[Note: This beard guide was written by Nate Lewis (pictured) from Iron & Tweed.]
Growing a beard is an experience – plain and simple.
Some critics like to say that having a beard is a trend.
Beards have seen a resurgence in popularity, but I wouldn’t call facial hair a trend. I would label it the opposite – bucking a trend.
In a world where shaving is the norm, a full beard is a sign of defiance.
But shaving wasn’t always the norm…
Throughout history, men of all walks of life, from blue collar workers to the fathers of industry, proudly wore facial hair.
Having facial hair is the default. Men grow hair on their face and there’s no reason that keeping a beard should be frowned upon, unless you let your entire appearance get sloppy.
While some men actually enjoy a smooth shave (myself included), most men do it because it’s a requirement of the modern-day workplace.
Office men begrudgingly pull out the can of foam and a disposable razor every morning just to avoid lecturing bosses.
What growing a beard can do for you
Changing our hair and/or facial hair is one of the only cosmetic ways we can radically alter our appearance as men.
Growing out your beard is like giving a big middle finger to the world.
It can give you a sense of freedom to question authority.
After seeing your lion’s mane of a beard, people may start to make assumptions about you.
They might think you’re a rebel and an interesting person.
“Does he own his own business? He obviously doesn’t work in an office, I doubt they’d allow that.”
“Does ride a motorcycle? He looks badass enough.”
“I’ll bet this guy doesn’t let anyone tell him what to do.”
You may also find yourself becoming more popular with the fairer sex.
Women will pay more attention to you. I literally don’t go a full day without being complimented on my beard or mustache.
Having a beard exudes a masculine presence that women respond to, just like having a muscular physique, being tall, having a deep voice, or dressing in a manner that hints at success and wealth.
A good beard can open doors for you and, contrary to popular belief, having a beard can actually do great things for your career.
A beard can give off the impression of maturity and experience.
Walking into an interview with a well-groomed beard and sharp appearance makes the boss man think “here’s a guy who doesn’t let people walk all over him, this man is a leader.”
Since growing out my beard, a number of opportunities have presented themselves that wouldn’t have otherwise.
Can you even grow a full beard?
If you’ve never grown a beard and aren’t sure if it’s in the cards for you, your first mission is to go about three or four days without shaving.
By that time you should have a significant amount of scruff. You’ll then be able to assess the landscape. Everywhere you have stubble is prime beard-growing real estate.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you have any bald spots, waiting another week or two won’t result in them filling in. That’s just the genetic hand you were dealt.
Now, with your scruff in place you should be able to visualize what type of beard you’ll be able to grow. If you can grow a full beard, great.
If not, you’ll have to judge what kind of style you will be able to grow.
If you mostly have scruff on your chin and upper lip, then a goatee is in your future. If your facial hair is coming in predominantly around the jawline, some version of a chin-strap will probably be your best bet.
The point is, figure out what you have and how you can work with that.
If your facial hair comes in patchy, there’s nothing you can do to reach full beard status, short of a hair transplant (don’t ask where they’d get the spare curly hairs).
The exception is if you’re still quite young. I’ve had friends that barely needed to shave until they were 20 years old, but could grow something decent later in life.
So if you’re still in high school and can’t grow a full beard, don’t panic. There’s still time.
If you can’t grow a thick beard, know when to throw in the towel
If after a week or so you find you’re only growing extremely patchy or wispy hair, you may need to abandon the campaign.
While your facial hair doesn’t need to be perfect, you’ll probably still want to grow something that actually resembles a beard. Mother Nature can be cruel and not all men have the ability to grow full and even facial hair.
So if you don’t have the potential to grow a beard you’re happy with, don’t despair. You can still stand out in a crowd by owning a smooth shave.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being clean, mean, and ready for business everyday.
A lot of guys with thick facial hair would kill for some of your peach fuzz. Don’t think of light facial hair as a curse – accept it as a gift from the shaving gods and keep your face baby smooth.
Okay, I’m ready to do this. All I have to do is stop shaving, right?
Yes and no.
This could be an extremely short article. “Stop shaving” is really all the instruction you need to grow a beard.
Men have been doing it since long before hair clippers and beard oil, after all.
But growing a beard that won’t get you fired or cause people to cross the street when they see you coming their way is a completely different story.
The process of growing out your facial hair can either make you look like you’ve been on a week-long bender, or like a stately gentleman.
Whether you like it or not, people make judgements about you before you even open your mouth. If you play your cards right, this can actually work in your favor.
Think about it. Getting people to think the world of you before you’ve even said a word is a pretty sweet deal.
Present yourself as a proud, capable man and you’ll be treated as such.
If you refuse to put any effort into your appearance, however, people will have a negative opinion of you right off the bat.
You’ll then have to work hard to overcome their original opinions about you. Not the best way to start a relationship.
So, while simply ceasing your shaving routine will result in a beard, it can also make you look like a slob in the eyes of the civilized world.
On the other hand, growing a magnificent mane by following the simple tips below will earn you TONS of respect and countless stares of admiration.
5 ways to make the transition from shaved to fully bearded easier
Even though we all want to be entrepreneurs, not everyone has reached that point yet. And even those who have managed to escape the clutches of a soul-stealing 9-5 still need to keep up appearances.
It’d be mighty difficult to convince someone that your company’s services can help their business if you don’t appear attentive enough to take care of your own face.
Growing a beard can be an awkward, uncomfortable process at times, but here are a few things you can do to make the transition from baby-faced to rugged gentleman a little smoother and more enjoyable.
1. Grow the beard out over a long weekend or vacation.
There’s no way around it, you’re going to look sloppy for the first week of your journey.
So if looking good is important to your business, you’ll want to show up with a beard already in place, rather than growing it in front of your bosses or clients.
Starting a few days before you leave on a vacation will help you get ahead of the game a little. When you return to work, you’ll have something that resembles a beard and not just a lack of grooming.
It’s best to go a week or more, so if you can get the time off, go for it. Otherwise, capitalize on a holiday weekend.
Essentially, what you want to do is skip showing your face at the office during the awkward scruffy stage.
Bonus points for starting it on a camping trip.
Being out in the wilderness, chopping wood, and building a campfire may not make your beard grow any faster, but it’ll make the process more of an experience, a right of passage.
2. Trim the neck and cheek lines often.
I failed to do this the first time I grew a beard and it looked like I was just being lazy, rather than intentionally growing my facial hair. It looked so bad that I thought about shaving the whole thing off every single time I looked into the mirror.
I looked and felt like a complete bum.
Since then, I clean up the neck and cheek lines after a week and continue to do so every few days. As a result, no one’s confused me for a homeless Santa.
Just make sure you’re conservative with how much you take off.
Take your time and use a slow, steady hand – you don’t want to butcher the whole thing and have to start all over again.
Trimming the Cheek Line
To trim the cheek line, grab a pair of small scissors and start clipping only the hairs highest up on your cheek, working your way down until you have a clean but natural looking hairline.
It’s much better to work your way down to establish the line rather than trying to cut in with a razor.
You definitely don’t want a severe, manicured look to your cheek line. It should look as natural as possible.
Think of it as removing stray hairs, rather than creating a line.
Trimming the Neck Line
For the neck, almost everyone goes too high and too far forward when establishing their line.
You should not be shaving the hair under your chin, only the hair on the neck.
Everyone’s shape is different but in general, for everything below your jawline, if the surface is vertical, that means it’s your neck and should be shaved. If it’s horizontal, it’s part of your face and should be left alone.
Your neckline should basically curve down from your ear, to your Adam’s apple, then back up to the other ear. At no point should it go anywhere near your chin or follow your jaw.
3. Trim the beard length occasionally.
First, I have to point out that it’s a myth that trimming your hair makes it grow in faster or thicker.
What it can do is make your beard appear thicker and more full.
When your beard is growing in, some hairs grow faster than others, some of the longer ones fall out, and others get split ends.
What you’re left with is a wispy silhouette or a blurred outline. But if you trim those outliers back to the same length as everything else, your beard will have a much fuller appearance.
Think about it like a lawn that’s grown a little too long. It looks patchy, scraggly, and unkempt. If you mow it down to a consistent length, however, it’ll take on a lush, healthy, dense look.
4. Don’t forget to trim the hair on your head.
Another mistake I’ve made in the past. When your beard and hair are getting long at the same time, it looks like you’re neglecting your appearance or secretly wishing it was the 1970s.
On the other hand, if you keep up on your barber visits, the beard growth looks like a well-considered addition to your appearance.
As an added bonus, your beard will look much bigger after a haircut in relation to the shorter hair up top.
Every time I get a haircut, my barber comments on how much bigger and better my beard looks.
Especially in corporate America where facial hair is generally frowned upon. Keep HR off your trail by maintaining an impeccable appearance.
Growing a beard isn’t a license to be lazy. It’s about being yourself and trying something different.
For grooming, as long as you cover the basics you’ll be fine. If you have a unibrow, fix it. And while you don’t have to be fussy about it, put a little product in your hair to keep it neat.
And finally, dress at the highest level that is appropriate for your daily work and lifestyle.
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “the better you dress, the worse you can behave” in reference to parties and social events. Well, the same holds true for your clothes and grooming.
The better you dress, the more hair you can proudly display on your face.
How to deal with the itchy beard stage.
Usually between weeks one and two of beard growth, you’re going to enter into a phase in which your face is going to start to itch…bad.
To deal with this, first, we need to understand why beards cause itching.
When your scruff is first coming in, it doesn’t itch (unless your face is irritated from your last shave) because the hairs are pointing straight out of your face.
Likewise, once your beard has reached a certain length, it doesn’t itch at all.
So what causes the itchy phase?
As I’ve just mentioned, when your beard starts coming in, the hairs are pointing away from your skin. But once they reach about 1/8 to 1/4-inch long, the ends (that’ve been previously sharpened by your razor) are now curling back toward the skin.
What you have now is thousands of tiny, bristly hairs poking your face all at the same time.
If you’ve ever experienced this, I think you’d agree that the term “maddening” sums it up pretty accurately.
While this is far from the most comfortable experience you’ll ever have, keep in mind, it only lasts about a week.
After this brief phase, the hairs get long enough that the ends curve down and away from your skin and are no longer itchy.
It’s smooth sailing from here on out.
I get asked everyday if my beard is itchy.
I respond that it only itches as much as the hair on the top of my head. Which is, of course, not at all.
Four tips to make the itchy phase more bearable.
1. Use a beard trimmer instead of a razor for your last shave before you let your beard grow
(The Wohl Lithium Ion all-in-one trimmer works like a charm).
Since a razor cleanly slices the hair off on an angle, resembling the tip of a syringe, it can cause some serious irritation when those suckers turn on you.
Clippers, on the other hand, create more of a blunt, chopped end which will be more comfortable when it comes in contact with your face.
2. Keep your growing beard hairs soft and hydrated.
Think of beard hydration like the difference between dry and cooked pasta. Which would be more irritating to drag against your skin?
The first step in beard hydration is to not dry it out in the first place. Avoid using harsh soaps on your face, and instead opt for a gentle face wash like NIVEA Men Sensitive face wash.
(You really shouldn’t be using soap on your face anyway).
Once your beard grows out a little more, you can get a dedicated beard wash and conditioner, but it isn’t necessary at this point.
Next, you’ll want to add moisture to the hair after your shower. During the scruffy stage, a regular face moisturizer will be just fine (big fan of NIVEA Post Shave Balm).
Later, you can venture into the wonderful world of specifically formulated beard oils (the best beard oils come from Beardbrand), but you first need a beard to require this product.
3. Comb your beard.
While this doesn’t actually make the hair softer or steer it away from your skin, it’s incredibly satisfying to scratch your skin.
And it’s best to do it with a clean comb rather than digging into your skin with your dirty fingernails, which is definitely what you’ll want to do.
I recommend combing it in the direction you want the hair to grow.
Your beard hair will be very stubborn and is mostly going to do what it wants, but it doesn’t hurt to comb it in the right direction from the start.
4. Power through the itchy phase.
You are growing a beard, after all. You won’t be doing this pursuit any justice by giving up and shaving because your face itches for a week.
Just like experiencing some soreness is an essential part to building a ripped physique, keep in mind that this itchy phase is a sign that you’re becoming a magnificent lion.
- Small Scissors
- Wohl lithium Ion Beard Trimmer
- NIVEA Men Sensitive face wash
- NIVEA Post Shave Balm
- Beardbrand beard oil
Let that beard grow.
You’ve got all the information you’ll ever need to start growing a beard.
Just remember to follow these pro tips and keep up an impeccable appearance.
See you in the bearded brotherhood.
About the author: Nate Lewis is a father, husband, and writer living in Chicago, IL. He runs ironandtweed.com, a site dedicated to helping men improve their personal style and fitness.