Why I Shaved My Head and What I’ve Learned

*Note: the first half of this article discusses the reasons for why I personally chose to shave my hair off. I then move on to talking about a few things that I would like women who plan to shave their heads to know.

 

Shaving My Head to Overcome Trichotillomania

 

Shaving my hair is my golden ticket to liberating myself from trichotillomania disorder - characterized by the pulling of one’s hair. This obsessive urge to pull hair affects 1 - 4% of the population; within the U.S., roughly 100,000 people suffer from trich. Hair pulling typically develops during adolescence, especially among those who experience extreme levels of stress during development. With high levels of anxiety, hair pulling serves as a destresser. The severity of pulling one’s hair varies depending on the individual, as well as the location of pulling (one’s head, eyelashes, eyebrows etc.).

At the age of fourteen, I underwent a familial hardship. Despite attending weekly therapy and sustaining a fairly healthy lifestyle by participating in team sports and maintaining a nutritious diet, pulling my hair was my way of psychologically relieving stress.

 

You may be wondering, “Doesn’t pulling your hair hurt?” My straightforward answer is no. Those with trichotillomania enjoy the feeling of a follicle being extracted from their scalp: the feeling is one of release. BuzzFeed’s Ashley Perez recently revealed her struggle with trich., comparing the sensation of hair pulling to zapping a bug that has annoyingly buzzed around your ear for too long.

 

For six years, I have dealt with the extreme self-guilt of being unable to control my hand’s impulse to place itself on my head and pull. I have watched and felt the volume of my hair lessen, diminishing my confidence. Trichotillomania led me to hold up mirrors, staring at the back of my head for long periods of time, asking myself how I had possibly gotten to the point in my life where my very own hair became a source of torture.

(Pulling mainly occurred at the back of my head)

 

During therapy sessions, my therapist and I would analyze what was making me anxious and stressed out. While helpful, it wasn’t helpful enough to stop me from pulling my hair. In fact there were often times in which I wasn’t stressed at all, but the pattern of pulling my hair was so entrenched in my brain that the act was second nature.

 

I tried hair extensions, gloves, acrylic nails, head scarves, hats, you name it. I did a extremely good job at hiding bald spots and thinning hair. Not only has trich. been a huge self esteem killer, but it has been utterly embarrassing. Being told by naive (though caring) family and friends to “cut out the bad habit” left me feeling small and powerless. Being told my hairdressers to just “let” my hair grow has been invalidating.

Finally, at the stage of my life where I feel secure enough in my own beauty, with or without hair, I made the healthy decision to shave my head. Having no hair to pull for a period of time is my own golden ticket to overcoming my disorder. In building up the courage to go through with shaving my hair off, I looked to powerful women without hair, such as those shown below:(Demi Moore, actress who shaved her head for the role of G.I. Jane)

 

(Emma Gonzalez, American activist and advocate for gun control)

 

(Shalom Blac, YouTube Beauty Guru and burn survivor)

 

This journey of my hair growth will be one of self growth. Not only will I overcome the urge to pull - granting me my full power back, I will learn to see beauty as more than my exterior because with or without hair, I am a proud woman.

Planning on Shaving Your Head? Here are some things I want you to know:

 

  1. Yes, people will be initially surprised. But people will be extremely supportive. Living in a society that so heavily pressures both women and men to uphold a particular aesthetic of beauty, many people will gasp at the first site of your shaven head. Not because they believe you are no longer beautiful, but because you have chosen to define beauty on your own terms. People will feel empowered by your act of freeing yourself from deeply entrenched norms of beauty, especially the women around you.  

  2. Many people will want to rub your head. People will want to touch the texture of liberation.

  3. You will save time and money. You will wake up in the morning, go to your cabinet of hair products, hair brushes, and hair dryers and suddenly realize they are no longer of any use. You will return to your bed and enjoy an extra 30 minutes of sleep.

  4. Showers will be a completely new experience. Feeling the hot water run down your scalp will be such a relaxing sensation. Shampooing and conditioning your hair with product the size of a gum drop will make you laugh.

  5. Drying your hair will quite literally take less than 2 minutes.

  6. You will question your femininity but you will come to realize you are more than your hair. You will understand that your hair or lack thereof doesn’t compromise your beauty.

  7. The wind’s breeze flowing across your head will feel extremely refreshing.

  8. You will be making a powerful statement. Whether shaving your head is for your health, or for the simple want to checking off your life’s bucket list, a lack of hair for a woman is a nice ‘fuck you’ to a trillion dollar beauty industry that virtually stuffs their idea of “beauty” down our throats.