Coping with a balding future
June 8, 2013 10:33 AM   Subscribe

So, in my twenty-sixth year, a future of baldness is becoming pretty clear. I've basically made up my mind not to fight it via medication and so on, so how to I keep from falling into despair when I see photos and videos of my less-and-less-dashing self?

I really shouldn't complain; the rest of my life has been what-you'd-call-blessed: great job, friends, hobbies, and so on. Plus, besides this whole future-cue-ball business I'm actually pretty happy with my appearance, and, so far, so do members of the same sex.

But, and I feel silly and vain to say it: it's starting to really set me off balance. What little in public appearance I do for work gets photographed and videoed and so on, and I'm finding it increasingly painful to look at myself - for instance, one went online two hours ago, and the last two hours have just been what you'd describe as 'wallowing'. Doubting whether I'll have any luck dating, or that estimates of my age will quickly increase, or that the news friends pass around about me is that I'm bald now.

And so on and so forth.

tl;dr: long-avoided struggles with appearance and acceptance of growing up happen all at once, young man is underprepared
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (42 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You do realize that bald men are sexy, right?

Let me let you in on a secret. Most women have no problem with bald. What they have a problem with is stupid ways a man tries to camoflage balding.

But to help you with your stated problem-start googling people in acting and other entertainment venues that rock the cue ball and start realizing that it's all attitude.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:44 AM on June 8, 2013 [24 favorites]

Oh yes, please, Bic it. If you ever hoped women would just come up to you and ask to rub your head, your wish will be granted.

If you're not ready to Bic it, keep it uniformly short. Long wispy hairs only throws the big bald spot in to contrast.
posted by mibo at 10:48 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Shave it. Embrace it. Be bald guy, not a guy losing his hair. "This is exactly how I want to look".
posted by bongo_x at 10:51 AM on June 8, 2013 [13 favorites]

Most women have no problem with bald. What they have a problem with is stupid ways a man tries to camoflage balding.

Exactly. If you're already a good looking guy, balding isn't going to change that as long as you have an appropriate haircut. I tend to like very short cuts like Jason Statham's, but I'm sure there are other good options.

FWIW I have been deeply attracted to many, many bald or balding men, and not in an "oh, he's got a great personality way" but in an "OMG I want to have SEXXXY SEX with you RIGHT NOW way." It's certainly not a deterrent, and I actually know a couple guys who look a billion times sexier bald than they did with a full head of hair.
posted by lalex at 10:53 AM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

The bald look, like anything else, looks much better if you're fit. See, for example, Sir Jony Ives. Maybe you can't have Fabioesque flowing locks anymore, but you can still have huge pectoral muscles.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:54 AM on June 8, 2013

It might help to reflect that your hair loss is probably caused by an excess of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a potent androgen.

A deficiency in DHT usually results in no male pattern baldness, but also low body hair, low pubic hair, and underdeveloped male genitalia. Also low libido. So the extra DHT is kinda extra manly.

Nthing the advice to get your hair cut well and get huge pecs. Then you can be like Patrick Stewart, only ripped.
posted by jingzuo at 10:59 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Shave it. I did it on a lark five years ago and have never looked back.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:01 AM on June 8, 2013

Own it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:04 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I met my (then young) husband when he was bald, and he was hot.

"This is exactly how I want to look".
posted by thatone at 11:05 AM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Shave it all off now. Bald men are incredibly hot.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:09 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's fine to mourn, it's disappointing when one of the few things we still can't control with science happens to you. And it's super hard at 26, because it does skew your perceived age for a couple of years until a larger section of your cohort starts to thin too.

But if you can commit to extremely frequent maintenance (and for the love of all that is holy, keep the back of your neck exceptionally tidy and use sunscreen), you can rock MPB and your high testosterone levels *and* never have photos with really embarrassing haircuts.

I'm not generally all objectify-y, but if I was Empress of the Universe I would have Statham to my left and Willis to my right like my own personal Slave Leias.

(You know who I feel sorry for? Prince William and that increasingly dubious landscaping job he's got going on. I guess it's Not Done to go appropriately short, but it would do him such favors if he was allowed to own it.)
posted by Lyn Never at 11:11 AM on June 8, 2013 [8 favorites]

Think of it this way: no/short-cut hair = no morning fuss, and savings on hair products!

Also, hats. Y'know, style, sunburn, and all that. Hats can look totally goofy with various hairstyles, but on a bald head, they never look bad.

One of the product managers at my workplace is bald with short facial hair. He wears fedoras to work and totally rocks them. My partner has long hair and when he puts on a fedora, I just stare at him and shake my head. So shave it, top it off, be proud :)
posted by curagea at 11:23 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I asked myself at one point what I would trade to the devil to get my hair back. Some portion of my lifespan? Friends, family members, pets? Talents or accomplishments? An eye, a limb? I eventually concluded that if I wasn't willing to hand over anything that the devil would likely regard as a fair swap, it possibly wasn't as important to me as I was making it out to be.

To put it another way: our hair is the least of the things we will all eventually lose to age and time--and there's nothing to be done about any of it, except to practice gracefully letting things go. Every minute you spend looking in a mirror and worrying about whether or not You've Still Got It is a minute utterly wasted. Reclaim that mental energy and spend it on something worthwhile.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:46 AM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

A friend of mine in his early thirties had been fighting a receding hairline for years, and recently made the decision to rock a shaved head. He seems a lot more confident now to me.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:50 AM on June 8, 2013

Guy here who still has a full head of hair, but nonetheless has been bald several times.

The above advice is spot on. Being bald rocks. Chicks dig it, and as far as the maintenance goes, you are going to get totally addicted to just rolling out of bed in the morning, slapping the clothes on and getting out the door.

I'll also note that you have two choices. You can go razor-bald, which looks cool but is a bit of work; or just scrub down super close with a good beard trimmer. Both choices are good. The beard trimmer is the lowest-maintenance option of all, and still looks cool.

To people who know you, they'll be like, "Hey -- he's bald!" That phase will last about five minutes. Then they'll get over it and won't give it much thought. People who don't know you won't give it any thought at all.

Hmm -- it may be time to break out the old beard trimmer again...
posted by Alaska Jack at 11:54 AM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Shave it.

Possibly add a wicked tattoo.
posted by egypturnash at 12:08 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I’m seconding everything Alaska Jack said. I have really full hair still, and for many years I buzzed it off completely during the summer. I shaved with a razor a few times, but it was a lot of work.

The feeling and the maintenance part is amazing though. Right now I'm try to let my hair grow a little because my wife prefers the look on me, but if it was up to me I’d buzz it all the time. After doing it for years I’m having a hard time being OK with having hair now. It’s hot, messy, and annoying.
posted by bongo_x at 12:10 PM on June 8, 2013

My guy is bald and he is awesome. I saw HIM, not individual traits, when we started dating and seriously liked what I saw. I can honestly say, the thought "he's bald" never crossed my mind.
posted by cecic at 12:10 PM on June 8, 2013

Definitely hats. Even in rainy Oregon, people get skin cancers form the sun. Remember how ridiculous a comb-over can look in the wind.Get a short cut as a transition if you are not mentally ready to go hairless. But as is advised up thread own your new look.
posted by Cranberry at 12:12 PM on June 8, 2013

I'm a dude, so perhaps not your target audience, but I think shaved heads are sexy. Also, on many dudes I actually find receding hairlines combined with a buzzcut to be hot as hell. It's a very masculine look (and low-maintenance as a bonus).

I know the feeling, though. In the last year or so I got this (to me) very noticeable gray streak in my hair and kind of went "what the fuck, where'd my youth go all of a sudden?!" But it wasn't intrinsically depressing. It was more that it made me realize how much time had passed while I felt like I was (personally and professionally) stuck spinning my wheels. So maybe that's an undercurrent of what you're feeling too.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:24 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

And it's super hard at 26, because it does skew your perceived age for a couple of years

Mmmmm . . . . as a guy who's done the beard-trimmer-bald thing for almost twenty years, I'd actually kind of disagree with this. I mean, it might skew a little, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Part of the reason I embraced my own hair loss (at somewhere around age 26) was that I compared pics of me to pics of older guys trying to hide or deny their baldness, and I said, "Holy shit! I look like I'm 45 and desperately trying to hang onto my long lost youth!" So shaving your head might actually shave a few years off your appearance.

Mostly, though, when you go buzz-cut it's often really hard for people to determine your age. So when you're younger people often assume you're older, and therefore more experienced & authoritative. And when you're older, people often figure you're 5 to 10 years younger than you really are, so you'll get less flak for doing fun younger-guy stuff that you're "not supposed" to be doing because you're an older guy. Win-win.
posted by soundguy99 at 12:29 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Don't just Bic it—use a tool designed for the job. Get into the process and make it part of your self-care rituals.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:37 PM on June 8, 2013

Not sure if this data point will be helpful but just in case.

I see a lot of people talking about how shaved heads are hot and that's great. But I just wanted to give my data point about not caring if a guy is losing his hair or it's thinning or whatever. My first serious boyfriend was going prematurely bald at 21 and was in denial. I thought everything about him was cute including his hair. The last two guys I was suuuper attracted to IRL were both balding/had thinning hair and neither of them was doing anything about it in particular, just getting regular haircuts or whatever. I was very attracted to them and their hair was not a negative at all, it was another situation where I thought everything about them was cute and that included their hair.

The only time it becomes a turnoff is when these guys come up with these crazy cobbled together hairstyles that look bizarre. Like this one guy had no hair on the top of his head but he had it on the sides. So the top was bald and he grew the sides long, slicked them back, and held them together at the back of his head in a ponytail. I was actually interested in this guy and he was attractive otherwise but I was that turned off by his hair. Then there was this other guy who had a receding hairline, but he still had a few tufts of hair left on the front of his forehead. So he grew those really long and like tucked them behind his ears, while the rest of his hair was short. I guess this was to disguise the receding hairline but it looked just weird and very off-putting. This was an otherwise-very-attractive European guy.
posted by cairdeas at 12:54 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I moved to basically the same haircut as the one in the Jason Statham link above once I realized that my old hair cut was starting make me look like a comb-over and it's great. No combing, brushing or product necessary ever and you never have bed-head or hat-head. Don't fear the razor.
posted by octothorpe at 1:08 PM on June 8, 2013

Go and spend some time sitting in front of a department store or any store that has an air-curtain at the entrance, and watch guys trying to nail their comb-overs and swirlies back into place after they walk through it.

Aside from being hilarious, it will make you realize just how ridiculous hair can be. Find a good barber and keep it short. You'll save a fortune in products.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 1:12 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here to second cairdeas. If you want to go bald, great! If not, great! However you're most comfortable. I'm a straight lady dating an awesome boyfriend who has the receding hairline thing going on, and he's comfortable in his own skin and it's just something that's him. You mentioned the same sex so I'm (perhaps wrongly) concluding you're interested in guys, and plenty of guys with MPB and receding hairlines rock their own style and easily attract other guys.

But your question is this: how to I keep from falling into despair when I see photos and videos of my less-and-less-dashing self?

I felt like you exactly described how I felt when I was noticeably gaining weight. I had a positive self image and good dating prospects and was happy, but every now and then I'd see a picture of myself and be a little surprised and dismayed. The problem isn't the few extra pounds - the problem was my reaction to myself. I did some things to improve. Every time I noticed myself reacting that way to a photo or video of me, I chuckled at my reaction to myself (silly brain!) and noted that hey, it's okay to feel this, but it's not super productive or good for me, so let's feel it for a few seconds and move on. Sort of a proto-ACT approach. I also reminded myself that my self worth is not defined by whatever my body has decided to get up to. This combination of not scolding myself for reacting a certain way, and reminding myself that I have far more interesting things to think about, eventually culminated in me just being comfortable in my skin, regardless of my weight or whether I was having a good hair day or what have you. It's that comfort and perspective that people pick up on most.

At that time, losing weight was not the answer for me. Going bald may not be the answer for you. Or it might be. But regardless of your actions about your hair, I hope you're able to, like I did, stumble your way into comfort with whatever hand you've been dealt by biology.
posted by nicodine at 1:22 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't remember if I thought bald men were sexy when I was in my early twenties, but I distinctly remember in my late twenties suddenly realizing there were all these sexy bald guys around. Personally I prefer a buzz cut to a Bic job. I think going completely hairless is a really distinct look--it skews more macho than I find attractive, generally speaking--whereas a short buzz cut is more stylishly versatile.

I think once you have a haircut you like and feel good in, you won't feel as bad seeing pictures of yourself. But I also like what nicodine says above. I've found as I've gotten older that I'm often unhappy when I see pictures of myself, but a big part of that is that I haven't aged up the image I have in my head of how I look. I imagine myself looking the same as I did when I was 27, but lo and behold, the past 16 years have changed me a little. I think it's just something to get used to.
posted by looli at 1:55 PM on June 8, 2013

As many others have said, buzz cut it off and embrace the advantages:

1) Reduced showering time when you're in a hurry
2) Time spent on combing hair - 0
3) Money spent on haircuts (after buying some decent clippers) - $0
4) Money spent on hair get or other products - $0
5) Money spent on combs - $0
6) Ran out of shampoo? With a buzz cut you can just rub a bar of soap on your head
7) Reduced drying time after a shower
8) Feels cooler in the summer, sweat evaporates more quickly
9) Lost pocket combs no longer a problem
10) A more aerodynamic/aquadynamic head

Going the cue-ball, shaved head route isn't for me personally, it's too much work to keep up with it. With the buzz cut method your total hair grooming time is about 15 to 20 minutes every 2 weeks.
posted by NoAccount at 1:56 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Confidence and owning it are the keys. I'm attracted to men with shaved heads and with super-short buzzed heads; an ordinary short haircut that doesn't try to hide the receding hairline is kinda neutral — I don't find it particularly attractive, but it doesn't actively detract from how sexy I find a guy.

Comb-overs and tonsure-with-ponytail are actively anti-sexy, IMO.
posted by Lexica at 3:55 PM on June 8, 2013

Exceedingly attractive bald guy here ;)

If you cut, don't go straight to the razor if you have any interaction with people planned for a week or two. Expect your scalp to go to shit for the first week as it dries out, and it takes a few months to get reliably good enough with a razor to not run the risk of looking like you got attacked by a buzzard on the way to work.

Go to a decent barber, get them to clipper it down to a grade 2 for a few weeks and go back way more often than you think to keep looking neat. It might not have the edge that a really short trim will give your look, but your scalp will thank you for taking it slow. Don't skimp on quality tools when you take it over yourself: sharp profiles to cut edges will avoid the curse of ingrowing hairs and impacted follicles. And avoid the old white guys: IME African-American and Hispanic barber shops know better what they're doing with really short hair, because you want the hairline to look really cared for.
posted by cromagnon at 4:41 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

One more anecdata point for shaving it and owning it. Mrrrrow.
posted by fiercecupcake at 4:58 PM on June 8, 2013

Have you seen the John Adams miniseries from HBO? I haven't, but I heard Laura Linney interviewed on Fresh Air (she played Abigail Adams). They asked her about the sex scene between her and Paul Giamatti. Apparently John Adams was bald but, keeping with the style of the time, wore a powdered wig all the time...except in the bedroom. Linney said that at the time, the bald male pate was considered very erotic (perhaps because you only got to see one in the bedroom). Apparently this figures into the sex scene. Why not check it out? Perhaps seeing Laura Linney lustily grab Paul Giamatti's head will help you get your mojo back.
posted by pompelmo at 5:22 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

(You know who I feel sorry for? Prince William and that increasingly dubious landscaping job he's got going on. I guess it's Not Done to go appropriately short, but it would do him such favors if he was allowed to own it.)

I thought this, then I found this photoshop comparison of two approaches. The bald look may not suit him (but I wasn't certain that was a well-shopped skull, so to speak), but hell yeahs to the beard look. There's plenty of family precedent, of course.

So you could consider your facial hair.

Myself, I'm likely to have full-ish hair well into retirement age; I didn't get my dad's MPB, and my hair color harks to my hair-retaining Swedish ancestors. So my worry was always my beard/mustache. I did decide a long time ago that I would be very happy to see it get a distinguished gray, and indeed it has (if anything, my bigger worry is that it's asymmetric). Now if only I didn't have bad dental I'd be able to grin and bear it.
Point being, everybody's got somethin'.
posted by dhartung at 5:28 PM on June 8, 2013

I'm 29 and have been balding for years. When I first decided to do something about it I went for the buzz. After a few months of that I shaved it and now it seems like the only sensible option. It's never going to get better, so just do what you have to do and be confident that it'll most likely look a lot better than you think it will. (I also have a pretty serious beard so also consider that as a mitigating option.)

As for the feelings you get when you see a picture of yourself with hair, I usually deal with that by remembering one of the million stupid and embarrassing things I said or did when I was that age that I would never currently do, and then those feelings go away pretty quick.
posted by evisceratordeath at 6:24 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

The good news is if you go bald now and shave it short, you might look a smidge older to start with but you will also go into a sort of status where you won't seem to get much older looking for say the next 20 years or so. Think Steve Martin going grey early, or Bruce Willis's short buzz cut look way back before it was trendy, they sort of entered a weird twilight zone where it was hard to guess how old they were. And don't get me started on Patrick Stewart who has looked sexy for years (fans herself),and never seems to age.
posted by wwax at 7:11 PM on June 8, 2013

I'm actually pretty happy with my appearance, and, so far, so do members of the same sex.

Wow, everyone above who is reassuring the OP that women will still find them attractive is way off base.

Shave your head, or get your hair cut in a flattering way. Future cue ball? Jump in the water.

Get some good pictures of yourself taken, share those with your friends. Get some professional headshots as well.

Find someone of your preferred gender(s) to tell you how hot your sexy smooth head looks, perhaps while rubbing some part of their body upon it.
posted by yohko at 7:28 PM on June 8, 2013

While we might have misread the query, some of us can only speak for the female side of the equation....the OP can feel free to extrapolate if appropriate.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:46 PM on June 8, 2013

I'm 24 and basically bald. I've been slowly balding since I was about 18. I've just cut it progressively shorter throughout the years, and at this point I try to keep it at about a 2 on the razor (most everyone thinks I would look a bit weird with a completely shaved head, so I don't do it). I'm straight, so YMMV I guess, but I've still had extremely attractive, interesting, and generally appealing ladies attracted to me. Just make sure you're in decent shape and you keep yourself well groomed and let your personality do the rest.

That said, it's completely ok to get depressed. You can give yourself time to mourn the loss. I went through a really dark couple months at 19 as I realized that I was going to be bald in my early 20s, and although looking back I realize it was completely wasted mental energy, perhaps it was necessary to get to my current state of pretty much complete acceptance. Also, remember that acceptance doesn't mean you have to LOVE how your head looks, like some people might suggest. Would I like hair and do I still think my head doesn't photograph well from certain angles? Yes. Am I happy with my overall appearance? Yes. Everyone has something about the way they look that they wouldn't mind changing. As long as you don't let that thing bring you down or degrade your confidence, you're good.
posted by Defenestrator at 11:55 PM on June 8, 2013

There is only one real downside to hair loss. It's a radically excellent protector of cranial assets. You get cut and sunburned without it and hats, while SOMEWHAT effective, aren't the same kind of product of millions of years of evolutionary selection. When/if a cure for thinning hair and baldness is available that works, I'll sign up for that reason alone to address my 35-50% lack of coverage. It'll have to actually work, though. Minoxidyl? Meh.

I am married, so finding a mate isn't an issue at this particular instant, but if I were looking, and someone wanted to judge my character, intellect, libido, competence, or general awesomeness based on my missing hair... well, let me gently say that that would constitute a show-stopper. OTOH, when I see the manicured cranial lawn of the Baptist preachers of my youth, a marketing ploy as sincere as high gloss on cheap furniture, I recoil instinctively. I have learned to associate primping with manipulation, especially in boys. Bald, OTOH, I associate with grounded, pragmatic masculinity. YMMV. Part of the social message may be the implicit passage from young to adult, and/or advanced adult that hair loss suggests?

If you want to telegraph masculinity, neat and maintained beard stubble seems effective. (I call it the no-net-hair-loss strategy...) If you are really hung up on appearance issues (other than my condolences on your hangups) I recommend clear skin, good hygiene, maintained dentition and oral care generally, weight management, intellectual growth, signs of economic potential, and most important, a good and developing character that puts high priority on desirable human values front and center. Do that and who cares about your hair? Dingbats, that's who. Avoid assiduously.

Bald isn't ugly. Petty and materialistic is.
posted by FauxScot at 1:59 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, everyone above who is reassuring the OP that women will still find them attractive is way off base.

Argh, can't believe I missed this. (Internalized homophobia or just poor reading comprehension?)

OK, then, as another gay dude I may after all closer be to your target market, and I reiterate, I think shaved and buzzed heads are hot. I mean look at this shit, hnng. As another example, latter-day shaved Andre Agassi is way sexier to me than honey-roasted-mullet Agassi.* Scroll down for comparison. (As FauxScot mentioned, if you can combine that with some close-cropped facial hair that is extra hot IMHO, though it of course depends on what happens on your particular face.)

But it definitely represents a transition from a more youthful kind of sexy to a more, to be crude, DILFy kind of sexy. Which is fine, but might take you a little while to embrace. Let it marinate for a little while.

* I stole that description from here
posted by en forme de poire at 9:14 AM on June 9, 2013

I'm basically writing to agree with those who said shave it and embrace baldness. But, even more than that, embrace it as an element of personal style. Don't just be bald. Be dashing. In other words, work on your style as a whole and be a stylish man.

I used to work with a bunch of guys who, for whatever reason, one by one decided to go bald. I don't think any of them were even balding. If I recall correctly, one guy did it, and then another and another. That was the first time I realized there's a connection between bald and style.

If you're bald and dumpy, you're bald.
If you're bald and stylish, you're stylish.

Like I said... treat it as an element of style. Be a sharp dresser. Smell good. Rock the clean shaven head. Be stylish.
posted by 2oh1 at 7:59 PM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

From a fellow gay dude: It's really so much better on the other side of the No. 1 buzzer guard.

I fought losing my hair for several years and would up just holding ground on a receding hairline. When I gave up trying and embraced the clippers, I got a LOT more attention and a LOT more satisfaction looking in the mirror.

Plus hell, who doesn't want to be able to skip the morning primping? In ten years, I've saved the equivalent of 60 days of my life not futzing with my hair. That's two months! Well worth it.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:57 PM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

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