You’re stuck between a rock and a bald place. That hair on your head, once so full, is thinning in front of your very eyes. Your bathroom mirror doesn’t lie, and when you feel the top of your head, you feel skin. Your hairline, meanwhile, is a tide rolling away from the beach, never to return.
At this point you have options. If your hair still has good vitals, you can let it ride for awhile. Maybe you’ll opt for a hair loss treatment. Maybe you’ll try some trickery, like an old-fashioned combover (please don’t; suddenly combing your hair sideways is a tactic that’s, well, we all know someone who’s done it and done it badly).
Or, maybe you’ll shave your head. Not just shave it, mind you, but shave it clean. Lots of men do it and, truthfully, the results are positive. Pair your clean-shaven head with a great-looking beard and now you’ve got something. But the big question is – when? When – or if – should I shave my head? Let’s start at the beginning.
- I’m losing my hair, should I shave my head?
- The 7 pros of shaving your head
- How do I know if shaving my head is right for me?
- Pairing your shaved head with facial hair
- OK, I’m in. How do I shave my head?
- I’m not ready yet. What about hair loss treatments?
- Why am I losing my hair in the first place?
1. I’m Losing My Hair, Should I Shave My Head?
Step one, don’t panic. Yes, hair loss is nature’s cruel joke on men, but you’re certainly not alone given that seven out of 10 men will experience some hair loss in their lives.
You can work with what you have for some time, but you very well could be heading to a point where shaving your head is the best option for everyone involved – you, your beard (remember, it’s about the overall look), and your significant other.
That said, let the Norwood Scale be your guide.
What is the Norwood Scale?
Officially known as the Norwood Hamilton Scale, it’s a way to measure the extent of male pattern baldness. It originated with Dr. James Hamilton in 1950s, and later updated by Dr. O’Tar Norwood. It’s considered to be the gold standard when describing overall hair loss. It works something like this:
The higher the number, the bigger the issue
The Norwood Scale assigns a numerical rating to stages of baldness. For example, Norwood Hair Loss Type 2 describes a small amount of loss, and you may never face the decision of whether to shave your head or not. If you’re at level 1, then – congratulations – that’s a nice head of hair there, my friend, and any hair loss you experience is more than likely just the natural aging process.
A Norwood 3 is small to moderate hair loss, and you can still look good with hair, but some parts of it definitely look better than others. It’s not a bad idea, at this point, to see a doctor determine if your hair loss is actually male pattern baldness.
But once you get beyond Norwood 3 … then it’s serious business. At level 5, even hair loss treatments become a bit pointless. Shaving your head may, and perhaps even should, loom in your future.
2. The 7 Pros of Shaving Your Head
It’s not fun losing your hair. Nope. The ravages of it are there for all eyes to see, and depending on your ego; it can take a slow, steady toll on your psyche.
But here’s the deal: as men, we’re lucky to live in an era when being bald can be a good thing. A very good thing, at that. Think of some famous bald men – Bruce Willis, Patrick Stewart, Michael Jordan, Van Diesel. Society embraces their baldness. In fact, look at pictures of Bruce Willis with hair. Your reaction might be something like, “Wait. What? He looked like that?!”
The bottom line is that for many men the bald look is really the only way to go. It’s a look that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it can make you look sexier, manlier, and even more powerful.
There are many positive reasons for shaving your head, although they don’t necessarily apply to one man as they might for another. The pros of it, however, are many and include:
1. Hides Male Pattern Baldness
More on male pattern baldness later, but suffice to say, it’s the biggest reason behind your hair loss. Shaving your head eliminates the need to over-compensate for your MPB – including the dreaded combover or hair loss treatments.
2. No More Primping
All that time you’ve spent in front of your bathroom mirror, trying to make the best of what you have left. Forget about it. Shaving your head eliminates one time-sucking part of your morning routine.
3. It Makes You Look Younger
A lot of men, especially older men, suddenly look younger once they’ve shaved their head. A head of hair that’s hanging on for dear life, on the other hand, can definitely make you look your age, and beyond.
4. Goodbye Bad Hair Days
We’ve all had our share of bad haircuts and days when our hair seems to have a practical-joking mind of its own. Shave your head and say sayonara to those types of nuisances.
5. It’s Comfortable
If you’re active or live in warmer climates, a clean dome is probably going to feel better than a full head of hair. Even if you don’t live in a warmer climate, it’s going to feel better in the summer. And if it’s cold, you can always rock a great-looking hat.
6. No More Washing & Styling
This ties into item #2 above – if you don’t have it, there’s no need to worry about its daily upkeep. Shampooing, combing, brushing, and styling your hair has been a part of your daily existence since, well, forever. Washing and drying a shaved scalp, on the other hand, is exponentially easier.
You’ll probably be surprised at how much time you save once you’ve shaved your head.
7. You’ll Appear More Confident
There’s a certain amount of insecurity that comes with losing your hair. You may feel like your youthful manliness and virility are being challenged.
On the other hand, when you accept your hair loss for what it is without going into a dark place mentally for weeks or months, shaving your head can be very liberating. And it exudes confidence. It demonstrates that you’re self-assured and embraced what nature gave you. It’s the same with facial hair – it’s to be worn with confidence.
3. How Do I Know If Shaving My Head Is Right For Me?
Chances are, you’ll like your look after you gone clean on top. But nature does like to mess with us, and you may have a head that’s a bit lumpier, or misshapen, than others.
Check with your barber and ask them what they think. They know the shape of your head and hopefully can give you some helpful guidance. Otherwise, you might just have to shave it down and see.
4. Pairing Your Shaved Head With Facial Hair
OK, let’s assume you’ve taken the plunge and shaved your head clean. It’s not a bad look at all, even a damn good look, and hopefully better than the rapidly-receding look that was causing you so much angst.
By itself, a bald head can be a bit on the bland side, however. So add some character and grow some facial hair, if you already haven’t.
Of course, there are many options when it comes to pairing facial hair with baldness: there’s the mustache, the goatee, the stubble, and the full beard. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but it’s hard to argue that a full beard isn’t the perfect complement to a bald head.
It works with any face, any head, etc. You don’t even need to shave your head, to be honest. Even a receding hairline or Norwood Danger Zone hair pops with a beard as its partner in crime. Moreover, a great-looking beard will draw attention away from your balding head.
5. OK, I’m In. How Do I Shave My Head?
The best time to shave your head is after a hot shower when your hair is softer. If it’s your first time, towel-dry your hair until it’s damp, and then use a pair of clippers to trim it down until it’s stubble. Your best bet is to use the No. 1 or 2 settings on your clippers.
Next, apply shave cream or shave oil to the area and let it set a few minutes to further soften hair follicles. A caution: menthol-based gels will dry out skin and close pores.
Gentlemen, Start Your Razors
Use a clean, sharp razor with at least three blades – or better yet, the HeadBlade. Be sure to rinse it often during the process.
Begin by shaving with the grain of your hair, but be gentle and use slow, even strokes. You may get a closer shave by going against the grain, but you also risk irritation and in-grown hairs. Save the thicker, coarser areas of your head for last so that your shave cream has additional time to soften it.
The back of your head is one of those areas, so tilt your head in a way so the skin back there is taut when it’s time to shave there.
If you miss some hairs on the back of your head by shaving with the grain, try shaving from side to side.
Now That You’re Done
When you’re finished shaving, splash cool water on your head to close the pores, then pat your head dry with a towel. Apply some aftershave balm – alcohol-free if you have sensitive skin – and moisturize your skin daily.
Using clippers instead of a razor has its advantages, including avoiding irritation and in-grown hairs altogether. It’s also faster (no need to prep with shave cream and gels), and it leaves a stubble that’s attractive in its own right.
A pair of balding clippers is made to order for this task because of the way the cut close to the scalp. It is worth noting that balding clippers can have much sharper blades than an ordinary pair of clippers, so don’t be an animal when it comes to shaving your head.
When you’re finished, run your hand all over your scalp to check for missed spots.
6. I’m Not Ready Yet. What about hair loss treatments?
The market is flooded with hair loss treatments, some of them a bit on the snake oil side, while many are legit. If you’re still in the early stages of hair loss, then hair loss treatments and hair loss prevention shampoos are worth considering.
But most experts suggest that the sooner you start treatments as you creep up the Norwood Scale, the more effective they’ll be.
Just keep in mind that there is no “cure” for hair loss. Let’s take a brief look at what are considered the best hair loss treatments available:
Most commonly known as Propecia, finasteride suppresses dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that shrinks hair follicles (more on DHT later). It can slow down and halt hair loss, and even grow some of your hair back.
Just a quick note: Propecia has the blazingly bad reputation of causing male organ issues such as erectile dysfunction, but they’re issues that have affected a very small percentage of men. If you are one of those affected by it, there are ways to alleviate adverse effects.
You’ve heard of this one by its other name – Rogaine – and like Propecia, it’s an FDA-approved hair loss treatment. Minoxidil started out as a drug used to treat high blood pressure, but one of its side effects was hair growth on the head and body. Hence, a hair loss treatment was born.
Minoxidil’s secret sauce is that it stimulates hair follicles to grow by widening blood vessels and allowing more oxygen, nutrients and blood to reach the follicles. Unlike finasteride, it doesn’t prevent DHT from shrinking hair follicles.
Nizoral is an antifungal shampoo that was originally marketed as an anti-dandruff, anti-fungal shampoo. Over time, studies showed that Nizoral’s active ingredient, ketoconazole, can slow and even halt hair loss in men. It’s not considered to be as powerful as finasteride or minoxidil, however.
It’s important to remember that there are no guarantees no matter what hair loss treatment you select, and there can be side effects. Minoxidil is considered by some to be a temporary fix because it doesn’t deal directly with the hormonal aspect of hair loss. We’ve already talked about finasteride, and it’s possible – albeit slim – chance of causing erectile dysfunction.
7. Why am I losing my hair in the first place?
Let’s go back to the drawing board for a second. We’ve already touched on the idea that all men experience some sort of hair loss, and that hair loss can be measured (Norwood Scale). But the actual “why” of hair loss isn’t a cut-and-dried answer that simply comes down to, “I’m getting old; therefore it’s falling out.”
Here’s a look at some of the factors that determine why your hair is receding at a faster rate than the next guy.
Male Pattern Baldness
All serious hair loss can typically be filed under the category known as male pattern baldness. MPB’s scientific name is androgenetic alopecia, and it’s serious business. The general consensus is that MPB comes down to the following factors:
Many doctors argue that MPB is all about genetics. In other words, if your father lost his hair, then there’s a good chance you will, too. The hair follicles on your scalp have a DNA blueprint from your parents.
Men who have thinning hair inherit hair follicles that are over-sensitive to dihydrotestosterone. When testosterone is converted to DHT, it shrinks hair follicles. Hair then becomes thinner and finer until it stops growing altogether.
As we get older, our hair growth slows down. Nothing too complicated here.
No matter why you’re losing your hair, and whatever treatment you select to slow or improve the process, your best bet may be just to shave your head. If your head has a nice shape, why wait? Bald is beautiful. Bald is bold. Like a beard, your baldness may even change your life in ways you never expected.
How do you feel about shaving your head?