Head shaving became a pretty popular move in 2020 with half the world locked down and barbers closed for extended periods of time. A lot of men (and women) headed to the bathroom mirror with a pair of scissors or clippers and took matters into their own hands. Not surprisingly, a lot of these amateur cuts didn’t quite stand up to the professional look you’d expect – but actually, a lot of people really pulled it off.
Buzzing your own hair down to a short or “zero” length is actually very easy if you just follow a few simple steps and if it’s your first time, don’t rush it if you’re not confident.
Now everyone will have their preferred method and others may have different ideas, but on the whole you’ll find that the basic principles are the same. They tend to go a little like this:
1: Tools for the Job
It might be obvious to say this but you’ll need a fairly decent set of clippers in order to shave your head in reasonable time and with some level of ease. Now decent doesn’t necessarily mean expensive and I actually did this with my beard trimmer and it worked absolutely fine – but remember not all beard trimmers are created equal so bear that in mind before you dive right in.
These days you can pick up a fairly decent and reliable head shaver or set of clippers from anywhere in the £15-£40 range. If you think that 2-3 haircuts might cost you more than that then you’re actually winning pretty quickly. But something like the Wahl Colour Pro will work just fine. These are both cordless options, which tends to make it easier. However make sure you fully charge the shaver before you start, because at full charge it will be cutting better. If you try to shave when the battery is low, particularly when you're shaving a lot of hair, it will tend to pull and rip rather than give a clean cut.
You may want to have a second mirror handy if your bathroom mirror doesn’t fold out in a 2-door style. Doing the back of your head can be tricky especially if you’re not used to it, this will help you guide yourself so you don’t miss any hairs and you can get a clean cut.
2: Preparation and Protection
If this is your first time, you may still have a head of hair – I’d suggest giving that a good wash before you start, making sure it’s dried before taking the clippers to it. Washed hair will be slightly fluffier and should aid the clippers in gliding through it. It doesn’t really matter what shampoo you use but something like Neutrogena T/Gel will help get rid of some of the skin flakes from your scalp before you start (you can use this later on too but we’ll come to that!)
You’ll also want to get some kind of post shave balm or moisturiser. One thing that a lot of newly bald guys are surprised about is dandruff (yes it can still happen even when you’re bald!) Dandruff is just skin flakes that have been brushed off your head, and when you’re shaving or buzzing your hair regularly you could irritate the skin which will cause it to flake. If you’re prone to dandruff in your haired life then you might want to take this into consideration – for a good, low alcohol post shave balm, try the Nivea Sensitive, they also do a simple moisturiser that works well.
Before you start, feel around on your head for any bumps or flat spots, as these little areas might escape the shaver and possibly need to be gone over a few times. As you get more used to shaving, you'll know exactly where your head isn't perfectly dome shaped and you'll be able to adjust accordingly. But the first time might throw out some surprises for you as the scalp has been hiding under your hair all your life. And don't be alarmed if you have any irregularities, very few men have a perfectly shaped head, a small lumps and bumps and flat spots are perfectly normal.
3: Prepare for the excess Hair
When you shave your hair off, it gets everywhere if you’re not careful. I’d suggest going shirtless and if you don’t want to clog up your basin and floor with hair, put down a towel or two (the floor can be vacuumed, the basin is trickier. Some cling film over the basin works well too). You’ll probably want to jump in the shower straight after too, that hair can end up stuck on your scalp, in your ears, over your neck and shoulders and anywhere else it falls, so rinse off once you’re done to avoid irritation.
4: Choose the length
I would strongly recommend just going for the no guard and taking the whole lot off here – that way you’re ripping off the proverbial band aid and facing the fear. Your hair will grow back surprisingly fast so if you don’t like the close look you can let it grow back to a 1mm or stubbly look. But taking that initial plunge all the way to zero will give you the best perspective and you won’t worry about it after that – it’s done and you know what you look like bald.
Having said that, if you don’t feel comfortable taking the plunge then maybe start with a short guard and go for 1mm-3mm but not much longer than that. Any longer than that and you’re looking at “short buzz” territory and if you’re losing your hair, it’ll still show. If you go too long as well you’ll find your hair might look a little uneven between the top and sides and you’ll find yourself using multiple guards to do a fade. We’re not professional barbers (I’m assuming) so this is unlikely to look clean and sharp.
For an idea of what each length might look like, check out my video where I shave down in increments:
5: Get going – But start from the middle
If this if you’re first time, you might be a little hesitant to do it as you don’t know how you’re going to look and lots of thoughts are running through your soon to be shaved head. What this can do is make some men start gingerly from the sides in case they want to bail out and just shaved down the sides and keep it longer on top. This is an understandable hesitation, but if you’re serious about shaving your head (and if you’re reading this then you are) I would suggest going all in and starting from the middle at the front and going up and back through your top hair. This will give a nice basic line to start with and you can follow the same line – front to back – down the sides towards your ears.
Once you’ve taken the top off then go around the ears in an upward direction and do that around the back of your head, starting at the bottom of your hairline and working upwards. This is where you might want to use a second mirror as it can get a little fiddly.
After you’ve been around your hairline and most of the hair is gone, start going over it again and be sure to go in different directions. Your hair doesn’t all grow in the same direction, especially around the crown area, so go back and forth over it a few times and use your spare hand to feel for any uneven areas (you’ll often see barbers moving the clippers in multiple directions for this exact reason).
6: Rinse and moisturise
Once you’re confident you’ve got all the hair, jump in the shower and rinse off, making sure you get rid of all those tiny little hairs that have collected in and around your body.
Then get your moisturiser and give your head a once over to avoid getting that flaky scalp we talked about earlier. If you’ve gone for a short buzzed length, you can still use your T/Gel shampoo to take care of the skin and remaining hair.
For a guide on which moisturisers you might want to use, be sure to read through our selection here.
I guarantee that if this is your first time with a bald head, you’ll be surprised every time you look in the mirror for a couple of days – this is normal, you will look different, just embrace it.
It’s important to shave your head regularly to maintain the clean, proper look for the modern man. Don’t let it grow out too long otherwise it’ll start to look uneven and if you have any bald spots, these will start to show through more.