Yes, it’s official, I have decided to challenge myself to see if I can grow a beard (or at least some presentable assemblance of facial hair) in the coming weeks. Although the current styles and popularity of the beard in men’s fashion and grooming played a role in this decision, a far larger factor was that I’ve simply never attempted it before. As a result, this presents a huge opportunity to delve into the research and literature behind facial hair growth, grooming, styling and the products used in beard routines. Furthermore, it gave me the chance to interact with some of the top bearded bloggers around and get in touch with a community that The Male Stylist hasn’t previously explored.
Tentative First Steps
The whole decision was a big moment to begin with. Many beard experts say that just deciding to grow a beard is something that many men find hard to do. There is an element of commitment and trust in your own body to just do what it naturally does, yet this felt (certainly for me) like something of a leap of faith. I’ve always been clean shaven, ever since I hit puberty, not because my facial hair grew out of control (those who know me will tell you I’m not the kind of guy who gets 5 o’clock shadow easily) but because of the fear associated with not being able to do something that a man “should be able to do”. It’s been my routine every 1-2 days to shave and keep my face smooth and sharp, never really confronting my insecurities until recently.
So after a hot shave on Sunday night I forced myself to commit to this from both a research and style perspective. Regardless of how ridiculous it looked to begin with, I was determined to see the outcome.
Many of you will be thinking that I am being melodramatic about this and should just get on with it. However, I do have genuine fears about this process and the results it may yield. I was worried that hardly anything would grow and I would be left looking like some sort of teenager attempting to blag bum-fluff as a real beard. Or maybe it would grow but look scraggly and pathetic, leading to me being the laughing stock of the office.
I’ve been the subject of some teasing concerning my ability to grow facial hair (or lack thereof) and it has all been in good nature, I’ve never taken it personally. However, now that I’m committed to trying, all of it sounds like the truth ringing in my ears. Will it turn out that genetics has left me short changed in the facial follicles department?
Changes to Lifestyle
Rather than worrying myself stupid, I got stuck into research concerning the science behind beard growth, skin health, diet and all of the factors that effect a man’s beard. In terms of diet, it was recommended that eating natural protein (present in fish, chicken, broccoli and peas etc.) was a great way of ensuring healthy hair growth. Biotin, commonly known as Vitamin H and found in almonds, eggs, meat and milk, is said to promote healthy hair and skin so that too jumped into my regular food diary.
It was also recommended that I should be exercising 3-4 times a week and getting plenty of rest (around 8 hours per night) to aid beard growth. On top of this, there were elements of my skincare regime that I looked at changing as your skin, and the hair follicles it contains, needs to be kept in good condition. Thanks to a variety of bearded bloggers (including Barrie Thomson from Bookends and Bin Ends, Carl from A Bloke’s Eyeview, Dominic Cope from BeardTrend & Benjamin Heath from The 21st Century Gentleman) I was given the lowdown on beard oils, moisturisers, skincare and shampoos. Eucalyptus extract is meant to be a good way to encourage growth in hair follicles, whilst beard moisturisers help soften hairs thus reducing itchiness.
Most importantly I was told that patience would be the biggest factor. Letting your body naturally perform its everyday duties and not trying to prune or rush it. The most interesting discovery was the fact that men who can and can’t grow beards have very similar testosterone levels, the more sensitive you are to testosterone the more easily you can grow a beard (the downside being that this sensitivity can also lead to baldness later in life).
So here I am, 4 days into the beard process and the longest I’ve ever gone without shaving. My diet has been slightly altered and I’ve upped my exercise routines. I’ve replaced regular snacks with a handful of almonds and drinking plenty of water. I’m using a eucalyptus extract skin lotion in the mornings and evenings, as well as a gentle exfoliator to help keep pores clear. I’m taking daily photos to monitor growth (which may or may not get posted into a full timeline depending on how well this goes) and getting plenty of sleep at night.
To the bearded members among you, I ask that you contribute whatever advice, anecdotes and links you have that might aid my journey. To my fellow baby-faced gentlemen, feel free to join me on this expedition and ask as many questions as you like. Above all else, the fact that you are reading this and your support means the world to me so thank you for that.
There will be (irregular) updates further down the line, but in the meantime feel free to like and/or share this article with your friends. You can subscribe for future updates, posts and competitions from The Male Stylist or follow me on Twitter or Instagram.
By Adam Walker