“I never had long hair before I got busted. I never had a beard before I got busted.” ― Charles Manson
Earlier this year, The Weather Channel said warmer than average temperatures were to be expected across the “Lower 48.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration anticipated that 2020 will be one of the five hottest years on record. (We’d still have to beat 2016 to get to number one). The New York Times reported that “blistering temperatures” are expected through September.
It’s hot. For those of us with beards, maybe too damn hot.
Last January I started growing a beard in the name of responsible grooming journalism. I tried beard oils and vitamins, shampoos and balms, as well as several beard trimmers through the rest of the winter, through spring, and finally into the dog days of summer. 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, 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.
Do Beards Really Keep You Cool During the Summer?
I have done my research. Many websites insist that having a beard in the summer is not a problem. The beard care experts at Stubble and ‘Stache, for instance, 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 in the winter, 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 to buy their products.
We talked to Dr. Robin Schaffran, 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, course beard is going to retain heat. That doesn’t mean you have to cut it all off. Just like a good hair cut, trimming your beard will be cooler; cutting it all off, cooler still.”
Why You Should Shave Your Beard
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? Or would you rather look like you just spent the past few months bingeing on Duck Dynasty?
For some inspiration, check out Beardbrand’s Jack Milocco, who grew his beard for a year 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.
How to Shave Your Beard
- 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 earlier in the summer: “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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