We all know that beards are pretty damn awesome. They help set you apart from the crowd, your face deserves it and they help you look the way you were intended to. Not everyone’s job or lifestyle can permit a big beard, but for those fortunate ones who can, here are some Beard Growing Milestones I recall from my journey so far. Your mileage may vary.
The DecisionThe most important of all the choices. Whether it was intentional, the result of a long weekend in the woods, or just plain ol’ not giving a fuck, you’ve started in the right direction. The razor’s been ditched. Now it’s time to just let nature do its thing.
All right. So it’s been a couple days and you’re starting to see your beard take shape. There are probably those stragglers on the cheeks and there may be a thin spot here and there, but it’s coming along. There comes a time where most guys decide to shape it up at the neck (and the edges if needed) to transform it from a sprawling face carpet into the shape of a legit beard. Congratulations! You’ve gone from shaggy dude to card-carrying bearded man. That extra bit of maintenance shows everyone else that you’re working on something great.
But wait… What the hell is that? It’s driving me crazy! It’s…
The ItchThe legendary itchy beard. The symptom that prematurely ended many a great beard. I call it the price of awesomeness. It’s just a mild hazing by nature to be inducted into the hall of greatness. Once the hairs grow long enough to lay down and stop poking you in the damn face, you’ll be good. But until then, applying beard oil to it will help soften the hairs, moisturize the now almost invisible skin beneath, and keep that itch mostly at bay. It just takes time, but will be gone as quickly as it came.
As the beard continues to grow, the next milestone I was happy to reach was a fun and simple one.
The Glance DownSimply put, when you’ve put in enough time, you can now catch a glimpse of your mustache, and beard on your chin when you look down. It all starts to feel real, like you’re making actual progress. If the conditions are right, you can the hairs catch the light and see all the slight and stark color variations. I’ve been told the term for that is ombre. If a beard is just one color and shade, dude’s probably dying it.
The beard will continue to do its thing, and for some, this is the end of the road. A short beard is their present and future, and there’s absolutely no problem with that. Facial hair has to fit the man, not be dictated by an outside party. Hell, for years I had a trimmer-length beard because that’s what I wanted. Finding the right pair of beard trimmers or a reliable local barber is the way keep your face looking sharp. All right. You’re now officially rocking a beard. High-five!
The WTF Do I Do Now?Well, you’ve got any number of choices. It usually comes down to 4:
1. Abandon ship and shave. Usually because someone more uptight than you coerced you into it, “Wanted to see your handsome face again” or some other B.S. line.
2. Go the Mustache route. It takes a certain face to pull off a mustache well. I’ve seen guys with a scraggly beard and a solid mustache and still stick with a sad full beard. For a lot of military or civilian servicemen, it’s the only option.
3. Opt for a Partial Beard. Lincoln, Lemmy, and Scott Ian all knew how to play to their strengths. Go with a style that looks best on you.
4. Go Full (Beard) throttle.
Even if you don’t go Full Beard for the long haul, it’s best to grow out all of what you’ve got to work with, then shave/trim down. Just remember: measure twice, snip once.
The Great Mustache DebateThe next big question is one that even divides some in the competitive bearding scene. Do you trim the mustache for convenience and limit your potential awesomeness, or let is grow out big and full but deal with it with every meal and cup of coffee? Personally, I’ve gone for the latter, but use mustache wax to keep the ‘stache at bay. There’s no wrong answer, you have to find what fits best for you (and, frankly your significant other). Some ladies like it trimmed up and out of the way, others…enjoy…a longer mustache.
Changes: Ditch/Flip/StallLet me just say that every beard grows at its own rate. Some beards are slow and deliberate, and some guys are like Play-Doh Fun Factories that can grow a couple inches in a month. A good rule of thumb is a half-inch per month. Some months are better than others, and even different sections will grow at different rates. It’s a natural process, so there is going to be some variation.
As your beard gets to get some length to it, you’ll notice a few changes. Soon, you’ll reach a point where there’s no need to continue shaving that neckline, if you haven’t already. Some guys do continue to shave there, but at a certain length it’s all covered up, so there’s really no point. Plus, you’re losing some real volume down the road. It’s time to finally ditch the razor and finally let it do its own thing and grow!
This is the stage where the length starts doing some funny things. Usually once it gets to a couple inches along the sides of the jaw, your beard can grow out almost perpendicular and get some real volume to it. Almost like a lion’s mane. And as soon as you think you’re the next Jeff Langum, you’ll grow that extra inch to it and then the fluff starts to disappear. It’s still there, it’s too heavy now to stay as upright and big as it once was.
One of the other things I noticed was this weird wave that swooped under my chin. I’ve seen other guys get it sometimes get a long half-curl on the under the side of the jaw, too. Don’t worry about that. As the hair got longer and gravity again does its thing, it pretty much flattens itself out. In other words, if you see the same thing, don’t sweat it. It’s normal. And if not, go with it.
Now you’re several months in. This is usually the point where you are convinced CONVINCED that your beard has stopped growing and that is all you’ll be able to grow. Thanks to the age we live in with cheap and easy photographs of ourselves you can prove to yourself that this is wrong. The illusion is all a matter of proportions. You’ve gone from nothing, to a quarter inch to a full inch in a matter of weeks. That’s super-noticeable. That same addition of a quarter inch to an existing several inches just doesn’t register as easily. Take photos every couple days or at least weekly. Document how it grows. You may never get to again. Pics or it didn’t happen.
Another scary part is at brushing/combing. Your get ready in the morning, brushing and combing, trying your damnedest to get rid of that crazy-looking bed beard. You glance in the mirror and everything looks sharp. Your beard looks damn good…then you look down into the sink. THE HORROR! SO. MANY. HAIRS. “Great, at this rate, my face will be bald in a month.” …But it won’t. Scary morning after horrifying morning, you’ll see all the beard hairs there in the sink, the ones tangled and stuffed in the brush, the orphaned ones you find on the couch — everywhere but where they should be. Don’t worry. It happens to everyone and will continue to happen. Just like finding a handful of dead leaves under a maple in the summer, the tree’s still doing fine. It’s not dying, just making room for fresh replacements.
However it grows, your beard is your own. I’ve always told guys, whatever you can grow, OWN it. It’s yours, rock the fuck out of it. As the length gets there, the beard starts to get more unruly and demanding more attention. Congratulations, you’re now growing a toddler.
Beard Care Curve
One of the primary appeals to first growing a beard is the time savings. The need to stand there staring in the mirror shaving your face is now moot. As it gets bigger, you’ll need to start to take care of it. The seed has sprouted, time to tend to what’s grown.
Just like you need to shampoo and condition your head hair, double goes for your facial hair. You’ll notice it’s thicker and a lot more coarse than your head hair. Waves and curls will develop in a beard even with the straightest hair or baldest of heads. A lot of shampoos strip away the natural oils and can do more damage than good. I try and not to get in the way of mother nature too much. I condition my beard a lot more than shampoo it. It’s just a personal preference.
The time of the year also plays a role in health of your beard. Winter will dry it out like a motherfucker. This is where beard oils and balms (you know the ones I use and love…) are worth their weight in gold. Now that you’re taking good care of your beard and it’s growing, now come the new “features” you can come to expect.
Fun with Rubber Bands!At a certain length, morning bed beard goes from annoying to aggravating. You wake yourself up in the middle of the night when you move or roll around. Your beard ends up tucked up under your arm and there it stays…until you shift and switch positions. Then you’ll need to call in reinforcements: enter the hair bands. The easiest way is to deal with it a an inglorious beard bun. Just gather it up and fold it over on itself and slap a band around it. You may look a little silly, but hell, your beard is long enough to put in a pig/pony tail. Not every man can say that. Around this time you also begin to learn…
The Evils of ZippersI have a good number of zippered hoodies I’ve picked up here and there. Now they’re all dead to me. All it takes is one chance occurrence where your beard gets caught in that zipper (much like that lesson in care learned zipping up leaving the urinal) that you decide to love pullover hoodies and button up coats.
At this stage of the game, hair bands are great. Whether just to gather it up ponytail style or to braid it up, getting some sort of control over the length is often required. Since turning my head freely is a requirement when driving, when I put on a seatbelt before I leave for work, I now have lift my beard out from under it before I head out. It’s now more challenging to put clean pillowcases on our pillows, or fold bed sheets. Bending over to get groceries out of the car how presents new hazards. Hell, last week I got a few hairs caught in that folding bill thing at a restaurant. But it’s worth it. For all the weird looks and times it gets in the way, I’d have it no other way.
The Face MaskA rite of length passage seems to be the face mask trick. I’m sure you’ve seen the “Cousin It” photo of the guy who pulled his beard up over his face and tucked under a pair of sunglasses or a ball cap. If you can pull this off, congratulations! For me it was a long time coming and a real fun milestone to hit. If you can, be sure to post a photo of yourself in the comments.
Beard Terminal LengthAs time goes on, months pass, and you now measure the age of your beard in “Yeards”. For the same reason your eyebrows or arm hair don’t need a trim at the barber, each beard has its own terminal length: the point at which the hair naturally stops growing. It ends up being a combination of genetics, the quality of output, and environmental conditions. After all, it’s still a dead strand of hair hanging from your face. The same principle applies to what you can get from your beard as what you can get from a truck’s engine, if you take care of it with regular maintenance and you treat it right, you’ll get a lot more miles out of it than someone who treats it like a rental. At some point it’ll stop. Other strands of hair will continue to grow and fall out. Whether it’s collarbone length or knee length, every man’s beard eventually will reach that terminal length. (I’ve seen longer ones, but they’re usually dreaded or held together in some sort so the dead hair doesn’t get shed and it just stays all clumped together.)
I’m not sure if I’m there yet. It seems like it’s still growing, or my belly button is creeping northward. One of the two. I’m hoping it’ll get belt-length at some point but that may not be up to me. Just like another anatomical measurement guys dwell on, there’s no way to really change this.
All in all, it’s only hair. It’s a fun and unique feature for men, so be sure that it fits your personality. If you like it short, keep it short. If you think you’d look great with a long goatee: go for it. Try out different styles. You never know what looks great until you do. After all, whether you like it or not, the beard will come back. In the meantime, let it grow, and take good care of it. Take pride in what you’re presenting to the world. A shitty looking beard does no one any favors. As G.K. Chesterton said, “You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.” So sit back and enjoy the ride.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some steps or milestones. So feel free to share stories and anecdotes in the comments below from your beard growth journey.
Article by Chad Roberts:
Chad is a former Mad Viking Beard Team member and President of the RVA Beard Club.