It’s tempting to think that life is easy for the Bald.
No combing of the hair every time you wake up from a nap or come in from a hurricane. You can wear any kind of hat you want, and it’s bound to look better than you’d otherwise appear. You’re never frantically maneuvering your tongue amidst your teeth and gums, trying to remove a hair that somehow slipped in there. Everyday existence is a sweet ride.
Turns out, however, that there’s a dark side to being hairless. We were reminded of all the obstacles that bald people have to overcome just this week when the newly crowned Miss Delaware, Kayla Martell, announced that alopecia would be her Official Cause, should she prevail in the upcoming Miss America pageant. Kayla’s tiara fit quite snugly over her bald head once she had secured her victory and could remove that silly blonde wig she wore during the competition because there’s no way she would’ve won otherwise.
In addition to the cruel mocking of an intolerant society obsessed with furry heads, there’s the issue of sunburn. There’s the issue of being blinded every time you look into a mirror on a sunny day. There are apparently challenges in skin care, and how to keep any unwanted stubble in check, and what to do if your bone structure is too pocked with peaks and valleys.
To the rescue of those who are bald yet still seek to be at least marginally presentable comes the products of BaldGuyz, a company headquartered in New Jersey that specializes in skull care. I’m visiting BaldGuyz.com for this week’s Website Review, and also to get a good chuckle at the expense of those less fortunate than I.
I first encountered the company’s merchandise in the “reduced” bin at the local grocery store, mixed in with watermelon-flavored Kool Aid and blank VHS tapes. So I was a little surprised to read on the home page that their flagship product was proudly returning to the market after an unplanned hiatus. “Head Wipes are Back!” screamed the headline and, sure enough, there they were, now available in a fragrance-free formula. (It seems that an unspecified mishap at the factory in Switzerland had briefly interrupted the supply chain, but the product should now be back in stores everywhere, hopefully free of the taint of chocolate or cheese or army knives or whatever it was that interrupted earlier shipments.)
The “head wipe,” in case you’re unfamiliar, is not the manager of all the assistant wipes. It’s a disposable cloth, packaged much like a condom (in an apparent homage to Howie Mandell), that’s infused with chemicals which “clean and moisturize and cool and refreshen” when you rub it into the top of your bald head. The newest line includes a “green tea formula” because, like everything from oil spill dispersants to lethal injections, you gotta have green tea.
Besides the head wipes promotion, the home page contains links to other products and tie-ins and about a half-dozen hairless guys, all looking manly, happy and — in the case of Bald Guy of the Week “John M.” of Orem, Utah — extremely self-confident, except about the public release of his last name.
There’s a “Clubhouse” pulldown that includes a Bald Guy Gallery, the Off The Top blog, the Head Stylin’ Tips blog, the BaldGuyz Buddies and the BaldGuyz Club. The gallery features photographs of nearly a hundred men in various states of repose that all include staring blankly at the camera. According to the intro, “there are many famous, and not so famous Bald Guyz. Here you can [missing verb] the different galleries of bald guys” and have fun filling in the dropped action word (“ponder”? “laugh at”? “consider defacing”?) The site, as you might’ve surmised from the company name, is littered with typos and punctuation errors, but who has time for proper writing techniques when you’re so busy being bald?
The two blogs contain some very helpful and reassuring information for the denuded demographic. There’s a link to an article about the genetic origins of baldness, quoting the chromosomal studies of Felix F. Brockschmidt, which is a scientist name if I ever heard one. There’s a shout-out to “Financial Baldies,” noting the proliferation of “fellow chrome domes in the financial sector” — Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and former treasury secretary Henry Paulson, among others — and asking “if they vcould [sic] all agree on the process for moving the country forward … and gor [sic] for it, fellow bald ones”.
The styling tips discuss how to address the problems of dry skin, flaking, redness and uneven tone, and debate the relative merits of head shine. “Some ask how to get a good one (shine) and others ask how to eliminate one,” hinting at possible sectarian violence in the cueball community down the road. If you prefer the shine, “some use a wax while others use butters and oils.” If instead you’re on Team Matte, “we’ve heard stories of people using baby powder or corn starch to dull the shine.”
Wisely avoiding the urge to take sides in this budding conflict, the company instead prefers to offer a slate of products to reinforce individuals’ own particular world view. There’s the daily wash and shampoo, “a concentrated gel made to clean and moisturize the skin and wash the hair (if any)”. There’s an SPF 30 sunscreen that includes both green tea and aloe vera, as well as cholecalciferol, hydroxypropylcellulose and fragrance. There’s a pre-shave scrub, a moisture gel, a shave gel and a BaldGuyz coffee mug, presumably to combine all these unguents into if you prefer to drink them. And there’s a fascinating contraption called a head massager “to tingle your senses and stimulate the blood flow of your cranium.” It features perhaps a dozen flexible metallic prongs radiating out from a central handle that you can use to arouse your scalp or, in a pinch, serve as a really bad toupee.
The Frequently Asked Questions section of the website gives some excellent insight into the dreams and fears of the bald populace. “What makes a bald head special?” is answered with the reassurance that “the pores secrete natural oils that attract pollutants and dust which can cause the head to be grimy.” If you want to clean your oily head during the day or if your head is dry and flaking, you’re referred back to the “Products” section for the appropriate wipe and/or salve. “When my head gets sunburned it hurts, and I have tried all the aloe products which leave my head sticky,” notes another questioner. “What can I use?” I’d suggest a morphine hat, although this page leans toward another balm.
In the News pulldown, there’s a reprint of a 2007 New York Times article recounting how baldness has become almost fashionable. Gone are the days, it says, when it took formidable personalities and names like Kojak, Yul, Ike and Mr. Clean to pull off the look. Now, it can work for everyone, and the piece cites former combover-wearer and BaldGuyz founder Howard Brauner as an example. It’s obvious that Brauner is the pioneer in the field, though props are also given to some rival firms like HeadBlade and Bold for Men. These, however, seem aimed at a younger market niche. Abe Minkara, the awesomely rad dude who started Bold for Men, said he never uses the word “bald.” “I prefer being called ‘bold,'” he said. HeadBlade makes x-treme products like ClearHead (a salicylic acid), HeadSlick, HeadShed and HeadLube, and temporary head tattoos. (I wonder if you could get a hair tattoo).
In closing, I think it’s worth returning to Miss Delaware to put the issue of hairlessness into a perspective that only a beauty queen could enunciate.
“I hope to show people that beauty comes in all different kinds of packages,” she said. “No beauty queen should fit into a box and look like a Barbie every time they wake up. Whatever makes you different, you should embrace it.”
Even if it makes you look like the love child of Bruce Willis and an Airbender.