How To Grow A Beard (Properly) During Lockdown
So, you’re thinking of growing some hair out of your face. Great timing. Just as your hair on-top has been starved of a barbers appointment, you're now on your own in the beard department, too. And know you're in good company: Da Vinci, Lincoln, that impossibly built personal trainer you've taken to watching on YouTube most mornings.
Naysayers will tell you that we hit “peak beard” in the early 2010s, but a swift glance around town (pre and post-COVID-19) proves otherwise. Rather, beards have become more accepted today than at any other point in grooming history. And, after more than a decade in the spotlight, they're refusing to budge.
They've no reason to, either. Growing a beard is one of the few ways a man can reinvent himself. Outside of shaving your head, or playing RuPaul’s Drag Race with your partner’s makeup bag, a beard can dramatically alter your look free of charge. You simply need good genes, willpower, and a sound routine.
But not everyone has those. What's more, beard-growing is a medium awash with myth and untruths. So, to glean the finest facts behind a sound face-warmer, here's how to properly grow a beard.
Is A Beard For Me?
No, in a word. Before you decide to let things grow organically, know that natural disasters are possible. Beards are, sadly, not for everyone. There are a number of factors to take into account here. First and foremost: have you got the coverage to carry it off?
Next to a very loud motorcycle or one of those angry dogs with biceps, a thick, full beard has presence. A wispy 'tache and soft, vellus sideburns? Not so much.
That's not to say there aren't beard styles out there that can work with patchy growth. A clean-shaven face, however, is always going to trump an underdeveloped and uneven beard. So, if you can't grow one, don't.
It's also important to consider lifestyle. Perhaps you work in a conservative (lower case 'C') corporate office, where dress codes are set in stone. In which case, get a new job if you want a new beard upon your return to work.
Laying The Foundations
Behind every great beard is good brickwork. Facial hair will not prove thick and lustrous if the vessel from which it sprang is tired, dry and poorly nourished.
Look after your skin. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. All the things that are good for your waistline, are, unsurprisingly, good for optimal beard growth. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to kick bad habits.
Sound hair growth is abetted by strong testosterone, so lift weights, eat plenty of protein, fat (the good kind) and carbs. Minimize stress. And don’t pay any attention to quack products that claim to be able to open follicles or stimulate hair growth. If they actually worked, we’d all be walking around like Jason Momoa.
Shape Up Your Beard
Whether you opt for a DIY approach, or prefer the help of a local barber, neat edges make the difference between a bad and a good beard.
"The trick with all beards and face shapes is to stay groomed," says Joe Mills of Joe and Co: a London barbering mainstay, and one preferred by many famous men. "Keep your top lip area trimmed, and if you're growing it out, keep it washed and moisturized. This will maintain smartness and lessen the irritation to your skin. Beard oils help shape things up, and prevent you looking too wild."
It's also a good idea to establish a neckline at an early stage, and shave stray hairs further up the cheeks. Where the former is concerned, imagine an invisible line running from just beneath the earlobe and behind the jawbone to the same place on the other side via the Adam's apple. Use a razor or unguarded trimmer to remove any hairs below this and say good day to a brand new friend: a jawline. Just don't go too high. There lies the minefield of flabby necks, softer chins and the grooming trends of waiters at all-inclusive resorts.
Separating The Facts From Fiction
Your colleague isn't an example of hirsute finery because he rubs himself in goose fat and places a saucer of milk under his bed at full moon. There are many things that make for a good beard, and there are many falsehoods flying around on the internet as to how they grow. Here, Johnny 'The Baba' Shanahan, of Barber Barber, debunks and corrects some of the most common misconceptions.
Facial hair grows in thicker if you shave it
"No. A common myth. However, if you shave daily and then take a break for, say, a weekend, it might appear thicker because you're more accustomed to smoother skin, but it definitely does not grow in thicker."
There's no point in going to a barber to get your beard cut when you could do it at home
"It depends on what type of beard you want. Relatively short and naturals looks are fine to maintain at home. If you want a very sharp, symmetrical, neat beard, you will need a professional to correctly shape-up the face. A big beard can be worn quite tailored or left wild, so it’s all down to preference. I do recommend, though, that whatever type of beard you have or want, still visit the barbershop at least every five weeks to keep on the right track."
I don't want a beard. They itch too much
"No, again a myth. Proper washing and product use alleviate all of this. It’s the same as the hair on your head, albeit a different texture. It still needs to be washed correctly at least every other day."
Anyone can do grow a beard
"Now this might be an unpopular answer, but I’m of the belief that growing a beard shouldn’t be a project. If you can grow one you should. If you can't, then you shouldn't."
Beards are low maintenance
"Again, this depends on the type of beard you want. A beard can be as low- or as high-maintenance as you desire. Super natural and wild, which takes little or no maintenance (think Viking). Or a very neat look would take almost daily care."
How To Pick The Right Kind Of Beard
The right beard on the right face can grant even the greatest thumb-men a semblance of bone structure. God may not have blessed with you a chiseled jawline, but a beard – the perfect optical illusion – can carve one for you.
The trick lies in knowing what type of beard suits your particular face shape. To whit:
The Beard For A Round Face
“The best option here is a full beard, or any style that can be worn long on the chin,” says Mills. “This will balance the face by stretching it out. It's all about balance. Grow it out, and keep it neat and trimmed on the sides.”
The Beard For A Square Face
“Again, some length on the chin area is what will work best for square faces. Once you have length and volume you can start to round it off so it counterbalances the angular shape of the face and softens the lines," says Mills. So think a fuller George Clooney beard to soften a Hollywood bone structure.
The Beard For An Oval Face
“Good news: you’re in luck as pretty much all lengths and styles of beard are going to work for you," says Mill. "Ideally slightly shorter on the sides and fuller at the bottom. A full beard always works really well.” You lucky boy.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.