Last year, The New York Times reported that “scorching temperatures” are expected through September. Translation: It’s hot. Hotter than normal. And for those of us with beards, maybe a little too hot for our own comfort.
I started growing my stubble into a beard back in January of 2020 in the name of responsible grooming journalism. I tried beard oils and vitamins, conditioners and balms, as well as several beard trimmers for months and months just for the sake of my facial hair. I had, if I may say so myself, grown quite a masterpiece.
When I posted my fullest-length beard picture on Facebook at the end of June last year, comments included comparisons to ZZ Top, Santa Claus, Mike Love from The Beach Boys, and Papa Hemingway (which I’ll gladly take). I liked the way my beard elongated my face. I liked the way it felt in my hands when I was deep in thought.
On the first 95-degree day, I cut it all off.
As the temperatures and humidity rose, I could no longer stand having all that fuzz on my face. It’s not exactly that it was itchy. It felt as though I was stifled, covered, and somehow ill-at-ease. Add wearing a mask to match the circumstances, and I began to think that I just might understand how it feels to wear a burka.
Many websites insist that having a beard during warmer days is not a problem. The beard care experts at Stubble and ‘Stache say, “Your beard keeps the moisture from your sweat close to your face. When a breeze comes through, you feel nice and cool … Your beard won’t make you any warmer than normal.”
Of course, another quick Google search finds many a reference indicating that a beard will also keep you warm during colder days, so I’m suspicious of all of it. After all, it’s in beard care sites’ best interests to keep us feeling good about growing our beards so that we continue buying beard products.
We spoke to Dr. Robin Schaffran, the chief dermatologist at BalmLabs, to get a little clarity. “It’s just like guys getting summer haircuts, taking it all ‘down to the wood.’ It’s cooler to have no hair, whether it’s on your head or on your face. Thinner hair is less of an issue, but thick hair or a thick, coarse beard is going to retain heat. That doesn’t mean you have to cut it all off. Just like a good haircut, trimming your beard will be cooler; cutting it all off, cooler still.”
Many of us started growing our beards while sheltering in place from COVID-19. The relaxed pace and style of working from home allowed us to ease up a bit on grooming, and heck, barbershops were closed anyway, so going for a weekly trim wasn’t gonna happen. As time wore on, we got used to feeling a bit like a classic hermit or a mountain man, only surfacing to the public for the occasional video conference call or to wait in line at the grocery store.
Sure, it’s still a time of uncertainty. Depending on where you live, you may be moving out of lockdown; others may be moving back into it again. By the time the autumn leaves start falling, all bets are off. If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s controlling our beards. Do you want to come out of this stage of the pandemic projecting calm, mindfulness, and a level of control? Then maybe it’s time for a shave.
For some inspiration, check out Beardbrand’s Jack Milocco, who grew his beard for a year, and then, at week 52, shaved it all down on YouTube. In the video, Milocco goes from a full-growth, untouched beard through a “Hollywoodian,” a Van Dyke, and some mustache variations, ending with plain scruff.
- Start with a pair of trimmers and slowly work your way into the cut. Feel free to pause for “Smith Brothers” or “Three Musketeers” selfies. Stop when you have — like Michelangelo with a block of marble — discovered the face within the hair.
- Once you’ve trimmed things down (or off), “Be sure to use a cleanser. Keeping the skin and beard clean in the summer — particularly with sweating and wearing a mask — is important to keep bacteria at bay,” says Schaffran. ClearBalm by BalmLabs has a Gentle Foaming Cleanser that creates a light lather that penetrates the beard, and then fruit-based acids clean the skin without drying it. “Use a little conditioner, too, when in the shower,” she adds, “particularly if you have a dry beard.”
- Schaffran makes an interesting point that I’m realizing may have caused my problem: “Be sure to apply sunscreen. A beard is not going to protect your skin from the sun. Find a light serum, lotion, or gel that has some SPF, and work it through the beard to your skin. Be sure to follow up after cleansing with a calming moisturizer. Always remember to care for the skin under the beard.” ClearBalm’s Serum Hydrator provides lightweight hydration but no sun protection. Stubble and Stache redeems themselves to me here, offering Protect, a “beard-friendly” moisturizer with SPF 30.
After all, as Jean Cocteau once said, “There is always a period when a man with a beard shaves it off. This period does not last. He returns headlong to his beard.”
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