Shaved Head Shadow

I’m not sure what the right term is, but you know the look that I can only describe as the 5 o’clock shadow of a shaved head.  Get up and go to the bathroom, and look in the mirror? A handsome face with a smoothly shaved head. It looks good, but it’s not as perfect as you expect it to be.  There’s a bit of shadow, even though I shaved earlier in the day. You can make out the outline of where my hair used to be and it’s nice and smooth where my hair no longer grows.
I see a shadow because even though I’ve shaved off my hair, the roots of the hair and a portion of the shaft are still there, just under the skin. My skin is white and my hair is dark, so there will always be an appearance of shadow.  For those with hair similar to their skin color it might be a bit less noticeable (either dark hair with dark skin or light hair with light skin).

How to get rid of the shave shadow on your head

The easiest way to remove the shadow from your head is to shave your head as close as you possibly can to your scalp.  There are 3 different ways to do this and if you do all three you’ll increase the closeness of the shave and also reduce the shadow look.

  1. Shave with a razor instead of clippers.  Clippers never get as close as a razor will, so don’t use clippers.  A razor is your best bet for a close shave and specifically a Double Edge Safety Razor.  It takes time to get the technique down, but once you do the shave will be much more enjoyable and will be extremely close.
  2. Shave against the grain.  Start by shaving with the grain, then across the grain, and finally against the grain.  Make sure you have enough lubrication on your scalp in order to not irritate your skin with multiple passes.  If you can handle shaving your head all three directions it will provide a very close shave and reduce shadow.
  3. Use head shaving oil instead of shaving creams, soaps, or gels.  The oil provides the necessary lubrication for a great shave and minimal amount of layers between the blades and your scalp.

If you follow all 3 steps above you’ll have a super smooth head with the least amount of shadow possible using traditional methods of removing hair.

More extreme options to reduce shadow

If I could get rid of the hair entirely, including the root, then I would probably not have a visible shadow. There are other ways of removing hair besides shaving (listed in this article, if you’re interested), and some of them are supposed to eliminate the hair by killing the root. Electrolosis and laser hair removal spring to mind. But I’m not ready to use either method myself.

The difference between the Image and Reality

Why do I see the shadow so clearly when I’m looking in the mirror, but TV and movie stars look absolutely perfect?

For a number of reasons.

  1. Movie and TV stars have make-up people who’s job is to make the star look perfect. A bit of make-up does wonders.
  2. They’re often appearing under bright lights, and bright lights make it harder to notice the shadow. I’ve noticed that when I’m in a mall bathroom, for instance, where the light is much brighter than I’m used to at home, my head looks smoother and the shadow isn’t as obvious.
  3. With regard to the particular stars their skin and hair colors are pretty close. Avery Brooks has dark skin and dark hair. Stone Cold has light skin and blond hair. This makes any shadow they might show less obvious.
  4. We’re usually seeing the stars from a distance. You don’t get a real close-up of Stone Cold or Avery Brooks when you’re watching on TV. They don’t zoom in so you can see the skin in detail. When I look in a mirror, I’m getting a better view of myself than I’ll ever get of Austin or Brooks.

That last point is especially important to consider. I remember seeing another intentionally-bald guy get on a bus once, and I was impressed with how shadow-free his head appeared. He sat right in front of me, and it still looked great from just 2 or 3 feet away. But when I really looked closely, I realized that he had as much shadow as I did. Most people are more critical of their own appearance than other people’s; though you may notice your shadow, others may not notice it nearly as easily as you.


So is there any way to beat shadow?

If you follow the 3 steps above you’ll be well on your way to reducing shadow, but the roots will still be there, and they’ll be just barely visible beneath your skin. Certain other hair removal methods (like electrolysis or laser hair removal) might eliminate shadow, since they kill the hair’s roots, but they have disadvantages.

You could take a page from the stars and apply makeup to your scalp. Find a foundation makeup that matches your skin tone, and apply it to your scalp, and you can disguise the appearance of shadow. That is, if you want to apply makeup every day.