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Buzz Cut Or Shaved Head: Which Will Look Best On You?

It’s a myth that balding means end game for your good looks and style. You can give your scalp new life with a buzz cut or shaved head – choosing between the two is the only hard part.

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What Is A Buzz Cut?

Most guys think ‘military’ when they think of buzz cuts. It’s a hairstyle where you take a pair of clippers or trimmers and go over your head, leaving some stubble at an even length. 

In fairness, some hairstylists would say that’s not a comprehensive description. There are lots of different fashionable buzz cut styles these days. 

The two most common that you’ll see:

  1. The Induction Buzz Cut / The Uniform Buzz Cut

This is the classic, short, even buzz cut that most guys know. You’ll use a small guard or no guard for this buzz. Some stylists think that “induction” is a shorter buzz than the “uniform” buzz, but the final result looks too close to tell apart, so I group them together.

  1. The Jarhead / The Disconnected Buzz Cut

If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. The Jarhead buzz is another classic military style. You’ll buzz the sides and back of your head with a zero guard, taking almost all the hair off, and buzz the top of your head with a larger guard, leaving a little more stubble. Some stylist call it the disconnected buzz because there’s a sharp line between the longer and shorter stubble.

Bonus: Line-up or Edge-up

A line-up isn’t actually a type of buzz cut, but it’s something you need to know before you get a buzz cut. Your barber should use a razor to make your hairline and neckline look even and clean. That’s what it means to line it up.

Bonus: The Triple Zero

If you get a triple zero buzz cut, you’ll look bald. I don’t even like to count it as a buzz cut style because you won’t look like you have any hair when your barber is finished.

Bonus: The Crew Cut

Stylists disagree on whether crew cuts count as buzz cuts. I’d make the argument that if a buzz cut and a bald fade haircut had a baby, it would be the crew cut. This style leaves slightly more hair on top of your head and less near the bottom, fading the lengths so that it transitions smoothly from long to short, top to bottom. It’s not always the best choice for guys who are balding.

Lots of guys who suffer from hair loss like how buzz cuts leave some hair on their head and downplay their bald spots.

What Is The Difference Between A Buzz Cut vs Shaved Head?

Some guys buzz their hair short and call it a shaved head – that’s not a crime, but it’s technically not true.

You have to go the extra mile if you want a truly shaved head. Not only should you buzz off your hair, but you’ll need to go over your scalp with a razor or shaver to smooth it out.

You’ll see the big difference in the texture of a shaved head vs a buzz cut. Run your hands over your scalp – if it’s mostly smooth, you’re shaved bald. If you can feel some hair, texture and stubble, that’s technically a buzz cut.

Visually, sometimes it’s easy to mistake one for the other. If you have blond hair and light skin, your friends might think your buzz cut is a shaved head because they can’t see your stubble. 

What’s It Like Having A Bald, Shaved Head?

Shaving your head can feel shocking at first. Your head might feel lighter if you took off a lot of hair, and you might feel slightly naked.

Even more surprising for most guys is the fact that you still need to take care of your head as if it had hair on it. Half the reason you were using shampoo when you had hair was actually to keep your scalp clean – you’ll want to transition to a bald shampoo for men to help the top of your head stay healthy. 

(Face wash isn’t always a good substitute for bald shampoo because most aren’t formulated to deal with all the unique pores on your scalp.)

Lots of guys also forget that sunscreen and hats are now a necessity. Trust me, you don’t want a scalp burn. They hurt worse somehow.

But it’s not all negatives and maintenance. Lots of guys look great bald. It’s an opportunity to revamp your style.

How To Choose Between A Buzz Cut Or Shaved Head

Now the hard part. Actually choosing between a buzz cut and a shaved head. There are several things to think about before you commit to one or the other.

  1. Maintenance

Both a buzz cut and a bald head take maintenance. You’ll be cutting your hair frequently.

Going to a barber for every service will be exhausting, so eventually, you’ll need to invest in your own clippers/shavers and learn how to sharpen your clipper blades. 

If you go bald, you’ll need bald shampoo for men to take care of your scalp. And if you have a buzz cut, you’ll still want to use regular shampoo to wash away scalp oil and help you smell good.

It’s not necessarily a “no hassle” style, on either end. Here’s where I’d give bald heads a point over buzz cuts: it’s easier to apply sunscreen. If you have a thin buzz cut, you can still burn, but putting on sunscreen feels icky.

  1. Texture

Do you think you’re the type who’ll prefer a smooth head or some rough stubble? 

Beware: if you like the stubble, your friends will too. They’ll want to run their hands all over your head. (I like to think of it as the male equivalent to pregnant women who constantly have to let strangers touch their stomachs. People will want to touch your head.)

On the other hand, buzz cuts have that cool visual texture, while shaved heads can look bland. It’s a trade off.

  1. Style

Some guys end up trying both a buzz cut and a shaved head, and many realize that they just inexplicably like one more than the other. There’s a level of personal flair that you have to take into account. 

If you still don’t know whether a buzz cut or shaved head is right for you…

Start with a buzz cut. Here’s the logic: you can always take off more hair. 

Hate your buzz cut? Take it to the next level and go bald. If you go straight to a shaved bald head and don’t like it, you’ll have to wait to grow out your stubble again.

Can I Get A Buzz Cut With A Bald Spot?

Buzz cuts often look good with bald spots and patches, but there are exceptions.

The rule of thumb: if you have more bald patches than hair, then a buzz cut will just make you look like you’ve gone bald. If you have more hair than bald spots, a buzz cut has a good chance of hiding those spots.

Can I Get A Buzz Cut If I’m Balding At The Front?

I recommend buzz cuts for guys with hair that’s thinning at their temples. If your hair is receding at the front of your head, you’ll look bald with a buzz cut.

Will I Look Bald With A Buzz Cut?

Some guys do look bald with buzz cuts. Most often, I see it happen with guys who have thin hair that has a similar color to their skin, like white guys with blond hair.

But don’t let that dishearten you. There’s really no way to tell what a buzz cut or shaved head could do for your style and confidence levels until you try it.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.