“Every woman should shave her head once in her life, to experience what it feels like.” Bai Ling
Should I shave my head?
Depending on your culture and upbringing, a shaved head can mean many things. While it is generally acceptable in most cultures for men to have no hair, baldness has many different connotations for women across the globe. In Eastern societies, Buddhist nuns shave their heads as a sign of devotion, and to rid themselves of any attachments to vanity or sexuality. In the Southeastern town of Tirupati in India, thousands of devotees arrive daily to have their heads sheared in devotional sacrifice to the Hindu God Lord Balaji, who they believe will bestow blessings upon them in return. The ‘temple hair’ is then sold to manufacturers of wigs and other cosmetic and personal care products before travelling thousands of miles to adorn the heads of women the world over.
In the West, where long hair is often associated with femininity, a shaved head can signal strong ties to feminism, or point to a battle with cancer. Demi Moore lost all her hair on screen for the classic 1997 army film G.I. Jane, which tells the fictional story of the first woman to successfully complete the rigorous Navy SEAL training in the American armed forces. Moore has always been known for her waist length black hair, and shaved it off herself on screen.
In Africa, bald heads are quite common, and it is a perfectly normal hairstyle for women to have. As far back as 2007, Miss Tanzania walked the Miss Universe ramp with nary a hair on her head. The reigning Miss South Africa is also bald, and proudly declared to her fans on Instagram Live that she would not be hiding under a wig at the upcoming 2021 Miss World competition. Many Southern African public schools enforce a ’shaved head’ rule for both boys and girls up until high school, to minimize the risk of head lice and foster cleanliness, neatness and uniformity.
Whether you are letting your hair go as a statement, or for more personal reasons, there are pros and cons to shaving your head that should be explored before you grab the razor.
Pros of shaving your head
Trying something new can be fun
Experimenting with your look can be a fun, exhilarating and worthwhile experience. If you’re looking for a little adventure but aren’t quite ready to quit your job and move to Alaska to become a dog sled driver, going bald could be an exciting way to change your life without much risk.
Make a bold statement
If you’ve just gone through a major life upheaval such as losing a job or a loved one, making a physical change that isn’t harmful can sometimes help with the grieving process. Some women have found liberation in cutting their hair after a breakup, as a symbol of shedding the old identity and seeking to define a new one. By externalizing your emotions, you will have no choice but to confront and therefore deal with them every day. It’s a powerful move that lets everyone know you’re entering a new phase of your life.
Letting go can be healthy
Hair is a major part of how women accessorize their looks, with long hair especially symbolizing feminine beauty across many cultures. The longer the hair, the more attached you may become, and the harder it can be to imagine an identity for yourself outside of it. When the standard of beauty is long, lustrous hair, the loss of your mane may bring about fear of being perceived as less beautiful, or less feminine. By cutting it all off, you can learn to let go of other people’s standards of beauty, while also facing the anxiety of losing something important to you head on. You can take charge and create your own standard for what you think is beautiful. This can be especially hard for women undergoing chemotherapy, where the decision to cut is almost forced on you by the circumstances. However, you can regain your power by making that decision for yourself, and boldly embracing the change.
Many women have proudly lost their hair for feminism, which has historically contested the rigid notions of beauty placed on women by an overwhelmingly patriarchal society. Irish singer Sinead O’Connor cut her hair off because she “didn’t want to be pretty” anymore. If this resonates with you and your experience, shaving it all off can be the most liberating expression of your quest to define what is feminine and beautiful for yourself, on your own terms.
Make it worthwhile by losing it for a cause
Cameron Diaz’ character cuts off all her hair in the 2009 film My Sister’s Keeper, showing love to and solidarity with her daughter, who loses her hair to acute promyelocytic leukemia. If there is someone close to you for whom you’d like to show support in their fight against cancer or any other serious illness, going bald can be your way of saying, “I am with you” in more than just words. You can even take it a step further and pay it forward by shaving your head in partnership with an organization like St. Baldrick’s foundation, which raises funds through shaving heads and donates them to childhood cancer research. Or you could donate your locks to make a wig for a woman in need.
Enjoy exploring with new styles
The notion that having no hair will limit your style is a false one. The moment you remove your hair, a whole new world of styles is opened up. From hats and headwraps to statement jewelry and even tattoos, there are so many new ways for you to explore accessorizing your new look. You can play around with makeup, highlighting eyes that have been hidden behind bangs for years, or finally take pride in ears that stick out at a jaunty angle. This is a chance for you to experiment with your personal style and find what works with your new look and newly exaggerated facial features.
It’s low maintenance
One of the biggest advantages of shaving your head is that it requires very little upkeep. You don’t have to worry about styling your hair or spending money on hair products.
With no hair to style, you can save a lot of time getting ready in the morning, which can be a great advantage for busy women.
Shaving can cost as little as $10 at a hair salon depending on where you live, making it one of the cheapest styles you can go for. And if you have a husband or brother with a razor, you may not have to pay at all. It’s also a quick style to achieve, taking between fifteen minutes to an hour depending on the length and thickness of your hair. If you don’t have the luxury of spending hours in front of the mirror or at the salon, and want to save some money, going bald is a very low maintenance style that never goes out of fashion. As a bonus, you’ll save lots of money on hair products; a quick rub once or twice a day with some coconut oil and you’re good to go!
No hair means no shedding
Hair in your mouth, hair in your food, hair on the sofa, hair in the shower drain… These are just some of the places where long hair can end up. With a bald head, you don’t have to worry about leaving loose strands all over the place. You can also forget about problems such as dandruff and an itchy scalp, as well as product related irritation and inflammation. And more importantly, you can be sure your hair will never get caught in the garbage disposal like Sherilyn Fenn’s character in the 2017 horror flick Wish Upon.
Give your hair a chance to start afresh
Many products on the market, while invaluable in creating the diverse styles women want, can be damaging to the health of your hair in the long run. Relaxers, which are used to straighten naturally kinky or coily hair, chemically penetrate the hair shaft in an irreversible process. Some shampoos and conditioners contain ingredients which strip the hair of its natural oils, weakening it and making it less resistant to environmental damage. Styles which pull tightly on the hair or create tension on the scalp, such as braids and sew in weaves, can lead to hair loss and receding hairlines over time. If you find your hair is falling out, breaking, or looking flat and lifeless, cutting it off may be the only solution. Continuing to use products to try and fix the problem may only make it worse, and shaving your head could just be the fresh start that you need to grow out a strong, healthy head of hair again.
Cons to shaving your head
You will stand out
A woman with no hair is an uncommon sight in some societies, and you will stand out in a crowd. If you don’t mind or even enjoy being the center of attention, then this is definitely the hairstyle for you. If, however, you are a little more reserved or don’t relish the thought of random strangers on the street staring at you with their mouths open, then losing all your hair may not be the right move. If you live in a society where women pride themselves on their long hair, the stares and questions could be quite hard to bear.
Your head will get cold
While a shaved head can help keep you cool in the warm summer months, it will make you feel colder in the winter. With no hair to help insulate your head from losing heat, the cool temperatures will affect you more than ever before. If you do decide to rock the bald look during winter, make sure to stock up on plenty hats and scarves to keep your head nice and toasty.
You may get bored
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys playing around with different hairstyles, seeing the same old bald look in the mirror every day could get boring after a while. Some women enjoy the versatility of longer hair, which can be braided, curled, straightened, or tied up in different ways. Even relatively short hair can be cut, styled and colored to suit any mood or occasion. With no hair at all, you’re stuck playing around with other things to create different styles, and after a while, the urge to do something different to your hair may return.
It takes a while to grow back
Without hair, the shape of your skull and face are clearly visible to everyone you interact with. If you’ve shaved your head and just can’t bear the way you look, you will still have to live with it for as long as it takes your hair to grow back. Hair typically grows at a rate of about half an inch a month, or six inches per year. You can expect to see some real growth on your scalp three months after going bald, which can be a really long time if you hate the look. This can be quite damaging to your self-confidence, especially if you can’t afford a wig to cover it up in the meantime. Taking the time to consider the decision before you cut, and finding a stylist who can properly recommend if the bald look would work for you or not, as well as interrogating your decision to do so can mitigate the risk of dissatisfaction after the fact.
Increased risk of sunburn
We rarely think about our scalp because it’s not something we interact with very much, but the skin covering our skulls is quite sensitive and prone to damage if not taken care of. Without hair to shield it from the sun’s harsh rays, your bald scalp will be at risk of sunburn. To mitigate this risk, you’ll have to put on sunscreen or wear hats, especially before doing sports in the direct sun.
Your sensitive skin may not react well
Not every scalp is the same, and sensitive skin may not react well to constantly being shaven. If your facial skin is dry or prone to acne, it’s a good idea to do a patch test on your scalp to see how it reacts to being shaven. Try shaving a small patch somewhere it can’t be easily detected, and note any adverse reactions like redness, flaking, itching or inflammation.
Unfortunately, many people still view a woman with a shaved head as being unconventional or even rebellious. This can result in negative reactions from others, including judgmental looks, comments, or even discrimination in some settings. It’s important to be prepared for this and have a strong sense of self-confidence before making the decision to shave your head.
If you decide to grow your hair back, the regrowth process can be awkward and may require frequent haircuts to maintain a neat appearance. Your hair may grow in unevenly or in different textures, and it may take some time before it reaches a length that you are comfortable with. In the meantime, you may need to experiment with different styles or hair accessories to find a look that you like