What to Expect When Shaving Your Head

So, about three months ago, I’m in the shower and I’m washing my hair. I’d gotten it dyed red and pink about two weeks before the country realized just how badly we’d all been lied to about the coronavirus and everything had started systematically shutting down. I was working from home. The only people getting to see my hair was myself and my husband, and he doesn’t even like dyed hair (“I’m glad you like it!” he says when I ask). I didn’t wash my hair every day to try to protect the color, but I had a thought. Who cares if the pink gets faded, I’m not going anywhere. And then another thought. 

Who cares if I even have hair?

Dear God, I was giddy. I have always wanted to shave my head just to see what it looks like and watch it grow out. I can’t go outside for fear of catching a lower respiratory virus because I already have misbehaving lungs and regular respiratory viruses already try to murder, but I can finally shave my fucking head, damn it! Now, I wasn’t about to rush headlong into the idea. I thought about it for a few days. And I tried to do a little research on how, exactly, to shave my head and what to expect after. I did find good articles on the first part. For the second part, I mostly found beauty bloggers calling me ‘babe’ and telling me how empowered they felt when they shaved their head. Which, I mean, all the power to them, but that wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

So, here’s some of the things I was looking for, in case anyone else out there is looking for some practical tips and experience.

It’s not going to look as good as you hoped, but it won’t look as bad as you feared, either. Your mileage may vary, but that was my thought once we were done and I had nothing but peach fuzz on my skull. In my head, there were two versions of me. One where I looked like some super chic model wandering around LA in my jumpsuit and those shoes everyone loves, and one where I looked like a fascist bridge troll. I came out somewhere in the middle. It’s still just me, but with almost no hair.

Your head doesn’t look as lumpy as it feels. Always my biggest fear when thinking about doing it. My head feels particularly lumpy around the sides, and I was afraid my hair was merely masking my true elephant-man nature. Also, if you think your head feels ‘particularly’ lumpy, ask yourselves how many other heads you’ve actually touched.

Your entire scalp is going to ache for a day or two. You know how you can train your hair to go in a particular direction? If you don’t, try moving your part a few inches in either direction. For a few days you get a natural pop because your hair is still trying to point in the original direction, but then it will learn to go in the other direction and settle down. Well, once you’ve shaved your head you’ve removed all the weight. Now, all your follicles are learning a new direction at the same time – up. It’s an achy, weird feeling that can make you regret it, but don’t worry! It does go away.

You’re going to want to rub your head a lot. I particularly like to run my fingers through the hairs at the back of my head, but the front to back once over is a classic. There were also a lot of times I’d go to twist my hair or put it up in a ponytail, only to remember it was all gone when I couldn’t find anything.

You’ll feel the wind in your hair every time. Not a good or a bad thing, but for a while you will notice it every time you’re outside.

It will be weeks before you are used to your reflection. It’s been almost three months since I’ve shaved my head and there are still times I walk into the bathroom and am…well, I’m not shocked anymore. But there’s still this mild surprise. There’s this image of yourself that you carry with you, and every time you look in a mirror you’re enforcing that image. Whenever I dyed my hair I would always surprise myself with the color, but that only lasted a few days. I think because the change wasn’t so drastic. I still had the hair, it was just different. Now it’s gone, and I’m still subconsciously imaging all that hair there and being surprised to find out that it isn’t.

Shampoo and conditioner get in your eyes a lot easier. With long hair it would all follow the strand down to your shoulders or back or whatever and drip off there. Now, it’s all dripping off directly above your eyes. For the first few days I was constantly blinding myself. Tilt your head more.

You’re about to learn just how fast your hair grows. It’s hard to tell when you’ve got longer hair, but short hair has no secrets. I’ve always thought my hair grew fast, but now I have proof. It hasn’t been two months and already my hair is long enough to shape.

I have no idea how to style this. This is just me. I’m not saying, like, you think you know how to style short hair but you don’t! I’m saying, I don’t know what I’m doing. I wanted to shave my head and I did it. I don’t have a plan. Hell, I’m still afraid to go back to the salon. But it’s just hair. It’ll keep growing and eventually I’ll be able to have someone cut an actual style into it.

Watch some of those beauty bloggers. They weren’t talking about what I was looking for, but that doesn’t mean their points don’t have merit. Shaving your head for the first time requires confidence. Or, maybe, just not giving a fuck. You might shave your head and hate it, and you have to have the confidence to take that risk, and then the confidence to wear out hair you don’t like until it grows. But, hey, if you’re already researching cutting off all your hair, you probably already have all the confidence (or not-giving-a-fuck) you need!

Life is too short to give a shit what Pauline from accounting thinks about you.

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