A story guide to navigating the Movember Madness.
Photos By- Ben Huddleston
I hate growing out my facial hair. Beards itch. They make my face sensitive to the touch. I shave every other day on average. However, when early November comes I think to myself, “Maybe I’ll try the No Shave November challenge.” Sometimes I actually try it out for a week or so. Eventually, though, I give in to the ever-present clippers in my bathroom drawer. Not this time. This year I started a month early in October to get a head start on the challenge. I figure I might as well see what it’s like to have facial hair. I’m full sending it this time.
What is No Shave November? We’ve all heard of it, but what is it all about? According to no-shave.org, “The goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow wild and free. Donate the money you typically spend on shaving and grooming to educate about cancer prevention, save lives, and aid those fighting the battle.” The rule is to put down your razor for a month and let it grow. Whether it’s a full mountain man beard or a pencil thin mustache that would make Sam Elliott sneer, embrace your facial hair: own it.
The first (optional) step is to sign up for the challenge at no-shave.org. It only took a few minutes to make my account. Now I must decide how I do it. Do I completely binge-grow my whiskers all month while giving my razor the cold shoulder? That’s the original concept of the challenge I suppose, but surely there’s more I can do to make the process better. I need to look professional for class and work. So, I started with research. As it turns out, there’s a lot to learn about how to maintain one’s facial hair along the path to growing the best neck beard in town.
The hardest part is always starting. This is the stage when my facial hair is just starting to sprout like beautiful little specks in a Kansas field of freshly planted corn. My juvenile beard is spotty though as if the farmer was drunk when he planted the field. It itches. It gives me an uncomfortable sensation whenever something touches my face, yet I’m not able to resist touching my lovely spikes of maturity. The key thing to do in this first week is to trim my entire face with the short clippers on the third day after starting the challenge. This will help in the long run to prime my whiskers in order to properly grow over the next month. It is normally recommended to use a razor blade over an electric trimmer in order to leave a less sharp, more natural finish on the hairs. It is a microscopic difference that will help with irritation and itchiness. For this trim, however, it is appropriate to use an electric trimmer as to not shave to the skin.
This first week is a great time to start practicing some good new habits. Think of your beard as an extension of yourself. The health of your beard is directly correlated to the health of your body. This means that if I really am committed to growing the best neck beard in town, then I am going to have to exercise and eat healthy. I go shopping and begin to look for foods rich in protein; like eggs and meats. Adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to my snacks would help the flow of oxygen to my hair follicles. I picked up some sweet potatoes, which contain Beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is helpful to specifically cell growth in facial hair. I swing by the vitamins aisle to grab a bottle of beard vitamins (yes, this is a real thing). The two hormones that affect facial hair growth are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The higher your testosterone levels are, the more likely you are to have a better beard. The lower your DHT is, the more likely you are to not lose head hair in the future. Testosterone is naturally occurring in the human body, so we can increase it naturally with exercise. Many studies have shown that resistance training increases your testosterone levels the most. It’s time to rinse out my blender bottle and hit the gym. Now, more exercise isn’t the most fun advice to hear, but I also get to sleep more. I will need to sleep anywhere between 7-10 hours a night in order to naturally boost my testosterone levels. This I can do.
It’s the second week. I’m starting to really reconsider my decisions. My face looks like a dirty brown brillo pad. It’s cold outside. I have 3 exams to study for this week and I can’t stop picking at my chin in class. This is a bad habit I remind myself. “Picking at scabs or acne, plucking occasional beard hairs, all of it leads to less healthy facial skin and non-natural beard patchiness,” says beardbrand.com. It is impossible to not touch my beard when my professor is rambling on about demand and supply in economics class, but for the sake of my face carpet, I put my hands down to my side. As a sub-result, I take better notes in class because of it. It’s a win-win.
I start to think it’s possible that I am allergic to facial hair because my beard is starting to itch more and more every day. So, I ask my barber what to do. He tells me to look into beard oils. I have no idea what beard oils are or even what I am looking for. I seek help from the most intelligent source I know, “Google”. I find a statement on huskybeard.com that reads, “With its ability to prevent all sorts of pains, like dryness, beardruff, itch, coarseness, etc. It has the ability to drastically improve your appearance and how comfortable your beard feels against your skin – not to mention all the unique scents.” According to huskybeard.com, beard oil is the single most important product to use while growing your beard out.
Okay, I’m sold. I decided I will purchase a bottle of beard oil to use. “What’s a good brand of beard oil to use?”, I ask myself, being a novice in the community of bearded bros. I return to the keyboard wizard “Google” to find some rankings on toolsofmen.com.
Overall The Best Beard Oil – Honest Amish Premium ($18)
Best Smelling Beard Oil – Billy Jealousy Devil’s Delight ($24)
Best Beard Oil For The Money – V76 ($19)
Best Natural Beard Oil – Wild Willies ($17)
Best Unscented Beard Oil – Ranger Beard Oil ($14)
I end up going to my local Walmart and buying a cheaper off-brand oil. I find a bottle with a nice manly scent that I would presume to be the exact scent of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s sweat. I open my new miracle bottle and apply it to my face. I remind myself not to be afraid to really get in there. A good face massage helps stimulate blood flow in the skin which can help with hair growth. A few days of this and I start to notice small improvements in my beard. The oil totally works. My beard smells great, feels better, and looks much more smooth.
I was intrigued, so I start to look into beard oils more. It turns out that beard oils contain what are called essential oils and carrier oils. Essential oils are beneficial in a number of ways. They can provide cognitive benefits like calmness and stress relief as well as have been studied for anti-aging and acne fighting properties. Essential oils are what carry the scent of the oil as well as giving your beard your own personal touch of style. When applied alone and direct, essential oils can be harmful to your skin, bringing the need for the carrier oils. Carrier oils are typically found in nuts and seeds. These are essential fatty acids that can’t be produced alone by the body. They are what carry the essential oils so that beard oil can be safely applied to your skin. Carrier oils are also the oils that will unlock most of the benefits to your beard such as: moisturizing properties, smoothness, nourishment, and could potentially help with beard growth. No surprise, oils make a situation better.
It happened. I was walking around for 20 minutes after lunch with toast crumbs in my beard and no one told me. You think it will never happen to you until it does. I highly recommend the buddy system during this month of madness. It helps to have a friend check you out after every meal to confirm that you’re not saving a few pieces of lunch for later in your not so shadowy scruff. If you’re alone on this long path to mountain manhood, then just a quick look at your phone camera when no one is looking should suffice. I say a “quick” look because you don’t need to be spending a lot of time looking at your beard in the mirror. It’s not going to grow faster, or thicker, or look more like Drake’s by staring at it in the mirror. I can’t change my facial hair. Sure, there’s plenty of tips and tricks that we’re discussing to help, but the point of this month is to own your own facial hair. Rock what you got.
It’s not healthy to dwell over your beard or others’ beards at that. Beard jealousy is real, people. We live in a world of easy access to everyone’s look on Instagram. Avoid getting caught up in comparing your beard to some Norwegian model who has a beautiful, perfectly shaped, thick lumberjack beard. Actually, this tip applies to everyone: Don’t use social media to compare yourself to others at all. Instagram can be a great tool to help find new styles and ideas, or even just share moments of your life, but it can also be used to create unrealistic standards of physical attributes. This toxic use will create insecurities and can even lead to depression. Confidence comes from within. Confidence is cool. So, be cool… with a beard.
The hard part is over. After countless moments of doubt, regret, and the time my roommate had to gracefully talk the electric trimmer out my hands, my facial hair is still here. This is the last week of the challenge and my beard is reaching its full challenge potential. I was able to successfully grow a medium stubble beard. I feel great. I’ve been craving this moment since puberty. My new beard has recreated my look as a young, innocent college student to a mature, masculine “daddy”. I’m not lying when I say that women like guys with beards. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at what psycologytoday.com says about a study done by Dixson and Brooks (2013), which used procedures and recorded judgments by both men and women on the faces of men with varying degrees of facial hair. “Women found stubble on men most attractive, (In this study, the stubble was heavier.) Nevertheless, women rated men with full beards as highest for perceived parenting ability and healthiness. Overall, as facial hair increased, women’s ratings of masculinity increased, too — particularly for women who reported being at the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle.” Just to be clear, the report stated that when women are at the most fertile phase of the month is when they really love the beard. So, if you’re into the whole baby-making thing, here’s your “in” fellas.
Even though my challenge is over now, I decided to keep my beard for a while. I treated myself to a beard trim and shape-up from my barber. I recommend this to all, whether it be from your barber or at home (if you’re a DIY kind of guy). You can look up countless facial hair looks that fit great with your style. Some of the most popular styles among men today are:
A popular goatee that was recently made famous by Robert Downey Jr.
An old traditional style brought back to modern-day culture focusing on a thick mustache connected to long sideburns with the chin clean shaved.
Short, Medium, and Long stubble
The most common styles among men with different lengths of full-face stubble ranging from short to medium to long.
The Full Beard
A simple, well-kept beard that could take some time to fully grow.
If you decide the facial hair thing just isn’t for you at the end of the month, that’s fine. You did it! You didn’t quit, and you helped raise awareness for a great cause. Kudos to you, sir. It’s time to cut it short. Many people will say, “A gentleman will not make a big deal out of cutting his facial hair. A gentleman will not cut funny shapes or patterns into his beard before cutting it completely.” I say do what you want. Have some fun, you’ve earned it champ! If you’re like me and decide to continue on your path to reach full beard potential, that’s great too! No shave? No problem.