Maximum head cooling - Shaved or Buzzcut?
April 20, 2016 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Going to Florida in a week, where it is hot and humid. Right now, I have buzz (#1 all over, slightly grown out) but I'm wondering if I should go fully bare in order to maximize heat loss.

Surely I am over-thinking this, but as a resident of a place where 85 in the summer prompts a Severe Heat Warning, Florida is a special brand of suffering.

My initial thought was to get rid of what little hair I have, down to skin, so that evaporative cooling could do its thing.

But then I started thinking that perhaps it would be best to leave a bit of hair to block some of the sun's rays, thus keeping my head slightly cooler, while still allowing air to circulate across the skin.

I can go down to a #1, the lowest guard I have, after that it's foil.
I will be outside most of the day, but will be wearing a ventilated hat and a lot of sunscreen.

Surely someone has won an Ig Nobel prize for this!
posted by madajb to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total)
Not sure how long you are planning on being here, but here in southern Florida (Miami and environs), it's not that hot right now, and the humidity is even (!) tolerable. It's been maybe 80 and there's been cloud cover most of the time. I'd even venture that it's a bit cool. I think a hat and sunscreen will do you fine. Ask me again in August, though.
posted by mrfuga0 at 9:36 AM on April 20, 2016

Where in Florida? Coastal (breezy) vs. Inland (more stagnant) will make a big difference.

I buzz my head (1 guard) around every 10 days to 2 weeks, and I can definitely detect a temperature difference between fresh and grown out, so it's possible going fully bare would be even cooler. That said, I'd say that if you're wearing sunscreen anyway a nice close buzz should be fine.
posted by saladin at 9:36 AM on April 20, 2016

You are over thinking this. However, it is my experience as someone who gets a #2 cut every 4 months whether I need it or not, I do not think a #1 affords you much skin cover at all in terms of sun. I have gotten my head sunburned with a #2. When I am playing golf or in the sun for prolonged periods, I rub lotion into my head even with the hair.

My advice to you is to do whatever you are comfortable with regarding your hair length, to wear a hat and to stay hydrated.
posted by AugustWest at 9:38 AM on April 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

I shave my head because what little I have up top is very thin. The difference between shaved and several days of thin stubble in terms of insulation is pretty amazing.

If you want maximum cooling, shave it.
posted by straw at 9:38 AM on April 20, 2016

My dad, from MN, moved to FL, working construction, and could NOT understand why or how the guys working out in the sun all day were wearing long sleeves. They claimed that it kept the direct sun off of their skin, which helped keep them cool, and the thin layer of perspiration between arm and sleeve also kept them cooler.

So my recommendation is to wear a hat - preferably wide brimmed, but baseball-style is OK - that has those heat grommets near the top of the dome, to let out excess heat. This will keep the direct sun off of your skin, keeping you cooler that way, reduce glare with the brim of the hat, and excess heat can escape through the grommets.

Have fun!
posted by jillithd at 9:56 AM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Central Florida, Orlando specifically.
posted by madajb at 9:56 AM on April 20, 2016

to offer a counter narrative to straw -- I shave my head. Having more hair than just stubble can be more cooling if you're being active and sweaty. Hair keeps the sweat on you rather than just running off, which can give more cooling. I find I get hotter and sweat more when fresh-shaven, because sweat just runs right off.
posted by k5.user at 9:58 AM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

seems like there could also be a boundary layer effect with wind. you might get a smooth, relatively slow moving, trapped layer of air on smooth skin, while some hair could induce turbulence that mixes things up and increases cooling.

(i agree the sun protection of #1 is minimal - i slather on suncream and/or wear a hat).
posted by andrewcooke at 10:04 AM on April 20, 2016

Like k5.user, I would think that having some hair to trap the sweat and keep it on your head while cooling your noggin would be the best way to go, but I'm no scientist.
posted by Fister Roboto at 12:01 PM on April 20, 2016

A fellow camper did this right before a canoe trip at summer camp.

He had a peeling scalp sunburn that was quite unpleasant.

Nearly all the competitors in desert running races wear full coverage hats, or ballcaps with long tails in the back that cover your neck. Being covered is better for avoidance of sunstroke or heatstroke.
posted by thenormshow at 12:48 PM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, shaved bald + sun is a sweaty awful mess for me, even light stubble is better. But definitely wear a hat - it's hot but sunburn is bad bad mojo.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:34 AM on April 21, 2016

As a follow-up, while in Florida I conducted an experiment of sorts.

Started off with a number 1 all over, then about halfway through the week, went full bare.

Bare skin was cooler than a buzz cut, but the sun on skin was much more intense when not wearing a hat. Without the hat, the sun was too much, where the buzz cut afforded at least a little protection.

I found the best solution to be a buzz, but kept wet as much as possible, to let the breeze cool the head. This worked well with a hat or without.

Note this was less than scientific, as it got hotter as the week progressed, but maybe it will help someone out.
It's also possible that once the bare skin adjusted it would be cooler overall.
posted by madajb at 12:02 AM on June 2, 2016

Well, I am going to FL in two weeks time with half my head in a longish buzz and half shaved bald, so I will report back. My experience with the same cut in summer was 'bald sweated a lot' and very little difference otherwise. My friend down there is entirely shaved bald so we can compare results.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:22 AM on June 2, 2016

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