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Some intentionally bald gentlemen consider a skull so smooth that it reflects light to be the ultimate sign of a good shave. Others recoil at the thought of blinding passers-by with their mirror-like finish, and wonder how to avoid it. No matter which way you go, it's soon apparent that some people just reflect more light than others.
There are two components to shine: the smoothness of your scalp, and the amount of oil on it. One is mostly under your control, the other only partially so.
First, the smoothness. A mirror reflects light very well as long as it is smooth. Rough up the surface, and it loses some of its ability to clearly reflect an image, as the rough surface will bounce light in different directions. The same principle applies to your scalp. When you've just shaved, your reflectivity will be at its highest. When you have a couple of days stubble, you probably aren't reflecting a lot of light.
Next, the oil. Your skin produces oils in order to protect itself. This oil is produced by all skin, not just the scalp. For instance, it's the oils left behind when your fingertips touch an object that make fingerprints possible.
Some people produce more oil than others, which is why we see commercials for shampoos designed for people with dry, normal, or oily hair. Without hair, the oil up above will remain on the surface of your scalp, where it adds to your reflectivity.
A person with a very smooth shave and some oil on their head will reflect a fair amount of light. Another person with a rougher shave and less oil will probably not reflect much at all.
If you want to avoid shine, the two basic steps are not to shave too closely (for instance, shave with the grain instead of against it), and clean your scalp with soap and water periodically. Keep in mind, though, that by removing natural oils from your scalp, you are removing your skin's natural protection. If you find that it's getting dry and itchy, you might want to consider a moisturizing skin-care lotion. Wiping your scalp with a moist cloth on occasion might be preferable to full-scale washing, in this case.
You might also want to consider finding a shine-reducing moisturizer. There are apparently several on the market, and are usually marketed as shine-reducing or matte-finish moisturizers. They're usually intended to reduce that shiny look on one's face, but there's no reason it couldn't be applied to the scalp as well.
If you want to increase your shine, shave closely and regularly, and let your scalp stay oily. If you tend towards a drier scalp, consider moisturizing skin-care lotions or something similar. You may have to experiment a bit to find something suitable.
This article is based on my personal experiences and thoughts. If you have additional information that might be relevant, or if you have any comments or questions about this article, feel free to contact me. This article was last updated August 2003.
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