My Beard Journey

The Glory and Perils of Growing a Beard

October 2016 – What to Wear with a Beard

I am now well into my 2nd month of My Beard Journey, and the evidence is clear.  Table on Main is a cool dinner event that happens here in Georgetown where local business owners and other like-minded advocates of small business around our town square gather to enjoy a nice meal and music.  I was able to dress according to my beard for this, as you can see.  It is fun to dress up while you have a beard, because you sometimes get to experiment with attire that just presents itself different than if you were clean-shaven.  Some men decide to try wearing different styles of hats, and some try different kinds of suits.  It’s all part of the fun and the craft.

Attending the October 2016 Table On Main dinner with my date. I do not think I could’ve pulled off this outfit quite as well with a shaven face. Maybe the beer in hand also helps, though. 🙂

It’s a night and day difference! Also, my attire worn this evening attributes to the timelessness of this captured moment. That is, it could be difficult for anyone to guess the era when this photo was taken, and that was how I wanted to dress. Old timey, but is it?

By the way, because I was going for an old-timey feel for tonight, I wore a beard oil by Brewtastic Soaps that has a woodsy scent called Tree Feller.  It felt most appropriate for me, and I know that other people who appreciated my style enjoyed the extra effect as well.  If you haven’t heard about beard oil yet or how it enhances your beard experience for both you and others, be sure to read my blog from Week 1.

The important thing is that you enjoy your craft, because it is all yours – no one else’s.  From how you style your hair to how you dress to how you stroke your beard all plays into everything.  In fact, if you want a longer beard quick, have you tried getting a haircut?  It sounds funny, but shortening the hair on top of your head can give the illusion to having more facial hair.  It draws attention to it.  The inverse is also true.  Adding something to your heard such as a hat can attribute or compliment the shape of your beard.  I wore most of the time while growing my first beard, and I’ve never been one to wear hats – not even baseball caps.  However, it worked better for me while wearing a beard.  Not just any hat will do, though.  You’ll have to experiment to find what suits you, and that is heavily determined by you beard’s stage of growth as well as the shape it takes, whether that is natural or styled by you.  You may also have to change hats as your beard grows longer and/or fuller.  You don’t want a hat that is smaller than the gate of your beard, and you don’t want a hat so large that it takes away from your beard, either.

In the same vein, I never would have worn suspenders before.  My attire seen here is extremely simple and doesn’t require spending a lot of money, but it still looks classy in a simple way.  And a little arm candy can complement it all as well.

Oh, and as your beard gets longer, you might want to be cautious of any clothing that leads a zipper upward to your neck.  I have heard many bearded horror stories of men having to euthanize their beards because they weren’t paying attention and lost half of it in a terrible zipper accident.  Yes men, that means we have to be careful of zippers in yet another region of our bodies.

Just about every man is aware of the most popular evil of the zipper, but an equal number has never thought what horrors can occur for men with 6″ or longer beards.

However you decide to dress is completely up to you, but if you’re reading this far, it’s because you care about the art and craft of your beard.  So give it some actual thought and invest in your beard in a way that is heavily neglected by many.  Make your beard journey yours.  How do you like to dress?  I would love to hear and see in the comments below.

Week Four, Open the Door

If you’ve made it to Week 4 with me, you deserve a pat on the back.  You have literally outgrown many of the men around you, most likely.  Out of the few men who try growing a beard in this day and age, even fewer make it this far without bending their knee to the cruel itch.  And for making it this far, your reward is no more itch.  Please, if you are still somehow experiencing itch, then I have to assume that you have neglected my advice of using beard oil.  And if you’ve made it this far with no more itch without beard oil, then kudos to you, too.  However, the health of your beard hair will suffer over the next few months with drying and split-ends.

The Glory of Week 4 is no more itch with a tease of the shape and growth to come.

The Glory of Week 4 is no more itch with a tease of the shape and growth to come.

You can clearly see in the photo that I have some extended growth from my mustache and chin.  The sideburns may also have annoying looking fly-aways.  You may start to notice your mustache hairs hitting sandwiches and other foods that you bring to your mouth.  You’ll get used to all of this soon enough, but the important thing to avoid is trimming any of these antennae.  Be sure to use beard oil so that the ends of these stray hairs don’t bother you much when they touch your lips or other bare skin.  The use of beard balm now may be possible, and you may want to start practicing using it especially if you have any specific shaping in mind, especially the mustache curl.  Think of those bamboo plants that they sell curled around a stick.  Do you think they let that bamboo stalk grow straight up and then tried to train it to curl around that stick?  No way…  The established linear shape would rebel against any training.  Either the trainer would have to spend months if not YEARS getting it to bend to his will, or the bamboo stick would snap and die in the effort.  The easiest and most logical way is to start training it from birth.  So the same is true for your beard hair.

When I grew my first beard last year, I started combing my mustache hairs downward, because it’s all I ever knew from pictures and people I knew.  It just seemed to make sense considering that the rest of my beard hair was doing fine growing downward.  But I suddenly realized that if I continued to do that, the hairs would eventually grow to cover my mouth, and no girl would want to kiss me.  And forget girls, what would eating food be like??  So it wasn’t until the end of the 2nd month that I started brushing my mustache hairs outward to the sides.  But my hairs rebelled, and it took the next 4 months (6 months of beard time) to finally start seeing obedience.  I’m hoping that this time around, I’ll do things right since I learned a lot from growing my last full beard. And now you will benefit from my mistakes and experience by continuing to read on…

Three Weeks, Less Bleak Cheeks

The death of the itch is near!  I can feel it, and so should you.  Right now, my beard is beginning to show an intelligent shape rather than just patches and thick 5 o’clock shadow.  My beard has never really been one to grow in patches, though.  But if a stranger were to describe me today, one of the first things worth noting would be that I have a beard.  This is because my beard has pretty much laid down its path of where it’s going to grow and is now just growing thicker on top of itself.  You’ll notice richer colors, and you should be able to barely stroke your beard hairs, especially near your lips and chin.  It’s not much, but this should be a stage to give you high hopes.  You’ll also be relieved to learn that it is probably the last week you’ll have to deal with much itch.  In fact, it’s no longer about hairs curling inward back toward your face.  Not only will they start to calm themselves as you grow toward week 4, but your face is almost desensitized to your new beard.  It will soon stop feeling like a foreign entity and more like a friendly, welcoming part of you.

The beard is 3 weeks old now, and the itch is almost gone. Still looking nice and short. Dressed up to help out with a wedding venue at The Page House in Georgetown, TX.

The beard is 3 weeks old now, and the itch is almost gone. Still looking nice and short. Dressed up to help out with a wedding venue at The Page House in Georgetown, TX.

But my beard hair is still just short enough to not interfere with eating food.  Later, when my beard gets to be 1 inch and beyond, I’ll have to be careful of how I eat in public if I want to save face…  So for now, I’m enjoying eating all the messy Texas cheeseburgers, hot wings, soups, and ribs without worry.  A lot of beardsmen don’t even worry about getting their beard messy, no matter how long it is.  But I’m different and like to keep my beard clean as well as I can, which means using a lot of napkins.  No one wants to see my rabid dog face after eating some dripping-wet hot wings as I look up to say “Hi!”  I’ll talk more about bearded eating etiquette in a month or so.  For now, you just savor every last dripping mess you can…

messy dog face

Yes, you can eat however you want while you have a beard. Just keep telling yourself that you don’t care what others think… Yeah, that’ll do the trick…

One tip on keeping yourself looking sharp no matter what stage of beard growth you’re undergoing is to keep your neck area shaven.  Of course, the choice is yours, but you may be surprised at just how much of a difference you look when presenting yourself sans neck hair.  I personally like to shave as low down as my collar so that no hairs protrude.   The focus is my stylish beard, not the undergrowth that looks like I haven’t looked in a mirror in a while.  But again, this is all for personal choice depending on what your goals are.  If you plan to forever forbade the razor, then you probably have your nose up in the air right now.  But if you’re wanting to ease your way into the eyes of your family who may not be so pro-beard, this will go a LONG way.  Trust me.

Consider shaving clean your neck hair. Many men go even closer to the chin (smaller red line), but this is really only done for men who don't plan to grow for length. You'll want a little more hair under the chin to grow long around month 2.

Consider shaving clean your neck hair. Many men go even closer to the chin (smaller red line), but this is really only done for men who don’t plan to grow for length. You’ll want a little more hair under the chin to grow long around month 2.

You may also consider cleaning up the hairs around your mouth without cutting or shaving any important mustache or beard hairs.  This is tricky and needs to be done with caution.  Mustache hairs are very hard to come by, and you can set yourself back a long way with a slip of the wrist.  If you’re going for length, you may want to just forget it and leave those hairs around your mouth alone for another month or two so you can see exactly what you’re doing.  Also, don’t forget about the hair on your higher cheeks.  These will likely grow in patches or very random sprouts (they do for me).  You’ll find that in about 3 months, those hairs will match the rest of your beard.  But in the first month, they are more of an eyesore.  If you don’t care, let them fly!  But I personally drag a razor just once over this area during week 3 to clean up a bit.  I might do this only one more time later, and that’s it.  They grow fast, so they’ll catch up with the rest of your beard when the time is right.

Hair on the upper high cheek area just doesn't make sense in the first month. It grows faster and with less logical shape than the rest of your beard. Even for a 6-month sprint, you'll have plenty of time during month 2 or 3 to grow these in a more blended state as it will match the rest of your beard then. Lightly drag a razor over this area in month 1 and maybe 2 to clean up.

Hair on the upper high cheek area just doesn’t make sense in the first month. It grows faster and with less logical shape than the rest of your beard. Even for a 6-month sprint, you’ll have plenty of time during month 2 or 3 to grow these in a more blended state as it will match the rest of your beard then. Lightly drag a razor over this area in month 1 and maybe again in month 2 to clean up.

Your hairs are likely still too short to style with any product, but in the event that they aren’t, stick around for my next blog.  You may notice some stray hairs known as “fly-aways.”  These are what get bearded men into trouble when they really want to grow their beards longer and thicker.  But they can’t help themselves to trim away these longer-looking hairs.  This is a no-no, and the light use of beard balm will fix this without raising a blade of any kind to your precious hard work. Fly-aways behave the exact opposite of those high cheek hairs.  They don’t grow as fast as the rest of your beard, because… they ARE your beard.  You can’t expect your entire beard to grow at the same length, so let these sprinters go and in a few days, the rest of your beard will catch up.  The fly-aways will slow down and things will look uniform again.  But like I said, by week 3, you’ll very likely not need this, so just stick with beard oil every day.

Week 4 is next, and it’s full of good times.  You can pretty much say goodbye to all itch and finally have the introduction of length to play with.  If you want to curl your mustache at any point, you won’t want to miss this article.  It is an extremely crucial time to decide where you want to go with your beard, otherwise you’ll try re-correcting your hair and have a battle to overcome.  Happy growing!

Two Weeks of Beard

My razor has been on a nice extended vacation by this point, and it’s an inland one since it hasn’t seen much water.  Two weeks has come and gone since I shaved for the last time in lieu of an upcoming beard competition in 6 months (well, 5 months and 2 weeks now, whoo!).  This is definitely the most unfun place to be in growing your beard.  As I told you in my last post during the 1st week, the first tactile evidence of your beard will be the itch and irritation of the hairs curling inward toward your face.  So week #2 is that same event…times 2.  But rest assured, slapping some premium quality beard oil on your face and hair will soothe and moisturize your skin to alleviate this.

2 weeks of beard at my mother's birthday party. Right now, people love my baby beard, but I know that in a month or two, those same people will try telling me what to do with my face.

2 weeks of beard at my mother’s birthday party. Right now, people love my baby beard, but I know that in a month or two, those same people will try telling me what to do with my face.

Please always remember that everyone’s hair, including facial, grows at varying speeds depending on many factors.  Such factors include genes (the biggest one), health, and your determination to not shave or trim.  So as I write this blog, my beard’s “week #2” may not be aligned with yours.  You may already have half an inch…or you may still be as smooth as a baby’s butt.  And that’s okay.  In fact, it’s great.  Growing your beard out, no matter how long it takes, reveals more about yourself than you knew before.  It also teaches you character qualities like patience and caring for a craft that is all yours.

The main issue with week #2 (for me) is that I’m still in limbo.  I’m still at a point where someone wouldn’t necessarily identify me with having a beard.  That means my skin is also dealing with still remembering being smooth and free of obstruction while learning how to become jaded of my fresh beard hair.  It is usually weeks #2 and #3 that break a lot of men.  Many who want to grow a beard cave under the irritation and also peer-pressure they receive.  But don’t shave!  To the victor goes the spoils!  And the spoils are quite glorious…  But it’s not all horrible during these weeks.  Usually, the general public is perfectly accepting of this length of beard, and you may even have a few new ladies look your way.  It is a very fun time which can be your reward for enduring the annoying itch, especially if you have beard oil to make your forget.

Even if you have a slow-growing baby face, you can grow SOMETHING with enough time and patience.

Even if you have a slow-growing baby face, you can grow SOMETHING with enough time and patience.

You need to know that if you’ve never grown a full beard before, you are going to receive flack from friends and loved ones at some point.  It happened to me hardcore during the 3rd month last year when I grew mine for the first time .  But luckily I was prepared for this because a well-seasoned beardist warned me ahead of time.  So now it’s my turn to pass the buck.  To your parents and family, it will look like you’ve just let yourself go and don’t care about your appearance anymore.  My mother hounded me for a while even though I’m in my 30’s.  She and others couldn’t envision what I was aiming for, and you have to keep exactly that in mind:  They don’t know.  No one does until they ride their beard journey.  It’s your life, and your face has the amazing capability of growing a glorious beard.  Let it do its thing, and let no one stop you.  Not even yourself, especially if you made a commitment to yourself to grow it out – even if it was “just to see” how you look.  That’s a great reason, and you shouldn’t let irritation or negative words from others inhibit what you want.  But for now and the first month, you should be enjoying your new look, so I will get more in depth with how to deal with peer pressure and your beard farther down the road.  There’s not a lot more to say about week #2 because of how in-the-middle that it is.  Look forward to week 3 having more volume (both my blog and beard).  😉

The First Curl is the Deepest

A full week has passed since I had my beard shaved off to jump-start the 6 Month Sprint competition in February 2017.  This means my beard is about a week old, and this is when some very interesting things happen to my face.  It’s also a crucial stage that bother a lot of men (and their significant others) so much that they stop and shave it off.  My face itches!  But I carry around a small bottle of beard oil during this time to apply to make face when I have the urge to scratch my face.

My beard exactly 1 week after shaving. Enjoying Labor Day weekend with family - don't mind the tired eyes.

My beard exactly 1 week after shaving. Enjoying Labor Day weekend with family – don’t mind the tired eyes.  Oh, I got a haircut, too!

Do you remember the last time you shaved your face?  If you’re clean-shaven, then of course you do, and if you’re bearded, you probably remember at least the month and year for the sake of marking growth time.  Well, that last maiming will make your beard hair the bane of your existence for up to an entire month to come, unless you take care of it.  The itch time really depends on your genes and how quickly you grow facial hair, though.  Any woman who has kissed you while you’ve had a 5 o’clock shadow can confirm what I’m about to tell you:  Your short beard hairs are sharp.  And while they’re short, they’re as sturdy as the grits of sandpaper.  And sure, you’ve rubbed your own hand against it and tried claiming that you “know” how rough it is.

Viewed under a microscope, this beard hair was cut with a razor. Notice the sharp angle that is a result of angled blades, which keep us from cutting our faces while shaving. This is what stabs your face and causes irritation. Image Source: http://www.denniskunkel.com/gallery/medical/9219A.jpg

Viewed under a microscope, this beard hair was cut with a razor. Notice the sharp angle that is a result of angled blades, which keep us from cutting our faces while shaving. This is what stabs your face and causes irritation. Image Source: http://www.denniskunkel.com/gallery/medical/9219A.jpg

All of your attempts to downplay the brutal roughness of your beard will come back to bite you in as little as one or two short weeks.  Oh, and if you think just waiting it out will help, as the hair grows longer but still remains “short,” it will curl backward into your face.  Itch and irritation will try to subdue you, especially as you scratch it.  But there’s hope:

BEARD OIL!

Beard Oil is a necessity while growing your beard, for all stages. It will relieve itch and irritation, enabling you to keep your beard for a longer time. Brewtastic Soaps provides VERY affordable beard oils, handmade with great scents. www.brewtasticsoaps.com

Beard Oil is a necessity while growing your beard, for all stages. It will relieve itch and irritation, enabling you to keep your beard for a longer time. Brewtastic Soaps provides VERY affordable beard oils, handmade with great scents. www.brewtasticsoaps.com

Many men  express the depth of their manliness by bragging about how they don’t use beard products or that their face secretes enough natural oils to satisfy all their problems.  But beard oil is your friend.  Even if by sheer will power, you manage to not let the itch affect you and surpass the itch stage  (2 to 4 weeks, usually, but depends on how fast your hair grows), the ends of your hairs will absolutely be split in due time. The only way to get rid of split-ends is by trimming your beard, and that is a HUGE no-no when you’re going for growth, especially in just 6 months.  That is an unhealthy beard, and your face has been treated like it no longer exists.  The skin beneath your beard should be treated with care like the rest of your face and body.

There are many brands and kinds of beard oil to choose from, and everyone has different preferences of scents and oils.  Most are formulated with oils especially for face and hair health, and some oils and essential oils are thought to encourage hair health or prevent dandruff.  Beard oil can range from $15 to $25, and they are well-worth that amount for the relief and health of your face and beard.  Brewtastic Soaps has many different scents, made with the following high-quality, natural ingredients:

Jojoba Oil – a dry oil – not greasy! – that is similar to natural body oils and so is readily absorbed into the skin,

Argan -thought to support hair health,

Grapeseed Oil – thought to encourage hair growth,

Castor Oil – provides thick body to the overall product and has been thought throughout the ages to have healing properties,

Sweet Almond Oil  – rich in vitamins, thought to promote hair growth and encourage blood and nutrient circulation to the skin, and

Essential Oils – each beard oil scent has a different blend of premium essential oil for men of all walks of life.  Check them out!

And a 1-ounce bottle is only $15 from Brewtastic Soaps, which is extremely low for the premium quality product.  Compare that to other brands like Beard Baron and Beard Brand, to name a couple.

We will get more in depth on beard oil later on, but all you should get from this now is that beard oil is a necessity if you want to do things right and care about your beard health and appearance.  You can survive this testing time, and you now know how to cheat the itch.  Keep the growth!

Today is officially Day 1, and I had my beard shaven off about 2 hours ago by a professional barber from Floyd’s Barbershop.   I went to The Brixton on East 6th Street in Austin, TX to participate in the official shave-off event with the Austin Facial Hair Club for a 6-Month Sprint competition.  Those participating and signing up will be competing in the annual Come And Shave It event in February 2017 before a panel of judges.

the-brixton-austin-afhc-6-month-sprint-beard

The Brixton is a local pub located at 1452 E. 6th St., Austin, TX and is where the kickoff for the official 6-Month Sprint took place today on August 27, 2016.

It is a HOT Texas Summer, so the lack of facial hair doesn’t bother me too much, but I do miss the glorious beard that I had earned over 8 months of sheer patience and craftsmanship.  When I started growing my first full beard less than a year ago, I had no idea about beard competitions or anything further than just letting it grow.  So when I learned about the 6-Month Sprint category, I was disappointed that I had missed it.  I have waited a long time to be able to enter this category, and today is the day!  But I took my own full beard off before I came here, because…  If anyone is going to kill my beard and art, it’s going to be by MY hand!  So I came with some thick 5 o’clock shadow.

Me being shaven by Adrian Dominguez of Floyd's Barbershop at The Brixton in Austin, TX.

Me being shaven by Adrian Dominguez of Floyd’s Barbershop at The Brixton in Austin, TX.

After making a few new friends in the Austin Facial Hair Club and enjoying some free food, I sat back and watched others get shaven.  There were a few longer beards than the one I had, and they had been growing theirs for much longer than I grew my first one.  Everyone had a great time, and even Vice President of the Georgetown Beard Club Steve Stratton made it out to support my endeavor and see Austin at work.  As the President of the Georgetown Beard Club, it is strange chairing meetings without a beard, but everyone knows why.

Good Texas Burgers, free to all attending the shave-off. You should've been there!

Good Texas Burgers, free to all attending the shave-off. You should’ve been there!

The first brave soul to have his beard shaven off.

The first brave soul to have his beard shaven off.

Beard go bye-bye. A few manly tears may have been shed.

Beard go bye-bye. A few manly tears may have been shed

Over the next 6 months, you will hear my stories of my beard growth and the effects it has on life.  It is only my 2nd time to grow a beard, so I do not claim to be an expert, but as a newcomer, I still remember what it’s like to not have a beard.  I am still very perceptive to all of the concerns that a man has when wondering if he should grow a beard or not.  I hope we become friends, and I hope you can glean something from My Beard Journey.  But for now, I have 6 months to get back to this…

Me on the last night of having a full beard. A little less than 8 months. I used nothing but my own handmade beard products by Brewtastic Soaps the entire time.

Me on the last night of having a full beard. A little less than 8 months. I used nothing but my own handmade beard products by Brewtastic Soaps the entire time.

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