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Shaving Your Head: Some Tips for First-Timers

Shaving is a skill developed over time, one that dedicated baldies have honed through years of trial and error to find what works best for them. However, for the first-time head shaver, a few easy instructions will ensure a flawless shave.

For some, shaving their heads bald is a scenario they've imagined many times before ever putting a razor to their scalps. Others shave their heads for the first time on the spur of the moment. My first head shave was a combination of the two. I had some prior knowledge of head shaving technique, but I had to essentially work it out on my own. It would have been excellent to have a good beginner's guide to shaving your head. In that vein, here's a rather extensive rundown of the fundamentals from someone who has been bald for 17 years by choice.

Take care.

One of the most common mistakes individuals make while shaving their heads for the first time is forgetting how sensitive a previously unshaved scalp is.

It's understandable that you want your head to be absolutely smooth right away. I'm sure I did the first time around. You want to be bald because it indicates smooth. However, an untrained head shaver may repeatedly shave the same places from different angles, pressing too hard on the scalp, and continuing long after the shaving cream has ceased providing lubrication and has become sticky. The next day, your gorgeous bald head may be marred by nicks, discomfort, and ingrown hairs. This isn't good.

Cleanse your scalp and use a rich lather.

The first thing to consider is a clean scalp that is devoid of debris, oil, and other impurities. I'm assuming you've clipped your hair to the scalp and are now covered in hair clippings if you're shaving your head for the first time and don't have a friend who knows how to use a straight razor. Wash your head with soap and water before continuing. Take a shower, if possible. If this isn't possible in your situation, at the very least wipe your head with a warm washcloth.

The next thing on your mind is proper lubrication. There are several good products on the market, some of them are specifically designed for shaving your head. There are some commercial shaving creams that are superior to others. If you're going to use canned shaving cream, I recommend getting a hydrating shaving gel designed for delicate skin. Aveeno shave gel with colloidal oatmeal is one of my favourites.

Shaving cream from a can should still be applied using a brush. Apply a good amount of gel to your head, wet your brush, and use a hard circular motion to push the shaving cream into your scalp, similar to how you would brush your teeth. Work your way around your head, sometimes dampening the brush. Make sure you're not in a rush. Lathering up is a necessary procedure that can often be enjoyable.

I haven't used shaving cream in a long time. I found that decent bar soap (natural handmade soap, not Irish Spring or Zest) works well. Some hand lotions, as well as sugar scrubs produced with natural oils, are enjoyable. I prefer to use a sugar scrub, which exfoliates and leaves a little oil coating that I just lather on top of. In a later piece, I'll go through scrubs in greater depth.

Make use of an excellent razor.

Get a razor with a brand new blade now that you've lathered up. On virgin scalp, always use a new blade. That is something I cannot emphasise enough. You'll be experiencing your first bald head, so don't make it uncomfortable, itchy, or reddish.

I've tried almost every popular razor, and the Gillette Mach 3 is, in my opinion, the finest for shaving your head. There are less expensive razors, more expensive razors, and razors designed expressly for shaving your head, but the Mach 3 is the greatest head shaving razor available. Its design allows suds and hair to run right through, requiring less washing and making it almost clog-proof unless the hair you're shaving is longer than an eighth of an inch. It also appears to provide the most comfortable head shaves per blade of any razor I've tried. When the indicator strip on a blade has not only changed colour, but is almost totally worn away in the centre, it can last me two or three weeks and still give me an excellent shave. But I've been shaving my head for about 20 years. I'd recommend changing razor blades much more frequently for a novice. Replace the blade if the razor pulls, drags, or feels uncomfortable on your scalp. You'll figure out what works for you as your scalp becomes harder and you gain more shaving experience.

Hair growth is directed in one direction.

Shaving with the grain vs. against the grain is a contentious topic. You must shave against the grain if you want a smooth head. But, at least at first, I don't recommend shaving the back of your neck against the grain. Anything above the ears is normally acceptable, but an excessive first shave might wreak havoc on your neck. 

A simple front-to-back shaving motion is what I propose for a first-time shaver. Shave in smooth strokes from the top of your head to the back of your neck, avoiding going over the same region more than a couple of times. You'll get a lovely smooth top and sides. If you stroke upward with your hand, the back will feel rough, but it will still feel smooth in the opposite direction. After a week or two of doing it this way, consider angling your strokes slightly across the grain. Your scalp will become accustomed to the shaving after a while, and you will be able to shave against the grain in the back.

If your head becomes dry or sticky during shaving, use extra foam, or at the very least moisten it a little, to keep the razor moving smoothly. It's also a good time to wet a couple of fingers and massage them about your head in small circles. You'll be able to feel any areas that you didn't get smooth, and you'll be able to tell which way the hair is growing. There will be times when you need to shave in multiple directions. The crown of your head is particularly delicate, but you should also be cautious along the hairline, behind the ears, and where the sides meet the top of your head. Feel free to shave while doing so. It will simplify the task and prevent your lather from drying out. You could want to try shaving your head in the shower for the benefit of neatness and moisture retention.

Maintenance and upkeep

When it comes to care for your shaved head, I'm not a fan of creams or lotions, but you'll want to avoid getting a dry scalp. Because your bald scalp continues to create oil for a head of hair that isn't there, an oily scalp is more likely to be a problem. All you need is an occasional wipe with a washcloth or a cleansing pad in addition to your usual shower.

It is important to consider the time of day. Shaving your head in the morning is perhaps the most convenient time, but it comes at a cost. When you sleep horizontally, your scalp swells somewhat and then shrinks when you wake up. That means that your smooth morning head shave won't last long. If you get up for a few minutes before shaving, the swelling will subside and you'll be able to obtain a closer shave. Shaving in the evening is ideal because you get a close shave and it feels nice to go to bed with a freshly shaved head. However, a daily shave should not be done in the evening because it will not be fresh for the next day.

However, if you're heading out in the evening, it's occasionally a good idea to shave again to freshen up your head and get rid of that five o'clock shadow.

It's entirely up to you how often you shave your head. I prefer to shave my head every day because I'm so used to being bald that I don't feel clean if I have any stubble up there. Because their scalp becomes sensitive, some people go for a few days. I used to, but I've found that daily head shaving maintains the scalp better over time and keeps it cleaner, which helps to prevent breakouts. I've noticed that skipping days increases my chances of skin irritation, razor burn, and acne.

Give it a shot for a bit.

Another decisive factor for me is that I consider myself as a bald man, and I want to be perceived as such. Occasionally stubble, in my opinion, detracts from my baldness. It serves as a reminder that there is still the possibility of hair growth.

Finally, if you ask ten different head shavers for advise, you'll get ten different answers. Shaving your head is a very personal choice, and if you're serious about keeping your hair bald, you'll have to experiment a lot to figure out what works best for you. But I hope I've provided you with a starting point.

And, to get away from the mechanics and bolts of going bald by choice for a moment, there is a psychological and emotional component that should not be overlooked. That first shave and realisation that you are truly bald is an emotional high, but it can also be accompanied by feelings of uncertainty or regret, as well as a great deal of self-consciousness. You may be alright, but you may also feel as if everyone is looking at you. They aren't, for the most part, and that feeling will fade with time. If you decide to shave your head, make a commitment to do so for at least a month. By then, you'll be acclimated to your baldness, your scalp will be used to shaving, and your pale, never-shaved skin tone will have evened out to match your face. And, despite the temptation, do not cover your head with hats unless you require sun protection (and you will). Wearing hats all the time will trap debris and oil around the acne-prone areas of your scalp. And, moreover, what good is being bald if no one can see your bald head?