[Preface from Mantic59: As November is “Movember” month and some may be growing facial hair for charity, I asked Mark Greene to go into the in’s and out’s of growing a beard.] There comes a time in just about every man’s life where he is taken by the uncontrollable urge to bring his face back to nature. Beards have made a great comeback over the past few years, which is great news for anyone with a mushy jaw-line or a head of receding hair, which is why we have seen so many of them brushing through the streets and flowing through the board-rooms, as opposed to just up in the trees and mountains or scraping for leftover soup from a rusted can somewhere in an abandoned cabin.
Despite their popularity, not many men realise that growing a beard is more than just a matter of not shaving for a while. To ensure that they don’t horrify innocent bystanders or irritate you to within an inch of shaving the whole thing off, beards require a certain amount of attention, shaping and grooming.
If you’re a first-time beard grower, then we are here to help you through the epic journey from the baby-faced traditional man to a rugged-topped mountain warrior, pioneering moustache enthusiast, or a sleekly soul-patched ambassador of manly style.
First Off, Should You Attempt A Beard?
Not every man can grow an epic beard, and that’s fine, I’m sure you have other qualities. If you have a baby face, revel in it. Some beards may also come out quite patchy, perhaps allowing for a kick-ass goatee or an overpowering moustache, but not a full-faced beard. If you’ve never attempted a beard before, it may not be easy to tell, but your five o’clock shadow should be able to give you a clue.
If you want to give it a try anyway (and why wouldn’t you), you should have an idea of how strong your beard can get after just one or two weeks depending on the rate at which your facial hair grows. But remember, genetics also has a lot to do with the success of your growth, so don’t take it too hard if you just can’t do it.
The First Week
If you are the type of chap to usually carry a cleanly-shaven face, then the first two weeks of growing a beard may be somewhat challenging for you. During the first week, you should avoid all temptation to trim or shape your beard, at this point, you simply need your scruff to grow out and flourish, and be prepared to put up with an incessant itch for a while (but don’t worry, that will go away eventually).
At this point you should already be able to tell which parts of your beard will be patchy, and which areas grow quicker, slower, and thicker than others. So, if you haven’t already decided what type of beard you aim to grow, this stage will help you determine which type you can grow, or if indeed you can grow one at all.
Your beard should be well on its way to taking form, but don’t worry if it isn’t, everyone’s facial hair grows differently. At this point, you will be brutally aware of the weight and texture of your beard as it sits on your face and gets in the way of being comfortable, but you’ve got to man up and fight through it.
The itch is going to be quite a challenge not to scratch, but remember, the more you scratch at it the more it will itch. Also, be careful to avoid trimming any hairs that stand out and don’t look quite right. I liken this period to that stage of a haircut where it feels like there is nothing you can do with it.
You simply need to be patient, comb it as often as you can, wash it at least twice a week (it is hair after all), and be sure to use natural beard oils to alleviate the itch and soften your beard. There are a range of different beard oils you can use. They will soften your beard, exfoliate the skin beneath it, and encourage your beard to grow stronger and thicker than you ever thought possible.
Week Three: Starting to come together
So, you’ve managed to fight your way through the never-ending itch and the constant complaints from your girlfriend about shaving rash; and the good news is that the difficult part is nearly over with. If you haven’t yet started using beard oils, now is the time, especially if the mind-snapping itch has yet to subside.
By now you should be able to tell exactly what kind of beard you are fit to grow, but it is not quite time to give it a thorough trim just yet. By all means, go to work on those patchy bits that ruin the look, but handle it with care. You wouldn’t want to ruin all the hard work from the previous two weeks now would you.
Remember to keep washing it regularly. This will not only ensure that the day’s debris is not hiding out in your face, but will also soften your beard and exfoliate the skin beneath it, encouraging stronger, more even and softer growth.
Remember to comb your beard daily, if you haven’t been doing it already. This will not only keep your beard naturally styled, but will assist in evenly distributing your skin’s natural oils which will help your beard to grow even mightier.
There are plenty of trimming and grooming kits that you can invest in, if you haven’t already, that will help make combing and trimming beards a little bit easier.
The Final Stage: Week Four
Congratulations, you’ve made it through a three-week gauntlet of itching, rashes, washing, trimming and combing and you now have a gallantly bushy face to show for it; but the work is not quite done.
The mortifying itch should be done with at this stage, but you got used to that ages ago, didn’t you? Most of your patches should be filled in or trimmed to perfection, and know exactly what type of beard is growing out of your face.
Now is the time to start shaping your beard into what you want it to look like, either with the help of a barber or with a very steady hand and the right tools (such as trimmers, barber scissors and razors). Remember to keep cleaning and exfoliating it a few times a week, keep applying beard oil and comb it regularly.
The maintenance of a beard is never done. Try not to fall too far behind on your grooming rituals, there is a fine line between a stylish beard and a soup kitchen mess. So, if you haven’t already started doing it, this is an opportune moment for you to start forming new grooming habits.
Mark Greene is a lifestyle professional writer and digital nomad with a keen interest in men’s mental and physical health, life hacks, grooming, men’s fashion, sex, dating, success, career and overall day-to-day solutions for men. The world, according to him, is what you make of it. So go out there and make it amazing.