Tanning A Bald Head: Sunscreen, Sunburn, and Sun Safety

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Sunburn on a bald head is a problem. It’s painful, unsightly, and in the long term, it’s dangerous.

And it’s something that you really need to be aware of when you’re bald. This means remembering to put sunscreen on when tanning a bald head.

People wonder if you need to put sunscreen on a chrome dome – maybe the skin is thicker, or better protected?

Let me explain why that couldn’t be more wrong, and why you absolutely must put sunscreen on your head when you’re exposed to the sun.

Do bald people have to put sunscreen on their heads?

Bald people must put sunscreen on their heads during prolonged periods in the sun. Otherwise, they are at risk of burning and could cause long-term damage to their scalp. The head is the most exposed area to the sun, so it is vital that it is protected.

You should wear sunscreen on any part of your body that is exposed when you’re outside and the UV dangers are high. People remember the obvious places – arms, legs, and face – but if you’re bald you absolutely must remember your head.

If you’re newly bald – you’ve only recently shaved your head for the first time – then you might forget. But if you get burned badly, you likely won’t forget again.

sunburn on a bald head

Dangers of not wearing sunscreen on your bald head

Having to remember to put on sunscreen is one of few minor disadvantages to shaving your head.

If you forget, the aftermath will be pretty painful. But you’ve got other things to worry about as well.

Firstly, you may cause skin cancer, if you’re either letting your bald head sunburn regularly or you’re burning it to extremes.

Less seriously, you could cause aesthetic damage to your scalp. It may turn blotchy, and peeling skin is never that pretty either.

But what about using a hat, instead of sunscreen? It’s not the worst idea in the world, but there are hats that suit bald men, and hats that don’t. Similarly, there are bald men that suit hats, and bald men who don’t!

Occasionally, a hat just won’t be appropriate or practical. On the hottest days of the year, it will basically become a sweat factory.

There are also plenty of other scenarios where hats aren’t an option. Playing outdoor sports, with the exception of baseball of course, or attending a wedding (unless you’re a fedora-wearing edgelord).

Even with a hat, you’re not immune from the sun’s rays, as golfer Stewart Cink has found out on more than one occasion:

So the simple answer is, slap that sunscreen on your head, and keep it topped up during the day if you’re outside for long hours.

wearing sunscreen on a bald head

You’ll get the best tan overall, with an even skin tone that will look much better. And you’ll stay safer too.

Although, not completely safe:

Tanning a bald head safely

Technically, there is no way to naturally tan a bald head if you want to go from white to fully bronzed. Despite what you’ve heard, any kind of sun tan is actually bad for you. Your skin’s pigmentation is not supposed to change to that extreme.

Whenever you get a tan from UV light – either from the sun or from a tanning booth – you’re slightly damaging the skin cells.

Everyone has a level of natural tolerance, depending on their natural skin tone (more on that a little below). But if you want a ‘tanned’ look, then you’re causing damage.

The chances of getting skin cancer when you use a protective sunscreen are massively reduced, but they aren’t completely eliminated.

Another side effect of tanning that’s maybe a little less scary but is a real risk is premature aging.

This doesn’t just mean getting a wrinkled bald head – but age spots and other blemishes could appear sooner too.

But if you want to get a natural tan, here’s what you need to do to keep it as safe as possible:

  • Use sunscreen with a high SPF – at least 15 for short trips outdoors, or 30 for full days spent in the sun
  • The sunscreen also needs to have broad-spectrum protection – SPF only protects you from UVB damage (the kind that causes sunburn). UVA rays cause aging and so need to be protected too
  • Apply the sunscreen to your head 30 minutes before you go outside – it needs time to soak in
  • Apply it evenly – if your head isn’t completely smooth then you’ll need to make sure to get into every nook
  • Re-apply the sunscreen every 2 hours
  • If you’re heading to the beach or the poolside and you might end up swimming, use a sunscreen that is water resistant
  • If you’re a bald woman and you’re planning on wearing makeup, apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before you apply makeup.

The safest way to tan a bald head is to use fake tan products. This prevents any skin damage caused by UV rays. The only downside is that you’ll need to do it gradually as you build up the tan on your head, or you may end up with uneven, streaky results.

Tanning a newly bald head

The very first time you shave your head – whether it’s a style choice or you’re admitting defeat against receding, thinning hair – you’re going to have a tan line.

That’s because whatever hair you did have – even if it was really thin – acts as a natural barrier to the sun’s rays.

And you may not realize it, but you have a permanent ‘tan’ of sorts. Your natural skin tone is caused by day-to-day exposure to the sun. This is true, even if you live somewhere gray and dreary, like me.

When this happens, you might feel self-conscious. It does look a little odd, the first time you see it. And if you’ve already been feeling low on confidence because of your hair, it can feel like another kick. You might even feel like you regret shaving your head.

But try not to worry. Learn to embrace the new you, then get outside and do some walking.

If you live somewhere that does get hot and you’re likely to get a lot of direct sun, you’ll definitely want to get sunscreen. But if you live somewhere where it’s always cloudy, then you might not need it.

But there are still sun rays even with cloud cover, and over time you will naturally ‘tan’ your bald head to the same shade as the rest of your face.

So the best thing to do, once you shave your head for the first time, is to put some earbuds in, throw on your favorite playlist or podcast, and go for a walk.

Just make sure you do use wireless earbuds, and not a full set of headphones – or you’re getting an even weirder-looking tan line on your head.

Best bald head sun protection

Sun Bum Skin Care SPF 30 Daily Sunscreen Face Mist

  • Vegan and reef-friendly
  • UVA/UVB protection
  • Packed with Vitamin E

The best reason to choose sunscreen is that it’s effective, and Sun Bum gets rave reviews for how much protection it offers. If you’re concerned about sun damage, this is the sunscreen to get.

It’s also vegan-friendly too – not every sunscreen is. It’s good to be able to buy one that doesn’t contain collagen, elastin, and other animal by-products that aren’t needed.

Best for: all-day protection

Best matte sunscreen for a bald head

WINNER: LA Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Sunscreen

  • Oil-Free
  • Non-Greasy
  • Oxybenzone Free

Matte sunscreens are ideal if you don’t want to have that glossy, shiny look on your bald head. But they’re also normally really expensive. But this one is an excellent option that won’t break the bank.

It’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s free of oil so is also good for sensitive, dry skin. It comes with a high SPF rating so will keep you safe for long periods of the day.

It’s also dry touch, which just means you’ll be left with a soft and smooth head that won’t feel like it’s caked in product.

Best for: a clean, sheen-free finish

Best sunscreen with moisturizer

WINNER: Bee Bald Smooth Plus Daily Moisturizer With SPF30

  • Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30
  • Protects from harmful UVA/UVB rays
  • Tones, hydrates and moisturizes your skin

I’ve chosen this as my favorite moisturizer for bald heads so it’s no surprise it’s also my preferred sunscreen with moisturizer. It’s great for protecting against damage but also for improving the look and feel of your head too.

And because you can use it as part of a regular moisturizing routine, it makes you less likely to forget to apply sunscreen before you head out for the day.

And it’s good value too – you don’t need to use much to cover your head and you’ll get great protection from the sun and also other elements that dry out your skin. It makes the ideal gift for a bald man.

Best for: using every day.

Best fake tan for a bald head

WINNER: RemeVerse GLOW Self-Tanning Drops

  • Paraben-free, Oil-free, fragrance-free, dye-free
  • Depth of color increases with more drops
  • Not tested on animals

Using a fake tan is tricky if you don’t want to go too dark, but these self-tanning drops are the ideal middle-ground. 

They’re designed to be added to your regular lotion, and you can add more or fewer drops depending on the shade you want.

This means you get a nice even shade on your head without worrying about nailing the right tone. There’s nothing nasty in it either, and it’ll last a while since you only need a couple of drops at a time.

Best for: getting the right tone

Bald heads and sun exposure – what you need to know

There are a few key things you need to take away from this. Firstly, sunscreen is really important if you’re going to be outside and exposed to the sun for any length of time.

Remember it won’t stop you from tanning, so don’t try to shortcut your way there by skipping the sunscreen. If you’re desperate for a darker skin tone, then a fake tan will be much safer.

And when you first shave your head, you can even out your skin tone just by spending more time outdoors – just be sure to still use sunscreen if you live in an area where UV exposure is a risk.


If you want to know how to look good bald, start by finding out how to take care of your bald head.

A lot of what I’ve shared here is from personal experience – I casually skipped the sunscreen when I first started shaving my head, and I regret it.

I was kidding myself that I could just moisturize and my bright red sunburn would turn a deep mahogany. And it did go brown after a couple of days – but then it peeled.

There’s nothing quite like an inconsistent scalp coloration to make you feel self-conscious. Not to mention the risk of skin cancer. So I’d really urge you to not make the same mistakes.

If you’re newly bald and you keep forgetting about sunscreen, maybe set a recurring event on your phone each morning to remind you. You’ll soon get into the habit.

Don’t forget, it’s not just your head that needs protection. Make sure you have a good pair of shades on hand by checking out my guide to the best sunglasses for bald men.

sunglasses and bald head

Finally, remember that sunscreen is important, but it’s not the only thing you’ll need to keep your bald head looking and feeling great. I’ve created a full shopping list in this post on all the best products for bald heads.

Have you had any bad experiences with sunburn or sun damage on your bald head? What’s your normal sun safety routine? Let me know in the comments below.

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This post was written by Matt:

I've been shaving my head for nearly 20 years. I'm here to share that experience, good and bad, help you embrace your hair loss, and live your best bald life.

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