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If Found, Please Shave

I originally posted this on the blog in October, 2011. You can find the original post here. Below is a very slightly modified version.

A few years ago, in 2006, my good friend Rose and I did a photo project together about my hair and shaving.

It’s called, “If Found, Please Shave”.

After much consideration, I’ve decided to post it here for your enjoyment and perhaps a sense of solidarity if we happen to be in the same situation. I took pictures of the pictures, so please excuse the quality (some of them are a little blurry – not Rose’s fault, totally mine), and I’ll type the original text so you don’t have to strain your eyes πŸ™‚ So you’re aware, there is one swear word in the text, just in case you might be offended by such things.

Looking at it now reminds me of how I used to feel, how much things have changed, and then again, how much things have stayed the same.

Thanks to Rose, for lending her wonderful photography talent to this project, for being a supportive, great friend for a lot of years, and for being my designated shaver just in case.

So, without further delay…

IF FOUND, PLEASE SHAVE. Ed. 1/2 Photography/Assembly: Rose Ryan Writing: Carly Gershone Completed August 13, 2006

Yes, I’m a woman and I have hair on my face and you can all go fuck yourselves. Which would totally be what I would say if I had a giant megaphone and could stand outside of the Nair or Veet corporations or laser hair removal clinics or anyone who makes waxing products. Except then I’d probably say something like, “No, guys! I was kidding! Guys, come back…”

I have this weird relationship with my facial hair. It’s only been weird in the past few months; I used to just hate it, period. But suddenly, I feel compassionate toward it. Almost proud of it in a way. Before this time in my life, I either pretended it didn’t exist or felt sad and angry that it was there and did everything I could to make it actually not exist. I used to fight it so hard, and it’s odd to begin to let go of that.

How does a girl learn to shave? It’s certainly not that her father teaches her. Can you imagine? Me and my dad, hanging out in front of the mirror, he in a towel around his waist, I with a towel around my body, each with a razor, both Gillette, but his would be a Mach 3 and mine would be a Venus, lathering up our faces and bonding.

No, she learns by trial-and-error at first. Then, she picks up tips from magazine articles that are designed to help women reduce razor burn and ingrown hairs along the bikini line, but are actually pretty helpful for the face. She later learns from watching episodes of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Extreme Makeover” that she should shave with the grain and notagainst it, although this does not produce quite as close a shave.
Et cetera.

For the last nine years, I’ve been shaving my face. I’ve tried other things to get rid of the hair, but with little luck. I got really close to waxing it once, but I tried to wax the hair on my leg first, and not only was it painful, but it didn’t really work that well. I decided not to risk it on my face. Then, I tried to pluck it, but that was much more painful than it was worth, and it started to take a really long time. The most extreme thing I’ve done is to go in and have laser treatments… twice. The laser stimulated more hair growth, so now I have hair on my neck where there used to be none.

So, shaving it is. I do it an average of every other day, unless I’m dating someone, in which case it’s every time I see that person. Chances are, that person will be touching my face, and I can’t risk anyone feeling it. These days, the process goes like this: If I have time, I take a shower. While in the shower, I wash my face with Proactiv cleanser, because it exfoliates. Also, Proactiv does something with the hair follicles. After I rinse off the cleanser, I lather my face with soap. I’ve found that shaving cream/gel doesn’t work as well for me.

Then, I shave (against the grain). I shave the sides of my face, my chin, and my neck, making sure to feel it as I’m going along to make sure that I haven’t missed any spots.

My hair grows in different directions.

On the left side, it grows down. On the right side, it grows sideways. On my neck, it all grows in the same direction, but sideways.

So far, so good, especially when I have time to do the shaving part in the shower. When I don’t, my skin gets a little more irritated.

When I get out of the shower, I use Proactiv toner and lotion.

There are so many hair removal products out there, and I can tell you from experience that they don’t really work. Either that, or they’re so chemically scary that I can’t even bring myself to put them on my face, like Nair. Nair totally freaks me out. I bought some Veet, intending to try it, but I figured it would be similar to Nair. I still have it, though, just in case.
And why? What’s with all of this hair removal business? Why do I even care?
That’s the question. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

When I’m in the car with another person and I’m driving, I worry that that person will notice my facial hair, because he or she is looking at me and seeing the side of my face. I have to face forward and watch the road, so there’s no buffer – that person has full visual access to my right cheek, and that side of my neck, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I really worry about going into the hospital, for any reason. In fact, “worry” doesn’t even begin to cover it; I’m terrified. What if I’m in a car accident and I haven’t shaved that day? I’ve heard that you should always wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident, but for me it’s making sure I’ve shaved. What if I have a heart attack or go into a coma, or what if I’m in labor for a really long time and can’t get up to shave? I’m going to have to have a designated shaver or something. I should carry a note around with me or wear one of those medical bracelets that says, “If found, please shave.”

So, I’m torn. I’m trying so hard not to care and to be proud of who I am and what I’ve been given. It’s tough though, being a woman with lots of hair on her face, in a society where that is NOT ok. Park of me wants to let it grow and celebrate the fact that it’s there. But the bigger part of me, at least right now, wants it to just be gone.

39 responses »

  1. This is beautiful! You are beautiful! I am also a woman with a beard. I have hair on my chest and chin and sideburns. I also have a stomach that is hairier than most of my male friends. I’m tired of worrying what people think about me. I’ve stopped shaving everything – armpits and legs included. After a few weeks I usually get rid of my beard… someday soon I hope to get over it and grow it out.. I support you if you continue to shave or if you stop. I’m ready to change the world.

  2. Thank you for your bravery. I can’t even imagine openly discussing my facial hair, let alone allowing someone to photograph something as private as shaving. My beard is far too thick, dark, and fast-growing to keep secret, but it’s always been this unspoken taboo to my friends and family, as if not acknowledging it means it isn’t there. I want to be OK with it, but I’m just not there yet. I carry disposable razors with me all time, in my purse, my briefbag, my car. I’m always worried, as you described, that I’ll get stranded without one. It’s happened to me before, when I’ve been hospitalized. I hate it that instead of worrying about the fact I might be dying, the first thoughts in my head are always panic that people are going to see my chest hair and figuring out how I’m going to shave, stuck in a bed for days with no privacy and no razor. That kind of fear eats at a person and I never realized exactly how alone it made me feel until I came across your site and found out that I’m not. Thank you for that too.

    • Thank you so much for your comments. What you’re describing is the experience of so many of us… It’s so important that we don’t feel alone – the hair can make us feel so isolated. I’m really happy you’re here and reading πŸ™‚

    • I understand how you feel…. I went through breast cancer surgery .. and had to make sure my face was smooth first!

  3. Reading this was like reading about my own life. I’ve got hair pretty much everywhere – full beard, mustache, arms, chest, stomach, legs, feet, back – and I’m so grateful that I’m finally coming to accept and even in a way to love and celebrate this aspect of myself. Of course I have self-conscious days like I’m sure everyone does. Anyway, reading about your shaving ritual, I just felt not quite so alone. This is exactly my experience – wash with this first, then lather with that. Shave against the grain, changing directions to accomodate the growth pattern. Treat my skin with gentle toner and lotion. Even though I knew I couldn’t be the only one with this experience, I still felt a weight lift off my shoulders reading about your hospital fear, finally realizing that someone else has felt the same. So thanks for writing this.

    • Thank you for the comment! I can’t even describe how I felt the first time I found out someone else had the same hospital fear that I have. It absolutely blew my mind in the best way possible. Glad to have you here πŸ™‚

  4. Car – I just saw this tonight for the first time while perusing the site. Amazingly well-written and so brutally honest. You’re an inspiration, and I’m really proud of you! I love seeing that you are a comfort to other women out there who have similar experiences. Love you!

  5. Holy crap! Are you me?! If I had to write something about shaving my face, that is exactly what I would have written (except I actually tried Nair on my ’tache when I was a teenager, oops!) I even told my husband the other day, ”If I’m in a coma, please shave my face so no one sees that.” lol

    I just found your site, but I’ve been looking for years for women to come forward and say, ”Why, yes I do have hairs on my face, wanna take a picture?” Well, maybe not that but still, I don’t feel so alone in this or my feelings about how it makes me feel. Thank you!

    • I’m glad you found me! You might have already done this, but check out some of the other sites on the ‘blogroll’ (right side of the page). All Kinds of Fur in particular is a great daily-living-with-facial-hair blog.

      Thanks for being here! πŸ™‚

  6. Reading your article sounded just like me. I have the same fear of being hospitalized. Or stranded anywhere without a razor or even being able to use one. I don’t go camping, or on long road trips. When I gave birth to my son, I was in labor so long, all I could think about was how everybody can see my beard instead of this miracle of life!! I hate it! I feel cursed! & it’s just getting worse the older I get! I can’t even have spontanious sex with my boyfriend because I might not have shaved & would be so humiliated if he felt stubble instead of smoothness like a woman’s face should feel.

  7. So here I am – 31 and bawling like a baby after reading this. I’ve had to shave my chin & neck every day (twice if I’m going out or doing anything at night) since I was 15 after some lovely school bullies started calling me “Walrus”. I constantly search for ways to make it go away. I’ve lost weight, tried different herbs, teas, stood on my head (ok that one’s not true). Nothing has worked. I’ve kept it hidden from everyone. Even my new husband of almost two months. I’m terrified. No, that’s not even an accurate word. Is there a word for “terrified x infinity”? I want to tell him so badly but I feel like it will let him down in a way. And the hospital thing? Whew- I’m right there with you. I wonder if they make medical ID bracelets with “please shave” on them?
    I salute you for your bravery and humor in all of this. After browsing this site all I want to do is give you a huge hug. Much love!

    • I totally get it and want to hug you right back! It’s so difficult to tell people about it. Let me know if you decide to tell your husband and how it goes, and remember how awesome you are, hair or no. Thanks for being here and for the comment!

  8. We all should get together for a week long, no razors needed, camping trip. Camping, or the lack thereof, seems to be a big deal with many of us hirsute ladies. Last trip I brought my electric razor and stayed about arms length from my boyfriend lol.

    I’ve been removing my beard, first with tweezers, now with a razor, for about 25 years. I often wish I had the ‘balls’ to go el natural, but being that I’m a girly girl, that may never happen…unless world war III hits and the razor business goes under.

    LADIES – TRY HAIR CONDITIONER! Wash the face as normal, then slather it with whatever conditioner you use for your hair and shave. It works great!! Softens those stubborn whiskers and creates a slick barrier for your chinny chin chin ; ) I have not gotten an ingrown hair since I started this years ago.

    Carly, you rock, as do all you other sexy hairy babes!
    Take it easy females,

  9. Love this! Go thru the same thing and honestly felt alone until now. Thanks a bunch!

  10. First time reading this blog…and absolutely loved how BLUNT you are…. I’m very open with my husband about my facial hair (he has never touched my face…but he gets me) …. So, After reading this article I designated him as my shaver….. My worst fear is to be in a position where I can’t take care of my self 😦 … Hang in there girl…. I am!!!!

    • Ah! I thought I had replied to your comment and hadn’t! I’m sorry about that!

      Thanks for the comment. It’s so important to have supportive people around, and I’m glad your husband gets it πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

  11. omg im 13 and i worry about this all the time omg its so nice to not feel alone, thank u xx

    • Hi Lexi! So glad you’re here. My hair really started growing when I was around 13, and it SUCKED. Know that you are definitely not alone!! And feel free to email me if you need to vent or have questions! πŸ™‚

  12. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s nice to know we’re not alone. I’m approaching 30 and I have been shaving my face since high school. I tried bleaching, waxing and various other hair removal products before I turned to shaving. When I first started it was a once in a while thing and over time it turned into an everyday sometimes twice a day thing. I am so ashamed of my facial hair and have a very hard time being intimate with partners, touching my face is an absolute no! Whenever I am intimate with someone all I can think about is of they can feel stubble or notice it.
    I am very aware of my facial hair and often use scarves to try and hide it.
    I’m positive everyone can notice it we just don’t speak about it which sometimes makes it feel worse. I try not to let my facial hair keep me from doing things I want to experience but I find I am constantly panicked about whether there will be shower facilities where I travel. Not only do I have thick coarse facial hair that grows super fast I also have dark hair on my stomach and rear, it’s very very masculine. My underarms have dark spots like a mans and I shave my arms as well. Meanwhile my once thick wavy hair has thinned out noticeably and becomes pretty oily quite fast, just one more thing to be self conscious of.
    Everyday is a struggle and as I get older the hair gets worse and I find it more impossible to feel comfortable in my own skin.
    I often wonder how other women in my situation learn to love themselves when society treats us as less than. I like to focus on the things I like about myself and wish the rest of the world could look past my appearance but I see people judge me all the time and it makes hard. Deep down I know that as a human I am not less than, and I have been lucky to have some of the most amazing people surround me in my life who are accepting of all walks of life and we’ve shared amazing journeys together and it is those experiences and memories that help me to rise each day and try again.

  13. Oh my gosh you sound like me i have hair on my face i been shaving for ever but i got a electric razor but the bumps from using a razor for so long has left blackspots all over my face where i shave is it any cream i could use to get rid of the black spots i have tried bleach fade cream i dont know what eles help im 27 coco complexion

  14. I want to start off with saying how incredibly awesome you are for posting this. This is literally the best thing i have stumbled upon on the internet.
    When I first “noticed” I was getting hairy was when I was about 14 and at the pool. My best friend informed me that my back was super hairy. I had never ever noticed until then. I decided to “scope” my back out and was completely horrified at the coarse, black curly hairs that had taken over my back. Thank god it’s not as wild as a mans back but never less it was super noticeable.
    At about 15 I started shaving my sideburns as a recommendation from my older (35) year old neighbor. Soon after I started shaving there, of course I started growing way more hair there and seemingly over night I went to shaving my face every other day throughout high school. On the days that I wouldn’t shave, I was always super self conscious and could swear that everyone could see it.
    Senior year rolled around and I got informed by another one of my best friends that I was developing curly hairs on my chest, greaaaaat.
    Now, I’m 21 years old. My mom shaves my back every week and I take care of everything else on a daily basis. For my face, conditioner helps a lot(hair conditioner like the person above me suggested). My favorite is j&j jojoba oil. I slather a bit on my face and then add my normal body wash and shave.
    Its so great knowing that you’re not alone.

    • nd all this time i thought i was alone . i still cant accept it everytime i shave i cry my mom nd sister know they dnt know how much it hurts me and they make fun of me i have this phobia were i tell guys not to touch my face . Little do they know. Iv been saving my whole body since i started growing hair . It brings tears to my eyes that i have thr toughest thickest darkest hair on my face and my skin is super white . i just wish it could magically go away =( all u women r brave nd amazing wish i had the guts but i dnt

      • Melissa, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling. I used to be just where you are. I cried every day before school (on the days when I wasn’t pretending to be too sick to go). I didn’t think I could talk to anyone about it. But you’re not alone — there are lots of us, more than you’d think! I’m not sure about anyone else, but I didn’t start out brave. I had to pretend to be at first, and then slowly it became true. I hope things get easier for you. Let me know if you ever need someone to talk to ( carolyn at offendineveryway dot com ). ❀

  15. Friendly and Furry

    I am 30, and have had to shave my entire face since I was 14. I have been for so many laser treatments I have lost count. All different kinds, from different spas, then doctors etc. They all say its good and dark and will work. Thousands of dollars later…..nothing. I am confident with my body except for this. I worry exactly like you, and my mom is my designated shaver….but in a car, or at work when I have to put my hair up in my hard hat….I know the guys notice…..they will ask me how I got the rash on my face……there is no amount of coverup that I can use to hide the bumps because I think my hair is a little curly……..I haven’t swam in years because I know the water will wash away the makeup and you can see the little black dots from stubble coming in. I only camp with my boyfriend because he knows I cant shave then, and accepts me for who I am….yet respectfully doesn’t touch my face because he knows it makes me uncomfortable. I have burned my face using depilatory creams before. Have tried every acne cream and cleanser etc……my face looks like the star of the polka dot door now…..and I just don’t know what to do anymore. I am near tears every morning when I have to shave over it again……it hurts…..and the razor just breaks the tops of the healing bumps making it worse and worse. I am becoming scarred. I am hoping that someone can give me some advice on how to get rid of the bumps besides to stop shaving because I am just not comfortable going to work with a shadow. and I only get one day off a week … never seems that that one day is enough to cure this sore itchy mess I have happening here……….advice anyone? 😦

  16. Joslyn Pfeifer

    I am only 20 years old and I have been battling with this for over 2 years. None of my friends understand, and they really don’t seem to ever notice, or they at least do not talk about it, if they do. My mother has the same issue, but not as bad as I do. She is more open about it, because she is married and has six kids and really doesn’t care anymore.I am so great full to have found this post. When I read the part about you not being able to handle being in a car with someone, for fear that they would notice, I felt that I could have cried. Not in sadness, but in relief, that when I look out the window and speak to my family and/or boyfriend, I am not alone. That when I fear to have others in the same vehicle as me, I am not the only one out there who fears the same. I barely let my boyfriend touch me, out of constant worry that he will notice. Which I am sure he has, just has not mentioned it. I have excess hair on my lower back, tummy, chest, breasts, neck, arms, and sides of my face, not to mention the insane amount of BLACK pubic hair I have on my extremely PALE Irish skin. The hair on my tummy bothers me, but I shave it and honestly that is the least of my worries. I never let my boyfriend touch me if I have not shaved that exact day, and he sure as hell never sees my tummy on a no shave day, because the hairs grow in so dark, he is the man in the relationship, not me, yet I feel like it. My arms are pretty bad, but I cant do much about that, everyone has seen it. And I constantly worry that people silently judge me based on the hair I have. Then there is my face.. I used to joke when I was in school and my best friend at the time and I would call eachother “Woolly Mammoths” because we had to find a way to laugh at our unfortunate body hair. But as I got older, I began to find myself getting physically sick over it. I have become such a recluse, never wanting anyone to see my face or neck, in fear that when I plucked that morning, I had accidentally missed a dark hair or two.. My face is more of a peach fuzz until you reach the middle of my ear down, then it gets bad. I have a few darker hairs that seem to grow inches over night, and my neck is by far the villain in my story. My neck was never an issue until I joined the Army.. When I was at basic, they infused our food with an insane amount of hormones that really did a number on me especially. I have two patches of dark black, thick, coarse hairs that grow on either side of my neck, and I can honestly admit, I cry sometimes because of the immense amount of embarrassment I have regarding these hairs. I pluck, every morning, for close to an hour. And if I happen to miss a morning, I panic, always keeping tweezers in my purse and/or car. In this day and age, how am I supposed to go about my life knowing that I’m just not as perfect as everyone else. I am so sick of always being so scared that people will see it.. I feel that I live in fear, of my own body.

  17. This too, made me feel not so alone. I’m a busy Mom of 4 kids, and seem to have more and more hair popping up. Dark hair, all over my face. And I shave my face, but pluck the ones that grow out in between shaving. It’s made me super insecure, and I cried when you mentioned being in the sun. That’s me. I avoid the sun shining on my face at all costs. Which is hard to do. Any tricks for those wonderful zits that pop up because of shaving? I get them after every shave. Thank you for showing us girls we aren’t alone. πŸ™‚ ❀

  18. I’m sitting hear crying my eyes out reading this..This is soo me.. I shaved tonight and have razor burn agian.. I wear makeup to bed even being with my husband over 8 years I still don’t want him to notice 😦 bums me out all the time.. I have tried the laser hair removal it did nothing.. I have a mans moustach If I don’t shave it every day… I hate it so bad.. Always worry about somthing happening and I can’t get a razor…
    I loved reading this made me smile that I’m not alone..
    Thank you

  19. I know this article is kind of old! But I’m a teenager and I’m very self conscience about the hair all over my body, especially the facial hair. It’s really terrible and my parents won’t let me do anything about it. I just go through life pretending it’s not there and all of my friends just pretend like they don’t see it, and I’m thankful for that, but I just wish it wasn’t there so no one had to pretend. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. My skin is a light brownish color and I have very dark hair, so it looks like I have a mustache and giant sideburns 😦 Not to mention the uni brow that’s beginning to grow.
    I tried using one of those little electric shavers, something like that thing No No, but it left little dark spots on my upperlip, like it didn’t get all of the hair. I’m afraid that’s what’ll happen if I shave. :/
    I guess I just have to live with it until I am old enough to make my own decisions. It’s not even that I want to get rid of all the hair, but in today’s society and how everyone views beauty, it’s hard being like this.
    I really like your article up there, though! I’m glad I found it. I will always come back to read it, as well as the comments, whenever I’m feeling alone πŸ™‚

  20. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I really thought i was alone. I have struggled with excess hair growth since high school, so probably about 8 or 9 years. lower back, stomach, arms like crazy, full beard, neck, fingers, toes, the whole shebang, and i have always hated myself for it. I finally decided a year ago to shave my arms. Waxing took too long for the hair to grow back, and was too embarrassing of a wait, and too painful. I am considering shaving my face, but i am terrified that it will cause razor burn or something worse, but i feel like every time i look at it, it is worse. I tweeze it every morning and it takes me so long. I felt like it was me talking when you talked about other people noticing in the car. I worry about people looking at me all the time. And to make it worse, I’m a preschool teacher, and kids notice EVERYTHING. And i totally worry about the hospital thing too. What about when I have a baby? I’ll have to ask the nurse, “Hey, can you bring me a lamp so I can tweeze my beard off?” And I will have to shave my arms, or that poor baby will feel all the prickles.I want to feel beautiful so badly, and I want my husband to hold my face and not be pushed away by me, and I want to take less than an hour to feel presentable in the morning!. I just keep trying to go over the things I do like about myself. Some days are better than others…wow, it feels great to know I’m not alone. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  21. Little late to the party here but wow. Just happy-cried. All the tips and tricks and bleep aside; it’s a nice thing to know I’m not the only one more worried about facialhair than clean underwear in an emergency! Plus nice to know others have the same dramas as me. At 26 I’m still totally trying to figure out how best to deal with it/come to terms it. I’m sick of facial hair running my life (eg oh no! Can’t go out for drinks – haven’t shaved) hugs and love to you for writing all this stuff xxx

  22. Ive recently found two thick dark long hairs either side of my face which of course i pluck. Does this mean more will start to grow over my face or could i be lucky and it just stays at two?

  23. What the heck is going to happen when we get really old and our skin becomes per tjin. That’s what I’m worried about.

  24. Wow. Is basically all I can say is because reading this was like reading my own life. I shave my face every morning or more then once if I’m going somewhere later on. Plus I shave my arms as well. I feel like I should be a hermit and not be able to enjoy daily activities because of the fear of someone noticing my flaws. I can’t even wear my hair up because it’s so noticeable. I just don’t know how I can ever feel better about myself. Nothing works…

  25. THANK YOU!! It makes me feel better to know that I’m not alone in battling this card I have been dealt. I am almost 20 years old, and I have been shaving my face for almost 10 years. I started getting really dark, coarse hair on my neck when I was 12 or 13. I remember getting made fun of because of my hairiness. So I started using hair removal cream on my face. Yeah, it worked..for about a day. Then it got all red, itchy, and stubbly. I eventually got fed up with it and started shaving when the cream got expensive and my face was breaking out ridiculously bad. It terrifies me to think that I can’t go anywhere without running water and a razor. I live with my boyfriend and it’s so hard to keep up the secret of shaving my face more than he does. I feel embarrassed because I have to cake on makeup in fear that someone will see my five o’clock shadow. Going out in the sun is a no-no for me. I also have hairy arms, not to mention my stomach and chest. I feel uncomfortable even wearing a v neck. I am so glad you wrote this. I feel like I am not alone anymore. And that makes my hairiness at least manageable now πŸ™‚


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