There comes a time when a balding man is faced with a series of choices. For some of them, this choice may come sooner than they ever would have anticipated. One crucial decision they may be faced with is whether to go for a buzz cut or a bald, shaved head.
A typical balding pattern will eventually lead to there being less and less hair on top. Once all you’re left with is a floppy tuft on top with the usual back and sides left scruffy and intact, it’s usually time for a much-needed change.
So, should you buzz it all down or shave it all off?
This article aims to help you make that decision. It’s important to know what the difference between the two methods is, what they actually look like, and how to choose which one may be for you.
The Difference Between A Buzz Cut And Shaved Head When Balding
When balding, a buzz cut will clip your hair down up to a very short stubble length without shaving it all the way down. On the other hand, shaving your head is done using a razor and will lead to a smooth, stubble-free finish.
To some, they may sound like the same thing, but they are actually very different.
A “buzz cut” is a category of hairstyles that share the common feature of being very short and dependent on the use of a clipper.
The main types of buzz cut to know are the following:
- Induction Cut – All hair is trimmed short, even, and equal in length in all directions and dimensions.
- Burr Cut – The hair on top is very slightly longer than the hair on the sides. Even by just a few millimeters (a clipper grade).
- Crew Cut – The hair on top is significantly longer than the sides which are buzzed down short. The top is usually long enough to style, slick to the side, or spike.
The style of buzz cut you choose really depends on how much hair you have left on top. If you’ve got very little hair, an Induction Cut may well be best.
However, if all you’ve got is a receding hairline, a Crew Cut might look pretty darn good. You’ve got enough hair there to work with, after all. Buzz cuts can look great with a receding hairline.
Sure, they can be tapered and faded, but that’s a topic for another article. The bottom line is that there are many variations of a “buzz cut” and many of them work exceedingly well for balding men.
Now let’s talk about shaving.
The difference between trimming and shaving comes down to how close to the skin you’re cutting. For example, when trimming buzz cut, you can only trim so short. Using the naked blade of a clipper would usually trim to around 0.5mm in length.
In other words, even using the clipper with no guard attached will still leave some stubble.
If you want that clean-shaven, Bruce Willis style scalp, you’ll have to use a razor. Razors can be manual or electric. Manual razors include the standard, incredibly popular and easy-to-use cartridge razors, as well as safety razors and straight razors.
Manual razors require the use of some lubricating oil or gel to help the blade glide across the scalp with minimal irritation.
A razor blade cuts the hair strand as close to the skin as you can get. The main benefit of this is how clean and neat it’ll look with no stubble in sight. Whether or not you want to just shave the top or the back and sides as well is up to you.
If you’re looking for a very close trim without having to manually shave with a razor , check out the Wahl Balding Clipper on Amazon. It’s comfortable, easy to use, and gives you a clean finish.
The result won’t be as clean as what you’d get with a razor, but it’ll be close enough for most people.
But if you’re looking to trim a buzz cut instead, you’ll need clippers with the length guards to allow you to do it. I really like the Wahl Elite Pros. They’re great for DIY trims and come with guards ranging from #0.5 to #8 which gives you a lot of versatility for the price. They’re available on
OK, so if you didn’t already, you now know what the difference between the two is and what they look like. It’s time to learn how to choose which one would be the style for you.
By the way, I’ve written additional articles that go into more depth on a couple of related topics. Check them out if you’re interested:
- Should Men Cut Their Hair Short If Thinning
- How To Know If You’ll Look Good With A Shaved Head
- Is A Shaved Head Professional?
How To Choose Between A Buzz Cut Or A Bald And Shaved Head
Personal taste does play a huge role – we’ll come on to that. But there are definitely other factors to consider when making your decision.
Here’s a rundown of the main ones. Some of them may matter a whole lot more to you than others. But bear all of them in mind when making your decision of whether a buzz cut is better than a bald and shaved head.
1. Assess your head shape
The reason this is important is that a lot of men have no clue what their head actually looks like with little to no hair on their scalp.
A man could be alarmingly handsome with even a small amount of hair on their head, but look a little curious with all of it gone.
It can be incredibly difficult to review the shape of your head without first shaving it all off. This isn’t ideal. You may not want to do this for the sake of a simple assessment.
But the reason it’s important for making your decision is that a buzz cut does leave a little bit of hair to act as foliage. It can mask the overall head shape even just a little bit. The longer the buzz cut is, the more effective this is.
Once you go shorter than a Number 4 buzz cut the scalp becomes more visible, and the face and head shape become more prominent and obvious.
If you want to get an idea of what your head would look like shaved, a medium-length buzz cut might be worth going for first.
In other words, a Number 3 buzz cut is a good “stepping stone” between longer hair and completely shaved. It’ll give you a taste of what you’ll see if you were to go for a shaved head.
If you do this and find it really isn’t for you, it’s probably not a good idea to go shorter or shaven.
If you and your friends and family are loving the look, chances are that the shape of your head suits having little to no hair very well.
2. Any marks, lumps, or bumps?
Many of us have no idea what lies beneath this hair. Who knows what’s been lurking down there for years just waiting for an opportunity to exhibit itself?
Many men do have scars, birthmarks, and other things on their scalp that they may or not be aware of. How comfortable they are with showing this to the world is definitely a very personal decision.
As you’d expect, if they were uncomfortable with this prospect they’d probably want to go for a buzz cut and not a fully shaved head.
Don’t take this the wrong way. Personally, I wouldn’t really care about having a few imperfections on my scalp. I still think a shaved head would look pretty awesome and intensely masculine.
But again, this is just something to consider when making your decision.
The hardest thing about this one is that it may not be possible to see those imperfections until you went short enough to see it.
You may be able to get a pretty good idea of what you’ve got on your scalp by trimming a very short buzz cut. A Number 1 would be ideal, but you may be able to get away with a Number 2.
In much the same way as you were assessing your head shape, trimming a buzz cut this short may give you a good idea as to what your scalp would look like fully shaved.
The moral of the story is that baby steps are always a good thing, particularly when it comes to changes to your hair which are pretty drastic.
Consider them “progressions” – go slow and don’t make any rash decisions without thinking things through.
3. Consider the maintenance requirements
This is also crucial to consider. Although trimming a buzz cut does take a bit of time, shaving is much more of an ordeal.
When trimming a straightforward Induction Cut, for instance, you really wouldn’t be spending much time or effort on it at all. It’s pretty hard to mess up and so easy to DIY.
Now, consider the effort required to actually shave that head. Consider not only the time it takes to shave the entire scalp but also the frequency at which you’d have to do it.
Let me explain.
If you were to trim a Number 2 buzz cut, for instance, you could quite comfortably let it grow for a few weeks before you’d consider trimming it down again. People, including yourself, really wouldn’t notice the difference if you were to let it grow out a bit.
Now, compare it to shaving. You would have spent a relatively large amount of time and effort shaving your head. You’ve got to make sure it’s very cleanly done, with no odd patches here and there – this could ruin the look.
You’ve also got to be careful not to cause any nicks and cuts, as shaving can be very irritating to the scalp.
But once you’ve done it, it does look awesome. You’ll be staring at yourself in the mirror with a mixture of awe and self-adoration.
However, if you were to leave it even just a few days, you’ll start to notice some stubble sprouting. This very short stubble is still noticeable and doesn’t look stylish or impressive. People will notice it much more than you’d initially have thought.
So, you’ll probably end up having to shave it again more often than you initially thought. This is extra time, effort, and willpower.
If you don’t have that kind of time to spare, a buzz cut may well be a better choice than a shaved head for you.
4. Consider the extent of your baldness
Again, this may be partly down to personal taste. But at the end of the day, the more hair you have on the top, the better a buzz cut would look.
If you’re down to your last few strands on top, it probably wouldn’t be worth buzzing those last few strands down.
Warning – my personal opinion coming up. Buzzing down the sides and back with nothing on top doesn’t look as good. You may disagree, and that’s completely fine.
But if all you’re left with is hair on the sides and back with nothing on top, a completely shaved head would most likely look better. Yes, that includes shaving the sides and back.
However, this does need to be tied into the other considerations. You may agree that shaving it all down would look better than buzzing just the sides and back. But at the same time, you may not be willing to sacrifice the time and effort required to frequently shave your head.
As a compromise, you may want to shave it all down now and again, or for special occasions.
5. Consider your personal taste
I saved the most important one for last. Your personal taste should always play a huge role when it comes to your own grooming.
If there’s one style you just like a lot more than the other, that may well be the one you should go for. Ultimately, no matter how many things you consider, it just comes down to what you like.
You may love the Bruce Willis-esque shaved head as a style. Or, you may love the military-style induction buzz cut.
Your personal taste will always matter more than anything else.
Buzz Cut For Balding – Before And After
As you can see, buzzing down thinning hair on top can really work. But remember, there are different types of buzz cuts to choose from. The picture above is of an induction buzz cut.
But if you had enough hair on top a crew cut could work very well indeed. If all you’ve got is a bit of a receding hairline, a crew cut with a high fade could actually absorb and camouflage the receding temples.
Check out this before and after buzz cut – looks awesome, right?
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few commonly asked and rarely answered questions worth discussing.
What’s The Best Buzz Cut For A Balding Or Thinning Crown?
If you’ve got a balding, thinning crown, or even a bald spot, the best buzz cut length would either be a #0 or a #1. Shorter buzz cut lengths will make thin hair at the crown appear less obvious.
You definitely could get a buzz cut if you’ve got a bald spot. A balding crown doesn’t prevent you from getting a buzz cut. It could still look phenomenal.
But the question of whether a buzz cut would hide a bald spot or crown is a different matter. The answer depends on how short you trim the buzz cut.
If you were to trim a Number 2 or 3 buzz cut, chances are that the balding crown would probably appear more obvious. There’s just less length there to cover things up.
It would most likely be a better idea to trim the buzz cut much shorter, to the point where the hair is so short that thin patches and bald spots are barely noticeable.
So, go ultra-short.
Can I Get A Buzz Cut If I’m Balding At The Front?
This can work incredibly well. Yes, a buzz cut would most likely look great if you’re balding at the front. But as I mentioned earlier, if all you’ve got left is very little hair on top, consider shaving the head instead of a buzz cut.
Let’s work on the presumption that you’ve got a receding hairline and are looking for a style that would suit it. The reason buzz cuts work well is that trimming the hair very short and even in length reduces the contrast and difference between the hair and the forehead.
Combine this with a high fade and the sides almost camouflage the receding temples and make them look less obvious. This effect works best for mild or moderate receding temples. More advanced receding temples are harder to hide in this manner.
But ultimately, if you’re a man that’s balding at the front, definitely consider a buzz cut.
Can I Get A Buzz Cut With Bald Patches?
Unfortunately, balding can be a pretty random and sporadic process. There are years where you may not notice any thinning at all, and also other years where you experience seriously rapid loss.
It’s also random in the distribution of loss. Although you’ll usually have hair loss starting at the front and crown and eventually merging in the middle, it isn’t usually as neat or clean as this.
You may have pretty random and sporadic patches on the top of your scalp which can seem obvious.
Your options would either be to grow the remaining hair long and try to “comb-over” the bald patches. This doesn’t ever usually look good.
Or, you could trim a buzz cut over those bald patches. Much like with the bald crown we addressed earlier, bald patches appear less obvious the shorter the buzz cut is trimmed. Once again, a zero grade or a Number 1 would most likely be your best bet here.
Those bald patches may be a bit obvious with a Number 2 buzz cut, but this may be a good compromise if you don’t want to go too short.
Does A Buzz Cut Hide Baldness?
A buzz cut won’t hide bald patches completely but often does make the appearance of thinning hair look less obvious. The shorter the buzz cut, the more effective it tends to be.
Ultimately, “hiding” baldness is never a good mindset to be in.
Think of both buzz cuts and shaved heads as ways of embracing baldness, instead of desperate attempts at hiding it.
I do love how baldness is very much in trend these days.
Having said this, style choice is incredibly important for balding and receding men. There are certainly styles that are more flattering than others.
Choosing between a buzz cut or a bald and shaved head for a balding man may be an agonizing decision. After all, grabbing for that razor is a pretty big commitment.
Hopefully, this article has made things just a little bit easier. I didn’t intend to tell you one was definitely better than the other. I simply wanted to disseminate this information and guide you to make the best decision for yourself.
Whatever you do, have fun with it.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.