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In the past year, many have let their hair down — literally. Some embraced the “quarantine beard,” while others grew out their grays or learned to trim longer hair themselves even as hair salons and barbershops started to reopen over the summer. And there are also those who have gone for more permanent solutions to their hairy situations — by choosing to shave their heads during quarantine.
It’s hard to say how far the trend goes as much of the attention on it has been anecdotal — publications like The Cut, Cosmopolitan and Vice all interviewed people who buzzed off their locks for the first time last April while Vox recently talked to people who shaved their heads and are choosing to stay shaved after all. Google searches for head shaving have started to rise again after fluctuating since the start of the year.
Shaving your head could be an option for someone who’s starting to thin out on top or who wants a more low-maintenance look that can be cared for at home, according to Patrick Butler, Floyd’s 99 Barbershop’s technical director of education. And it’s definitely a big change to consider as it’s often perceived as a strong and bold choice, noted Butler, who has over 25 years of experience in the hair care industry.
Whether you already shaved your head or are planning on getting a buzz, a head shaver is one of the tools you could consider adding to your collection in order to maintain a cleaner cut. To help, we consulted hair experts about what a head shaver does and compiled their recommendations of the best head shavers, along with other highly rated options to consider.
Head shavers versus trimmers and clippers
A head shaver is a specific and separate tool from the clippers or trimmers that you may have seen some use to cut longer hair. While all three tools can be used to help with the maintenance of a shaved head, using one over the other depends on how you want your hair to look. “If you want to compare these three tools to something, you can say that clippers are a substitute for scissors and a comb, a trimmer eliminates scissors and a shaver replaces classic manual razors,” explained Monica Davis, a hairstylist who founded the blog MyStraightener.
Here’s how Butler and Davis described the differences between the three tools:
- A clipper is designed to cut long hair quickly, Davis said. (It’s this tool that oftentimes is used for a buzz cut, but it can also be used for other trim lengths, as one hair care professional previously explained to us.)
- A trimmer features blades that are made for edging, shaping and outlining, Davis told us. It’s better suited to get rid of fuzz on your neck, around your ears or below your beard rather than for a heavy removal of hair, according to Butler.
- A head shaver is usually only used for clean and close shaving, Davis said. It includes fine blades that are meant to cut hair as close as possible to the scalp, Butler mentioned.
For those who have lots of locks, a clipper could be an option to use before going in with a head shaver, Butler said. It is much more powerful than a trimmer and leaves a consistent length all over but “will not remove everything, which might lead you to want to use a head shaver,” he added.
And while razors can be used to shave your head, there are some downsides for using them at home — especially as some require a certain level of skill to avoid cutting yourself, Davis pointed out. “A skilful razor user can shave their head quickly and thoroughly, but it's much easier to get a modern head shaver and do the job without going through the steep learning curve of a classic razor,” she said.
As for who a head shaver is best for, Butler recommended the tool for anyone who wants “a completely clean look with no hair at all” and for those who have already shaved their hair down to just some stubble. If you’re searching for a shaved look, rather than a completely shaved head, Butler advised that a clipper would be a better choice out of the two and favors this top rated Wahl Elite Pro Model 79602 Clipper.
Best head shavers of 2021
If you’re ready to shave your head, these are a few expert-recommended and highly rated options to consider. Keep in mind that while these all can help keep your head shaved, some also offer features to trim facial and nose hair.
Davis recommended this affordable head shaver since it’s waterproof and convertible — it comes with both a flexible shaver and clipper head. The shaver also includes a nose hair trimmer, facial cleansing and exfoliating brush. “It’s a perfect tool for trimming and shaving your head,” she said. The shaver features a lithium ion battery that can provide up to 90 minutes of use when fully charged and an LED display to see the power percentage. It’s a popular pick with Amazon shoppers as well, earning an average 4.3-star rating over close to 2,800 reviews.
Butler favors this head shaver for its pivoting blades that work with or without product — you can just go ahead and get shaving. “You hold the shaver as if you were palming your head and glide the pivoting blades over the surface,” he said. The waterproof shaver has to be charged for 2 hours in order to be used for up to 90 minutes, according to the brand. It features an ergonomic design and includes a pre-shave massage brush that’s meant to soften stubble and skin, along with attachments for trimming nose hair and deep clean facial brushing. The model has earned an average 4.7-star rating over more than 1,200 reviews on Amazon.
This top rated shaver features an ergonomic handle to hold in between fingers and a blade design that catches hair clippings to prevent them from falling everywhere and making a mess, the brand says. It boasts an average 4.8-star rating over close to 4,000 reviews on Skull Shaver. The water-resistant shaver can be used with or without shaving foam. You can also see how much battery you have left on it through an LCD display screen.
This shaver includes five heads that are meant to help get a quick shave in — in just under two minutes, the brand claims. It’s recommended that you use the waterproof shaver either with foam or in the shower. The shaver includes a lithium rechargeable battery for a 50-minute runtime, but it does take 4 hours to charge fully. The shaver has earned an average 4.3-star rating over more than 350 reviews.
Like a few of the head shavers above, this shaver includes other grooming attachments — including a massage brush to soften stubble and one for shaping facial hair. The waterproof shaver features a lithium battery — it can run for up to an hour without a cord when charged for 2 hours. It’s also a popular choice with Amazon shoppers, boasting an average 4.3-star rating over more than 4,500 reviews.
How a head shaver works
A head shaver uses oscillating blades — which are covered with a thin layer of metal and operate at a high speed — to lift facial hair up and cut it close to the skin, according to Davis. It’s specially designed to be used on all kinds of scalps, too. The blades on a head shaver have a shock absorber effect that allows them to push in and adapt to your head shape, Butler explained. Thanks to the cover surrounding the blades, a head shaver can cut closely to the scalp without much irritation to the skin, he added.
What to consider before buying and using a head shaver
When it comes to head shavers, you’ll want to make sure to look out for certain features that make shaving easier and properly prep your scalp ahead of actually turning one on. Below, the hair care experts we spoke outlined some things to consider while shopping.
What features to look for in a head shaver
There are head shavers that are designed for both dry and wet shaves. But some models are only meant to be used on a dry or a wet one, Butler explained. So you should look out for what a head shaver says it can handle, especially if you prefer one specific shave over the other. And above all, it’s important to follow the instructions of the one you end up selecting and shave accordingly, Butler said. For other features that can make a head shaver more helpful to use at home, here’s what Butler and Butler recommended paying attention to.
- Battery life: “The fewer recharges per month you have to make, the better. It’s not very nice to be surprised by the drained battery right in the middle [of shaving],” Davis said. She also recommended looking for head shavers with a low battery indicator. Butler noted that a lithium battery can offer longer use after charging.
- Maintenance: You might want to check the cleaning instructions of a head shaver before checking out with one. “I always look for how many blades it has and how easy it is to remove the cover for cleaning,” Butler explained. He suggested searching for a model that only requires occasional cleaning or oiling for those with a “stuffed schedule.”
- Water protection: For Davis, “this point is simple. Waterproof devices are usually much more durable.”
- Price: As with many purchases, a higher price tag doesn’t always mean a product is better. If you’re on a budget, “there’s no need to invest too much into a head shaver,” Davis told us. “The market is overflowing with affordable solutions that work great, so don’t blame yourself for saving on this purchase,” she added.
How to treat your head before using a head shaver
When using a head shaver, you don’t want a thick barrier of shaving cream — this will make it harder for the blades to glide through your hair easily, Butler advised. He recommended opting for a brush to apply a thin layer of cream that allows for a smoother shaving experience. For Davis, a pre-shave oil can be essential to prepare the skin and hair for a close shave. Once you turn off your head shaver, you can rinse your head with cool water and moisturize with a lotion designed for a post-shave that’s specific to face or scalp skin, Davis added.