Caring for a bald head isn’t as paint-by-numbers as it seems. Sure, a lot of guys will probably be washing their bald dome with bar soap, as if it’s just any other body part—but it’s not. It’s your scalp. Whether it sprouts hair or not, you’re dealing with some finicky skin here, much like your face. It’s prone to stubble, but also to oiliness and dryness—and all the headaches that come with those variables, like acne, shine, and dandruff.
On top of that, your bald head is a bullseye for UV rays on a hot sunny day, and it creates some beautiful blind spots when it comes to shaving and keeping smooth. Given all of these factors, it’s smart to follow a bald head road map until you’ve got the hang of things—including the no-look spherical shave. Here are the main facets of how to care for a bald head.
How to Wash a Bald Head
Should you swap shampoo for bar soap or use a facial cleanser all around? Actually, you’ll want at least two of them, if not all three.
One thing we often forget about haircare—and especially shampoo—is that we’re focusing on scalp health as much as we are on hair. Last we checked, you haven’t lost your scalp. That said, you won’t need to shampoo very often, and when you do, it’ll be with good intention—to mitigate the oily film your scalp still produces. You’ll also want to control flaking, which is often caused by oily buildup as well as extreme dryness.
The solution: Use a dandruff shampoo once weekly, at minimum. The hero ingredients in this shampoo tend to be the usual dandruff foes (zinc pyrithione and ketoconazole) but we also highly advocate for salicylic acid—an ingredient common in skincare, especially toward oily and acne-prone skin. Tempering oil production, unclogging pores, and breaking down dead skin cells (to promote smoothness and even complexion up top), salicylic acid is the bomb—and balm—for your bald scalp. Try: Neutrogena T/Sal Salicylic acid scalp shampoo.
Alternatively, since salicylic acid isn’t antifungal like zinc pyrithione and ketoconazole, it’s more of a preventative measure against flaking. If you’re prone to buildups or need to actually treat flaking, then use a shampoo with one of these two antifungal ingredients—then swap in a salicylic acid cleanser on the between days. You could wash once a week with the antifungal options, then wash your head with a standard facial cleanser (with salicylic acid) every other day. This’ll work effectively to control oil production, as well as prevent dryness, acne, and dandruff. Try these two products: Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with Ketoconaole and La Roche-Posay Effaclar Facial Cleanser with Salicylic Acid.
[Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo with Ketoconaole, $14.84; amazon.com]
[La Roche-Posay Effaclar Facial Cleanser with Salicylic Acid, $14.95; amazon.com]
Finally, if you use a bar soap that’s targeted at facial cleansing (ditto for a body wash) then it’s perfectly fine to use this on top of your head, too. Just be mindful of how oily or dry things get up there. It might suit you to lather head to toe in one fell swoop most days of the week, but you should still keep the anti-dandruff shampoo or oil-controlling cleanser at the ready for once-a-week deployment, at least. Try: Dove Men+Care Body + Face Bar soap, which is inexpensive and clutch for facial and bald-head cleansing. Why break the bank if what you prefer is a pared-down regimen? This synthetic stuff is good and keeps skin hydrated.
[$7.03, 4-pack; amazon.com]
The Best Ways To Shave a Bald Head
Before we begin, here’s your tutorial on shaving bald heads. Now onto an overview of the best options available to you. Regardless of which you choose, remember to pull the skin taut and take it slow—just as you would while shaving your face. And use fresh, sharp blades!
Given that most of us grew up shaving with cartridge blades, the learning curve isn’t going to be too difficult with this one. The main thing you want is a flexible, pivoting head to hug the angles of your own head with aplomb. Try: GilletteLabs Razor with Exfoliating Bar.
If you aren’t already shaving your face with a safety razor, then now isn’t the time to start. You want to have a good understanding of this tool and its weight, as well as its optimal angles before you start running it over the backside of your head. If you’re comfortable with these things from the jump, then it shouldn’t be any more difficult than a cartridge razor. The best thing about safety razors is that they’re less likely to created ingrown hairs and shaving bumps, particularly for coarse and curly hair types. Try: Bevel Safety Razor for Men.
You could also introduce an entirely different tool to the mix—a smartly designed “mower” that glides around your head (with razors underneath). It’ll prevent side-to-side motions so that you don’t get cut, while also carefully switching directions as it goes. It can look a little daunting, but trust that it’s up for the task—provided you properly lubricate the skin. If you have especially coarse or curly hair, however, these aren’t the pick for you. Those hair types should be more mindful of the direction they shave their hair (with the grain) to prevent furling up under the skin. A tool like this will shave every which way with little discerning. Try: HeadBlade MOTO Head Shaver.
Everyone should own an electric razor, regardless of whether or not they use a manual one. Think of how often you want a fast, easy shave. Not to mention, think of how nice it is to get visibly smooth results without any risk of infection, nicks, cuts, bumps, ingrowns, etc. These electric options might require more frequent use, but given how much time they save per shave, you’re already winning. Even if you prefer the razor, keep one charged and ready for the fast tidyings and the weekends away. You’ll get mileage out of it on your face too. Note: the rotary heads navigate the contours of the head (including the chin) with a little more ease than the foil options. Some brands even sell palm-held rotary shavers—for the most ergo-friendly no-look shave imaginable. Try: Philips Norelco Electric Rotary Shaver.
[Price varies; usa.philips.com]
Skincare for Bald Heads
Think of your scalp as an extension of your face. Instead of deploying hair care, you’ve now got even more skincare to practice. But it’s easy.
Cleanser: Again, you need to wash the scalp daily—ideally twice, just as you’d wash your face in the morning and night. Make sure to prevent excess oil and dryness (and in turn, acne and dandruff) with prescriptive shampoos, facial cleansers, or facial bar soaps.
Exfoliant: By exfoliating your bald head regularly, you keep it smooth and prevent clogged pores as well as rough patches. You can make this as simple as washing it with a washcloth daily or using a targeted product (like a salicylic acid cleanser or physical scrub once or twice a week). A salicylic option allows you to combine this step with cleansing, and in turn prevents excess oil buildup and fungal flaking. Try: Shea Moisture Facial Scrub and Cleanser with Salicylic Acid.
Moisturizer: After cleansing (and exfoliating), you’ll need to lather on a moisturizer. The one you use on your face can be used all over your dome. This will prevent signs of “photo aging” on the scalp—like dark sunspots, wrinkles, and fine lines—all by shielding skin from skin-damaging toxins and pollutants. It will also help retain moisture inside the skin and prevent dryness. Use a moisturizer year-round, morning and night. You may have to pick one prescriptive to your scalp-type too (oilier scalps should opt for a lighter, oil-free moisturizer). The season or time of day might influence the product you use as well. Go with something light at the height of summer or during the day, and a denser product at bedtime, during winter, or even after a shave. Try: Kiehl’s Oil Eliminating Anti-Shine Moisturizer; or Ursa Major Soothing and Hydrating Face Balm.
SPF: Whenever you go outside, wear SPF—even on cloudy days or when indoors by the window—because your scalp is much more likely to get burned than the rest of you. Keep it shielded with SPF30+, reapplied every two hours when directly out in the sun. If you’re sweating or swimming, then wear a water-resistant option with protection up to 80 minutes (reapplied at that interval). Ideally you can choose a zinc-powered physical sunscreen (versus a chemical one), but having some sort of coverage is what’s most imperative. Finally, make sure it’s coming from a product that’s advertised as face-friendly. Some SPFs are engineered just for the body and will otherwise clog the pores on your face and head. Try: COOLA mineral face sunscreen SPF 30; or DRMTLGY Mineral Facial Moisturizer with SPF 45.
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