Food in Your Beard is Very, Very Gross. Here’s How to Take Care of Yourself

Some posts are a lot of fun to write. Our post about why we love wet shaving—that was enjoyable. We got to think about all our favorite aspects of wet shaving, meditate on them, and write about them. In fact, we actually stopped what we were doing and went to shave, just because. 

Some posts, though, are not so fun to write, and in fact, they're kind of gross. This is one of those posts. It's kind of gross to sit down and really think about food items getting stuck in your beard, and then sitting there, and then starting to smell. It's unpleasant.

But, that's why this post about food in your beard is so important, isn't it? If you've got a beard, you can't re-arrange your entire life so that you only eat at home. At some point, you're going to have to take yourself, and your beard, and meet people for dinner, or take some business partners out to lunch, or whatever the case may be. If you've got a beard, you need to be prepared.

So let's dive in, and see what we can do to protect ourselves.

Your Beard's Natural Food Enemies

Keep in mind, this is not a full list; the world is big and there’s a lot of food in it. This is simply a list of the biggest offenders. We’ll start with the worst one:

Cream Cheese: A Bagel’s Clingy Best Friend

Ever eat a plain bagel with nothing on it? No, of course you haven’t, because that would make you a psycho. Bagels are meant for coupling, and one of the most wonderful things in the world is a bagel with cream cheese on the top of it. Sooooo good. Hot, crunchy, creamy—wonderful. They’re a match made in heaven, and cream cheese is… well, it’s just delightful.

What’s not delightful is cream cheese in a beard. Of all the items in our “Be Careful When You’re Eating This” list, cream cheese is probably the worst. It’s clingy, it’s got a very distinct smell, and because it’s got some “hold” capabilities, if your beard falls into a weird shape, it can actually keep it in that weird shape. Cream cheese is probably Public Enemy #1 when it comes to beards, so anytime you’re at a breakfast nook, be on high alert.

Hoagies and Burgers and Items Bigger Than Your Mouth

Most of the “safe” items—that is, most of the things you can eat that are not going to become semi-permanent fixates in your facial hair—are small and compact. Think of a French fry: it’s thin, it’s easily transportable, and it doesn’t crumble apart. You can bring fry after fry to your mouth, and you’ll probably finish up and look just fine.

If you were to cram a whole fistful of friends into your mouth, that’s where you’ll run into trouble, and that’s why hoagies, large sandwiches, burgers, and other large, handheld foods are problematic: you can’t eat them whole, and biting into them often leaves stuff in your facial hair. This is especially true for a juicy number, like a medium rare California burger: between the burger juice and the mayo and any leaky tomatoes you may encounter, you’re really rolling the dice.

So, while it breaks our hearts to do so, we have to list subs, burgers, and sandwiches in the “delicious, but chancy” category. And, keep in mind—“delicious but chancy” applies to sandwiches from foreign lands: burritos, gyros, pitas, and so on. Muy peligroso.

Crusty Bread: Not the Worst but Not Great

We all love food—or must of us do, anyway; there are some unlucky folks who live without the ability to taste anything, and that’s absolutely tragic—but we like it when we like it. Most of us don’t want to eat during the middle of a workout or during a roller coaster ride. We like food in its proper time and place.

And that’s part of what is so unattractive about crumbs in the beard: it makes us consider food in a place it’s not meant to be at a time when we may not be thinking about food. It’s not the grossest food item you can get in your beard; it’s just a little off-putting, and it makes you look disorganized. So keep that in mind if you’re eating anything baked or breaded.

 But the way, just to tie a few of these together: a soup-and-salad combo with crusty bread may be the worst collection of foods you can assemble. Top that off with something that drips, like an ice cream cone, and that’s a bunch of dangerous foods all in one meal.

Spaghetti and Various Noodles: It Depends

We have a friend from Italy who has always said that there are as many different types of pasta in Italy as there are people. That’s incredible, isn’t it? That would mean there are literally millions of different types of pasta.

It’s not true, of course, and it looks like there are about 350 different types of pasta. That’s a far cry from millions of types of pasta, but it’s still a lot of pasta. And for our discussion, it’s important to note that some pastas are going to make a mess of your face, while other pastas are probably going to be fine. 

Here’s how it breaks down: if the pasta is long and flexible—think spaghetti or fettuccini or linguini—and it goes flopping around before it gets to your mouth, it’s probably going to get in your beard. If it’s petite and compact—think fusilli or penne or rigatoni—and it travels directly to your mouth, you’ll probably be OK.

If you’re inviting people over and you want to make sure you—or your bearded guests—are not covered in sauce by the end of a meal, consider making any one of those last three.

Soup: A Touch-and-Go Situation

As far as food in your beard goes, you’d think that soup would be an easy one, but somehow, whenever we have soup, we end up wearing it. And that’s worrisome, because it’s easy to imagine that certain foods are the problem, when in fact, it might just be that we’re slobs. Food for thought.

Anyway, a “touch-and-go” situation is one where you’re not sure how things are going to turn out, and that describes a bowl of soup. You should be able to ladle food to your mouth without spilling it, and you should have the simple motor control to keep your spoon from wobbling, and yet it never works out that way, because hot and usually liquid-based and tends to drop off the bottom of your spoon. It’s kind of a wily food, if you think about it, so look out.

What Else?

Those are the biggest villains, but there are plenty of other problem-laden potables, like, cereals, various donuts, muffins, yogurt, ribs, corn on the cob, and…

You know what? Along with the things we just wrote about, that’s most of everything we eat. So, we’ll close this section out by saying, “Food.” All foods. All foods, with the exception of hard candy and the afore-mentioned French fries, may end up in your beard.

So, moving right along, what can we do about all this?

Eating While Bearded: Strategies

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to keep from looking like a lunatic. We’ll begin with something we harp on, as it’s a good place to start:

Your Best Protection is to Keep It Maintained

For real. If your beard is long and overgrown and you’ve got lip over-hang issues and your goatee is wiry and jungle-y and wild, it doesn’t matter what you eat, because whatever you eat is going to get caught in it.

So, first things first: groom properly. Make sure your whiskers are short, make sure they’re clean and conditioned, and make sure your “fly-away” situation isn’t problematic. The more structured and tight your beard whiskers are, the less likely they are to attract your meals.

Be a Mindful Eater

This may also seem like common-sense advice, but it’s important—and easy to overlook: if you eat slowly, and mindfully, you’re less likely to end up wearing your food. It can be difficult to be mindful, because our entire 21st Century digital existence is pretty much engineered to keep us from being mindful, so when you’re eating, keep bring your thoughts back to the commandment: go slower and relax and enjoy yourself.

That’s actually good advice for the rest of your life, too: go slower and relax and enjoy yourself.

And that’s related to our next bit of advice:

Be Careful When You’re Starving

If you’re super-hungry, you’re probably going to eat faster and glom food in your mouth and make a mess. If you haven’t eaten in a while, remember that you might be about to eat like a crazy person, and you may transfer that crazy to your beard.

Wash, Don’t Mash

This is particularly true for food items like cream cheese: some items literally coat the strands of your whiskers, and a simple napkin won’t get the food out of your beard—in fact, it might actually lodge it further into your beard. Cream cheese is a great example. Once you get cream cheese in your beard, wiping it somehow seals in the smell and texture of the cream cheese. It’s gross.

So, when you get the chance, head to the sink and—if you can—wash it out. Just make sure you’ve got something to dry your beard off with when you’re done, because walking around with a sopping wet beard is another problem altogether.

We realize that washing your beard may be difficult if you’re wearing beard oil, though, so…

Maybe Skip the Beard Oil if You Know You’re Going Out

We feel a little bad about this bit of advice, because we’ve sung the praises of beard oil in a lot of posts. But if you’re going out, and you know you’re going to be eating, you may want to skip the beard oil.

There are two reasons beard oils don’t partner well with eating: they’re usually scented, and when combined with smell of foodstuffs, that can create weird, gross-smelling combos (think sandalwood and guacamole: disgusting), and because they’re oils, they have mild adhesive properties, and can catch crumbs and bit and morsels. If a regular beard is a fridge magnet, a beard with beard oil is a neodymium magnet:

OK, maybe not that bad, but bad.

Avoid Certain Foods

This is the least fun bit of advice regarding food in your beard, so we’ve buried it deep in the post. It’s true, though: there are some foods where you’re just going to lose. No amount of slow, mindful eating will protect your beard from certain food items, so depending on the situation, it may simply make more sense to avoid them. If you’re with people you want to impress (bosses, potential romantic partners, etc.), always consider what you’ll be eating.

Visit a Mirror After You’re Done Eating

Even if you’re avoided some of the foods on our “No Fly” list, you may still have traces of your meal in your beard, and it’s a safe thing to assume that’s the case. After you’ve finished chomping away, head to the lav and do a quick checkup: look in your mustache, the whiskers below your lower lip, the beard on your chin, and the whiskers under your neck. If you’re a particularly enthusiastic eater, like this guy below, check your cheeks:

There’s one corollary to this rule, and that is: don’t head for the bathroom when the check comes, or your friend / date / business partners will think you’re cheap.

Remember All This Stuff When You’re Alone

Very often, we’re concerned about getting stuff in our beards when we’re eating with others. That’s not the whole story, though, and often times you’ll eat alone—at your desk at work, or on your way to class—and forget that you’ll be seeing people later. Not great. Anytime you’re eating, keep your mind on keeping neat. That goes for eating at home, too—it’s good to get in the practice of considering what’s in your beard, even when you’re just lounging around.

Embrace Your Inner Barbarian and Be Absolutely Disgusting

Now that we’re at the end of the post and we’ve outlined everything you shouldn’t do, we’ll leave you with this: the foods we mentioned above are your beard’s natural enemies only if you care about people’s perceptions of you (which, 90% of the time, you probably should). But if you’re out with your friends, and you’re getting wings and watching the fight with your closest friends, who cares? Go hog wild.

Alright, that wraps up our “Your Beard’s Natural Food Enemies” post—we hope there was something here that helped! Be good, have fun, and happy eating!

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