These days, there are a lot more guys rocking the shaved head look. This hasn’t always been the case though. In fact, I’m pretty sure that even if I was blind I’d be able to guess someone’s age based exclusively on how they talk to me about my head. Things like, “Goin’ for that Kojack look, eh?” or “I like the Bruce Willis hairdo”, or “are you a Vin Diesel fan?” are all common comments that I hear and honestly, I don’t really mind them. It means people are beginning to have more of a context for the choice to go razor bald instead of rocking the donut ‘do.
Truth is, not too long ago, having a shaved head meant that you we’re subject to inane accusations of things like being a “skin head”, and you’d have to constantly defend yourself against suggestions of racism and general Nazi affiliations. (I’m not kidding; just ask my Mom how many times my high school administration questioned the implications of my “style” back in the day.)
Thankfully those days are long gone and shaving your head has become a respectable and dignified way to manage the follicular recession that is genetically inevitable for so many. So if you’ve been spending more time shopping for hats lately or have considered trying out some volumizing shampoo, perhaps it’s time to face the facts and consider embracing the inevitable with style.
Admittedly, the idea of taking a blade to your scalp for the first time can be a bit daunting, so I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you get started. With a little care, you’ll be looking sharp and feeling clean in no time.
A note about the sun:
Hair makes for an incredibly effective sunscreen. There are two reasons why this is important:
- Once you go bald, you need to consider how much exposure your head gets. It can burn easily and nobody wants to see your glowing red, peeling bald head; to say nothing of the health risks. Use sunscreen, wear a hat to the lake or ballgame, take care of yourself….
- Whether you’re shaving for the first time, or just again after a week’s time, any amount of hair on your head will block sun and once removed, will reveal a bright white scalp that screams, HEY, LOOK AT MY HEAD!!! This is not what you want. For this reason, I like to either shave very consistently (every 3 days or so), or make sure that I always shave my head the day before I have plans that will keep me outdoors for any length of time.
Buy the Right Tools
My uncle Jim once told me, when I balked at the idea of learning to weld, that “any job is easy if you’ve got the right tool.” This has proved to be one of the most sage pieces of advice that I have ever received and it has been invaluable to me on a number of fronts. Get the right tools, and learn how to use them. End of story.
- Buy Good Razors: There are a lot of options and even more opinions, but for my money (and the sake of my scalp) I exclusively use Harry’s razors. They are high quality, extremely affordable, and most importantly, a class above all other disposable razors.
- Find a Good Shaving Soap/Cream: By this, I do not mean “go buy something from the Walmart clearance rack.” I personally prefer to use Herban Cowboy Dusk Shave Soap but there are some great creams available from companies like Jack Black. Harry’s also makes an excellent shave cream that you can buy as a bundle when you order your new razors.
- Use a Shave Brush: It goes without saying that you will need this if you opt to use shave soap, but it’s a good idea even when using shave cream from a tube. Application is smooth and consistent and minimizes waste. However, please note that not all shave brushes are created equal. Until I graduated to using a high quality, boar hair brush (badger is good too), I literally threw away a dozen cheap brushes per year because the bristles kept falling out. Trust me, just invest now.
- Use Aftershave: There are an unimaginable amount of options when it comes to using aftershave; creams, gels, tonics etc, etc. I’ve tried a lot of things and for my money, there is no better option than a good old fashioned, alcohol-based aftershave. And because I prefer to keep my regimen free of unnatural ingredients, I like to use Aubrey Organics, Men’s Stock Spice Island. It does the job admirably and smells like cedar soaked in rum.
- Don’t Forget to Moisturize: Shaving scrapes a layer of skin off of your head. Aftershave closes up the pores but dries your scalp out. You have to put a little love back into your scalp by using a good lotion to hydrate that gleaming pate. Because my head can be a little tender after shaving, I like to use a more gentle facial moisturizer, which makes my Jack Black Double Duty Moisturizer the perfect solution. (bonus: it’s got SPF 15 in it to help with the whole sunburn issue)
Respect the Routine
For the most part, shaving your head follows the same basic rules and principals of shaving your face, of which there is an endless supply of online advice to be found. For that reason, I’ll just zero in on a handful of the most salient points and you can take it from there.
- Buzz Your Head: Not unlike sanding a table, you have to start with coarse grit and work down to fine or you’ll wear out your tools before you get the job done. Unless you shave every couple days while your growth is still very short (less than 1/8”), you’ll need to use some hair clippers (without a guard) to mow down the overgrowth first. Otherwise, you’ll spend most of your time trying to rinse hair out of your razor instead of removing it from your head.
- Start With Heat: Whether you shower first (best), douse your head with hot water from the sink (good) or employ a whole hot towel regimen (effective but a tad bit pretentious), it is essential that you start with heat to relax your hair follicles and prepare your scalp. Otherwise you’ll be swimming upstream for the whole rest of the process.
- Use Warm Soap/Cream: This isn’t just because it feels nice. Cold shaving cream can shock your scalp causing pores to close up and hair follicles to become rigid. Using a shave brush that has soaked in hot water for a few minutes ensures that you’re not giving your head a cold shower just before a big date.
- Use a Fresh Razor: Some guys are hell bent on economy, but I’ve found that shaving my head with a fresh razor produces infinitely better results than trying to reuse them. Enough so that I’ve fully converted over to single use only. That’s why Harry’s is such a great way to go.
- Make Two Passes: Your scalp isn’t the same as your face. Follicles are closer together and it requires a little more work to get a good smooth shave. On the upside, shaving against the grain isn’t quite the no-no that it is when shaving your face. I like to make one pass over my whole head, always with the grain; and then reapply soap and do a second, this time against the grain, working particularly on the crown to make sure all cowlicks are covered.
- Don’t Forget Your Neck: It’s easy to forget, but nothing looks quite so bad as a cleanly shaved head with a distinct line of untrimmed neck hair creeping up. Make a quick pass and clean that mess up.
- Transition Your Beard: If you are planning to rock the beard/shaved head combo, nothing screams, “I JUST SHAVED MY HEAD” so much as a hard stop where your beard meets your scalp. Use your clippers to gradually fade your beard out, starting at the bottom of your ears and fading to nothing by the top of them. Trust me.
- Rinse Twice: Once you’re done, rinse your head first with room temperature water. Then repeat with very cold water. This helps you clear out any leftover soap and skin before closing up those pores.
- Pat your head dry, never rub.
- Apply aftershave liberally.
- Moisturize: Once your head has fully dried, you’ll feel your skin getting a bit taut. This is when you want to apply your moisturizer. Omitting this step will cause your skin to work overtime to replace the natural oils and can lead to a dry and/or overly oily scalp.
Going razor bald can be a bit of a leap, but if done correctly it can also be a completely liberating way take back the reins of your personal appearance and refuse to have your “look” be defined exclusively by your genes.
So why not take the plunge? It’s not like it won’t grow back in a few days anyway……