The Beard always seems to be a focal point with people.
I get into conversations with all kinds of different guys from all areas of my life, but it seems like I get a lot of the same questions over and over again. Most of the time, these things come up in conversation along the lines of, “Yeah, I’d love to grow a beard, but whenever I get to this stage….” It seems like no matter what kind of bearded aspirations a guy has, the same common issues seem to come up across different stages of growth. Lets jump right into a overview of the stages of growing a beard, and the common questions I get about getting your beard going and keeping it going as the different challenges arise.
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If you have been shaving for a while, day 0 is pretty much like any other day. If you shave your Beard to start over, Day 0 is the worst day of your life.
Do not trim your Beard until you are at least 6-8 weeks into growing your Beard! I'll get to this later, but know this up front!
This period of time is the Optimist stage. Pretty much everybody looks kinda cool with some stubble going on. Most guys fly through this first 2 weeks, and never doubt for a moment that they will grow a Beard forever. The only thing that can really be a pain at this stage in most cases is the itchiness. The best thing you can do at this stage is to start using a good beard oil, or at the very least a carrier oil. This sets you up right from the beginning by starting your growth out as good and healthy as possible.
Avoid using soaps and washes for now - it will probably dry your face out and make this stage more uncomfortable than it needs to be.
Week 2 - Week 6 or 8
This is the stage I call "the Beard Hazing". Your Beard will almost undoubtedly look like total crap. Patchy, weird crap. The tendency for most guys at this point is to try trimming, which makes it worse. This is the stage in which the vast majority of guys give up, shave, and tell everyone, "Well, I guess I just can't grow a Beard..."
Hopefully you have been using a good oil since the beginning - that is one of the few things that can help you push through this awkward phase of growing a beard. The moisture helps keep the hair and skin healthy, and will also reduce frizzy, scraggly-looking hairs.
You will also probably start having to come to grips with your mustache in this stage. My personal suggestion is to maximize the stache as much as possible. It usually compliments the Beard to balance it out with solid stache game. I call this concept the "minimum viable mustache" or MVM. Keeping your mustache trimmed relative to your Beard is pretty standard, but keeping your mustache frozen at a few weeks or months will eventually start to look unbalanced as your Beard gets into the later months.
If you want to really take the stache to the next level, check out how I trained my own mustache. This is a pretty simple and tested way to break through the struggle of growing a mustache that doesn't look ridiculous.
6-8 weeks - 3 Months
This is the stage where the Beard is truly born. You should not trim your Beard at all if possible until you reach this stage You start to really see a filling-in, and start adding some length. You start to really feel like you are actually growing a Beard. You can now look back at yourself in that first few weeks and laugh.
This is where I would say balm starts becoming a good option for conditioning the beard. Before this stage, it will probably be a bit heavy, and not really show much difference in terms of results than a good oil will. A good balm, like this one ;), will use natural products that you should pretty much recognize and understand.
Avoid most major brand products as they generally have a lot of synthetic ingredients that you really don't want on your face.
3 Months to 6 Months
This stage could be described as the childhood of the Beard. You begin to really pay attention to things like eating, and relearning how to do regular stuff that now need to factor in a Beard.
The Beard itself Begins to go somewhat on autopilot at this point. The amount of Beard you now have makes regular growth less noticeable, and small changes less perceptible.
This was the (1 of 3) point for me when I trimmed some of the strays in pursuit of the Yeard. Just evening out a few of the really uneven spots.
6 Months - 9 Months
Your young Beard now blossoms into manhood at this stage.
You will also probably experience the Beard Move in the wind for the first time as well.
The only thing in this stage that really ever becomes an issue for any number of guys is the thought that the Beard has stopped growing for some reason. I have always thought that this was a perception thing, but I have had guys actually take measurements to verify the stalled growth. It could be a combination of Dry hair and split ends - it is still a bit of a mystery.
I know personally my Beard just doesn't grow that fast, which you can see from the photos.
9 Months - 12 Months... and Beyond
You have made it my friend!
The final 3 months of the first year are generally pretty uneventful. In fact, I'd say one of the hardest things about this stage is just knowing you are almost there.
The only big challenge here is that a beard this size generally keeping it under control - especially when you sleep. When you wake up on any given morning, it really isn't unusual for the Beard to be going about 10 different directions. Brushing, combing, using a good oil or balm, and just general grooming all become more necessary to do consistently at this stage. I know for me, I started seeing my Beard in my peripheral vision a lot more at this stage, which was a bit odd. Also, I started putting my Beard down inside my shirt if I was sitting and reading a book or something- to keep it from curling out while I had my head tilted down.
After I hit the Yeard point, I went ahead and worked through my trimming process to get my Beard the way I like it. The real power of this method is that it can be tailored to your own unique growth patterns, and over time help you get the most out of your Beard.
Using a solid trimming method over the long term is the best way to keep your Beard the way you like it.
Some Frequently Asked Beard Questions:
Q: Why does my beard look patchy/thin/horrible?
A: Almost every guy that asks this question and it is hard to answer across the board with a single response. The single most common thread with this is that most of the guys asking this are less than 6 weeks into growing a beard. To start with, you should grow your beard for 4-6 weeks without touching it before making any kind of decision about your bearding capabilities.
During this beard stage, your beard is basically hazing you (as covered above). It’s making you earn the bearded glory that awaits you as time goes on – but you have to push through the awkward stage of looking like you just don’t give a crap. This is, in my opinion, the single most difficult phase of growing a beard and is also where most guys give up – especially if you have pressure from your job or significant other to keep a presentable appearance. Besides just not giving up, a good Beard Oil has a tremendous positive effect on the look and health of your facial hair at this stage. Oiling daily can lend your beard to a neater, more well-kept look, reduce ill-effects like dryness and other issues, and just make the process easier.
Q: Why does it itch so badly?
A: Because you have beard lice.
Itchy beard is super common, and so is beard dandruff – or “beardruff”. A lot of the time, these are actually both caused by dry skin. The skin on your face can dry out pretty easily while growing a beard, as your beard actually wicks moisture and natural oils away from your skin and into your beard. When you combine this with using shampoos and conditioners on your beard that are made for your scalp, you can get thrashed pretty quickly.
There are a few ways to help the itch. One great way is to brush your beard, preferably with a boar bristle brush. I prefer a brush and a comb, but both will help get the dead skin cells off of your face and out of your beard. Brushing and combing also help work Beard oil into the Beard and skin, which gives you the most benefit from your products.
Beard oil is also a huge help when it comes to itch, as it not only replaces a lot of the oil wicked away from your skin by your beard, it can also contain essential oils that can reinforce follicle health, have astringent properties, and prevent fungus. Just do a little research on the ingredients, which should only be therapeutic grade essential oils. Beard oil also acts as a follicle lubricant, which can reduce the "drag" effect of the hair pushing through the pores of the skin as it grows out, which is a major cause of itch.
Another major way to reduce itch is to limit shampooing and conditioning to maybe 2 or 3 times a week. Overdoing it with regular hair care products can really dry out your face. Make sure you use the most natural products as you can, and beard-specific products if possible. Personally, I have been lucky to not have issues with itching, but I started using oil just a couple weeks into growing my beard and never got to crazy about using soaps in it. All of that being said, the first few weeks of the Beard stages will be a little itchy regardless of your efforts. If you have been shaving for most of your adult life, your hair may actually be these sharp little nubs that never really grow above your skin. They can actually scrape along the follicle as it starts growing out of the skin, making it itch. This will just go away as time goes on. My theory is that your pores may open up more over time as you grow your beard out because the individual hairs are swinging around more
Q: Why do people tell me my beard looks bad?
A: Ok, so this isn’t really a question I get normally, but more of a conglomeration of different statements like:
“My wife hates it when I grow a beard”
“People say I look like a homeless person”
“Family/friends tell me I look like crap and need to shave”, and so on.
Growing a beard really comes down to one thing - being yourself. Part of the journey to bearded glory is seeing how irrelevant the criticism of other people actually is - becoming more comfortable with yourself.
Everybody has an opinion, and people are generally a little uncomfortable with someone that chooses to be their own person – especially people that are insecure about themselves.
Expect to be criticized.
Some people don't know how to react to pure awesomeness. Most of the time, these people aren’t even trying to criticize you, they are really just trying to validate their own choices and have no other way to do so.
There is a reason the Beard Mountain motto is “Live the Beard”.
One side note here: You should do what you can to get the Beard you want as well. A little trimming and maintenance will go a long way towards giving your Beard a more presentable appearance - especially once you get past the first few months of growth and it looks like you are actually growing a Beard!
Q: Why isn't my beard straighter/curlier/fluffier/darker/lighter/etc.?
A: Every beard is different, as different as the guys that grow them.
Don’t waste your time trying to find ways to make your beard like somebody else’s. The key to an awesome beard is to treat yours like it’s your kid -
- don't compare it to other beards
- be patient with it
- understand it isn't going to be perfect all the time
- take care of it,
- and most of all be proud of it.
Beards need love to grow. When you see an awesome beard, it’s because that guy took what he had and made it awesome. There is no magical tremendous beard formula.
I think the biggest thing that guys should take away from these questions is that there are answers, and this stuff should not stand in the way of you living out your greatest bearded dreams.