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Military Shaving

Isaac

Moderator Emeritus
Ok...here is my question


In the movies there seems to be a famous creed that people in the service need to be clean shaven at all times. I don't know how truthful that statement is, but I have come to accept that.

My question is this. After a straight shave, I don't have a 5'oclock shadow until the next day. If I try to shave every day, my shaves become lack luster and I tend to develop ingrown hairs. I don't want to say that I am unable to shave daily, but i really suffer when I do. What do you all in the military do about this. Since your "forced" to shave daily do you just let your skin become torn up?

Its a question that Ive always meant to post but haven't.
 

The Nid Hog

Moderator Emeritus
I've been out for some time now, but back in the day shaving every day was mandatory. For most of my career, that meant at least seven times a week--sometimes twice a day. I was young and wild and it never occurred to me to think about whether it was good for me or not. I didn't use moisturizers or anything like that, and I don't remember my face being unusually chewed up.
The only time that I had skin problems was if I had cammy stick all over my face for days on end. It would clog my pores pretty well so I got a tub of face scrub from my girlfriend that I used to ferociously clean up with. My skin just seemed to take care of itself.
 
Yes, clean shaven is a requirement. There are many arguments as to why this is, such as cleanliness, presentability, good order and discipline etc. The most common answer given these days is that a smooth shave is necessary to ensure a proper gas mask fit/seal. There are some exceptions based on location/mission etc. but for the vast majority of the American Armed Forces we must be clean shaven when in uniform.

How do we deal with it? We just do. I've shaven every duty day since I joined 14 years ago. Fortunately for me, I don't have any troubles with ingrowns etc.

There are those who suffer from pseudofolliculitis barbae and other skin afflictions who can get shaving waivers. Most waivers require that the individual only shave every other day or every third day or that the hair is kept trimmed to 1/8" or 1/4" depending on circumstances, branch of service etc. However, this can prevent a person from deploying as it will interfere with their gas mask seal. In todays military (not always but often) if a person cannot deploy they get separated.

This really isn't that common. In my 14 years I've only personally known about 3 people that had skin issues severe enough to warrant a waiver and I've never personally known someone who was separated from service due to it, but I have heard of it happening.

Hope this helps.
 
Alexander the Great required his soldiers to be clean shaven so the enemy couldn't grab their beard and jerk them off balance in combat. When I was in the Navy, the argument was that a beard might prevent a gas mask or oxygen breathing apparatus (OBA) from fitting properly. And I think that makes sense. Incidentally, when I was on Shore Patrol we were required to wear clip-on ties. And I suppose a combative sailor or marine swinging me around by my beard would be even more unpleasant than being swung around by my necktie...
 
I've never had a problem with ingrowns anywhere but on my neck. When I was in the service my neck stayed broken out. But I was young and didn't know anything about technique nor proper prep or skin care.

I do remember being told during Basic Training that we would shave everyday. We had one guy who was 17 and had never shaved in his life. Needless to say by the time he was done he had whiskers if he didn't shave.
 
I don't want to say that I am unable to shave daily, but i really suffer when I do. What do you all in the military do about this. Since your "forced" to shave daily do you just let your skin become torn up?
Yes.

#2348302 in the ongoing list of bat---- stupid military things.
 
This really isn't that common. In my 14 years I've only personally known about 3 people that had skin issues severe enough to warrant a waiver and I've never personally known someone who was separated from service due to it, but I have heard of it happening.

Hope this helps.
FWIW, I see quite the opposite. Shaving profiles are not at all uncommon in the places I've been. Of course, most people on shaving profiles look like trash because rather than being allowed a neatly trimmed beard, they have infrequently shaved, unshapen growth.
 
I shave every day with a DE and as my technique improved I was less likely to get irritation. After a week or so I got to the point where I was able to toss my M3 and go strictly with wet shaving.

The biggest hurdle for doing this with a straight is the learning curve. On the other hand it would be a good way to get proficient quickly.
 
FWIW, I see quite the opposite. Shaving profiles are not at all uncommon in the places I've been. Of course, most people on shaving profiles look like trash because rather than being allowed a neatly trimmed beard, they have infrequently shaved, unshapen growth.
The all or nothing stance is kind of annoying.

The most common answer given these days is that a smooth shave is necessary to ensure a proper gas mask fit/seal.
And I suppose a combative sailor or marine swinging me around by my beard would be even more unpleasant than being swung around by my necktie...
Strange how you don't hear about these issues from every other counties armed forces

I chalk it up to "because we said so" and carry on smartly.
 
My brother is WO 2 in the US Army. He had some skin issues when he went in enlisted 13/14 years ago, and when he came back from basic, he looked great (skin, weight, muscles, etc.). He chalked it up to the military diet regimen being pretty well designed to get the best from a soldier's body. I just wondered what you guys thought about that.
 
Your required to be clean shaven. The idea that that means you only had to shave once a day is an assumption. This type of stuff was only enforced when I was in bootcamp when I was expected to shave even more often because of heavy growth. You must certainly shave every day though. No skipping a day. A heavy 5 o'clock shadow could be frowned on.

Once, in a combat environment I didn't shave for a week. It wasn't the combat though; it was the fact that I hadn't slept in 5 days and I had developed a habit of shaving after I woke up and took a shower. Since I'd never slept, I forgot to ever shave. I was running around with a huge heavy beard and never even thought about it.

I was evacc'd out and made it to an airfield with a C-141. The C-141 flew me out and back to the states. I had a Lt.Col though sitting across from me that stared me down the entire flight back home. I think it was only the blood on my neck and shirt that kept him from saying anything. Oh, and maybe the "Yea, I'll eat your face off too" look I gave him back.
 
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The all or nothing stance is kind of annoying.


Strange how you don't hear about these issues from every other counties armed forces

I chalk it up to "because we said so" and carry on smartly.

When I was in the Forces in Canada...

by tradition the Navy and Pioneers could grow beards.

Pioneers are kinda semi-combat engineer infantry. A special section in the Regiment.

The Navy guys had to shave them off for active duty in the Gulf in the First Gulf War. Concerns about NBC attack.

The same concerns about beards and turbans came up when a Sikh claimed religious grounds. Also a concern in the RCMP.
 
Ok...here is my question
Since your "forced" to shave daily do you just let your skin become torn up?

Its a question that Ive always meant to post but haven't.
If your skin is getting torn up, then you need to change how you shave. When I was in training I don't remember anybody in the barracks having real issues with shaving daily. Some used a blade, others used electric.
 
It would bother me to a certain degree if I had to do it mandator, as now I wouldn't shave directly before exercising and getting sweaty, as this usually causes a rather annoying and often painful stinging sensation (I'm assuming b/c of the saltiness of the sweat).

I'm sure you all dealt with it just fine and just got used to it.
 
Compared to all the other ways you have to adapt in the military, shaving is a fairly minor concern. Horror story: when my cousin was in Marine bootcamp, he and another recruit had unsatisfactory shaves one morning. Their punishment: they had to stand face to face and dry-shave each other.
 
My brother is WO 2 in the US Army. He had some skin issues when he went in enlisted 13/14 years ago, and when he came back from basic, he looked great (skin, weight, muscles, etc.). He chalked it up to the military diet regimen being pretty well designed to get the best from a soldier's body. I just wondered what you guys thought about that.
We had a guy in basic with really, really bad acne. I'm talking permanent scarring. From what I remember they made him an appointment and got him on facial cleansers and what not. It didn't completely cure his acne but it did clean it up a bit.

No doubt the diet and exercise also helped.
Ken Tanaka said:
When I was in the Forces in Canada...

by tradition the Navy and Pioneers could grow beards.
If memories serves me, prior to 1985 or 86 US Naval Petty Officers and above could grow beards. Not sure about the requirements though.
 
When I was in the Forces in Canada...

by tradition the Navy and Pioneers could grow beards.

Pioneers are kinda semi-combat engineer infantry. A special section in the Regiment.

The Navy guys had to shave them off for active duty in the Gulf in the First Gulf War. Concerns about NBC attack.

The same concerns about beards and turbans came up when a Sikh claimed religious grounds. Also a concern in the RCMP.
Small correction re: the RCMP and Sikhs. The concern was allowing Sikhs to wear turbans with the red serge instead of the traditional Stetson hat. NBC wasn't an issue as this happened in the late 80's and the Force has always allowed members to wear mustaches.
 
Small correction re: the RCMP and Sikhs. The concern was allowing Sikhs to wear turbans with the red serge instead of the traditional Stetson hat. NBC wasn't an issue as this happened in the late 80's and the Force has always allowed members to wear mustaches.
Yes, that is true.

However you still need a gas mask to deploy tear gas.

Cheers!
 
When I first went into the navy back in '75, beards were allowed. But they changed that by 1980, gas mask/oba considerations. Mustaches were allowed and I had one the entire time in the service and for 10 years out. When they axed the beards you had to shave every day. After a while it was just habit. you did it. I never really had too many problems with my face and neck. But was looking for better shaves even then.
 
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