November is the perfect opportunity to experiment with some facial fuzz and learn how to grow a beard. You can either raise money for charity while you are doing so (by taking part in Movember) or just take solace in the fact that – unless you shave, trim and dye it into a complete monstrosity – you’re probably not going to have the worst facial hair around for the next few weeks. In fact, even if you start growing a beard that is really, really patchy, nobody is likely to bat an eyelid.
Now, that’s probably not what you wanted to hear – you probably wanted to hear that growing a beard is as easy as just not shaving. Well, technically, it is. But you’re still going to have that awkward phase where your beard is just starting to grow. And unless you’re incredibly lucky – you’re going to, for a little while at least, look a bit like that one kid in Year 9 with the fluffy moustache and proto-beard.
But, once you’ve been through that awkward phase, you’ll be left with an impressive beard. Not only are beards ‘on-trend’ at the moment, they can transform your face from man-child to lumberjack in the blink of an eye. If you’re always being called ‘baby-faced’, or still occasionally get asked for ID, the beard is the answer to all of your problems.
Just take a look at Jamie Dornan, Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman with and without their beards. Clean-shaven = boyishly handsome. Bearded = rugged masculinity.
Before you go on, it’s worth noting that your beard-growing ability is pretty much dictated by nature. If you already know that you’ve got patchy or minimal facial hair from the shape of your five o’clock shadow, then it might be a good idea to keep to the clean shaven look until it thickens out a little.
Growing a Beard
Step One: Stop shaving, start trimming
There’s a little bit more to growing a beard than just throwing your razor in the bin (although, not that much more, admittedly).
Before we begin, let’s dispel the myth that shaving your facial hair makes it grow back thicker - this just isn’t true. It’s nice to think that you can cheat your way to a full beard, but it doesn’t work like that. All that happens is you feel the prickle of it growing back more often, and associate it with new-found thickness. Put the razor down and step away from the sink - you won’t need it again for another 4 weeks.
Once you’ve started to have a little bit of a beard break through – around the stage of medium-length stubble (depending on the speed your hair grows, this might be around the 7 day mark) – then it’s a good idea to grab a beard trimmer and go over your new facial accessory to keep all of the hair at the same length.
Nothing takes you from looking rugged to looking homeless quicker than a few stray beard hairs. (Nor, for that matter, does getting food stuck in your beard - if you’re going to commit to the beard, napkins and regular checks are going to become your friends, otherwise you’re going to look like Mr Twit.)
Step Two: Make your peace with the itch
If you’ve decided to start growing a beard, then it’s time to make your peace with the fact that it’s going to itch. It’s going to itch like hell some days – there are going to definitely be days that have you reaching for the razor. (And, if you’ve got a significant other, you’re probably going a certain amount of complaint about the spikiness of your beard. Stubble rash ain’t no joke.)
However, there are a few things you can do to ease the pain and suffering of everybody concerned.
Firstly, comb it – keeping all of the little hairs pointing in the same direction muffles the itch a little. Admittedly, it won’t help huge amounts, but at this stage, every little helps!
Secondly, wash and moisturise it. You want to keep the hairs on your face as soft and smooth as humanly possible – it’s the bristly, stiff hairs that cause the horrendous itch.
Thirdly, remind yourself that this phase will pass. It’s itchy not only because the new hair is a little coarse, but because the hair collects little bits of dirt and bacteria that irritate your skin. Once your body has adjusted to this, it’ll stop itching. (Although, fair warning, it does last about a week.)
Step Three: Leave it to grow
Whether you’re after full facial fuzz or a goatee, the temptation to start trimming and shaping when you’ve got something a bit longer than a 5 o’clock shadow is almost too much to resist. However, it’s well worth waiting.
When you’re growing your beard, give it a month to grow fully before you start to tame the beast. This will give you a much better idea of what you’re working with when it comes to the shaping - and a much better idea of the beard you can achieve.
(Although, as we’ve already said, trim off the stray hairs and the ones that grow at a faster rate - this’ll keep your new beard looking tidy, even when it isn’t the finished article.)
Step Four: Shape it
If it’s the first time you've started growing a beard, we highly recommend going to a barber that specialises in the shaping of facial hair.
They’ll know everything about what style will suit your face shape and how to give you the perfect neckline - and they’ll get your beard looking at its very best. They’ll probably give you loads of grooming tips to keep your beard in the best condition too.
(Plus, you can watch what they do and - if you’re feeling brave or can’t be bothered with regular trips to get your beard seen to - have a go yourself next time it needs doing.)
However, if you want to give it a go yourself from the off, check out this guide to what style of beard goes with your face shape.
Even if you’ve got a luscious, thick beard - if it doesn’t fit your face, it’s going to look odd. After that, grab a beard trimmer with adjustable settings, a razor and a mirror and start - carefully - sculpting.
Trimming a beard is a completely different skill to shaving - so make sure you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, check out this GQ article on trimming your beard into shape; it covers everything from jawline to treatment.
Are you planning on growing a beard? If so, you might need to adjust your hairstyle too - sometimes, having a complete frame of hair around your face can completely change how you look. If you’re worried about looking more like Chewbacca than Obi-Wan, then it might be worth going to have a chat with your barber.