Everything You Need to Know About Performing a Head Shave as a Barber



It’s a classic men’s look that will never go out of style: the fully shaved head. Some men prefer a shaved head for the ease and simplicity of the style, for some it’s the most practical option for an active lifestyle, while others simply prefer to go fully bald when the hair starts to thin. The versatility of this look appeals to men of all ages.

Whatever your client’s reason for the shave, you’ll need to establish yourself as a trusted barber who works quickly and efficiently without ever compromising on being thorough and safe.

Head shaving falls within the scope of a barber license in all states, and learning how to perform clean, close shaves would be a standard part of the curriculum in any barbering program designed to meet the requirements for licensure. If you want to take your skill to the next level, you’ll find advanced barbering courses and workshops available at local barbering and cosmetology academies.

Most men that go with a clean-shaven head have little choice but to do it on their own most days. These men will be the first to tell you that it can be very hard to shave the entire head without missing a spot somewhere on the back of the head, and it tends to be a time consuming process.

That’s where you come in. With your practiced hand, you’ll be able to provide a full head shave in much less time than your client could on their own. In addition to leaving clients with a clean, close shave and minimal redness or razor burn, you’ll turn what is typically thought of as a routine task into an experience that any man would be eager to repeat. It’s a win-win for both you and your client that will help you build a base of repeat customers in no time at all.

How to Properly Perform a Head Shave

Traditionally, barbers use a straight razor because it’s the sharpest tool in their kit, and in the right hands, nothing can touch a straight razor for a close, consistent shave. Still, you might prefer to use high-quality disposable razors because of sanitation concerns. Naturally, if you do choose to use a straight razor, you’ll need to sanitize and disinfect it between clients.

The trim – To begin, you’ll need to trim your client’s hair down as short as possible. This can be achieved most easily with a standard pair of clippers and a 0000 guard—this will create the closest trim possible. If starting with hair that has some length to it, taking it down to 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch will produce the best results. Of course, you’ll skip the clippers when working with men who maintain their shaved scalps and rarely let their hair go much further than a 5 o’clock shadow.

The shampoo – Next, you’ll shampoo the remaining hair. Using clarifying shampoo will remove dead skin cells and make the skin easier to shave.

The prep – Now you’ll use a hot towel to prep the skin and hair. Even when working with hair that is very short, it’ll be much softer and easier to work with once it’s heated. In addition, the pores will open, which will reduce the risk of razor burn.

The shaving product – Once you’ve heated and saturated the area with a hot towel, you’ll apply shaving cream, gel, or oil. In time, you may develop a preference for certain products that you can recommend to clients based on your experience working with different types of hair. Whatever you choose to use as a shaving aid, make sure you work it thoroughly into the skin.

The shave – Next, with a straight razor or high quality disposable razor, you’ll start shaving at the top of the head, shaving in the direction the hair grows as you work your way to the back of the head. Of course, you’ll need to carefully go over the areas around the ears or near the hairline in order to avoid nicking the skin. Make sure to guide the razor against the grain of the hair to remove it as completely as possible.

If you missed any spots, you can take the razor over those areas again, but shaving over an area twice increases the risk of razor burn. To reduce this risk, apply more shaving gel, cream, or oil, and apply a hot towel again to prepare the skin. Clients will expect a thorough attention to detail and will appreciate you taking the time to ensure they are satisfied with the results.

Post shave – Next, as a matter of preference, you can either apply aftershave to reduce red bumps and razor burn, or you can simply wash the head with soap and water and apply a cold towel. The cold towel has the opposite effect of the hot towel, closing the pores to help minimize redness.

As an optional step, you may choose to apply moisturizer to the skin after completing the shave.

The skin will be especially sensitive for men who don’t shave their head regularly. It’s a good idea to remind clients to apply sunscreen if they’ll be outdoors.

It’s important to remind clients that their shave should be maintained every three days. Once they’ve had the initial shave, it should be much easier for them to maintain it on their own, however, they may very well prefer to come back to see you.

What About Men with Coarse or Curly Hair?

Men with coarse or curly hair are more likely to suffer from scalp irritation and razor burn after a shave. In order to begin the shave, you’ll need to apply one or two hot towels and really make sure the hair is as short as possible and thoroughly saturated with moisturizing product.

Instead of shaving against the grain, shave with the grain to minimize irritation and reduce the likelihood of ingrown hairs. Also, it’s best to only shave each area once—so go slowly over the entire head.

Adding a Little Luxury the Shave

While hot towels add a practical element to the shave—softening the skin and hair and prepping the skin for the shave—they are also relaxing for your client. To maximize the relaxation potential, you can add essential oils to the towels.

This would involve adding a few drops of oil to the towel while it’s still dry, then saturating it with hot water.

Some popular oils that men favor include:

  • Sandalwood
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Cypress
  • Ginger
  • Patchouli
  • Oakmoss

These oils are known for their rich, masculine scent as well as their healing and relaxing properties. If your client doesn’t have a preference, they may be open to suggestions so it’s a good idea to be familiar with the properties of each. Take some time to become familiar with the products you use and recommend.

Using the Best Products Available

From the shaving cream, gel, or oil you use when shaving to the product you apply after the shave is done, providing your clients with the best products will ensure they have the best experience possible, both in the chair and in the days that follow.

Some of the highest-quality shaving gels and creams are sold under these brand names:

  • Taylor of Old Bond Street
  • Murdock London
  • Pankhurst
  • Gentlemen’s Tonic
  • Musgo Real
  • Proraso
  • Triumph & Disaster

Shaving oil lasts longer than gel or cream and is great for sensitive skin. Many barbers prefer using oil because it provides a very close shave and it’s much easier to avoid nicking the skin than when you’re using a heavier substance such as shaving cream.

Some of the most popular high-end brands of shaving oil include:

  • Grooming Lounge
  • Shave Secret
  • Sir Hair
  • The Art of Shaving

Having a high-quality clarifying shampoo on hand is also important. Several of the best clarifying shampoos are made by:

  • Prospector Co.
  • Paul Mitchell
  • Free & Clear
  • Toni & Guy

Aftershave helps to keep the skin on the scalp moist and avoid any itching or tingling sensations. Some cheap, over-the-counter aftershaves contain alcohol, which only dries out the skin. Brands with aloe Vera or vitamin e and other natural ingredients are better for the skin, especially for clients with sensitive skin. Some of the high-quality aftershave brands include:

  • Proraso
  • Lather & Wood
  • Baxter of California
  • Blind Barber
  • Imperial Barber
  • Anthony
  • Kiehl
  • L’Occitane
  • The Art of Shaving

If you choose to use a moisturizer to protect the skin from becoming dry and cracking, you might consider the following highly rated brands:

  • Clinique
  • Jack Black
  • Kiehl
  • Bulldog

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