(Before we start, I want to let you know that this is a bit of a longer post, around 4,000 words. Get a beer.)
The Beard. The ultimate mark of manliness.
It’s something a lot of men have thought about growing or attempted in their life. In 2014, 13,956 men had hair transplants to enhance their beards, and that number is growing. There has to be a reason for this right?
If you’re like me, you’ve tried it a couple times before, but it never panned out. Personally, I never thought I had the follicles to pull off a beard. It would come in a bit patchy and I would shave it off, feeling like it looked dirty.
Last year I participated in “no-shave November”, the best excuse for growing some facial hair. I was committed to growing it out and figuring out how to make it look good. I wanted to be able to give product recommendations to men with beards and figure out if it’s something I could personally pull off.
Most men can grow a decent looking beard if they put in the time and effort into grooming it. Some guys may need extra help to get it looking thick and full, but when it's all put together, you'll be pleased with the end result.
I'm going to dive into why you should (or shouldn't) grow a beard, the science behind facial hair, how to grow it out, and how to maintain and style it.
So Why Should You Grow a Beard?
There are plenty of reasons to grow a beard. But if you choose to have a beard, realize that it will change the way people perceive you. Depending on your image goals and what you’re trying to do, this can be a positive or negative.
It Can Make You Look More Attractive
There is competing evidence if beards as a whole actually make men more attractive. The common thing you’ve probably heard is that “heavy stubble” is the most attractive amount of facial hair. However, this varies largely across studies and mate preferences. This study from 2016 (link) shows that women rated men with full coverage facial hair (this is one reason why you shouldn’t grow in a patchy beard) as more attractive than clean-shaven men. Another study from 2014 (link) showed that a man’s amount of facial hair has little influence on his perceived attractiveness. Why might this be? Some theorists believe this is because we have hit peak beardom. A lot of men have adopted this look, so it isn’t something new and novel. I believe this increased familiarity has lead women to not be overly influenced by the appearance of a beard on their attractiveness to the wearer.
It Makes You Look Older and More Mature
In a 2010 study (link), researchers showed that women who were more independent and financially well off preferred to couple up with older men. If these are the type of women you’re trying to attract, or if you just would like to appear more mature, then it would behoove you to rock some facial hair.
It Can Hide a Weak Jawline
If you have a small chin, a double chin, or an unproportioned jaw, a beard can help disguise that. I’ve always said that women have makeup and men have facial hair.
It Can Balance Out Your Face Shape
I’ll get into what beard styles are right for your face shape in a bit. The basic premise is if you have an overly short face, you can elongate it with a longer beard style. If you have a longer face shape, you can balance this out with a fuller-wider beard.
It Can Make You Appear More Masculine
Perceptions of “masculinity” linearly increase with the amount of beard growth. If you aren’t an overly masculine guy, growing a beard can make other perceive your testosterone levels to be higher.
It Can Make You Stand Out
Beards are an adornment. They’re like a natural accessory for men. Although beards have hit their peak, this will still make you stand out more among the clean-shaven masses of men. If that’s your goal, then great. This can be beneficial for men looking to be more recognizable, or men looking to meet women, as a beard will give you a “peacock” effect, although not to the extent it would have 10-15 years ago.
Why Shouldn't You Grow a Beard?
Before you get hung up on the benefits of a beard, I should note it's not always fitting. For some men, it's not their optimal look. There are plenty of guys who should NOT grow a beard. Here are some circumstances when you should stay clean shaven or shortly stubbled:
You Won’t Be Able to Go through the Grow-Out Period
If your job demands that you look polished, or you just hate feeling "dirty". The grow out phase is no joke. Unless you have very thick facial hair, YOU WILL NOT LOOK YOUR BEST, so you need to be prepared for that.
You Have Very Sparse Facial Hair
My follicle production is not great, but I still have full coverage. If you have very patchy facial hair, having a beard will only emphasize this. It’s best to go cleanly shaven or with closely trimmed stubble. The shorter your facial hair, the fuller it will look.
You’re Growing It to Be Lazy
Having a good looking beard is a lot of work. If you don’t put effort into styling your hair, you’re not going to put effort into styling your beard. It’s essentially having another head of hair that takes time to perfect.
You Have a Very Masculine, Model-Like Jawline
In terms of attractiveness, you have something that most men would kill for. You would be doing yourself a disservice to hide it. Even light beards will technically soften a great jawline. Don't mess with a good thing.
Your Cheek Line Is Very Low
Neck beards are not a good look. If you have a very low cheek line and opt for a full beard, your face will look imbalanced. Take a look at Leo’s rough attempt. Notice that he looks a lot better with closely trimmed stubble around the chin.
You Want to Appear Younger
There’s no doubt about it, beards age us. There’s a reason baby-faced men are big fans of the beard. If you’re concerned about looking aged, a beard is not a good option for you.
You Have Bad Skin
Along with aging us, beards can make our skin appear worse. If you have bad skin, a beard can amplify this rather than hide it. If you have problems with acne, rosacea, or wrinkles, a beard will only worsen this, making you appear “dirty”.
How to Grow a Thick Full Beard
One thing that needs to be stated before we go on. Your beard growth will largely depend on your genetics and your hormone levels. If it’s not in the cards for you, don’t force it. I believe that most men can create the appearance of a full beard if they have full coverage and a lot of patience, but if you can’t grow a beard, you’re much better off working with what you got. If you’re a young man, just give it time. Most men can’t grow a solid beard till their mid-twenties at least.
Also keep in mind that unless you have very thick facial hair, the first month or two is going to suck. Your facial hair will not look thick and full. In fact, it probably won’t look good at all. There are some tricks and tips to getting your beard thick and full which I’ve outlined later in this article, but for now, let’s focus on the steps of actually growing the thing out.
1. Let It Grow for 2 Months
You can’t build a statute without clay. You need something to work with. This is advice I scoffed at when I was first researching how to grow out my own beard. It sounds so simple. But like most simple advice, it’s correct. Let the damn thing grow. Your facial hair will grow at different speeds and you’re going to need to give it time to fill out. Eventually, once the length gets there, the patchy spots will be covered and you’ll have a better idea of what the final shape will be.
Before then, don’t try and trim it. Many beards have been ruined by the impatience of men, hacking into it too early. You’re going to need at least a month, preferably two, before you can start to shape it.
2. Use Beard Oil to Moisturize
A lot of men grow out their beard without the use of beard oil, but during the itchy phase, it helps to have it. So what does beard oil actually do? Beard oil conditions the hair and softens the skin underneath it.
When you apply beard oil, you want to work it down to the skin to get the most benefits. This will help your hair grow in straighter and keep the skin underneath healthy. I often gave my beard a light massage as I worked in the oil to help stimulate blood flow to the follicles. I've been using this beard oil from Noble Body. It's a natural product and it doesn't feel overly oily.
3. Try Minoxidil for Patchy Areas
Minoxidil, commonly referred to by the brand name Rogaine, is a liquid substance used to stimulate hair growth. It's intended to stop or reverse hair loss on the top of the head. There are plenty of men who have used minoxidil to stimulate beard growth with good results.
While growing out my beard, I used minoxidil nightly to try and get thicker coverage. It takes about 2-3 months at the very least to see any results but if you’re concerned with your patchy facial hair, it's a good option.
Word of caution: Do not ever use more than the recommended amount. It will not result in more hair. Try to use as little as possible to cover the area. Minoxidil can cause signs of premature aging. It’s something I noticed, which is why I dropped my usage to once a day.
4. Keep Your Neck line Lower Than You Think You Should
I learned this the hard way. I kept trimming my neck line to where I had been used to trimming it, right underneath the jawline. What I didn’t realize is that nearly all the length of your beard will come from the hairs on the underside of your chin. I had to go back and let that area play catchup, a mistake you should try and avoid.
You want to keep your neck line about 1-2 fingers lengths above your Adam's apple, or right where your neck meets your head. This might look silly when you’re first starting your growth. Once you’re past the stage of heavy stubble, you’ll look ridiculous if you keep your neck line any higher. I can't overstate the importance of this.
5. Keep Your Skin Clean so the Hair Can Grow in properly
You want to create a clean canvas for your beard. If you’re struggling with ingrown hairs and clogged pores, it will be a lot harder for that facial hair to grow in. Make sure to wash your face daily, use beard oil, and eat well so your skin stays healthy.
6. Try Using Supplements for Good Growth
Let’s get it straight right now. I’m not a fan of those magic beard pills. There is no pill that will quickly transform you into a full mountain man. Anything that sounds too good to be true, is. Those concoctions are overpriced formulas of stuff that you can find cheaper on their own.
The one thing I would recommend would be a Biotin supplement. Biotin is a b-vitamin that's found in a lot of our food. It’s also the main component of those magic beard pills. It’s proven to increase the quality and density of hair in multiple studies. While it’s rare to be deficient in it, I think of it as one of those “it can’t hurt” supplements, especially given its affordability.
7. Keep Your Neck Line Clean
To avoid looking unkempt, you want to make sure you keep your neck nice and tidy. This is the biggest difference between looking like you forgot to shave and having intentional facial hair. It’s also the only thing you should be trimming while you let your hair grow out.
Don’t worry about the cheek line yet. It’s best not to mess with this. Remeber that you’re aiming for around 1-2 finger lengths from your Adam's apple.
How to Find the Perfect Beard for Your Face
Once you’ve grown it out for a couple months, you can finally start to plan the shape for your beard. You can do this even before you reach the two-month mark, as a way to visualize your goal.
What shape you go after should fit your face shape, how your hair naturally comes in, and your personal preferences. I prefer a more manicured and clean look, while other men prefer a more natural and untamed look. That all boils down to your personal preference, but in terms of how long it should be, or what style you should choose, you can look at your face shape to tell you what will be most attractive.
The idea is to balance out weaker areas and emphasize your strengths. I wanted to make my face appear to have a stronger, larger chin, and well-defined jawline. This meant that I had to keep a lot of bulk around the chin and keep the sides well trimmed.
Here’s some guidance on what facial hair is right for you based on your face shape.
A quick note: If you are completely bald, or very overweight, avoid longer beard styles. If you’re bald and you grow a full beard, you’ll be perceived as overly dominant and masculine. This is known as the “biker” look. For most men, it would be best to avoid this.
Similarly, if you are very overweight, a long beard will make you appear lazy and unkempt. In either of these cases, facial hair is still something that can look good on you. But it’s best to adopt a shorter beard style ranging from some stubble to a light beard.
Lastly, keep in mind that the more natural (messier) you leave your beard, the more well kept your hair should be. The contrast between a well groomed hairstyle and a natural beard is fine and even cool. Having messy looking hair all over your face is not.
Once you’ve grown your hair out for a month or two and chosen the right beard style for yourself based on your preferences and face shape, it’s time to mold that clay.
How to Trim Your Beard (And Maintain It)
Your first beard trim should absolutely be done by a professional. I’m begging you to visit a good barber. You have no idea what you’re doing and all that hard work and months of growth can be wasted in an instant with the wrong swipe of a razor. Please visit a professional. You’ll have a much better shot of getting exactly what you want. Also, you’ll be able to ask questions and learn more about how your hair grows in, what products are right for you, and so on.
If you want to grow your beard out longer than it is when you go get a trim, I would still advise that you get it cleaned up. Your barber can give you a "grow out" trim that keeps everything tidy while your beard heads towards its final destination.
To assist your barber in getting you your beard shape, you should bring along some photos. Spend a few minutes searching the web for beard styles that you like that fit with what you need. Try to bring at least 2-3 photos to give your barber a sense of what you’re after.
When you’re getting your first beard trim, make sure you pay a lot of attention to what’s going on. How is he/she trimming it? What direction are they moving? Are they keeping certain parts longer or shorter than others? Where are they defining the neck and cheek line, and why? Asking questions during this process will give you an idea of how you should be trimming your beard at home if you choose to do so.
Maintaining Your Beard at Home
Once you’ve gotten a trim, you’re going to be good for a while, at least another few weeks to a month. After that, you can maintain it yourself, or go back for another trim.
Here are some more tips to help you get the best beard trim at home:
Reserve some time to trim your beard. Allot at least 20 minutes or so. This is not an activity that should be done hastily. It’s a process and you don’t want to feel rushed.
Wash your face/beard first. You want to get out any excess oil or dirt that could be weighing the hair down.
Trim your beard dry. You want to see how the hair sits naturally without it being weighed down by water, so wait until your hair is completely dry before trimming.
Start by trimming the stray hairs outside of your beard shape first before you attempt to cut off more length. A lot of the time, you’ll only need to trim the strays to get your beard looking good. It can take off more length than you think. You’ll also be maintaining the shape your barber gave you.
I personally prefer to use a trimmer rather than scissors, but it boils down to personal preference. Trimmers can create split ends, but scissors can leave your beard looking too bluntly cut. When using a trimmer, I always go with the direction of the hair growth rather than against it (ie. if I’m trimming the stray hairs on the side of my beard, I’m moving the trimmer downward).
If you mess up, it's not a big deal. It's just hair and it will grow back. Don't shave the whole thing off because you messed up one small area.
Tools to Trim and Maintain Your Beard
You're going to need a few things to keep up the appearance of your beard. Not all these tools are necessary, but at the very least you should grab yourself a comb and a trimmer. Here's a list of things you should consider adding to your grooming arsenal.
A Beard Trimmer. I like this Wahl. As a bonus, it doubles as a nose and ear hair trimmer.
A Beard Comb. Kent combs are my favorite. They’re handmade and feel incredible. Get something with teeth wide enough that they’re not pulling your beard as you comb.
Beard Scissors. You want something razor sharp so that it doesn’t pull on your hairs as you cut. These Suvorna scissors are great for that.
A Razor. You want to maintain clean neck and cheek lines. In barber shops, they’ll primarily use a straight razor to do this. For ease, I prefer using a traditional safety razor with Shark blades. Plus it looks super cool in your bathroom.
So now that your hair is grown in, styled, and trimmed appropriately, you need to make sure your beard looks it’s best. If you’re still having issues with patchy areas or fullness, read on…
How to Create a Thick Full Beard
Growing the template is the hard part. Once you actually have the hair to work with, there are plenty of ways to make your beard appear fuller than it actually is. I struggled with the fullness of my facial hair for a while. I have a lot of blonde in my beard, while the rest of it comes in dark. The blonde hairs made my beard look much sparser than it actually is. Using these tips below, I was able to create a thicker appearance.
Use Minoxidil to Stimulate Growth
I mentioned this before in the “grow out” section. If you’re still having problems with patchiness, it might be time to give minoxidil a go. I still apply this regularly, even now that my beard is grown in.
Dermaroll for Blood Flow and Collagen Production
Dermarollers are small handles attached to a roller that has hundreds of tiny needles on it. You roll this over your skin, making tiny punctures as you roll. This device is primarily used by women to increase collagen and smooth wrinkles. Many men have claimed that dermarolling has helped them thicken their facial hair, especially with the combination of minoxidil, but the evidence is anecdotal.
Try Toppik to Fill in Patchy Spots
One of my favorite things in the world is Toppik. It’s a protein fiber powder that attaches to the hair, making it appear thicker and fuller. It’s great for guys with thinning hair but can also be used to thicken up the appearance of your beard. A few dashed on the sparse areas and you’re good to go.
Use Dye to Color Lighter Hairs
If some of your hair is too light that it looks sparse, consider dying it. You can use Just For Men which you can find at any drug store. Start small and with a lighter color. You don’t want to overdo it. Don’t leave it on for any longer than 5 minutes on your first go, otherwise, you risk going too dark.
Keep the Neck Line and Cheek Line Clean
By keeping the neck line and cheek line straight and clean, you’re creating contrast with your skin and beard, making it appear fuller. The stray hairs outside of these defined lines will make you look patchy.
Style your beard with beard balm
Beard balm is great for giving your beard it's shape and taming any stray hairs. Your beard will look it’s fullest when all the hairs are pushed down and kept in place. You don’t need much. About a nickel size amount depending on the amount of hair you have. I’ve been using Cremo beard balm. You can find it at most drugstores.
As you can see, growing a thick full beard can be challenging, but it’s something most men can do with a bit of work. Be patient, be methodical, and give it a try. In the end, it’s just hair.
Good luck on your beard growth journey my man.
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