In theory, November is dedicated to men growing mustaches for a good cause. In actuality, the month is a celebration of the beard, as many men don’t grow one without the other. It’s also the time of year when guys who have never explored their facial-hair options get brave. A four-week commitment how hard could that be? Hard, perhaps not, but a challenge nonetheless: The average guy has somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 hair follicles on his face and once they start sprouting, keeping them tidy takes a little planning. Here, everything you need to know for your inaugural shave-free adventure.
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1: Expect the Ugly
For guys growing out their beard for the first time this month, get ready for what Neville Hall, founder of Bold Beardsmen, calls the ugly phase. “Your facial hair might grow in patchy, uneven, and not yet have a defined growth pattern that compliments your jawline,” Hall cautions. This Caveman look is not exactly attractive, but the worst of it is over after seven to 10 days. In the meantime, comb your hair, dress sharp, and brush your teeth so your boss doesn’t think you’re on a week-long bender.
2: Do Not Touch
You will want to scratch. And rub. And shave the whole itchy mess off, or at least give it some definition. It’s time to flex that willpower of yours. “A first-time grower might rush to touch up his lines, but it’s best to resist over-shaping your beard until you can see the full potential of its fullness,” advises Hall. It will also help you get a better understanding of your hair type and growth pattern. How long before busting out the trimmer? Says Hall, “for most guys, a general rule of thumb is to wait about four weeks before attempting to sculpt their beards.”
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3: Practice Awesome Skin Hygiene
Believe it or not, for many men, the act of cleansing their face is intricately tied to the routine of shaving. No shave, no wash. But the grime builds up, clogging pores and exacerbating irritation. “You can subdue itchiness by using a deep scrub face wash that gently cleanses your pores and restores moisture to your skin,” says Hall. (Try Clinique for Men Face Scrub, $21.) Follow with a daily moisturizer on all areas of your face, particularly along the beard line where the itchy sensation can be at its worst.
4: Invest in a Quality Comb
Let’s face it, it’s a comb. Ain’t gonna break the bank, no matter which one you buy. So why not get yourself a nice wooden one, like Big Wood Beard Co’s Fine Tooth Comb ($25): Handmade from African mahogany, the comb is small enough to slip in your jeans back pocket and strong enough that it won’t snap if you sit on it. “Using a wooden teeth comb helps spread your oil or balm evenly and smoothly across your face,” says Hall. “The wrong comb can damage your facial hair causing split ends and entangled, rough patches in your beard.”
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5: Know Your Face
So you’ve got a little hair. Maybe more than a little. And you want to do something memorable with it. That’s cool. But first, know the landscape on which you are carving your design. That’s a fancy way of saying, figure out if the look you want works with the head you’ve got. “Understanding the shape of your face will inform you on how to trim your beard,” says Hall. A round face, for instance, looks a little silly with a long, point beard (ice-cream cone?) while a long, narrow profile does well with a shorter, full shape for balance. For first-timers, advises Hall, stick with a simple oval shape that looks good on almost everyone and is hard to mess up.