Steve’s Travel Advice Series – 8 Helpful Hints for Shaving One’s Head in a Third World Country


By their late 20’s most people with male pattern baldness have worked out that a closely shaved head, especially when it is accompanied by similar length facial hair, is quite attractive to a significant pool of women (and men for that matter); that is unless you are part Neanderthal, or have a head shaped like one of those Easter Island statues

in which case I’m sorry to say, you’re screwed. Maybe try a comb-over but you know… good luck with that. In short, it does the business (a shaved head, not the comb-over – to pull off a comb-over you’ll need to be highly intelligent, hilariously funny, and either fabulously rich or extremely powerful…ideally both).

However, you will be rapidly out of business if your hair’s not the right length, and the right length has a surprisingly small threshold of tolerance. Specifically, 1 to 3mm is good; 3 to 5mm is less good; and longer than 5mm is no good and you may as well have a comb-over (see above for reasons to avoid this scenario). This situation is complicated further with the addition of the facial hair requirements number one of which is that facial hair longer than head hair is very bad.

As you can see, this is a high maintenance combination requiring strict adherence to a shaving schedule. One can in certain situations, where maximum potency of the hair/beard length is not required (e.g. girlfriend away or temporarily blinded; you have no girlfriend and you’re so depressed about this you no longer care how you look; you’re gay and stuck on an island inhabited only by women…and you’re so depressed about this you no longer care how you look etc.), get away with a 0 mm head and facial hair combo for a few days. This is effected by shaving both the head and face simultaneously, with a razor. Alright, not simultaneously, the timing’s not that critical – let’s say consecutively. This is advantageous because it adds three days to the time before which the next shave will be required, reducing overall labor.

A couple weeks ago, after my girlfriend was temporarily blinded while attempting to watch a solar eclipse through binoculars (No, I didn’t know what she was going to do with them when I handed them to her; I thought she’d seen a bird or something…), I decided to make the best of a bad situation with a full head and face shave combo. It turns out that finding blades for your Mach 3 shaver in a third world country is almost as hard as finding a competent ophthalmologist in a third world country – specifically, not possible. So after perusing the limited options at the local ‘supermarket’, I decided to make do with two brand new, disposable plastic Bic razors; aka The Scalpers. There is an old saying something along the lines of ‘pay peanuts – get monkeys’, and for my investment of 90 cents I should have been expecting rabid apes, but as I was on holidays and feeling optimistic I thought “Oh well, I’ll just use plenty of shaving cream. I mean really, how bad could they be?”

Here as promised are my eight helpful hints for shaving one’s head in a third world country:

Helpful Hint Number 1: Once you start to shave your head, you can’t stop till you’re finished. I mean you can obviously, but if you do it’s gonna draw attention. Like ‘What the hell happened to you!?’ kind of attention. Like ‘Children, come away from the crazy man.’ kind of attention.

Helpful Hint Number 2: Check to see if you actually have shaving cream before you begin. Aloe vera after sun gel, no matter how pure and expensive (14 dollars a bottle), is only about one tenth as effective a lubricant as cheap shaving cream. It is absorbed by the skin surprisingly fast, but before absorption becomes a sticky goo that clogs the blades of your Scalper with all but perfect efficiency, necessitating rinsing approximately 38 times a minute.

Helpful Hint Number 3: Despite mounting costs (90 cents for the Scalpers, 7 bucks for half a bottle of aloe, plus medical expenses) mid shave is not the time to get stingy with your chosen lubricant. Because the aloe was so friggin expensive, and because it stung like a Japanese hornet every time it got into one of my shaving cuts, and because my arm was about to fall off from constantly rinsing out the Scalper, I found myself using less and less of it as I went along. In the end, half my head was covered in shaving rash – it stung viciously for hours, and I looked like I’d snorkeled into a school of box jellyfish.

Helpful Hint Number 4: A good light source is very helpful for shaving your head. A narrowly focused spotlight with a 12 watt bulb connected to an intermittent power source doesn’t help at all – it’s like shaving in a discotheque. Even in a perfectly lit room, when looking straight into a mirror, a bald man will not see much of his own hair because 90% of it is on the back and sides of his head. This is a gross inconvenience from a shaving standpoint, and necessitates much mid-shave twisting and turning in a (mostly futile) attempt to see one’s work in the mirror.

Helpful Hint Number 5: For effective and safe use, a razor requires a gentle up and down motion. A side to side motion when using a razor is very bad and leads directly to blood loss, particularly when the razor in question is cheap and nasty. Unless you are fortunate enough to be ambidextrous however, your shaving arm is going to get very tired from being raised, twisted behind your head, and then lowered again every 1.5 seconds to rinse out the hopelessly clogged Scalper. Picture a one-armed spastic doing aerobics and you’ll get the idea. A tired arm combined with twisting and turning increases the likelihood of a side to side shaving motion occurring by not less than 300%.

Helpful Hint Number 6: Disposable Bic razors that cost 45 cents each are not called ‘Scalpers’ for nothing. By the time I was finished I was bleeding in at least 13 places, all at the back of my head, and due to the unfortunate binocular/eclipse incident with my (formerly sighted) girlfriend, I was only able to determine this by wrapping my head in a white towel, and then laying it flat to tally up the red splotches. This helped with the count, but given that my roundish head was now represented as a flat surface, it was useless for pin pointing location, and therefore for staunching blood flow.

Helpful Hint Number 7: Getting a timely blood transfusion in a third world country is just as difficult as finding a competent ophthalmologist or replacement blades for your Mach 3.

Helpful Hint Number 8: If you have recently handed your girlfriend a pair of binoculars and she used them to view the sun, you should expect that the sympathy window open time for your “self-inflicted” injuries will be drastically reduced – like, to zero.

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