Shaving your head, no matter your reason for doing so – a change in style, charity fundraiser, or tipsy-and-regrettable night – is a major decision. And while typically more men tend to do this at any age, there’s a growing number of women who undertake the challenge too. Despite this, there’s surprisingly little guidance for what having a shaved head (and the consequential buzzcuts for weeks) is like for a woman. This post, listing 10 different lessons I’ve learnt, is about my personal bald experience. Each experience is different, and some of these depend very much on who you are as a person, so take each point with a pinch of salt.
Last October, my friends shaved off all of my hair as part of a fundraising event. The funds raised went to Amnesty International, and my hair went to the Little Princess Trust: an non-profit that makes wigs for young girls out of donated hair. Full disclosure: Little Princess Trust does not require you to shave all your hair off, it just requires cuts of hair of more than 12″/30cm. But since the event was a fundraiser, all thirty odd volunteers who participated got their heads shaved down to nothing.
I mean it: nothing.
The first photo above was taken probably a month before the headshaving happened, and you can roughly see how long my hair was then. It’s a pretty bog standard length for teenage girls. Suddenly, in the space of 24 hours, I went from ordinary girl to cranium spectaculaire. It was pretty weird.
The first thing I learnt that quite literally nobody ever mentions was this:
When you have your hair shorn down to that length, you don’t actually lose your hairs, like you would if you were a balding man. Instead, you’re left with super short hairs. These create huge amounts of friction, which makes sense when you say it out loud but nobody ever thinks of it. T-shirts get stuck when you’re pulling them on and off. You have to put on beanies by stretching them around your head instead of sliding them on (and as you’ll see below, beanies become your new best friend). Infuriatingly, you can’t even move your head normally on a pillow. The friction can be so bad that it stops you from adjusting your head without physically lifting it and placing it back down in the correct spot.
This becomes tedious pretty quickly.But fortunately within a few weeks you’ll grow out of this stage. In the meantime, you can enjoy your newfound position as Guardian of the Ultimate Secret:
(2) You don’t need to use shampoo anymore.
Yes, that’s right. The answer to the question “do bald people use shampoo or shower gel on their hair” is finally at your fingertips. While you can still use shampoo, it’s no
different to shower gel, and you can basically just save time and money by using shower gel. Plus, because of your incredibly short hair and high friction levels, shampoos and shower gels both lather extremely well. It’s very satisfying, trust me.
Continuing with the theme of showers:
(3) Getting ready takes no time now.
People with short hair have fantastic mornings compared to our longer haired comrades. Showering takes less time since there’s nothing to shampoo. When you’re done, you don’t have to spend 20 minutes toweling your hair and blowdrying it – instead, you pat it twice with a towel and hey presto! you’re ready to go. No need for styling: there’s nothing much you can do at first, except put on a hat. Which is important because::
(4) Having no hair is bloody freezing.
Granted, I shaved mine just before winter hit in. And I’m swiss. So, as long as you live in a warmer climate or you shave just before summer, you won’t have to worry about this.
If you do decide to go down my route, you’ll get to wear a lot of beanies, which really isn’t so bad because they’re actually super nice. Depending on your length of hair and the sensitivity of you skin, you may get an itchy scalp from it, but at least you’ll look cool.But get used to having to take off the hat everytime somebody who hasn’t felt up your cranium in the last 48 hours remembers your lack of hair:
(5) People love to touch scalps.
It’s fucking terrifying, the human obsession with skin. But at the same time, it’s oddly comforting. And, as your hair gets longer, people will still ruffle it and pet you. This point is the one that those with shaved heads will argue over the most: some love having their heads repeatedly touched by almost strangers, others less so. It’s a bit like how people love to touch pregnant ladies’ baby bumps: you’ve done something different and interesting, and now it becomes – in their mind – the right of society to physically touch it as much as possible.
(6) Running with no hair feels incredible.
No joke, it was one of the highlights. It’s a completely new sensation, and as a semi-adult it’s becoming increasingly rare for me to physically experience something for the first time again. Having the wind roll over your scalp is confusing at first, but incredibly cooling and refreshing. You feel streamlined. Sprinting with your head down is now one of your favourite activities. This wears off quickly though (within a month for me), as your hair does grow back, so make the most of it while you can.
And now, as promised, the more female specific poinnt (these may apply to certain men too and may not apply to all women, but broadly speaking are the things that I and other female volunteers found that our male counterparts did not).
(7) It can be emotionally difficult to adjust to.
Men also have a hard time when they lose their hair – you only have to look towards the millions of cases of balding-induced depression for proof of that. Not many women have ever had short hair, so the sudden change into the unknown is jarring.You know it’ll grow back, but you also know you won’t look the same as you did for years.
It’s now been 8 months since my head was shaved, and the men who did so at the same time as me all have their old haircuts back by now; many have even had trims in the meantime. I’m still ages away. By my current estimations, it’ll be another 1 and a half years before I get close to what my preferred hairlength at the time was – 2 half years to get back to what it was pre-shaving. That means that it will have taken me just under 3 years to achieve what the guys did in half a year, not taking into account trimming. Bear in mind that I have faster growing hair than a lot of women.
I wasn’t naïve when my hair was being cut: I knew it would take a while to grow back. But the remained that, if I didn’t like what my hair looked like at any length shorter than what had been my standard length for about 14 years, I would have to deal with disliking my looks for a far greater time than the guys. And although I, and most others, learned to like our shorter hair, this does mean that when you get the inevitable feeling of regret in the days after shaving, it hurts a helluva lot more.
You get over it, but it hurts.
(8) Your gender is questioned constantly, especially in public lavatories.
I’ve always been a bit more tomboyish than most, and if I’m honest a bit more of a sloppy dresser. So my go-to look was a unisex hoodie, straight cut jeans, trainers, and no make up or jewellery except a few friendship bracelets or maybe a necklace tucked under said hoodie. Still, it was pretty obvious that I was female-identifying. Until my hair was cut though, I never realised how much of that supposed obvious femininity was linked to me having long hair.
Walking into public bathrooms for the first 6 months was genuinely awful for me. The combination of the unisex clothes and the constant beanie meant that on first glance it was impossible to tell my gender or sex. The latter is the more legally important one here, and also being more obvious at a second glance based off of my figure. I’d never felt so unwelcome before. It wasn’t everyone; to be fair, most people barely questioned it because they correctly assumed I was a girl, and if they’d had any doubts they shrugged them off because a) it had literally no impact on their lives and b) they assumed I was intelligent enough to know which bathroom was which.
Mothers, however, are pure evil. I say this with utmost love, as like many people I indeed have one myself. But 99% of people who stared me down in the bathrooms were young mothers with small children. Many of them quite literally went out of their way to avoid me, taking a wide, arcing detour around me to be able to keep the most distance between their child and this “predator” of a teen. Because obviously I was doing predatory things in these bathrooms, such as… washing my hands? Using the hand-dryer?
I also had huge numbers of people refer to me as “lad” and “boy” when they wanted me to do something and hadn’t bothered to look at me for more than a split second, but that was more excusable since there was no change in attitude caused by their misgendering. Also get ready to deal with a lot of relations making jokes about how you look like a boy now. If I have to hear one more time a godparent refer to me as “the third brother”….
(9) Your gender expression may change.
This is linked to the previous point. My gender identity has not changed whatsoever throughout this whole experience. I still identify as a cisgendered woman, meaning that my gender identity (ie: male or female, the latter for me) matches my biological sex (your privates and hormone balance). However, the way I expressed my femininity changed massively.
I personally put this down to myself being incredibly uncomfortable with people misgendering me. I wanted people to refer to me correctly; I wanted to be seen for who I was. I started experimenting slightly more with gentle makeup. My dresses became more elaborate and effeminate in style, with floral patterns slowly making their way into my warddrobe. I started shaving my legs. I wear more figurehugging shirts, and my neckline is lowered so that my curves are more obvious. It sounds crazy and rather vain to spell out all the minor changes I’ve made to my warddrobe, but the weirder part is that I didn’t even realise I was doing it. It was only once my parents pointed it out that the full extent of it became clear.
(10) You’ll have no idea what to do with your hair at first; but that’s okay.
Since it’s new territory, maintaining some kind of style through your hair and indeed your clothing can be quite daunting. Some clothes look better with short hair than others: your warddrobe will undoubtedly change. The good news is that nowadays more celebrities are cutting their hair short, especially certain female actors. Female actors who have professional stylists. You can use these to work out what way you want to rock your buzzcut.
Changing your hair so drastically means that you’ll inevitably change your life, and the way you live it, equally drastically. It can be cathartic, inspiring, and calming at times; you feel like a new chapter in your life has started and that you’re allowed to change as much as you want to accommodate this. Make sure that you’re cutting your hair for the right reasons, but don’t worry too much about it. It’ll grow back, and no matter what you’ll have experienced something new and different in your life that few others have, and for no extra price or time. It can be too easy to get stuck in a routine. Take the plunge. Be different just to feel the difference. You never know what you could find.
Plus you’ll find out if you have an attractive cranium. And really, who wouldn’t want to know that?