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Question: My man is about to embrace his baldness (love it), but I know he’s worried about his scalp. He has really dry skin, especially on his head. Any advice for bald guys looking to keep their scalp soft, not scaly?
Embracing his baldness! That’s great. And it makes perfect sense that he’s concerned about his dry scalp because it’s about to be on full display. The good news is that once he shaves or buzzes his head, it should be easier to determine exactly what’s going on. The most likely culprit is dandruff (which affects people with and without hair), but it could also just be standard-issue dry skin (like you’d have on any other part of your body, especially in the winter), or a drying shampoo, or even sunburn (I’m assuming he doesn’t have a ton of hair now, so it’s possible his scalp is getting overexposed to the sun).
As a first step we’d recommend trying a dandruff shampoo. If he responds well to that, problem solved. If the dryness persists, then he should consider washing his scalp with a gentler soap or shampoo, and applying an oil or moisturizer as a scalp conditioner. Once he takes the plunge and “embraces the baldness,” he’ll realize that a hairless head has its own set of grooming concerns. Yes, it’s probably easier to maintain than a full head of hair, but there are still some things to be mindful of. His scalp is about to become the main event, so it’s important to make sure it’s clean, healthy, moisturized, and protected from the sun. We spoke with four experts — a makeup artist, a groomer, a barber, and a dermatologist — to get some professional advice on everything a (newly) bald man might need.
Best dandruff shampoos for bald men
“Dry scalp is really common,” says board-certified dermatologist Samer Jaber, MD, founder of Washington Square Dermatology. “It could be psoriasis, or seborrheic dermatitis — classically called ‘dandruff.’” You can still get dandruff even if you’re bald, so if you suspect that might be the issue, the first line of defense would be an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo like Neutrogena T-Gel.
Jaber also suggested using a zinc-based bar soap because it might be easier to apply to a bald head, and won’t run the way a liquid shampoo might. (Zinc may not be as widely used for treating dandruff, but it is often recommended by dermatologists and Jaber says it’s equally effective). This one is all-natural, with argan oil for moisturizing and oatmeal for gentle exfoliation.
Best scalp cleansers for bald men
Even if you don’t think dandruff is the issue, it’s still important to wash and cleanse your scalp. Jaber says you can use whatever you’re using on your body, you just need to make sure it’s moisturizing and gentle. (This is an important thing to keep in mind, because a lot of the widely available soaps and body washes are too drying for the scalp). He likes classic Dove bar soap.
“Some people think that it’s still important to use shampoo and conditioner, but if you do a really close shave, you probably don’t need it,” says groomer Ronnie Peterson. But you do “need something to clear your skin,” he adds. Peterson recommends this bamboo charcoal bar soap for anyone with normal to oily, acne-prone skin. “Usually I think it’s best to go as natural as possible,” he says, because any additives increase the chances of irritation or allergies. This is fragrance-free too, so it’s extra gentle, and the acne-fighting properties can be particularly helpful for people who shave their heads. “You can create razor bumps, and from there it can create acne and get irritated,” says Peterson. “I’ve been using this for 12 years and it clears up almost everything.”
While the bamboo charcoal soap is very gentle as far as acne-fighting soaps go, it might still be too harsh for some. Peterson recommends this foaming wash for anyone with sensitive skin. It’s made specifically for “bald, shaved, and buzzed heads” and it’s noncomedogenic, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free. It’s also “great for healing irritation from razors,” says Peterson.
While Peterson and Jaber don’t think shampoo and conditioner are necessary for bald scalps, makeup artist Robert Reyes still thinks they can be a good option. One reason is that, since shampoos and conditioners are already formulated for use on the scalp, you know they won’t dry out your skin. Think of it as something that promotes scalp health, says Reyes. He likes the Restore shampoo and conditioner from Living Proof, because they’re made to treat dry scalp and hair. You’ll only need to use a small amount of shampoo and conditioner, says Reyes, adding that you should shampoo every other day or so. “Shampooing every day can strip your oils and dry out the skin.”
Reyes also recommends this gentle exfoliating scalp scrub from R+Co. He says to use a small amount just two or three times per week. (Reyes also adds that a scalp massage can be a nice treat, and it’s good for overall scalp health).
Anthony Michael Tapia, master stylist at Barbiere barber shop in the East Village, swears by this cream for cleaning the scalp and preparing it for a shave. “If I’m here at the shop with a client, I need to work quickly,” says Tapia. He can’t give someone a shave if their scalp is dry, so he applies this fast-absorbing cleansing cream and they’re usually good to go right away. Tapia says it’s not greasy and you only need a small amount. This has been a popular makeup removal treatment for years because it’s so affordable and it’s made for sensitive skin, but it’s also a great pre-shave cleanser for anyone who shaves their head.
Best scalp moisturizers for bald men
Having a good moisturizer for your head will also be key. Tapia loves the old-school classic Palmer’s coconut oil. “It’s antifungal, antibacterial, and good for dandruff, too,” he says. Even though an untreated, solidified coconut oil — the type you’d find at a natural foods store — is technically more “pure,” he prefers this liquid formulation because it’s less messy and absorbs quickly. Tapia says the best time to apply this or any other scalp moisturizer is right after you shower, when your skin is soft and your pores are open.
A perennial Strat favorite, Weleda Skin Food is also a great moisturizer for the scalp, according to Peterson: “I love this cream for everything. It’s rich, thick, and natural.”
Peterson recommends this mattifying moisturizer if you want your head to have more of a muted look. “I use this for TV commercials if I’m working on someone with a shiny forehead,” he says, adding that it works especially well used in conjunction with this mattifying primer stick. “I usually use this for a photo session with harsh lights, but I think it works wonderfully in daylight.”
“You can generally use face moisturizers on your head, but sometimes they get a little too heavy,” says Reyes. “That’s why I like this one — it’s super lightweight and doesn’t leave the scalp oily.” Reyes is a fan of the whole Menaji line, but he particularly likes the Power Hydrator Aftershave. Don’t get thrown off by the “aftershave” label — this swaps out stinging alcohol for soothing natural ingredients like aloe, chamomile, and green tea. You can definitely use it as an aftershave if you shave your face or your head, but it also works as a daily moisturizer.
For a more luxe scalp treatment, Reyes says a hydrating serum is a great option. “This one is my favorite. Most serums are used to enhance a moisturizer, but this one is great on its own and it’s super lightweight.” He recommends using it as part of a nighttime scalp-care routine.
Best sunscreen for bald men
“Sunscreen is the most important thing for people who are bald,” says Jaber. “Your scalp is directly underneath the sun,” so there is a high risk of sun damage if you don’t take steps to protect your skin. He advises bald patients to wear a hat or ball cap when outside, but of course a good sunscreen is essential as well: “SPF 30 or higher. Higher is better.” In addition, he says you should make sure the sunscreen is labeled “broad spectrum,” and that you should reapply it every few hours. Jaber didn’t recommend a specific brand, but this sunscreen from La Roche-Posay adheres to his criteria, and it’s groomer Ronnie Peterson’s favorite: “It’s anti-shine, and for me [La Roche-Posay] is the best line for sunscreen.”
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