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February 24, 2009 6:32 PM   Subscribe

What should I know before and after I shave my head?

I am a 22-year-old female who has always wanted to shave her head. I have incredibly thick, wavy, dry hair that takes a lot of time to maintain. My original plan was to shave my head after graduation, before embarking on a long backpacking trip. Recently, my aunt was diagnosed with cancer, and has lost her hair during chemotherapy. Instead of waiting until May to shave my head, I am going to do it next week. Friends and family are donating money to the cause (which is awesome!) so my only concern at the moment is what I should know before I do it, and what I'll need to know after it's done.

The plan right now is to have a friend cut off the bulk of my hair, shave my head with an electric razor, and then use a razor and shaving cream to get the rest. Is there anything she needs to know?

How do you maintain a bald scalp? Where can I get some good headscarves or simple hats? If I want to keep my head shaved for a while, how long before I can shave down the growth a bit?

Any tips and advice are appreciated.
posted by gursky to Health & Fitness (72 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Gotta get the mohawk picture and any other styles you can shave along the way to clean cut.
posted by foodgeek at 6:39 PM on February 24, 2009


I did it a couple of times. Some advice - don't use hair removal cream - it burns and blisters your scalp - that was the first time. I could not get anyone to agree to use a razor on my head, not hairdressers nor friends, and probably just as well, because my friend's hand was shaking while she was clippering, and pulling out bits of hair. I'm glad she didn't have a razor. I found clippers without the comb got real close to the scalp, without endangering my skin. I recommend cut with scissors, and finish with clippers.

Afterwards, the breeze on my scalp was often a surprise (a bit like, omg, there must be a spider there - oh wait, no) and the stares and pitying looks of strangers. Some of the time I felt quite naked. It was a very rich experience. Getting ready in the morning is super fast. You save on shampoo. Strangers will want to feel your head as your new fluffy growth comes in. You don't get the shiny bald head unless you maintain hairlessness and wax it (who knew? It was one of the most disappointing things for me). In the early stages, pilling from wooly hats will stick like to velcro.

Post your donation details everywhere, facebook, profiles etc. Most of the donations I collected came from forum friends from overseas.

Oh and good on you.
posted by b33j at 6:40 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, using a safety razor is a hassle. If you have long hair currently, you'll want to clip it down to maybe a number 2 before doing a final pass without the guard - it's much easier to make two well-defined passes on each area, rather than let the clipper start to get fouled and constantly need to pull hair taut to clip it evenly.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:42 PM on February 24, 2009


If I want to keep my head shaved for a while, how long before I can shave down the growth a bit?

I've never shaved my head but my husband has, and he gets trims (re-shavings?) every week. Every other week is probably the longest I'd go.

And yeah... people patting your head is something you should probably get used to. It feels pretty neat.
posted by AV at 6:44 PM on February 24, 2009


Ok... I was a dirty hippie when I was in high school and college (mid 90s). I went from well below the shoulder hair to bald in one evening. I'm a guy, so YMMV.

#1. Shaving my head was cold. I did it because indoor winter crew practices were too hot and I was overheating. Two weeks later we were in lake quinsigamon breaking ice with our oars, and scraping it off our jackets. With two hats, and a hood I was still cold.

#2. I found out that I needed to bic it afterwards to look good and electric razors don't do a good enough job. Have one handy (with shaving cream). TAKE your time with this part. I had bumps for 2-3 days afteerwards because it was such a radical change. I hadn't had a haircut in 3 years.

#3. donate your hair. put it in a pony tail then cut the locks with scisors first. Donate it to a wigs for kids program. (google it)

#4. Really look at your head shape. Ani difranco looks good bald because she really does have a beautiful face. The same holds true with Sharon Stone and Sinead O'Connor. They have beautiful bone structure and shaving their heads highlighted this.

#5. Honestly, the moment I finished with the shaving and saw it for the first time, I headed to my wallet, got my phone card and called my parents to ask them who dropped me. I have a bunch of dents and indentations which hair covers up really well... As a plus, I usually tell a new barber that my head isn't even and where my bumps are.

#6. If you have dandruf, you will still have dandruf when you are bald... just it gets really gross as its visible exactly where its scraping off from. I hear it fades away in short order if you maintain a shaved head - but I didn't...
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:45 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


You'll find it gets old quick to lather and shave your entire head on a regular basis. Some kind of machine that is easy to clean and has good blades will help.

You should have another mirror, handheld or otherwise, to help you see what spots you missed. But if you do it enough, you can tell by the touch of your hand. The easiest areas to miss are behind your ears.

Make sure to apply hair oil because your scalp will flake and dry out. You won't need to shampoo your head and at best, you just use some conditioner to keep the scalp smelling clean and to keep it moist.

If you're going to be in the sun for a few hours, put some moisturizer with sunscreen on your head. It's much more sensitive than the rest of the skin on your body.

I can't really help you with female fashion though.
posted by abdulf at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2009


Your post is timely, here in Australia there is an annual campaign every year called World's Greatest Shave raising money for cancer research. Get in touch for fundraising ideas with them.

Be sure to use suncream whenever you are out in the sun - lesson learned from a male friend who shaves.
posted by wingless_angel at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2009


Your head may turn out to be a rather nasty pallid grey colour at first, since it's not seen much sun.

Also, yes, you might want a hat.
posted by Artw at 6:50 PM on February 24, 2009


Get a beanie (style of hat). Pat your head and be willing to have others do so if you want to have more fun. Definately get a mohawk on the way, or for a day (you can just spike it up with soap). Hope that you have an appropriate head-shape (oval/long is usually good - sadly, I don't. I look like a 15yr old boy skinhead :P).

Have you considered donating the hair for wigs? Relevant with the cancer thing, I'm thinking...
posted by Elysum at 6:58 PM on February 24, 2009


Yay! I just shaved my head too! I do it every couple of years. My tips:

Shaving-cream-and-razor shaved looks very different than even few-day-stubble shaved. People genuinely thought I was undergoing chemotherapy when I razored my head because the shiny look is very unusual for white people and because the virgin scalp was so pale. Awkward.

Expect everyone to kind of freak out. If you anticipate this and have some snappy comebacks then it's kind of fun. Otherwise... awkward.

Finally, whenever I shave my head it takes me a couple of weeks for my scalp's thermostat to reset. I feel very chilly without a hat until my body readjusts. So, totally get a hat you would wear indoors. I recommend fruity-colored hand-knits.

Have fun!
posted by mindsound at 6:59 PM on February 24, 2009


Hats, definitely, if it's at all chilly. There's a profound difference without all that hair! I usually just wear a knit cap when it's cold, but I am far from the pinnacle of fashion.

I've never gone down to bare scalp - I've just used the 3/8" guard - so I can't advise on that, but using a short guard and just shearing isn't too bad. Remember to keep the clippers oiled and brushed clean as you clip.

You may well discover dents and ridges you never knew you had!

At 3/8" (with similarly thick hair) my head looks great, after a week it looks odd, after two weeks it looks dumb, and after three it looks awesome and is long enough to start to spike. YMMV.

If you go all-the-way bald, either wear a hat or sunscreen or both, because that bit of skin hasn't seen sun since you were a wee mite.

Everyone - EVERYONE - wants to rub my head when I'm freshly sheared. It is alternately fun and creepy, depending on where I am.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:02 PM on February 24, 2009


And yeah... people patting your head is something you should probably get used to. It feels pretty neat.

One of the best reasons to shave your head!

I've had a mohawk at various points, but never gone full bald. Head stubble feels super weird against pillows, so I'd anticipate that and not be too surprised when you feel all bristly at night.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:03 PM on February 24, 2009


A tip--a friend of mine shaved her head on a whim in high school and found out that a lot of people see a bald-headed woman and assume she has some terrible illness. Exact responses varied, but it led to some awkward conversations for my friend when she ran into people she hadn't seen in a while (easily diffused, of course, but there's the initial "Oh my God! When did you get the diagnosis??" reaction). That's not to say you shouldn't do it, just something to be aware of.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:03 PM on February 24, 2009


Three things I learned on shaving my head:

1. You will get a sunburn on your scalp. It will not be a pleasant experience. Invest in hats.

2. You may be dismayed to discover that your skull is bumpier than you think it is.

3. Having a friend stroke the stubble when it starts growing back will be a very very pleasant experience indeed.
3a. A surprising number of friends, acquaintances, and near strangers will apparently feel an irresistible urge to stroke your head, sometimes without warning.
posted by ook at 7:04 PM on February 24, 2009


I too have shaved my head a couple of times; the last time a friend (who happens to be a cut hair for a living) used a trimmer and gave my hair to Locks of Love. If you intend to donate your hair check with the recipient organization; they can't use colored or permed hair, for example; it has to be completely dry (or else it will get moldy when shipped in plastic bags); and the greasier the better, as natural oils will protect it during transport and processing. As a man who shaves his face in the shower, by feel if there is no mirror (as in a hotel), I did not have a problem shaving my own head afterwards. That first time I think it took 3-4 blades as they got clogged up with stubble and dead skin pretty quickly. From what I know of women's shaving habits in the US, it should be trivial to shave your own head if you are used to shaving legs, armpits, and so on. You will be amazed how cool it feels; I did both of mine in the spring, the last after growing my hair for 5-7 years without cutting it, and it felt great in the GA summer. Also got a lot of attention from strangers as b33j mentioned. Since I was single and much of the attention was from women that was a good thing. I am about due to do it again but if I do it this year I will definitely wait until it is closer to summer. On the other hand, when I was in college I found that getting a mohawk (the short, native American kind; not the punk rock kind) the week before coming home to go to church with the family for Easter will become the stuff of legend in your family.
posted by TedW at 7:04 PM on February 24, 2009


You might have an ugly lumpy head.
posted by pompomtom at 7:04 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Do not, under any circumstance, use aftershave on your freshly shorn scalp.

I really, really wished someone had told me that before I shaved mine. I just made the assumption that if it kept my face from itching it would do the same on my head.

For emphasis, I will repeat. Do not use aftershave.
posted by leapfrog at 7:07 PM on February 24, 2009


Go for it. Bald can work for some women the same as it does for some men. About fifteen years ago, I was lonely on Valentine's evening, so I went for it. As a guy, I've been shaving my face most of life, except for the hippie beard years. So it wasn't such an arduous task. When I was finished, I looked at myself, wondering what the heck I'd done. The next day just about everyone I saw complemented it. I've never looked back.

To stay smooth you need to shave at least every other day. I found that a good Gillette or Schick works a lot better and is quicker than an electric. I rarely nick myself.

You'll need to wear a hat during the cold weather months.

Good luck
posted by culturemaven at 7:10 PM on February 24, 2009


http://www.headblade.com/
posted by Redhush at 7:11 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you are going to donate your hair tie it into several ponytails, not just one. The closer you clip each ponytail to the scalp the more hair the wigmaker has to work with.

expect your scalp to be a lot paler than the skin on your face, be careful not to let it sunburn.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 7:12 PM on February 24, 2009


After you are done shaving your head, (carefully, on a long stretch of open road where you can see what's coming) stick your head out of an open car window, then say "thank you divine_wino that was a wicked awesome thing you told me to do."
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2009 [19 favorites]


I did this, too, and it was great. I maintained it for about 9 months before letting it grow back. Some tips:

1) My boyfriend was my head-shaver. First we electric razored, then we Gillette Venused. One thing that I thought was a really nice touch was that, for the first shave, he handed me the electric razor and said that I should make the first pass when I was ready. It was exhilarating to see the first lock fall into my lap!

2) Keeping it bald-bald required shaving with my Gillette ~3 x per week. Less frequently than that, it would turn into annoying velcro. More freqently, RAZOR BURN HELL.

3) On shaving day, if you opt for the safety razor, make sure you have LOTS of replacement blades, as you'll go through them pretty fast. Also, your head may vary, but for me, the back of the head and just behind the ears were really difficult spots and my bf had to be very careful and take lots of time to avoid cutting me. I would not recommend trying to maintain it yourself with a safety razor; even with mirrors it's really tough to get at the back sufficiently without accruing lots of nicks (I think this point may be different for girls than for boys, because lots of men who shave their heads have less hair to begin with).

4) It is chilly to be shorn. I got by with the Head Blade skully -- worn alone in the summer and underneath my woolly hat in the winter. I felt VERY tough while wearing it.

5) At some point, go to a barbershop for the hot-towel-and-shaving-cream experience. It's a little scary to see someone with a straight razor bearing down on your scalp, but it's a fun thing to try.

6) It's a bit disheartening how many people actually think they are being witty when they shout "SINEAD!!!" or "GI JANE!!!" out the window of their car as they pass by.

7) Definitely use sunscreen in the summer. I am rather fair but managed to make it through without getting burned. Don't forget the ears.

8) Any people in your life who are weirded out by it will eventually get over it. I was working in an office job and had no issues -- although I had checked in with my boss beforehand, just to make sure that there wouldn't be any problems and to reassure her that I wasn't having a psychological breakdown... of course, if I were a man that conversation would have been entirely unnecessary, but I digress -- in fact, lots of women, both friends and strangers, came up to me and confessed that shaving their heads was something they'd always wanted to do but felt that they "couldn't." It is a really liberating hair choice to make, so enjoy it!
posted by tentacle at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2009


I'm also a guy who had really long hair. Down to my butt crack. YMMV.

Nthing 50 times the comment on sunscreen. This is a part of your skin that hasn't ever had much sun exposure before. Any burn that ends up peeling will be pretty unsightly on your squash, which will burn VERY easily, as well as your ears if your hair usually covers them.

Frequency: If you really want that 'shaved' look to persist, you'll need to do it probably once every couple days, depending on how fast your hair grows. The added benefit of this frequency is, any less often and you won't be able to take a razor (blade or electric) to it... you'll have to take the clippers on a first pass then head for the sharp implement of your choice. Just a little more time consuming is all.

When I did it, I donated my hair to Locks of Love. It was 10 years ago, so I don't remember the details about who and where, but I had it done at a local salon who did all the work for me (including a nice hot shave to finish it all off) - at no cost. They then did the work of making sure the hair got there. If you do nothing else, be sure your hair goes to good use with one of these organizations.

Their website doesn't appear to have a list of "participating salons" or anything, but it might be worth it to call around and see if any local shops offer a similar deal.

Agree with the following:
- Be prepared to be fascinated (or shocked) to see the shape of your head. It's a part of you you've never seen before, so don't be surprised to find something you didn't expect, such as dents, bumps, or birthmarks.
- Be prepared for the "oooohhh! " from everyone you meet.
- Be prepared to feel cold, but come summer it'll be pretty friggin' awesome.

Lastly, when/if you decide to maintain, either have a hand mirror or someone else handy to verify your work. You'd be surprised at how smooth the back of your head may feel to the touch, only to have your SO giggle and point at the leftover fur patch you missed.
posted by SquidLips at 7:15 PM on February 24, 2009


I would suggest going with just the electric razor (well, an electric shearer and then an electric razor). The skin of your head is not remotely used to being shaved, and if you use a safety razor, you're likely to get a bunch of nicks. Some people say an electric won't shave close enough; those people either need a better electric razor or more patience.

Your head will be cold at first. You will get used to it pretty quickly (a couple days or whatever).

Your head will feel really neat to the touch (and being touched) when it has about a day of growth on it.
posted by Flunkie at 7:17 PM on February 24, 2009


Be aware that because you're a woman, some people may have very negative reactions to your shaving your head. Sounds like your family is on board, which is a very good thing. Mine weren't (I shaved my head on a whim, and hadn't spoken with them about it beforehand because, well, I didn't think it would be a big deal) and for a little while it seemed like I was going to lose what until that time (my sophomore year in college) had always been a wonderful relationship with my parents.

My mother, you see, has a thing about hair—I just didn't know about it until I actually did something to mine. She doesn't want me to dye it (I knew that already), and shaving it off made her think about how she almost lost her best friend to breast cancer and about Holocaust victims and other people who were made to shave their heads to humiliate them. She wrote me a long, upset letter about how I had ruined one of God's gifts to me. It was not pretty.

But it's not just people close to you who feel they have a stake in your hair. Even though I lived in open, liberal Cambridge, Mass., at the time, strangers on the street felt they had the right to come up to me and give me what for just because I was bald. (Old ladies in particular.) These strangers think that they know what your being bald means: you're a punk or a layabout, you're a drain on society, or—WORST OF ALL—you're a lesbian (gasp!).

The most harrowing experience I had while I was bald happened one day on the crowded sidewalk of Mass Ave. A man, walking in the opposite direction from me, was talking on his cell phone (about what, I don't know. I hadn't really noticed him yet). Though he was on the opposite side of the sidewalk, once he noticed me, he made the effort to quickly cross through the crowd, cutting off other people, just so he could get in my face and yell at me about being a bulldyke, and saying all sorts of horrible things (I don't really remember the specifics—I wasn't expecting it, and it was really terrifying). I think that was the first time I really understood what gay people go through. If things like this happen in Cambridge, Mass., what must it be like everywhere else?

Sometimes, though, having people mistake you for a lesbian (if you aren't one, of course) can be kind of nice. After I shaved my head, a number of people in the gay community thought I had come out, and I found out that a woman I knew had had a crush on me for a while (and had the guts to tell me so!). It was very flattering.

And who knew all of this would come from a Bic and some shaving cream?
posted by ocherdraco at 7:23 PM on February 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


Your head, it'll be cold. You'll need a toque/hat.
posted by demagogue at 7:24 PM on February 24, 2009


I also once had a bald haid and I won't add much to this thread except to say that once the deed is done, expect weird sensations when you sleep. It feels really strange for the first week or so sleeping with a bald head on a pillow - no subliminal hair cushion.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:25 PM on February 24, 2009


I shave my head with a blade nearly every day.

It doesn't matter how you cut it down, but cut it down as short as you can before you move to the razor - clippers without a guard ideally. Just make it really short. Razors are no good with any significant amount of length.

I suggest doing the actual shaving in the shower, get whatever is left after clippering your head nice and soft, then lather up and shave - shave very slowly and gently, shaving over a bump or lump really sucks.

Keep one hand lathery, and use that to feel and guide where you shave, you'll feel - by rubbing against the grain - exactly where you have and haven't shaved. I shave against the grain as well, for luxuriant smoothness

Be gentle, take your time. Short strokes, rinsing off the blades frequently - probably every stroke.

Once that's done, use a soapy washcloth to go over your head well. If the skin is spotty on your head, don't worry, that will go away really quickly if you keep shaving it.

I suggest not going more than 2 or 3 days between shaves, or it gets to be a bit of a drag with clogged up blades.

Moisturise well, if your moisturiser has SPF then all the better.

I use disposable Shick Xtreme 3 razors, they're by far the best I've found for this. Your Head May Vary.
posted by The Monkey at 7:31 PM on February 24, 2009


I've had a shaved head (from bald-bald to about 3/8" long) on and off for fifteen years, and pretty much just on for the last two or three.

Your plan sounds fairly good, though I'd advice against razoring it off. I'd trim your hair off as much as possible, and then go over it with clippers and a #1 guard. Then go over it with the clippers, no guard. That'll get you pretty low. Then go over it with a good razor to trim up the last bits. You can probably do this all yourself, really--I feel much more secure doing it myself than having a friend with possibly sweaty, shaky hands doing it.

If you want it to be really smooth, pick up one of those DIY waxing kits--I haven't done this part for probably ten years, so can't tell you what brand is best, but search on beauty-oriented sites to see what the best home waxing kits are, then buy one of those. You'll have to check the box to see how long they need the hair to be in order for the waxing to work, and be sure not to buzz yourself any shorter than that. Anyhow, it'll take several applications of wax to get yourself clear, so buy several boxes if you decide to pursue this route.

No aftershave. Do the shaving, and then hop into the shower. When you get out, put a lightweight lotion (facial lotion, maybe) on.

If you're going to go down to bald-bald, you might want to do it in stages--buzz it to a #1 guard, and then give it a month, then razor it off. If you're comfortable doing this, it'll give your scalp time to adjust and make you look a little less sickly when the hair's all gone.

How often you cut your hair after this will depend a lot on your own comfort level. When I've been bald-bald, I'd usually let it get to about 1/4" long and then cut it all off again. Right now, I keep my hair at about 1/8", and it gets cut about every two weeks. I have a friend who shaves his head with a razor every single night. You'll quickly figure out what works for you, if you're someone who needs to cut their hair weekly or if you're okay letting it grow out a little between cuttings.
posted by MeghanC at 7:32 PM on February 24, 2009


Be aware that once the hair grows out a little bit people may feel the urge to pet you. That's what happens to me, anyway.
posted by Artw at 7:37 PM on February 24, 2009


Do NOT use a straight blade to shave your stubble away, at least not the first time you ever do so. Scalp wounds bleed, and with the bumps & ridges you'll be unfamiliar with (as mentioned above a few times), you will cut yourself. I speak from experience.

Also, make sure you do a friar tuck for funsies if you can.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:48 PM on February 24, 2009


The advice here is spot on for the most part. I've bic'd my head and can assure you that it's a fine and simple procedure, but you'll want a friend around to check thoroughly for spots you may have missed.

Get a cashmere beanie. They are wonderful and even if you didn't have a bunch of fresh skin exposed to the world you would still want one.

Also, yes, sunscreen. A sunburned scalp is no fun and you do not want one ever.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 8:02 PM on February 24, 2009


1) Sunburn on a bare scalp really sucks. Be careful about how much sun your newly-bare scalp gets for the first month or so.

2) Shaving with a blade looks and feels great. If you can get into and keep the groove you'll look and feel terrific. That said, the razor burn can be awful, and ingrown hair can be painful and unsightly.

3) Shaving with a blade can be very time-consuming, especially if you take the time to do a good job and avoid razor burn. (see point 2) You'll probably want to shave every couple of days or you'll end up with a scalp full of velcro; yes, lint will stick to your scalp.

Every time I've shaved my head I've ended up getting lazy and using clippers on the lowest setting after a month or so. Don't let my experience stop you though - a freshly-shaved head is great.
posted by lekvar at 8:03 PM on February 24, 2009


Dang, lotta ground's been covered already. Lessee ...

The day after you're freshly shaved, you won't be able to keep beanie hats on. They'll slowly, slowly, slowly slide off.

Gillette Mach 3, a little bit of shaving cream, a little patience and, for your first month, a hand mirror. First, shear the bulk of your hair off w/ clippers, as close as you can get - go down in guards until you're just using the bare blade. Use the razor for the stubble. (i'm seeing some suggestions that you wait between these stages - personally, I don't see the need for this delay)

Shower first to soften up the skin and keep just a little bit of baby oil or lotion on hand for after you've finished and dried. Fold the tops of your ears straight down to get at the tricky bits hiding just behind your temples.

I usually start w/ the top of my head, lest the water and shaving cream run down into my eyes. Be careful about your eyebrows, especially at first! I gave myself a nasty bit of asymmetry once in my early days by being careless round the brow.

You'll be cold at first, but you'll be used to your new hairless heat retention rates within a month. You shouldn't need the hand mirror for your shaving sessions after this first month, either - it gets pretty easy. No joke, you're gonna be able to detect hair 1/32 of an inch long on the back of your head w/o looking at it or touching it, eventually.

I sunscreen in the summer but, honestly, after the first sunburn I'm good for the rest of the season. YMMV.

People might wanna rub your head, yeah. Personally, I ain't wild about it and don't encourage it. You might make it as long as a fortnight and still find this behavior endearing. Again, YMMV. I was over it in a weekend.

Are you confident when you make your way in the world? A shiny scalp is eye-catching and, sometimes, comment-inducing. You either wear your scalp with pride or not at all. Maybe carry hats and scarves for when you're headed someplace you'd rather not have a conversation piece of a head.

As for fashion, I dunno - my best tip only works for guys (and certain girls, I guess) - I think a dark beard w/ a shiny head looks pretty sharp. You might get a similar effect w/ some voluminous dark scarves or dark turtlenecks or something. Also, any earrings you wear are gonna be very noticeable.

Those head-massager things that look like spiders and showers/swimming/hottubs/water in general? You're gonna love these sensations like you never thought possible. Everyone, everyone, everyone owes themselves a shaved-head shower at least once in their lives.

Lastly, I commend you on your endeavor and welcome you to the ranks of the Bare Scalped. I hope you'll enjoy the Last Haircut You'll Ever Need as much as I have. Bet on bald, baby!
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:10 PM on February 24, 2009


I shave my head and have been shaving it for over 12 years - I could shave it every day to keep the "nude" look, but I shave every other day (unless I am going out for a social occasion on a usual no shave day). If I go more than two days without shaving my head I become uncomfortable - I have not gone more than four days without shaving my head in the past twelve years.

I just stopped using a Mach Three blade and switched to a double edged safety razor - I had to re-learn the shaving process all over. No more blind shaves in the shower (with face included). I now have to finish my chin in the mirror to keep the nicks down to a minimum.

You might as well start by shaving your own scalp with a razor yourself - if you are planning on keeping up the look then you should definitely dive right in. You will cut yourself - it will sting but the pain will disappear immediately.

There will be blood.

The first couple of weeks with a nude head will be rough - for other people. You will look like you are being treated for a terminal disease and you will have nicks and cuts - perhaps even some gashes if you are not accustomed to shaving...

Take it slow when shaving - I mean thirty minutes at least your first time with a razor on your scalp. Lots of water and shaving cream/gel are mandatory to keep razor burn to a minimum. Have a mirror and good lighting.

A duel blade disposable is probably the razor you should start with.

After shaving, I splash witch hazel on my head and a rub in a moisturizer (I like Cornhusker's Lotion - but my skin can handle the oil - find what your skin can handle). You might need a product like BumpStomp - you might find your scalp is prone to ingrown hairs (that all depends on the kink and strength of your hair).

Use sunscreen!

Also enjoy the freedom that a once a day hair care regime can bring to your life!
posted by cinemafiend at 8:12 PM on February 24, 2009


I shaved my head prior to an extended backpacking trip. Didn't want to repeat the clipping sweath hair with a swiss army knife debacle. This probably won't be an issue with you, but it made me look like a thug. Hitchhiking into towns to resupply became a little more difficult.
posted by roue at 8:17 PM on February 24, 2009


Don't be drunk.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:39 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I shave my head every March for St. Baldrick's Foundation which is a charity that raises money for cancer research. This year means more to me than before as I was diagnosed with renal cell cancer in September of 2008 so I can understand what it is like to go through cancer more.

Ok, on the head shaving tips: People's reactions will vary a lot. A lot of people tell me I look good with a bald head, and it has made me keep my hair very short when it isn't bald. I have several pairs of earring that I wear mainly when I'm bald as it shows them off to their advantage.

The day after my head is shaved I lotion my head with the lotion I use on my hands and face. From then on it become an everyday thing to keep the skin from drying out. It is amazing how fast my head dries out without any hair on it.

Be prepared for your reaction. The first time I shaved my head I had waist length hair. When the scissors went through my ponytail it was hard, and as the razor took off the first strip of hair it was hard to deal with. Yet, by the time I was done I felt wonderful.

I keep several hats to wear a couple ball caps, a couple toques, and a couple straw hats to wear. Your head will be cold right afterward, as will your body. Make sure you have a warm jacket or sweater to put on after you are done with it.


Good luck on shaving your head, and thank you for raising money. You rock.
posted by SuzySmith at 8:40 PM on February 24, 2009


wow.

thanks so much for the tips and anecdotes, everyone.
you are such helpful, kind, and interesting people!

thanks for the kind words and encouragement, too!
posted by gursky at 8:50 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been pretty much shorn for 10 years. Shaving isn't really difficult if you take it slowly. I use the old two blade excel style gillette, and I have never cut my head shaving. You just need to do it, preferably in the shower (lots of hot water to clean out the blade, it's important) and keep relathering your head. Do short strokes over the your entire head , then go back, relather, and find the rough bits with your off hand. Get those with the razor, then move to another rough patch.

To be honest, I don't keep my head shaved. I use a trimmer with no guard every other week. The fuzzy stubble looks okay (though it shows off how bald I really am), and it's fun to run my hands through. It also helps with keeping hats on.

When I do shave my head (usually for halloween, so I can do makeup effects without worrying about ripping out hair), I find that the world feels about five to ten degrees colder. Knit hats slip off for the first day, then adhere like duct tape the second. The day after shaving, examine your scalp closely for random fibers. Towel threads, wool strands, anything and everything will love to stick to your stubble.

And yeah, a good skull helps. I've only got one divot, right on the back/top of my head, and it doesn't look so bad. If you find you've got lumpy skull (a serious cosmetic condition) consider growing your hair out to about half an inch, and you'll be fine.

And good for you. Shaved heads rock.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:59 PM on February 24, 2009


chiming in late here, gursky, but good luck and one thing I didn't see covered in a quick scan of the above was the use of some type of moisturizer, especially in the winter. You know the way your knuckles dry out? That happened to my scalp, too. A little moisturizer goes a long way to not looking like you have a galactic case of dandruff.
posted by sapere aude at 9:07 PM on February 24, 2009


Speaking as someone who's had a set of complicated hair cuts involving various amounts of head shaving (and who currently shaves the back of my head up to my ears):

Get a friend (or a barber, or haircutter) to shave your head the first time. With medium to long hair, you can't just go in with a razor; you essentially need to cut your hair short before shaving it. Also, they can more easily tell whether there any insufficiently shaved spots. It will take a while to get used to your now-bald head; you might as well see what it looks like done right before you start experimenting with doing it entirely on your own.

You might feel scared/weirded out when your friend starts cutting away. That's OK! Remember that you're doing it for a good cause, that hair grows back, and that you're going to look awesome. Going through various temporary haircuts (mohawks, etc.) while cutting it off might make the process more fun and less stressful.

You'll first notice how much lighter your head feels. Hair is heavy! Next, you'll notice all the air currents that you can suddenly feel with the back of your head. (If you live somewhere where it's still winter, you will feel like you're freezing to death as soon as you go outside. You may attempt to put a hat or hood on, only to find that it slides off much more easily without hair to keep it in place. If you live somewhere where it's currently summer, you may experience the joys of scalp sunburns. Ow.)

Your head will often be really fuzzy. I often find myself rubbing it unconsciously, because hey, it feels cool. Unfortunately, this also means many other people will rub your head with or without your permission. On the plus side, you will love how much faster showering is. (No more waiting for your hair to dry!) Plus, since you can wash your scalp with the same soap you use everywhere else, you'll be saving lots of money on shampoo and conditioner!

You'll have to figure out how often you want to shave it: how much growth is too much for you? The answer will probably depend on what techniques you use to cut your hair (razors can cut shorter hairs than clippers) and whether you prefer someone else to do it for you.
posted by ubersturm at 9:12 PM on February 24, 2009


I keep trimmed with this thing with a curved blade
posted by hortense at 9:36 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


You already have many helpful answers. But I will point you to the perfect hat.
posted by chairface at 9:43 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Find a European, Russian, or 70+ year old men's barber if you are going to have them do the shaving. They'll likely have the most experience with a straight razor.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:48 PM on February 24, 2009


When I shave my head I use a Headblade, which I got from a pharmacy, and I have yet to cut myself, even though I have a bumpy cranium with bumpy moles. The Headblade is awesome.

If possible, use clippers first (you can get them for real cheap if you can't borrow some). I wouldn't even bother using the comb.

Don't forget to moisturise your head afterwards. Your scalp is going to be dry and flaky for a while until it adjusts.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:14 PM on February 24, 2009


Ah yes...I shaved my head once. It was a bad look for me, but I know lots of folks for whom it is absolutely striking.

If you're donating the hair to Locks of Love, which is where my husband and I both donated our hair when we got tired of it, be sure to read up on everything they want you to do.

For the initial cut, assuming you're not having a professional do it, pull your hair into a ponytail, and cut *above* the pony tail holder. (Again, assuming you're donating the hair, that just makes it easier.) If you have really long hair, or hair that tends to "fly away", I would put elastics all the way down the tail, about about 2" intervals. That will keep it bundled up.

For the clipping itself; get a really good clipper, and start with about a #8 blade.

Sit down on a chair, and flip your head forward, such that the dome of your head is pointed towards the floor. Clip from the base of your neck up to about the occipital bone (above your ear.)

Sit back up, and clip from the forehead back to the crown.

You should now have a "style" similar to a long high and tight. Go down in blade number in increments of 2 until you get it as close as you feel comfortable doing with the clippers, but I recommend against doing it without a blade guard. Once it gets *that* short, safety razors in the shower are your best bet.

Good luck. I swear every summer that I'm going to shave my head when I shave the boys....I never do, mind you...but oh, I consider it.
posted by dejah420 at 10:54 PM on February 24, 2009


I had waist-length hair for many years, and made a similar transition.

To cut: either use clippers (I like the Wahl ones), or cut short with scissors, and then finish off with the beard trimmer from an electric razor.

To maintain: use an electric razor or clippers (1/8"). Or you can do it with a blade - my preference in this route is to use a safety razor. Not that hard, but I only shaved this close a few times.

To sleep: wear a hat. Your head will get cold at night.
posted by zippy at 11:32 PM on February 24, 2009


I have shaved my head a couple of times each year for the past twelve years. As a woman, I've found this experience to be another disappointing reminder of how much emphasis is placed on appearance and hence also an amazingly formative and empowering experience to practice detaching from expectations around that. On one hand, it's just hair, on another, it symbolizes so much more, but in the end neither of those aspects sums me up.

I just use clippers without a plastic guard/height attachment. Most times, my partner has shaved my head for me, but with practice and a mirror, I can do it fine now on my own too, and he just tells me about the spots I miss later. I don't feel like I need razors or cream or soap, but I don't maintain a smooth scalp for awhile after I shave it - I just let it grow again, and I find the texture changes dramatically over those first two weeks. I find I always need to have a shower afterwards to remove all the little cut bits of hair that make me itchy. My scalp never feels as clean as it does after this, and as my hair grows out again I've really started to really miss that squeaky clean feeling. Another big yes to using sunscreen if you are going bare in the sun and to having a hat or scarf available if it's cold out where you are right now.

Have fun exploring hats and scarves. I used to go bare more often or wear hats and bandanas, but now I wear more colourful scarves out of convenience (I can keep them on inside and out if I want). Light cotton bandanas worked well for being out in nature - you can soak them in cool water in the heat and they also dry fast - but they don't always stay on too well for me. Generally I find I like flexible scarves that are around 4 feet long and no more than 1 foot wide because a) I can wrap my head twice around and tie the scarf ends at the nape of my neck without it getting too bulky for my comfort, and b) I can also use some slightly heavier winter scarves when it's cold out. If you decide to wear scarves or hats, have a few that you like, make sure they are of a material that breathes, and don't forget to wash them regularly - a bare head still gets oily/flaky and makes your headwear smell funky after awhile.

Lots of new sensations to anticipate that have already been mentioned: the real shape of your head; the smooth, then sandpapery, then pipecleaner like texture of your head as hair grows; the feeling of the wind, the rain, your pillow, your shower - these can all be pretty intense and liberating! Combined with people feeling compelled to touch your head, you might on the other hand also feel kind of exposed. Like you, I had been used to having very thick, frizzy long hair, and I had been used to hiding behind it too, and I didn't anticipate that feeling. Be gentle with yourself and whatever your reactions are to all these things, and do whatever you need to do to get comfortable. You don't have to say yes to the headrubbers, to explain yourself to any judgmental comments, or go bareheaded right away; or you might love the way it makes your eyes stand out and decide to draw a happy face on the back of your head too. :) Good luck and best wishes to you and your aunt!
posted by onoclea at 1:05 AM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


You've received tons of replies so far! I'm going to throw in my advice as a guy who has shaved his head for periods of time, if it seconds or thirds some advice already given you'll know it's legit ;-)

Don't try to get your head Mr. Clean smooth the first time. Clip it very short, and then shave with the natural direction of your hair. I'm assuming you've shaved your legs before so you know the feeling of going with the grain or against it. Go with it the first few times, so you don't end up with razor burn or nasty ingrown hairs.

Exfoliate. You need to make sure to wash your head like you wash your face... any light acne or blackheads that would have been hidden by your hair are wide open now. As a chick with a bald head, you'll stand out even more than a guy with a bald head... so you want to make sure you don't look like you nog' has herpes.

Be prepared to be weirded out by your lack of hair. I've had hair down to my mid back and I've gone for the Mr. Clean look. You'll find yourself fixing your phantom hair all the time. I'd have women laugh at me, because they recognized the motion of me smoothing my hair back or tucking it behind my ear... I'd even reach back to get it unstuck from the collar of my coat. I'd get asked alot by curious women how long it had been since I'd shaved it off. You'll find yourself doing the phantom gestures too.

One thing I -never- got used to... was stubble scratching on a pillowcase. I've got thick beard hair so you'd think I'd be used to stubble scratching on a pillow case, but for some reason the stubble on my head always felt super weird.

Not sure where you live, but where I am right now it's still the dead of winter. When I originally shaved my head I did it (for reasons I don't quite understand) in January. I've never been so cold in my life. Buy some really warm hats.

Good luck!
posted by JFitzpatrick at 1:18 AM on February 25, 2009


When I shaved off my waist length hair, I found an angry looking reddish purple mark at the back of my head. I thought it was a birthmark, but the hairdresser said it was an injury caused by wearing it in too-tight high ponytails which had been pulling at the scalp. Sure enough it faded after a couple of days. If I'd known in advance, I would have worn my hair loose for the week before the cut.

Sleeping was weird for a while afterwards. I felt sort of adrift in the bed. On the plus side, I could put on t-shirts in a single movement now and no longer needed a hair tie in order to brush my teeth or light the gas on my stove.

The hair will stick around for a while afterwards and become a benchmark for your housekeeping. ("This is from before the haircut when the hell did this room last get vaccuumed?")

Wooly hats are nice for keeping your head warm, but you're better off with something that won't leave lint on your head.

Everyboy will want to obsessively touch your head. Including you. Make sure your hands are clean, you don't want scalp-zits.

I didn't have many people assuming my em-bald-ening was a breakdown, chemo or a way of coming out, since I had harrassed every single person I knew for sponsor money prior to the haircut. This gets everybody on the same page and raises more money for the charity. A plan with no drawbacks!

Even so, my mom flipped out a little. She knew beforehand and supported my decision, but just wasn't prepaed for how strongly seeing me bald would remind her of other family members who've been lost to cancer. She knew I was healthy, but there was still this tiny voice in the back of her head saying that her daughter had leukaemia. It took her a while to deal.

When I do my Big Charity Haircuts, I get them at proper hairdressers. If you explain beforehand, then even the poshest of salons will do it for free and usually the staff will sponsor you. There is nothing awesomer than stepping out of somewhere that charges ridiculous amounts of money with the staff pressing cash into your hands. It also means your friends are able to concentrate on taking pictures and being supportive, while a professional deals with the sharp objects. I would not want a nervous friend near my head for a first time shave.

Dividing the hair into multiple braids beforehand means that you can get the hair closer to the scalp in order to sell or donate it. It also means that more people can get involved in the cut. To solve an argument at the salon, my last haircut involved dividing my hair into four braids and having four different hairdressers each cut one off on the count of three.

I did mine in winter rather than summer, because I was worried about sunburn and because I figured if I had a hideous shaped head, I could hide it under wooly hats. When I explained this logic, lots of people bought me hats as presents beforehand.

Clothes wise, I found it hard to predict beforehand what would look good afterwards, so don't plan a big shopping spree prior to the cut. For head coverings, I found scarves make people think 'chemo', caps make people think 'lesbian' and berets made people think 'weird and arty' and wooly hats with ear flaps made them assume I still had hair.

I don't think I'd ever go all the way to bald again, but I'm definitely glad I tried it out. Best of luck to you, Gursky!
posted by the latin mouse at 1:18 AM on February 25, 2009


by the way, a neat way of raising some extra money is to let people pay $5 or so for snipping off a lock!
posted by cogat at 4:04 AM on February 25, 2009


Ah! I just remembered another thing!

The day you shave your head, take your shampoo bottle and put it away in a cupboard or something. Otherwise the next morning you'll groggily stumble into the shower as usual and wind up with a big ol' glop of shampoo in your hand and nowhere to put it.
posted by ook at 8:03 AM on February 25, 2009


i shaved my head for the first time 6 months ago. scissors first, then clippers then i bought a pack of the disposable 3 blade lady venus for the rest - it worked great and the angle shifting works well on your head.

some tips:
buy a mirror with a handle - you can get these pretty easy at a dollar store - at first it takes some getting used to holding the mirror behind your head while you use the other hand, but you get used to it fairly quickly.

you underestimate how much cold protection your hair gave you - even when my hair was kept really short, it was much colder with none at all.

i buzz my hair with clippers once a week, but would probably shave with a razor at the same pace - its upto you how close you want to maintain it.
posted by gully at 9:52 AM on February 25, 2009


If you are going to sport a completely shaved head, I've heard good things about the Head Blade. But more importantly, after shaving, use an astringent. I (a guy) like witch hazel gel. But I've never shaved my head. Maybe try it on a small patch, before slathering your entire noggin (per leapfrog's direction).

And, I must say, this is a very cool (and kind of sexy) thing you are doing.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:18 AM on February 25, 2009


I shaved my friend's head bald after she lost a bet at her job. Her hair was short to begin with. I used a professional clipper and just kept going over her head until she was baaaalllld as a ping pong ball. She didn't have any nicks or cuts, and no problems with her scalp. The hair grew back quickly so if you want to maintain the bald look and have thick dark hair, you're going to be shaving every week at least, right?
posted by Piscean at 12:05 PM on February 25, 2009


I've noticed a few recommendations for the head blade, and felt compelled to add a dissenting opinion. The head blade is to be avoided!

I've never butchered my scalp worse than when I tried the head blade. I thought perhaps I just needed to get used to it, so I really gave it a chance and used it for a couple of weeks before I gave up on it completely. Nearly every time I used it I came away with cuts, nicks, bumps, etc. I have a pretty round and non-lumpy head too.

YMMV, but I find I can shave much closer and faster with a Mach3, or similar 3+ bladed razor, and some good shaving cream. I also prefer to shave in the shower. Though if this is going to be a one-time thing, you might not want to invest in a shaving mirror for the shower. In that case showering first is highly recommended.
posted by zen_spider at 1:37 PM on February 25, 2009


zen_spider: weird. You know you have to push as per the instructions, and not pull? Because you will cut yourself if you pull.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:46 PM on February 25, 2009


Your hair is awesome at mopping up sweat. Expect more sweat to run down your head / face!

Do you have to go completely bald?
- Keeping a short buzz is much easier to achieve and maintain
- It is much sexier IMHO

Have fun, I shaved (buzzed) my hair a few years ago and have never gone back. :)
posted by blahtsk at 3:10 PM on February 25, 2009


Oh, I just remembered something. Chances are your hair will grow back considerably darker than it is now. In the course of your everyday activities the sun bleaches your hair a tiny bit. Not noticeable in the short term, but it adds over the years. When your hair first starts growing back after shaving it won't have the years of accumulated exposure. I (and a number of my friends who have done the same thing) went from blond to dark brunette.
posted by lekvar at 5:29 PM on February 26, 2009


You might find this comic strip by Nina Paley amusing. It's sort of the shorthand version of my response up above.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:00 PM on February 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


once again, thanks so much for your awesome responses! i'm very excited, and very encouraged by all of the advice and by your stories.

5 more days!
posted by gursky at 3:29 PM on March 2, 2009


:D

Gursky, I was totally inspired by all the positive responses to your question and decided to shave my head, too. Wasn't long enough for charity, but I felt like doing it for a whole host of practical reasons that I had never seriously considered. And I did it! Just now! And it was easy! Mohawk was definitely the hardest part...dry bar soap just couldn't hold it up. So look into that some more if you're into getting that photo. Mine is still pretty scary, nonetheless. And here's me shaved. Now I just have to acclimate my coworkers!

Good luck and let us know how it goes (with pictures!). And once again, thanks to everyone for their stories!
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:39 PM on March 5, 2009


well, i did it!

i was pretty relieved to discover that i don't have any lumps, dents, or marks. it went really well, we had lots of fun along the way (mullet, mohawk, rat tail, etc.), and i absolutely love it.

pictures:

the before picture (i'm on the left; this was in December, so my hair was a little longer yesterday)

bald!

supportive friends :) (you weren't kidding when you said people would want to touch it!)
posted by gursky at 6:03 PM on March 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


No mohawk pics? :-L
posted by Deathalicious at 5:19 AM on March 9, 2009


if you insist...
posted by gursky at 1:23 PM on March 9, 2009


(rat tail included)
posted by gursky at 1:24 PM on March 9, 2009


Oh man. Top chef-esque.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:35 PM on March 9, 2009


That's awesome. You look great. :D
posted by The Monkey at 7:44 PM on March 9, 2009


What fun! Go you. :)
posted by dejah420 at 1:14 PM on March 12, 2009


You're coolio!

Love da pics.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:10 PM on March 16, 2009


Apparently we only loose about 10% of our body heat from our head.
posted by mtphoto at 10:39 PM on July 15, 2009


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