Mar 10

bald woman holding head

“Ugly is a field without grass, a plant without leaves, or a head without hair.”
Ovid “The Silent Woman”

The meaning of being bald as a woman:

“What does it mean to be bald as a woman?” One possible sentiment might be “Oh, she is beautiful!” and as exampled in the following quote, typically this comment is reserved for the woman who lost her crown to the fight against cancer:

“A bald woman on chemo is beautiful.”

Yes, being bald as a woman often represent sickness, or maybe just getting old–er. Then there are those of you who are more forward thinkers and can rattle off the names of beautiful iconic bald-headed women in the entertainment industry who are not cancer survivors such as Amber Rose, Megan Fox, and Erykah Badu. Many of whom a shaved head is a matter of style or stance and choice – for a moment. However, these women are accepted as tokens, because “…sometimes bald women are a pleasant surprise. And often, better than that!” (www.esquire.com).

beautiful iconic bald-headed women like Amber Rose

What???? Why do we always look to the entertainment industry to define acceptable attributes of beauty and hotness? “A pleasant surprise…”???? But yes, this is our reality and I am not surprised that in general, for female baldness and beauty to reside in the same sentence, it would be an anomaly! Hence the “truth” (all relative) in the sentiment of the opening quote from Ovid. In a search for the definition of “baldness” you will never find a qualitative noun. What you will find is an adjective, which sadly enough is apropos, because gosh dang it, that is how bald women are perceived– “having little or no hair on the scalp”, destitute of some natural growth or covering”, lacking detail, bare, plain, unadorned”, “open; undisguised”. Never – beautiful! All images of beautiful women will not include a bald head. I dare you to do a search online right now. Just simply put in “beautiful women” in the search box. In the meantime, check this quote:

“I think if I see a woman bald, my heart usually goes out to them as it is more than likely a medical or health condition. Being a woman I think that most women would be quick to don a wig because it is said that our hair is our crowning glory. But as stated on men the hair or lack of hair has nothing to do with the person’ it is what’s inside the hearts and minds that makes a person.”

All I will say is “wow…really???”

The cost of Baldness:

The reality is, hair loss and baldness does not discriminate age, race, or gender, and can be extremely stressful for both men and women. There are as many wigged, weaved, and hair clipped women, as there are the hair club and toupeed men desperate to cover balding spots and thinning receding hairlines. Although there are about 40 million balding men in the US, a good 10% of this number will pursue their fleeing follicles, spending more than $1 billion each year on hair care products, pills, hair pieces, systems, and transplant procedures to cover up, get some “detail”, and to adorn and disguise that plain exposed patch of bare scalp. Baldness messes with the “qi” and we (men and women) want to do something about it! NOW!

stunning baldheaded woman

The Goose and the Gander:

Forty percent of women will experience some visible hair loss by the time she gets to 40 years old. Yet baldness is much more readily acceptable in men than women. How many women fear retribution from the love in their life if she was to just cut her hair short? Be truthful now, men love hair! Look at this quote from a woman who believes in the power of her hair as a sex symbol:

“Hair is a real sex symbol. Ladies covet great hair and men strive for it. I once shaved my head in order to get my husband to go away. We fought and I do not like to fight. So to end it…I shaved my head. He had once told me if I cut my hair, he was gone.”

Alrighty then! Yet a bald man is often seen as sexy, attractive, and intelligent, and for many women, “it’s not an issue or deal breaker”. Not so much for a bald woman. One woman stated most profoundly:

“Some bald men are turn ons for me…as for bald women, I’m thankful I’m not one of them…”

Historically, woman experiencing hair loss and baldness continue to experience very negative attitudes (from others) as a result of her appearance. Any state of ill-contained baldness is often a death sentence and negative comments, inexorably linked to poor self-esteem (her own), perceptions of looking older, which will result in greater dissatisfaction of her appearance and feelings of unattractiveness to others. One woman responded:

“I believe we can more readily accept a bald male than female. When I see a bald female, I immediately think of illness…It is stigmatic to see a bald female because we are so vain we always want to have a nice coiffure…”

Being bald as a woman fuels loss of self-confidence, depression, and even embarrassment in certain circles. Imagine being bald and having to be in front of a camera daily as a part of your job. Would you still feel unattractive if you were draped in a Vera Wang gown, Christian Louboutin shoes, fire diamond jewelry, and a clean bald-head on your way to a special event? Most women would not. On the flip side, I know that weaving in bright blue hair, orange, or several shocks of platinum blond hair would catapult me into a state of depression, suppress my self-confidence, and stroke my perceptions of looking like a clown. Oh, you disagree?? My point exactly, different strokes for different folks and beauty is (often) in the eye of the beholder. As long as you express your zany side – with hair- it’s all right. Just don’t shave your head ladies!

Causes of Hair Loss

On a serious note, my argument is more for those women who did not choose to be bald or balding. Hair loss may be due to medical conditions. Hormonal imbalances such as thyroid disorders, autoimmune disorders can result in alopecia areata, scalp infections, skin disorders arising from lupus, side effects of medications for heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, arthritis and cancer. Given the health statistics and chronic disease prevalence, this could be you – soon. In other instances, mistreatment of the hair and scalp through hair pulling disorder, certain hairstyles and hair treatments, physical or emotional shock, nutrition, eating disorders and family history, and this too could you. The message is, being bald is not limited to cancer survival – or just getting old-er. It can be out of your control.

happy baldheaded woman

The cost of Having Hair:

I agree that hair is significant in expressing our individuality and attractiveness. We can make it purple, shaved completely on one side, and locked up like a lion’s mane. Ads about shampoos, hair color and heating irons make that clear. In fact, did you know that women spend half a trillion dollars on hair care, weaves, and wigs each year? Many women will most likely agree that hair like money – more is better.

Thankfully, being bald is not a death sentence. Whatever the reason is for your being bald, I encourage you to be a pleasant surprise. And even more often, better than that! Walk tall, pull your shoulders back and lift your head up. Demonstrate that to be “different” is not to be deficient. Be that “shocker”, that memorable North Star in a room full of coiffed women. There is nothing more graceful, elegant, attractive and beautiful than confidence. Be the indelible statement that challenges onlookers to redefine beautiful as a noun, a combination of qualities that pleases the aesthetic senses of sight, intellect, and moral sense. In the meantime, take heart in the truth that “God made only so many perfect heads; the rest he covered with hair!”

Live well, laugh much, love twice as hard, and be grateful.

See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.
  • One thing that I have to add to your wonderful article Dr. Carly is the fact that beautiful women… as in naturally, #Iwokeuplikethis beautiful women have it much easier with a baldhead than let’s say “average” girl. I will even go as far as saying cute girls get a bit of a pass from hair hounds more-so than the girls who use hair to accent things one way or the other to look attractive.

    Being a guy that isn’t caught up on women’s hair like most, I can appreciate a bald head on a beauty, but I do know a ton of guys that NEED hair on a woman. Much of this need comes from growing up and lusting after what we see in comic books and movies (plus the cute girl in class) but I would like to think that this is going away.

    Women come in every variety these days and more are being brave about establishing their own look as opposed to the tall media bombshell with flowing hair that gets shoved down our throat on a consistent basis.

    I would also like to point out that in video games–which has been the target of ire for the objectification and misuse of women–there was a beautiful, black, baldheaded Enchanter in Bioware’s Dragon Age Inquisition. Her name is Vivienne How’s that for progress? 🙂

    • Dr. Carly

      Hi Dragon,

      You stated “Being a guy that isn’t caught up on women’s hair like most, I can appreciate a bald head on a beauty, but I do know a ton of guys that NEED hair on a woman.”

      Boy you got that right, only it seem guys like you are more in the minority. Many men may not care for “fake hair” that comes with extensions, weaves, and wigs, but still find a low buzz or completely shaved head on a woman (his woman – let me correct that) a hard pill to swallow.

      I appreciate the perspective of the influence of comic books, and lets throw in video games, video vixens, and such…we do live what we learn. We are in a time when women are establishing the right to own their personhood – from hyphenated names to not changing their last names at marriage to as you so succinctly stated “Women come in every variety these days and more are being brave about establishing their own look”.

      The path of a leader, a pioneer, a trailblazer can be much of lonely walk – when you choose to look external to yourself to find validation.

  • Coracreates

    Very interesting article, Dr. Carly. I agree that our society has a tendency to associate baldness with illness…with women of a younger age. Years ago after coming out a terrible relationship, I went to a salon and got it hacked off. It was in southeast asia…and they ended up making it look like a mullet. So I just asked them to cut it off completely – it was shaved to about a 1/4 inch long. My hair before it was the longest it had ever been – mid back and very thick. I didn’t want any attention from men and did that drastic move. I felt really weird afterwards – sometimes wore a hat but..it is much more severe when totally bald. My son who is 10, has super thick hair and was dealing with some dry scalp/dandruff problems so he asked me to shave his head totally bald. To be honest, I felt the same thing as mentioned in the article for women – that people might think he is ill or recovering from chemo…:( I didn’t want to deal with having to shave it repeatedly or him getting sun burned. So anyway, shaved it nice and short. I think if a woman chooses to have her head shaved – for whatever reason – it is her choice. I will try to keep an open mind and no assume things…I think a person is beautiful with or without it.

    • Dr. Carly

      Hi there Coracreates,
      Thank you for your comment. I have to admit that I chuckled when you said you “hacked” off your hair, after coming out of a terrible relationship. Here is why….

      The description of “hacking” sounded so brutal and violent to me, versus “cutting” of shaving”. Yet I get it. It could have been very symbolic of the death of your relationship. It just amazes me that your hair was the choice of visible sacrifice in demonstrating this new beginning. Sometimes I wonder how this thought gets into our psyche, because it is such a common thing to do – in the same way when most of us lose significant weight or make other major changes in our life, our hair goes along in the compilation of symbols that tells the story (think of all the testimonial advertisements).

      I honor your son for making such a request – which would have been a quick way to treat his scalp, and healthy hair grows back reasonably quickly. But like you said – external variables including his peers may associate negative connotations and reactions, and make his life hell. But I also find that kids are pretty resilient and are great teachers of the rest of us.

      All in all, I am very encouraged by your summary statement and I bow to you. I appreciate that you have decided to keep an open mind, now that you are aware. Maybe in some incremental way we can begin to change perceptions by our individual actions. Thank you!

      • Coracreates

        Hi Dr. Carly,
        I wish I would have seen this sooner. Your comment opened my eyes. Very insightful in many ways. You are right – it is interesting how I used that term “hacking” of my hair off. 🙂 I was so hurt by my situation – my first (only real full love) of a man and he had cheated on me – was basically narcissistic and still married. He was cheating on his wife, me and on both of us with other women too. Lovely situation with the first man I fully opened up to and trusted 100%. But, it taught me some things. And, that’s ok. I remember thinking back to that time and wanting men to stay the heck away from me after the breakup. My hair was complimented the most when I lived there. I would actually get my hair washed, a scalp massage and then they would blow dry my hair (it would take forever – they were super precise and perfectionists) about once a week for only two dollars. It was my stress reliever, come to think of it. So, part of me was curious about what it would be like to have super short hair – maybe I had always wanted to do it deep down. So the cheater situation pushed me over the edge and I wanted no attention or advances from men – so I had it chopped off. 🙂

        What you said about my son was very wise. He has taught me so much. He honestly does not care in the slightest what other kids think if he shaves his head. I will ask him about this sometime again. Winter, even fall isn’t good though where I live – very cold. I’m going to let him make these choices from now on – he will be fine and learn from them (as will I). He questions things that other kids don’t. He made me realize some of our cultural norms are strange and dishonest and how against them he is. For example, the whole Santa Clause thing – he was so hurt by that – I had to explain and apologize repeatedly that it was a thing I enjoyed as a kid and just “normal” to me to continue on the tradition. He basically said it will stop with him and he would never lie to his kids like that someday (he is 10 by the way!!! LOL). So, he amazes me and I will continue learning from his honesty. Thank you for your article. I am going to see what else you have written now. Take care. 🙂