 19:27; Jeremiah 9:25, 26; 25:23; 49:32.

In ancient Greek society, beards were normally worn by all except the nobility, who were often clean-shaven. In Rome the habit of shaving seems to have started in the second century B.C.E., and for several centuries thereafter, a daily shave remained the custom.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, however, the beard once again prevailed, doing so for 1,000 years until the second half of the 17th century, when shaving became the vogue. The clean-shaven look continued through the 18th century. But then, by the mid-to-late 19th century, the pendulum began to swing the other way. Hence, photographs of C. T. Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, and fellow Christian W. E. Van Amburgh show both men wearing stylish, well-trimmed beards that were dignified and appropriate for their time. In the early part of the 20th century, however, shaving enjoyed a resurgence of popularity that has endured in most countries to our day.

Are you one of those millions of men who use a blade to go through that daily ritual before the mirror? If so, you no doubt want to make it as painless, bloodless, and effective as possible. To that end, you might like to consider the suggestions in the box “Tips for Shaving With a Blade.” Likely you already employ some of these suggestions. Whatever the case—enjoy clean, close shaving!


^ par. 12 See Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, pages 266 and 1021, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.

 [Box/Pictures on page 23]

Tips for Shaving With a Blade

The book Men’s Hair makes the following suggestions for effective shaving with a blade. *

1. Softening your whiskers: The only way to soften facial hair really well is to apply plenty of hot water. If possible, shave after taking a shower, as this allows more time for the water to soften the whiskers.

2. Applying preshave products: All the various soaps, lathers, creams, and gels accomplish essentially three things. (1) They lock moisture into the whiskers, (2) they keep them erect, and (3) they lubricate the skin so that the razor slides over it more easily. Choose the product that works best for you. Oh, have you tried hair conditioner? It is also designed to soften hair.

3. Using the right razor in the right manner: The right razor is a sharp razor. Blunt razors can damage your skin. Cut with the grain of hair growth. Shaving against the grain may give a close shave, but it can cut whiskers below skin level and cause them to grow into surrounding tissue instead of out through the pores of the skin. According to some sources, careless shaving habits—by men and women—can cause viral infections leading to warts.

4. After-shave skin protection: Each time you shave, you remove a microscopic layer of skin, leaving your skin vulnerable. Therefore, it is important to rinse all residues off your face with clean water—warm at first, then cool to close your pores and seal in moisture. If you wish, you can apply a moisturizing after-shave lotion to protect and refresh your skin.


^ par. 20 This article discusses shaving for men. In many countries women also shave parts of their bodies, and so they too might find some of the points mentioned to be helpful.

[Box/Picture on page 24]

What Are Whiskers?

Whiskers are hairs that grow on the face. They are made of keratin and related proteins. Keratin is a fibrous, sulfur-containing protein manufactured by the body of man and animal and is the basic building block of hair, nails, feathers, hooves, and horns. Of all the hair on the human body, the whiskers are among the toughest and most resilient, being as hard to cut as a copper wire of equivalent thickness. There are as many as 25,000 on the face of the average man, and they grow at the rate of about half a millimeter every 24 hours.

[Credit Line]

Men: A Pictorial Archive from Nineteenth-Century Sources/Dover Publications, Inc.

[Pictures on page 24]

Shaving has an on-again, off-again history




[Credit Lines]

Museo Egizio di Torino

Photographs taken by courtesy of the British Museum