Admit it. Sitting there in the theater, gazing up at the gorgeous Dora Milaje, the thought occurred to you at least once: Could I pull off a bald head?
Maybe your answer was an immediate and unequivocal “No,” but if there was even a glimmer of curiosity, let’s dig into it. While women have been rocking baldies and fades for centuries now, our hair is often still considered our “crowning glory.” But is the crown really what’s on your head, or what’s in it?
With the ongoing popularity of Marvel’s Black Panther, we got not only an eyeful of epic black excellence and battle scenes, but also a bevy of bald beauties, courtesy of Wakanda’s royal guard, the Dora Milaje, led by General Okoye (played by Danai Gurira), who sports not only a clean-shaven head but a tattooed one.
Much to our delight, long after shooting wrapped, Gurira continued to have fun with the look in real life; even taking to having designs etched into her reverse bald fade, which she rocked to glamorous effect at the Black Panther European premiere.
But for those of us who aren’t starring in the latest Hollywood blockbuster, is this a look we can realistically pull off? To find out, we reached out to one of our favorite bald beauties, psychiatrist and occasional contributor to The Root, Dr. Imani J. Walker.
Walker began shaving her head at about the age of 17 while an incoming freshman at Xavier University in New Orleans. Originally arriving at school with the popular ’90s-era permed-and-cropped cut made famous by Halle Berry, Walker tells The Glow Up that she quickly found the need for a drastic change:
So, I got down to New Orleans, and it was like 90-something degrees and 120 percent humidity, and my hair was just—I was like, “This isn’t happening. I’m not looking cute right now.”
And then, my roommate at the time, when we met, we had the exact same haircut. And I was like, OK; out of necessity and also because I just hate doing what everybody else is doing, I just cut it.
That “big chop” led to what has become Walker’s trademark look for the past 25 years, a gleaming bald head she shaves every other day. A very active mom and wife on top of her duties as a doctor, she credits her choice of hairstyle—or lack thereof—with making her busy lifestyle simpler.
I’m fairly active—I work out a good six, if not seven, days a week. So one of the things I really love about it is the fact that it’s not, there’s not anything that I have to really be concerned about ... but also on top of that, [if I’m] jumping in the pool, or I’m the middle of the street and the wind blows, it feels really just nice. It’s just a really refreshing feeling.
Walker also admits to us that her personal affinity for baldness is as psychological as it is physical:
I guess, spiritually speaking, I’ve always felt the need [for] my thoughts to be as close to the air as possible; I just need to feel like I have freedom of thought. And for me, that physically just means having the freedom to be able to have my scalp exposed to as many elements possible. But I think more than anything, I like the way it feels, and it just so happens to look good.
But Walker warns that while lower maintenance, choosing to go bald doesn’t mean no maintenance. She indulges in a strict skin and scalp regimen to keep her look smooth and free of razor bumps, emphasizing that “you have to give it as much thought as you would give any type of hairstyle.”
How does she keep her dome glowing? By taking extreme care with the tools and products she uses. “You can’t just take Barbasol shaving cream or some plastic cheap razor and just go to your head; you’ll destroy your scalp,” she warns. “You’ll have razor bumps forever, and it’s not going to be cute.”
To keep her close shave extra-cute, Walker has her routine down to a science:
- First, using a barber-grade Wahl trimmer, like the GroomsMan T-Pro, specially made to give a bump-free shave, Walker shaves her entire head.
- Next, she goes over her head with a set of clippers—she likes Wahl’s Ultra Close Cut Pro, crafted specifically for close shaves but less likely to cause razor bumps. While, technically, she has a very close shave, Walker says, “To the naked eye, it looks like my head is shining.”
- After shaving, Walker oil cleanses her scalp, stressing that she treats her scalp the way she treats her face, first applying an oil cleanser that she wipes off with a hot washcloth, followed by a turmeric mask to her face and scalp, which helps to decrease inflammation, and does double duty against pimples and razor bumps. Walker’s homemade mask includes turmeric powder, yogurt, rosewater and lemon juice.
- Once out the shower, she applies a toner with salicylic acid, which she says is “very exciting in a tingling, like, ‘Oh my God,’ kind of a way—but the tingle at least lets me know that it works!” Afterward, she recommends using a hydrocortisone or steroid cream on the scalp to help nip any inflammation or razor bumps in the bud.
Walker follows this regimen religiously, shaving only every other day to cut down on irritation and get the best results.
But while Walker absolutely loves her look, she admits that she’s used to getting stares from those who are unaccustomed to seeing a bald woman, which is why it was so refreshing to see the similarly styled Dora Milaje on-screen.
“I went to go see the movie with my son, and we talked a little bit about it after the movie, and he was like, ‘Well, yeah, it’s like an army of my mom. This is great ... it’s like having my mom, but, like, 10 of them. This is amazing.’”
And for those who think a woman going bald compromises her femininity, the doctor has this to say:
Femininity to a lot of people equates with being soft. Femininity to me is the ability to have the option to be soft—the option to be whatever you want—but more importantly, it’s to be a woman and powerful. So I feel very feminine with my head shaved ... I’d feel less feminine if I wore a wig or if my bald head were not on display every day.
This is my head. I do what I want to do with it. And if they don’t like it, that’s not really my problem. ... But anybody who doesn’t feel that this look is feminine, I think, needs to really re-evaluate what their insecurities are, and why they would feel the need to place their insecurities on someone else.
And because Walker isn’t the only bald baddie in our midst, we did a little roundup of a few of our other favorite beauties who’ve dared to go bare—or, at least, almost there.
With temps blessedly rising and sundress season steadily approaching, we can’t think of a better time to take it all off. But that said, we know it’s not a look every woman can pull off, as Walker aptly notes:
I mean, it’s not for everyone. I do think that everyone should try it, but it’s not necessarily for everyone, because not [everyone’s head] is necessarily evenly shaped. People have asked me “Well, how did you know what your head was going to look like?” I don’t know, I just did it. Just do it. Just try it and see. The worst-case scenario, your hair is going to grow back.
So, what do you say? Do you dare to go bare? Admittedly, this is a choice that might requires a little contemplation, but whatever you do ...