7 Things to Know Before You Shave Off All Your Hair
When it’s already hot, humid, and sticky outside, there’s perhaps no worse feeling than warm beads of sweat sliding down your neck or forehead, spilling onto your shirt, and shouting to the world that you cannot handle the heat.
I learned this firsthand during my second summer in New York City. I’d grown what can only be fairly called a massive Afro the previous winter as a sort of defense tactic against howling wind and blizzardlike conditions. But when spring turned into summer and the last of the snows melted, my tolerance for the heat my hair trapped against my scalp went with it.
By the first sweltering week of August, the hair had to go. I bought a pair of Wahl clippers, clicked the number one guard into place, and gave myself a really close buzz cut. And luckily for me, I liked the way it looked.
But cutting off all your hair is not a decision you can make lightly. Here’s everything I wish I’d known before taking the plunge.
Figure Out Your Head Shape
You’re not going to know what your bald head looks like until you can actually see it. But you can get a good sense of what’s lying underneath your hair by poking and prodding your scalp. That way, you’ll feel any lumps or bumps you might not want to expose to the general public.
David Pirrotta, an L.A.-based consultant for grooming outfits like Blind Barber and Gentleman’s Brand Co., advises that you get your hair wet. “You can get a good idea of what your skull looks like right when you get out of the shower,” he said. “If you slick your hair back, you can actually see the shape of your cranium.” And if you don’t like the way your head is shaped, consider another style.
Head to the Barbershop
Pirrotta also tells first-time head shavers to leave the work to a professional. That way you won’t risk cutting yourself, and you can also “ask your barber for pointers” to help keep your head shorn in the future.
If you’re a rebel and you want to do it yourself, follow this process: Get your hair as short as you can with a pair of clippers. For a buzz cut, you can stop as soon as all the hair on your scalp is at an even length.
But if you’re going all the way down to the scalp, wait to move on until after you’ve showered. After applying a preshave oil, cover your head with a good shaving gel. (Pirrotta points toGrown Alchemist’s sandalwood and sage variant.) Use a fresh blade every time you shave your head to minimize cuts.
Take Care of Your Scalp
Phillip Ransom, the master barber at Butler’s Grooming Club in Birmingham, Alabama, told us that his clients go short in the summer because it’s physically cooler (the heat index there today is 99 with humidity at 60 percent) and easier to deal with than long hair. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely effortless.
“It is low maintenance: You don’t have to comb your hair or style it or anything like that, but you still have to keep up your scalp,” he said.
Ransom, an avid golfer, started shaving his own head in May to keep cool on the course. He uses Montez Renault’s Jojoba Smoothing Scrub a few times a week to keep his scalp looking smooth between cuts, and tells his newly bald customers to apply a facial moisturizer with SPF to the top of their heads.
Schedule Regular Maintenance
Ransom also told us to watch out for sideburns and the nape of the neck: The hair there grows faster than it does on the scalp, and will require trimming once or twice a week to keep it in check.
Get a Little Scruffy
If the only hair you have above your neck is on your eyebrows, you run the risk of looking like a very tall baby. To avoid this, you can let a little facial hair grown in. “I wouldn’t let your beard go wild or unruly,” Ransom said. “I’d go for a five o’clock shadow. It’s a nice, smooth look. You’ll look like a grown man, and not a 15-year-old-kid.”
Time It Right
Ransom and Pirrotta both agreed the best time to shave your head is right before a vacation. That way “you have some time to adjust to it psychologically” on your own before everyone else in your life sees it.
Other times to avoid shaving your head: the day before you give an important presentation at work; right before a big event, like your nephew’s graduation; or in the run-up to your wedding.
“Definitely give your fiance a heads-up if you’re going to do something like this,” Ransom said.
Be Prepared to Hate the Way It Looks
I got lucky. I dig the way my head looks without much hair on it. But if you’ve never cut it all off before, there’s a possibility you won’t like what you see in the mirror at the end of the process.
When Pirrotta worked in brand development for The Art of Shaving, he’d see guys come into the brand’s barbershops and ask for a straight-razor shave on their scalp.
“They would get out of the chair and not realize that they had rolls, or some weird kind of irritation on their skin. Or they had beauty marks that they weren’t aware of,” he said. “So I’ve seen some people freak out.”
The good news is that your hair will grow back. But you’ll still have to deal with the look for a few weeks. Which is why Pirrotta said that no matter what you’re going in for, “Always carry a baseball cap when you’re going to the barbershop.”