How can I darken my scalp where I've gone bald?
November 29, 2008 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Is there any way to darken the scalp to give the appearance of hair stubble?

So the long and short of it is, I started losing my hair many, many years ago when I turned 18. I went through most of the ever-shortening-haircut stages that most guys in my position do until I arrived at simply shaving it all off. This worked for many years too. Unfortunately you can definitely see the light-dark difference between where hair would still grow and where it wont ever again.

So my hope is to find some sort of scalp darkening or perhaps even mild makeup alternative to , at the very least, make the shiny hairless area as unnoticeable as possible in relation to the 5-oclock shadow that covers the rest of my head. Yes I realize how superficial this whole thing is, but I still want to see if it's possible. I would hope for a solution that can withstand some wear, is waterproof, etc.

So I dunno, citizens of Metafilter. Anyone got any suggestions for me?
Henna? Shoe Polish? Sharpie?
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total)
I know little about makeup. However, I think it would be a big help if you were to tell us what color your hair is. Perhaps you could ask a mod to post it, or you could PM me? I don't really know any MeFites personally, and I'd gladly relay it to people here.

My uneducated guess would be to try charcoal, like an artist would use, if your hair is carbon black. It might just look like dirt, but it's my first instinct. Try it in front of a mirror if no one offers any better ideas.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:07 AM on November 29, 2008

I think it might also go by the name of graphite. I'm sure an arts supply store would find it for you.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:08 AM on November 29, 2008

This stuff claims to do exactly what you want. You can probably find some of the infomercial on Youtube if, you're really interested.
posted by 517 at 10:20 AM on November 29, 2008

Here's the thing about baldness--there is nothing you can do that will fool everybody.
posted by box at 10:24 AM on November 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's the infomercial.
posted by 517 at 10:25 AM on November 29, 2008

I hate to be unhelpful about your specific question (the Ronco spraypaint is what I would have pointed you to anyway), but seriously...nobody notices this stuff as much as you do. Take a lesson from Watergate: it's not the crime, it's the coverup.
posted by rhizome at 10:39 AM on November 29, 2008 [5 favorites]
posted by Theloupgarou at 10:40 AM on November 29, 2008

I've known people who have used the Ronco* junk; it looks "real" from a distance, but up close, pretty creepy. Here's an idea: if you shave with an electric razor, gather the very fine cut stubble over a period of time. Using some sort of gum, apply the stubble to your head in a very even distribution. If done right, I imagine it would be pretty close to the stippled appearance of a day or two worth of shaved head growth.

*I first saw the Ronco hair commercial while on acid some years ago. until recently, I wasn't quite sure whether it was a hallucination or not.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 10:48 AM on November 29, 2008

Why not just use self-tanner over the whole dome to lessen the contrast effect?
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 11:01 AM on November 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

I knew someone who used the Ronco stuff. It is not worth the money. At all.
posted by pearlybob at 11:01 AM on November 29, 2008

I've never heard anyone turn to the person next to them and say "wow, look at how bald he is." and start laughing. But, I've heard a LOT of people say "who does he think he's fooling with that hairpiece/wig/rug/paint?" and giggle away...
posted by HuronBob at 11:10 AM on November 29, 2008 [7 favorites]

Nth-ing "don't worry about it". The disparity you describe between the hairless part of the scalp and the shaved part of the scalp has never bothered me or anyone else I know of. It looks like a perfectly normal shaved head, as found in nature. Nobody gives it a second thought.

On the other hand, spraying stuff on there will only draw the kind of attention you are seeking to avoid.
posted by Aquaman at 11:29 AM on November 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stippling might work. Go to a store that specializes in stage makeup. You'll need a stipple sponge and cream makeup that's the same shade as your existing stubble. A stipple sponge is just a stiff nylon sponge with holes that create texture. The folks at the store should be able to show you how to create the look you want. If you're embarrassed to tell them it's for your head, just say it's for your face - tell them you're going as Fred Flintstone to a costume party.

You're probably going to want to set the look with translucent powder.

Here's a link if you'd rather buy the stuff online.
posted by Evangeline at 12:08 PM on November 29, 2008

TV makeup artists use sprinkle-on hair fibres to thicken up thinning hair, and it looks great on TV. Two problems: (a) you can kind of see it on the performers in real life from a distance of 2-3 feet, and (b) it needs some full-length hair to adhere to (usually you spray on hairspray, sprinkle on the fibres, the brush gently). It wouldn't work on a shaved scalp.
Maybe you could get your scalp tattooed with a stippled pattern to match the bald parts to the stubbled parts, but that would require touchups as your hairline gradually recedes more over the years- and those would be really hard to blend into the existing tattoos.
Self-tanning lotion, to gradually darken all the skin on your head and lessen the contrast, is probably the easiest solution.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:11 PM on November 29, 2008

PS, If it's any consolation, I'm a young woman who thinks that what you're describing is totally within the realm of attractiveness. I mean of course a full head of "George Clooney salt-n-pepper hair forever" is the perfect ideal, but in real life, a shaved head with stubbly evidence of male pattern baldness is absolutely, 100% NOT a dealbreaker.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:15 PM on November 29, 2008

I'd have to agree with all those who say that you should just accept it the way it is.

You'd be surprised how many women (and men - delete as appropriate) find baldness attractive - I've had one partner who (before I lost my hair) claimed not to like bald men, but since then I've met many women who find very short hair and/or baldness attractive (and I'm now in a happy long-term relationship with such a person).

Conversely, I'd say that the majority of people (in my experience, anyway) find the concealment of baldness - comb-overs, hairpieces, paint - highly amusing and a clear sign that the wearer is incredibly insecure; at worst it can even look creerpy. If you choose to go down the concealment route, be prepared to face a degree of ridicule and to have to maintain a distance from people in order to keep your secret. People will be much more comfortable and trusting around you if you don't hide who you are.

Sorry if this isn't a helpful answer.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:16 PM on November 29, 2008

Creepy I mean. Curse these chubby bald fingers!
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:17 PM on November 29, 2008

How about bleaching your remaining hair, then shaving it close?
posted by Pennyblack at 12:20 PM on November 29, 2008

A friend of mine did this for a few weeks. He learned the hard way that seeing us unsuccessfully suppressing laughter because it looked ridiculous up close was worse than being bald.
posted by randomstriker at 12:21 PM on November 29, 2008

You could always have the remaining hair lasered off, that would take care of the contrast problem. But this ¨problem¨ is far more noticeable to you than anyone else, and having people notice you have gone to outrageous attempts to conceal your baldness is far more embarrassing than them seeing you are accepting your balding with grace by shaving your head.
posted by yohko at 12:29 PM on November 29, 2008

No suggestions on faux stubble; but a friend of mine uses a translucent face powder on the stubble free part to minimize shine. It helps fade the "MY HAIR LINE IS HERE!!!" look.

(Now, to ensure he doesn't read this and kill me for spilling his secret....)
posted by PossumCupCake at 2:05 PM on November 29, 2008

You've got another option: daily razor shaving. I do it in the summer, until I get bored with it (usually 1-2 weeks in). It's nice having a super squeeky razor shaved head, but it's a lot to maintain (but not as bad as what I suggested earlier).

If your head is evenly tanned, razor shaving daily will give you a true, lineless chrome dome.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 2:27 PM on November 29, 2008

posted by Soda-Da at 5:25 PM on November 29, 2008

I remember the excellently horrible 1980's commercial for Couvre, Hollywood's best kept secret! Turns out it's still around, though don't expect such great mustache action on the models these days. Unlike some of these other products that use fibers, this appears to be a lotion that darkens the scalp. I think it is intended to be used in combo with real hair though. On a perfectly bald area, it may just look like dyed skin, not sure. You might try a very thin application of the black variety just to see if you can create a subtle effect. Shampoos right off, the ad says.
posted by Askr at 9:36 PM on November 29, 2008

i have to say, fake hair is worse than no hair. on everyone. if you want to reduce the shine, go to the drugstore and get a face powder the same shade as your scalp. they make long-lasting powders (revlon colorstay is one).
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:35 PM on November 29, 2008

Depending on skin tone and hair color, you might be able to get away with a henna wash.

On the other hand, you'd likely be that guy who dyed his head for a couple months.

My dad tried the spray on as a joke one year, and it looked like an ape smeared loose shit on his head, which did distract from him being bald, but you might not want to go from Baldo to Shitty McSmeary. He kept it on less than five minutes.

I had to have stubble drawn on my face for a couple of shows (back before my inner evil corrupted the beard), and can tell you that regular "hair pencil" makeup is only a good idea from a significant distance. You just can't stipple finely enough.

Tattoo, maybe, but that sounds insane.
posted by klangklangston at 11:30 PM on November 29, 2008

BTW, here's a really funny interview with Patrick Stewart about his baldness.
posted by randomstriker at 2:09 PM on November 30, 2008

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