Making the Facial Hair Decision

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Monday 11th October 2010
In this article
  • Why grow facial hair?
  • The facial hair options.
  • Growing and maintaining the facial hair.
  • Tools for grooming.
Making the Facial Hair Decision

In the last 20 years or so, facial hair has suffered from some bad press. Work places often banned beards and many women reported that they simply didn’t find facial hair attractive. At the same time, men were bombarded by a plethora of razor blade advertisements emphasizing the "virile magnetism" of a clean-shaven man.

Huh?

In recent years, beards and other types of facial hair designs are enjoying something of a comeback. Sports stars and other celebrities have been instrumental in spearheading various trends in facial hair design with many less-famous SharpMen following suit. Goatees and other forms of the beard are particularly popular with younger men. Which look should you go for? The answer depends less on what is "in" or "out" than what you like, what you can maintain and what suits your particular face and personality. Check out this SharpGrooming guide:

Why Grow Facial Hair?

There are many reasons why a SharpMan may want to grow his facial hair. For some, it may be something they’ve always wanted to do. Others are just kinda curious. "What would I look like with a beard?" "Would facial hair make me more Sharp?" "What sort of beard would suit me best?"

Why not find out? The process is, after all, easily reversed and who knows: you may like what you see.

Another prevalent reason for going for the hairy look seems to be a hatred of — or sensitivity to — shaving. It can get tedious fighting that daily battle against stubble and rash and many men ultimately decide that they just don't want to shave every morning. Of course, having a beard doesn’t free a man from all grooming responsibilities. Beards often need weekly (and often a small amount of daily) upkeep, which may include trimming and some shaving.

Another reason to consider growing facial hair is the need for a change. Unlike women, men have fewer opportunities for changing their appearance. Make-up and various interesting hairstyles are not options for the corporate SharpMan, so growing facial hair is often a guy’s only shot at a change of pace.

Finally, some men may feel that growing facial hair is the equivalent of "going natural." Others may be influenced by a family tradition or religious belief. And then there are those guys who realize, that despite all the hype, some women (maybe yours) find facial hair very attractive.

The Facial Hair Options

Before you take the plunge into the hairy side, it is a good idea to consider the different facial hair options you have. There are a number of different styles and designs you can experiment with to find one that suits you:

Mustache. That tuff of hair over the upper lip has many of its own variations. For today’s fashion and business climate, a neat, short one is usually best. The mustache is one of the facial hair options that requires the least maintenance and is one of the easiest to grow.

Sideburns. Whether you go for the "Wolverine" (X-Men)-type sideburns or the Kerry Ligtenberg (Braves) look, sideburns are relatively easy to maintain and have enjoyed an upsurge in popularity in recent times. The length depends on what your face and workplace can handle.

Designer stubble. Going for that swarthy constant-five-o’clock-shadow look is not easy to achieve. Usually shaving about once every two or three days (depending on growth) can get you the results you want. This stubble is often associated with bad boys and the 80s hit TV show "Miami Vice." Unless you’re in the music business, ultra-casual technology world or the drug trade, this look may be considered unprofessional.

Goatee. Goatees have become very popular in recent years. The aim is to grow a beard that covers your chin area but does not extend beyond the chin and along the jawline. It requires considerable maintenance, as you will need to shave and trim to maintain the distinct look. Goatees can be worn with or without a matching mustache. Mini-goatees, also known as "jazz dots," are also popular.

Full beard. The full beard covers the chin, jawline and upper lip. Beards are best and easiest for SharpMen with a strong beard growth and harder for those men with uneven or patchy beard spreads. Because they are such strong statements, few men who can carry beards off well. Think you’re one of the few? Experimenting is the only way to find out.

Combo styles. This category includes any number of combinations and variations of the basics described above. From mini-goatees to strategically placed lines of hair and everything in between. These styles are usually the hardest to maintain, as you will need to shave around lines of hair and trim those pieces of hair you want to keep. Many feel the maintenance is worth it though, for the opportunity to express individuality.

Growing Your Facial Hair

Step One: Timing is everything. If possible, conduct or begin your experiment while you are on vacation. This timing will help if you feel self-conscious about a new look, and will also give you the opportunity to get used to your new image before you have to face your work colleagues. Also, since the first few weeks of growth can look untidy, beginning a beard on vacation is a good way to get past the awkward stage before you return to work.

Step Two: Do nothing. Once you decide to grow your facial hair, your first step should always be to stop shaving and leave your face alone for about four weeks. Sounds simple, doesn't it? It’s not. There can often be a temptation to start trimming and shaping as soon as the hair gets past the stubble stage. Fight the urge. Trimming and shaping too early can mean that you take away too much hair in some places. The result? A longer wait, a style unsuited to your face, or frustration resulting in an early end to the experiment.

Again, you best bet is to let your hair come in naturally for at least four weeks, six if your growth is not very strong.

SharpMan Tip: Itching is common when you start to grow facial hair. It’s the result of the unfamiliar feeling of so much hair on your skin. If you keep the hair and skin underneath clean, the itching will fade away.

Step Three: Choose a shape. Once you have enough hair to work with, you can begin shaping it into the style you have chosen. If you are uncertain about what you want, take a list of all of the styles you like, beginning with the styles that require the most amount of hair (i.e., a beard) and ending with those that require the least (i.e., a "jazz dot"). Start your experimenting with the styles at the beginning of your list the ones that require the most hair. Style the hair so that it looks neat and then give yourself at least a week to gather opinions and make your own decision. If you’ve started your experiment with the full beard but feel that it doesn't suit, then move on to the next style on your list you would like to try — a style requiring slightly less facial hair to test. This way you’ll have the opportunity to try out several different styles with the least amount of regrowth time required. After all, it is easier to shave off hair than to grow back in a gap you didn't want.

Not sure which shape is best for you? See our sidebar "What Hair Suits My Face?"

Step Four: Professional Help. When it's time for that first styling, you may want to go to a professional barber. Once your barber has set the "lines" of your new look, maintenance is as easy as following the lines already set for you.

Otherwise, take your time and trim gradually until you have the style you want. Invest in a good quality beard trimmer (see tool suggestions below) and learn how to use it properly. Experiment with the different length settings on your beard trimmer (beginning with the longest one) until you find the one you like.

Maintenance of Your Facial Hair

Once you’re established the "line" of your facial hair, always trim and groom outside of that line. Here are a few tips for maintaining the look and feel of your facial hair:

Trimming tips for beards. Beards are best if they are kept tight and well trimmed. Having hair extend down your neck is usually not attractive (unless you're going for the biblical look), so it is essential to define a neckline below your beard. This line of hair will have to be shaved regularly. You can make this job easier by using your beard trimmer (see tool suggestions below). The line of the beard on the checks is usually left to grow naturally, unless you feel it is abnormally high.

Trimming tips for mustaches. Your mustache should never grow beyond your upper lip — otherwise you’ll look too sloppy to be Sharp (and will likely be one of those guys who constantly has food stuff in his facial hair).

When trimming a mustache, begin by trimming the length of the mustache hair from the middle and work your way out to each side. Usually you do not need to trim the top of the beard around the nose.

Trimming tips for other styles. Any of the other more creative styles will require you to shave and trim. Depending on the design, you may prefer to have a beard trimmer to maintain the length of the hair and a regular razor for the part that needs to be shaved. Only practice will perfect your technique.

Keeping clean. To keep facial hair clean, use the same shampoo as you would on your hair and rinse thoroughly. For full beards, it may be a good idea to use a little conditioner to keep the hairs soft — especially for kissing your loved one!

Tools for Grooming

  • The beard trimmer is your most important piece of equipment. The trimmer will help you maintain an even facial hair length (no bald spots) and will also help you define and keep you neckline clean. While it is possible to use a scissors, keeping balance and an even length is much more difficult with simple shears. There are many beard trimmer brands on the market. Choose your favorite at epinions.com.
  • When choosing a trimmer it is essential to compare prices with regard to what accessories and features are included. Make sure to check if the model you like is cordless and whether it requires batteries or is rechargeable. The cordless, rechargeable ones are probably the most convenient but will be the most expensive.
  • You will also need a wide-toothed comb to brush out a beard and a narrow-toothed comb for mustaches. Check out the La Cross Moustache and Beard Groomers, Scissors and Comb at drugstore.com. The comb included in the set is great for beards and other facial hair styles.
  • A magnified mirror or three-way mirror can be particularly helpful in judging the evenness of facial hair on each side of the face.
  • If you do choose to trim with a scissors, make sure the pair you use is a quality professional pair. The La Cross Moustache and Beard Groomers, Scissors and Comb set is good value, or try the Tweezerman SPA Moustache Scissors

What Hair Suits My Face?

It is essential to take into consideration your facial shape and features before making your final choice about how much or how little hair you should grow:

Long, thin face. You don’t need to add to the length of your face, so no long beard. Also avoid goatees, as they will just add length to your chin. Your best options are sideburns to fill out your jawline. Alternatively, a wide mustache can work, as it draws attention away from the lower half of your face. If you do want a full beard, keep it trimmed very tightly around your chin and leave the sides fuller to fill out the jaw area.

Round, full face. Your aim is to lengthen the face, so a goatee may work. It gives the effect of narrowing the face into a point at the chin and takes from the fullness of the jaws. Avoid any hair on the jawline or a narrow mustache — these only add to the roundness of your face.

Small chin. Your best option to bring out a small chin is to grow a goatee. A full beard can also work well, drawing out the chin. Never go for a mustache alone, though, as it will further overshadow your chin.

Square jaw. A full, rounded beard works well here, as it will soften the square look of your face. If you plan to add sideburns, keep them narrow.

Bald head. Have you seen guys with very little hair on their heads and tons of facial hair? The effect is not good — it gives these men an unbalanced look. That doesn't mean that bald men need to avoid facial hair; the key is to use it in a subtle fashion. A minimal beard, trimmed very tightly, can work well. A goatee can also be successful for some men, but avoid any fuller styles. Sideburns need to extend from the hairline, so avoid these.

Covering scars. Certainly facial hair can be an excellent way to cover scars. However, it's still important to combine the hair cover you need with a style that suits you. Don't haphazardly grow a full beard just to cover the scarred area. You may be able to cover it with a well-groomed goatee or creative beard style. Grow the full beard first, mark the area you need covered and style accordingly.

This article last updated on Wednesday 13th October 2010
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