The Byrdie Boy Guide to Caring for a Bald Head
For many guys, going completely bald, whether by choice or as a result of hair loss, can be liberating. No need to worry about bad hair days, bed head, using too much (or too little) of a styling product, burning your scalp with the hair dryer, ending up with helmet head after cycling…you get the picture. Bald heads are badass, super stylish, have tons of character, and are considerably low-maintenance. But that doesn’t mean you can just buzz and go without tending to your scalp afterward (and, while we’re at it, beforehand as well). Scalp skin deserves the same attention as the skin on our face, which means properly tending to your scalp before you shave off all your hair, and adopting a post-shave skincare regimen for your newly liberated head.
The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of work, money, or effort. To help us get the facts straight and offer tips on keeping bald heads in top shape, we hit up board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, top New York City barber and men’s grooming expert Jason Biggs of Babe of Brooklyn, and celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons. From pre-shave basics to must-have products, we’ll help you craft the ultimate daily regimen for bald-headed boldness.
To Bald or Not to Bald?
For some guys, going bald is a matter of choice. But seeing as how over two thirds of men experience some degree of hair loss before the age of 35, others choose the bald look as a more practical way of embracing the inevitable. Garshick explains that male pattern hair loss stems from certain hormones, namely dihydrotestosterone, that can cause the hairs to change into smaller hair follicles, in a process known as miniaturization (aka the follicles shrink). And while a growing number of men opt for treatments such as strengthening shampoos, minoxidil lotion, and oral medications to either slow down the process or stimulate the regrowth of hair, the number of bald heads out there today is a clear indication that just as many men are happy going hairless altogether.
Before You Go Bald
Biggs says the first thing to keep in mind before joining the bald heads club is maintenance: “While shaving your head bald is clean and crisp, it does require more upkeep to maintain the look.” While this mostly comes down to moisturizer and SPF, it’s still an extra step in your routine. Also, you may want to consider if your hair type lends itself well to a bald look. “Men of color, particularly African Americans, experience ingrown hairs due to the hair being cut down to the skin,” says Biggs. “When curly/coarse hair grows back, it sometimes grows back into the skin, causing bumps, irritation and infection.” So, if you think any of the above applies to you, it’s best to consult with your barber first.
Tip 1: Before you even think about taking a razor to your head, Fitzsimons recommends trimming your hair as short as possible with clippers. This is to ensure the razor stays close to the skin for a more even cut. Biggs also advises placing a hot towel on your head to open the pores and soften up the hairs. Lastly, apply a pre-shave oil to provide an extra layer of lubrication and protection to your skin.
Tip 2: When it comes to choosing a razor, Biggs says to keep in mind that the less curly your hair is, the more blades you can use when shaving. For example, if you’ve got straighter hair, a standard three-blade disposable razor should be sufficient to get the job done. But for those with coarse, curly hair, as well as sensitive skin, Biggs recommends a single blade razor: “This prevents extra irritation by just using a single stroke and not cutting the hairs too close.” To avoid nicks and cuts, Fitzsimons recommends using a new razor every time you shave your head.
Tip 3: Don’t forget shaving cream! Fitzsimons was adamant about this step. “You need to soften the hair and provide a surface with appropriate slip so you can achieve a close shave,” he says. He also recommends rinsing the blade after every stroke to get rid of excess shaving cream and hair. Oh, and mirrors. “You’ll want to have plenty of mirrors available. Maybe consider getting a hand held mirror as well, to ensure you haven’t missed any spots,” he says.
After You Go Bald
First, take a look in your multiple mirrors and congratulate yourself on making the cut. Welcome to the bald heads club! Now it’s time to add a few easy steps to your daily routine to keep your new look on point. And one of the first things you’ll notice is that the exposed scalp can appear quite shiny. This, Garshick assures us, is completely normal. “Once the skin on the scalp is more exposed, it can appear more shiny, as it is an area that may not have seen the same degree of sun exposure and external stressors on the body,” she says. In other words, your scalp hasn’t seen the same degree of sun damage, pollution, and environmental insults as the rest of your skin, and your goal now is to keep it that way.
Tip 1: Each time you shave your head, it’s important to follow with proper post-shave care immediately afterward. Biggs recommends refreshing skin with a cold towel and applying a soothing moisturizer or jojoba oil to calm and condition your freshly shaven scalp. If you’re a first-timer or prone to irritation, a healthy dollop of aloe vera gel also works wonders to soothe and prevent irritation or razor burn and promote overall skin health.
Tip 2: As far as ongoing maintenance is concerned, Fitzsimons suggests treating your scalp like your skin. “After all, your scalp is skin! That means you’ll want to bring elements of your facial skincare routine upwards,” he says. At the very least, this means washing with a dab of shampoo, as dirt and oils can still build up on a bald head, and using a daily moisturizer to maintain healthy, hydrated skin.
Tip 3: Always finish with SPF. This should be a given. “You probably never appreciated how much your hair protected your scalp from the sun…until it’s gone!” Fitzsimons says. And while a scalp sunburn is plenty unpleasant on its own, constantly exposing your bald head to skin-damaging UVA and UVB rays can lead to the same signs of aging as the face, including hyperpigmentation, irritation, and loss of firmness. Since dousing your head in SPF may not be instinctive at the beginning, it’s worth leaving a Post-it attached to your bathroom mirror, because we’re not kidding about how important this is.
Tip 4: Treat yourself! Next time you pamper the face on your skin with a mask, take it up a few inches and give your scalp a well-deserved dose of invigoration as well. Regular massaging, especially with a scalp scrub, will keep your scalp skin toned and exfoliated for a healthy glow. It also feels great.