Should I Shave My Beard or Keep It? Reasons to Grow It and Reasons to Say Goodbye
In this post, we're going to get Shakespearean, and ask the eternal question:
To be… a guy with a beard, or not to be… a guy with a beard?
There are some pretty compelling reasons to strut your stuff with a big bushy beard, and... well, some pretty compelling reasons to get rid of it, too.
So let’s jump into the “Should I Shave My Beard?” beard discussion with a Table of Contents to get you on your way, and then discuss each point in detail.
Reasons to Keep Your Beard
We'll start with the most obvious one:
Chances Are Strong You Look Really Good With It
Now... how do we know that you look good with a beard? After all, we don't know you from Adam. How can we know that you look good with a beard?
Well, this may just be a personal belief, but it seems to be backed up by science (or at least, by surveys): beards make men look more masculine, and masculinity is almost universally seen as attractive.
And, by and large, women tend to think that beards are attractive. This has been determined across multiple studies, and it makes sense: having a beard expresses the fact that you are a mature adult male. Right out of the gate, that's a good thing to express.
Keep in mind, the idea that "chances are strong that you look good with a beard" pre-supposes that it grows in nicely. If it's wispy and thin and pokey, then it may not look good on you, and you may need to shave it (and read "You're Not Ready to Grow a Beard Yet" below).
It's Stylish, and That's a Good Reason to Keep a Beard
Over the last few years, we've seen an explosion in the popularity of beards. That may be waning a little bit, and that's normal, but what's noteworthy is that a LOT of celebrities still have beards. Usually, you'll see a fad fade—and then you won't see it AT ALL. Remember UGGs? Super-thick painted-on eyebrows? Shoulder pads? Neither do we—those trends are long gone. But beards have stuck around, and that's a testament to their staying power.
If you decide to stick with your beard, chances are strong you'll be in good company.
It's Not Stylish, and That's a Good Reason to Keep a Beard
BUT—let's imagine for a moment that beards become decidedly passé. Does that mean you should get rid of it, just because the Hollywood set is over them?
We'd argue "No." Do what you're going to do. If you've got a beard that you like and you think it makes you look great, keep it no matter what else is going on. Beards are, in a sense, an "eternal" trend—look back at any era during all of history, and you'll find strong and enviable men sporting beards. Even if it's not trendy... it is.
The next item in our “Should I Shave My Beard?” debate is an important one:
Having a Beard is Enjoyable!
Regardless of how it looks... having a beard is just fun. It's fun to go from that rough-and-tumble scruff stage, to the short, well-groomed "corporate" beard stage, to the a burly, lumber-jacky middle stage, to that long, wild "biker gang" stage. Each of those stages is like a fun little costume you can try on, and if you're into clothes, it can be a LOT of fun to dress for each of those stages.
Point is, beards are an integral part of masculinity. Do you have to have a beard to be masculine? No, of course not. Some of the best men we know can't grow beards, and they're incredible humans and good men. But if you *do* decide to grow a beard, that's part of your masculinity, and why not appreciate it and enjoy it?
And, not only that, but...
Beard Products Smell HEAVENLY
We review a lot beard products on this site, and after a great deal of research, we can tell you with total certainty: some beard products are worthwhile and some are not, but almost all of them smell WONDERFUL. There are only a few we've come across that are bizarrely stinky—and we won't name them, because we're sure they're trying their best and we don't want to get in anyone's way—but by and large, the scents that beard products include are absolutely delightful. You've got, to name a few:
> Citrus scents: lemon, lime, bergamot, lemongrass
> "Classic masculine" scents: sandalwood, musk
> Forest scents: pine, fir, cedarwood, eucalyptus
> Tropical scents: bay run, vanilla, coffee
> Bright scents: mint, teatree, pepper
> Earthy scents: clary sage, tobacco, leather
> Liquor scents: bourbon, rum, tequila
and many, many more. We've had a great time experimenting with all those scents, and you can read more in our Best Smelling Beard Oil post.
It Can Save You A Lot of Time Over the Long Run
If you think about all the minutes and hours you spend shaving your face, it's crazy how it adds up over time. In fact, the good men of Shaving Shack found that your average 5-minute shave, compiled over a lifetime, means that you'll spend 45 full days shaving. That's crazy!
Having a beard, on the other hand, doesn't take much time at all. Whereas shaving is an everyday thing, trimming a beard is a once-a-week thing (or even less, if your beard grows in slowly). It's not even a real comparison—the time you'll spend on a beard is a LOT less (if you so choose, of course—we know plenty of guys who LOVE grooming their beards, and take their sweet time doing so).
We don't to imply that if you have a beard, that's the end of your personal grooming. Quite the contrary—if you have a beard, you're going to need to take care of it, otherwise it's going to look crazy after a (very short) while. But the amount of time you need to spend on it, overall, can be dramatically less than shaving, especially if you only need a weekly touch-up or trim to your beard to keep in check.
Growing a Beard Has Health Benefits
This may sound a little far-fetched, but growing a beard can actually be good for your health. In fact, it can benefit you in many different ways:
> It can keep allergens and bacteria out of your nose and mouth. Think of it a "dust blockade" protecting you at all times (but also remember all those allergens and bacteria need to be washed out of your beard at some point);
> It can reduce your chances of developing ingrown hairs. We're a website about beards, but we're also a website about shaving, and a LOT of guys get ingrown hairs from shaving, and that can be REALLY painful. Keeping your facial hair long and strong can be a great way to avoid that problem; and finally
> Wearing a beard can actually protect the delicate skin at your lips and around your mouth from harmful UV rays, protecting you from sun damage and the disorders that come with it. You'll still need to use sunblock for the rest of your skin, but it's nice knowing your beard is helping the best way it can.
Keep in mind, things can go south if you don't groom yourself—that beard quickly becomes a bacteria trap if you don't wash it every day—but it's a wonderful little perk that a beard can make you look good AND provide a health benefit. What other part of your personal appearance can do that?
It Makes You Look Manly / Shaving It Will Make You Look Like a Child
We mentioned this earlier, but it's worth (re)mentioning: beards make men look manly. In fact, among the traits that affirm to us that someone is an adult male is facial hair. If you've ever seen a man have a beard, and then not have a beard, it can be a striking transition, because...
Getting rid of your beard can make you look like a totally different person, and one that is... how do we say this? Much, much less authoritative / powerful / serious / etc. Again, obviously, we're not saying that you need a beard to be authoritative / powerful / serious, but—well, it can't hurt (unless, of course, your beard is sparse and patchy, and we'll talk about that in a moment).
Why does that happen, by the way? Why does shaving a beard make you look so much younger? All we—or anyone else—have are theories, but here's ours: one of the signs of mature masculinity is a strong jaw. Perhaps it's not fair, but it's widely regarded as true, and study after study has shown that people find men with strong jaws attractive.
So what happens when you have a beard? Your facial hair gives the illusion of a strong, wide jaw. It may or not be true that you actually *have* a strong jaw, but your facial hair frames your face in a way that makes your jaw seem wider. And then, when you shave all that facial hair off...
You look like a child.
It's a shame, but we've shaved our beards enough times, and then heard "You look like a kid!" enough times from enough people, to know that it will invariably happen again next time when we shave it off. It is what it is.
It's Cold Outside!
You don't give this much thought until you shave your beard off, but all that facial hair acts as a powerful insulator, and captures a lot of the heat coming off your face. If you've ever taken a full mop of facial hair and shaved it off in January, you've probably experienced this: the world is a lot colder than you remember it being.
The same true—perhaps even moreso—for the hair on your head. Shave it off during a cold time of year, and all of a sudden, you can be freezing and wondering why.
If you live in a tropical or normally-warm area, that's fantastic, but for those of us who endure winter climes, it's definitely something to keep in mind!
You Get More Looks With It Than Without It
This is another piece of personal experience, but it's real, so we'll share it: we get more looks from others when we have a beard than when we don’t.
We don't know why that is, although we'd guess it's related to the "jawline" advantage we discussed above, and how beards make your jawline look stronger and therefore make you look more "traditionally masculine," but we don't know.
And—maybe you've had the opposite experience, where you get fewer looks when you've got a beard—but for us, it's a night-and-day-thing, and we get far more looks and glances when bearded.
You Like the Way You Look
We saved this one for last, because it's the most important. Do you like the way you look with a beard?
If so, and you don't have an inescapable reason to shave it, then keep it! It's your face and it's your beard. Enjoy it.
Now, it's probably obvious that we've written a LOT about beards. If you look on our site, you'll see post after post about how great it is to have a beard. But...
Well, it's not for everybody! And some guys *should* get rid of their beards, for a variety of reasons.
So now, to segue to the next part of our “Should I Shave My Beard?” debate, let's take a look at...
Reasons to Shave Your Beard
There seems to be one main reason guys shave their beard, and it is...
You Did a Bad Job Trimming It and You Look Crazy
From all the mail we get, this seems like the most common reason why guys need to shave their beards: they've grown a beard, and they're just learning to trim it, and in doing so, they've made a few bad cuts and now the thing is lopsided and crazy-looking.
And, honestly... that's a pretty good reason to shave a beard! If it's going to make you look sloppy and nuts, maybe it's time to shave it off. It'll grow back (and we'll talk about that later).
You Have a Job Interview (Maybe)
Beards are a lot more commonplace than they used to be, and if we were writing this post 30 years ago—for a print magazine, perhaps, instead of for the internet?—we'd definitely urge you to shave your beard before an interview. Beards were seen as unprofessional, back in the day—if you were to be seen as a candidate for any white-collar job, they wanted you trimmed and shaved and all that.
Culture has changed a lot, though, and now it's kind of a toss-up. Some places won't care if you have a beard, and some might. It's probably more rare that a place will want you to be beard-free—and we're imagining some stodgier places, like investment banks, or an industry that prizes a high-and-dry, throw-back look—so you should probably do as much research on the company as you can. Go online, talk to people who work there, and look up some of their employees on LinkedIn. Get a feel for the company culture, and if you see a lot of clean-shaven faces, well then...
It's probably time to decide how much that potential job means to you! Are you willing to shave off your beard for it? Is it a dream job in all aspects except that one? It'll have to be a game-time decision, and you'll need to make the call based on what you learn and what you want.
You're Not Ready to Grow A Beard Yet
This one may be the most important in our list: if you've tried to grow a beard, but you're just not in a place yet where it can grow in properly, you may want to shave it.
That's rough, but it's the truth—not every physically mature male can grow a beard, and we, as a culture, have this weird belief that as soon as you're in your 20s, you should be able to grow your facial hair. That's simply not the case, and in fact, many men can't grow beards until their 30s.
So, if you've found that your beard is patchy, wispy, or too thin, and it simply doesn't look right—get rid of it! Beards are great, but it's not the end of the world if you're not able to grow one.
And, if you're in your 20s / early 30s and you can't grow on, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll never be able to grow one—it simply means you may just have to wait. One of the writers for our site couldn't grow a beard until he was 33, and he's now got a nice, healthy, bushy-looking beard that he (and his wife) love.
So if you've got facial hair but it doesn't look right—no worries! Just shave it off and wait a while, and see if things work out down the line.
You Want a Change / You Want to Mix Things Up
We're going to quote The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, from "Dancing in the Dark," off Born in the USA:
Messages keep getting clearer
Radio's on and I'm moving 'round my place
I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face!
Man, I ain't getting nowhere
I'm just living in a dump like this
There's something happening somewhere
Baby, I just know that there is…
Bruce Springsteen used to have a beard, but then he got rid of it—is that what he's singing about in this song?
Who knows. But—we do know that sometimes you just want to mix things up. Make a change! Do something different!
If that urge hits you, our advice is to... not get carried away, actually, and wait on it for a day or two. Very often that kind of spur-of-the-moment mood passes, and in a day or two you're happy you didn't drastically change your look.
If, however, a few days go by and you're STILL feeling the itch to change things up, shave away! Be like The Boss. Sometimes a change is just what you need to get back into the swing of things.
Your Significant Other Doesn't Like It
We're going to get some pushback for this one, but we stand by it (under certain circumstances):
If your significant other doesn't like your beard—if he/she doesn't like the way it feels during intimate moments, or doesn't like the way it looks, or doesn't like the way it changes your face...
AND! And this "and" is important...
And he/she doesn't want to change you in any other drastic ways, then shaving your beard can be a responsible and loving thing to do.
IF, however, that partner wants to dramatically change your beard, and your clothes, and a bunch of other things in your life, then... that's no good. It might be time to reevaluate things with that particular person.
But if your partner genuinely loves you and who you are and despite all of that just doesn't like beards—then we'd say get rid of it. Relationships are full of sacrifices, and facial hair is too small a thing to get in the way of trust and intimacy.
(And, believe it or not, it cuts the other way too—the guy above, the one who couldn't grow a beard until the age of 33? After having a beard for a few years, he actually wants to cut if off, but his wife loves it and begs him to keep it. So he does, for about the year, during the winter months. Negotiation—the heart of love!).
It's Really Hot and Uncomfortable
We just mentioned about having a beard during the winter months, and how it can be really cold when you shave it off. The reverse is true, too—if you live in a hot climate, a beard can be pretty uncomfortable.
There are, obviously, a LOT of guys in warm climates who have beards, who are either not too bothered by it or think the discomfort is worth the look, but if you find that it's making you sweat or just generally feels onerous, shave it off. If you're in a place where the seasons change, it can actually be a fun routine—grow it in the winter months, and shave during the summer months. You get the best of both worlds!
You’re On Trial (Maybe)
The traditional idea here is that beards are aggressive and very masculine, and that can come across as menacing in a courtroom—especially if you're a defendant. For many years, attorneys told clients that having a facial hair was a no-no in court, and that clean-shaven was always a better look—and led to better courtroom results—than bearded.
We'll calibrate that a little bit, though: beards can be bad news if you're in court, but it depends on the type of beard. A well-kept beard? Probably OK. Muttonchops, or a long soul-patch, or a full-on Amish neck-beard? Probably not OK.
So there are ways to go to go court and keep your facial hair. In fact, there's some evidence that having a well-kept beard actually increases your credibility in court, and that it makes sense to have one.
So, this one is up to you, and you'll have to go with your gut. If you're going to trial, though, remember that it's something you'll need to think about.
You Don't Have Time to Groom It Properly
We're going to be honest here: even though having a beard probably uses up less time that shaving every day, it still requires some attention, and some guys are simply *bad* at having beards. Even though it only takes a bit of TLC, because that TLC is infrequent, they forget about it, or put it off, or ignore their beard altogether, and the ensuing look is disorganized and ugly. It happens.
So if you find that having a beard actually makes you slovenly, maybe it's time for a trim and a shave. Again, we can't be the judge of your routine here, but if you feel like having a beard has resulted in letting yourself go a bit, maybe it's time to return to the clean-shaven look.
You Can Stop the Itchiness and Flakiness That Sometimes Comes with a Beard
Here's the other "dark side" of having a beard: sometimes it leads to significant skin and dandruff problems. It's a bummer, but it's true.
Some guys grow a beard out, and they report no problems. Others get dry skin, facial dandruff / beardruff, acne, itchiness, rashes, etc. The list goes on. For some guys, venturing into beard-wearing is a torturous affair, and despite all their efforts to relieve themselves of these symptoms, nothing works.
And if that happens to you... that's OK! A beard on your face was simply not meant to be. Shave it off and don't look back. A beard is great, but it's not worth open sores and beardruff down the front of your shirt. No matter how good your beard looks, it probably doesn't look good enough to disguise all that.
It Drives You Crazy When You Eat
We've written a post about this, and if you're wondering which side we're on, we're on Team "Food In Your Beard Is Disgusting." Not only is it disgusting to see food in someone else's beard, it's disgusting to feel food in your own beard.
The problem is, no matter how careful you are—it's very difficult to keep food out of your beard! There are certain foods that seem to end up in your facial hair no matter how hard you try to keep them out. For plenty of guys, all that food in their beard is a dealbreaker—it's such a disgusting experience, it's enough to shave everything off.
If that's you, don't think twice, and get rid of that thing! It's either that or stop eating, and we can't condone that.
You Miss Shaving!
Here at Rough and Tumble Gentleman, we've got hundreds of posts related to both beard-growing and shaving. We happen to be fans of both, and while the best part of having a beard is—well, a lot of things, including the look and feel of it—the worst part, for us, is foregoing that daily shave!
That sounds odd, but once you get into wet-shaving—that is, shaving with luxurious shaving creams that smell great and feel soft like pillows, high-end safety razors that provide a baby-smooth shave, and a bracing aftershave that wakes you up and gets you ready for your day—it's hard to give that up!
So if you miss shaving, or even better, if you want to get into wet-shaving—say adios to that beard.
Other Notes of Interest That May Influence Your Thinking
The items below don't really fit into the "yes" or "no" columns above, but they're worth considering, because they may sway you one way or the other.
So we'll start with the most relevant thought:
It Probably Doesn't Matter If You Shave It or Not
We hate to be blasé, but unless you've got a really long beard that you've spend YEARS preening... who cares? Shave off your beard. It's facial hair—it's growing back either way, and without making some serious effort, there's nothing you can do about it. Shave it, don't shave, whatever! If you shave it and you think you made a mistake, just wait—that beard's coming back, and you'll be good again.
In a way, this is a really wonderful problem, because if you decide to shave it and you feel like you made a mistake—well, that mistake will eventually self-correct! Wouldn't it be nice if all our mistakes were like that? 😉
If You're Keeping It for Your Wedding...
...make sure you trim it so that it looks great. If you're going to wear your beard to your wedding, it needs to look as good as the rest of you—you can't be in a tuxedo if your beard looks like you should be in a sweatsuit.
The best thing to do is have it done by a professional you trust—a barber or professional you know and have been to on a number of occasions. Ash him or her to give you a trim about six months and then three months in advance, so you know what to ask for and you can get the look juuuuuuust right.
After all, you're going to be in a lot of photos on your wedding day, and hopefully you're going to look at those photos for the rest of your life, so you want to look nice.
Keep in Mind, Your Toddlers Will Freak Out If You Shave It
If you do decide to shave your beard, be aware of the affect it may have on the little ones in your life. They don't always understand that facial hair can be removed, and if you're a dad who has always had a beard—and then all of a sudden you don't—it can be a little bewildering for kids younger than 3 or 4 years.
Some guys think this is funny, but we've seen enough videos of kids crying and looking legitimately upset, so it's probably best to find a gentler practical joke to play on your kids, and either keep your beard, or explain to your kids that you're going to shave it off, what that will mean and what you'll look like, and then make them a part of the process somehow.
You Don't Need to Shave It for a Passport Photo
This is an old wives’ tale, or perhaps something that used to be true and is now not—that you needed to shave a beard for a passport photo. You don't. We looked on the U.S. Department of State website, and the only mention of beards we could find is an FAQ where people ask if they need a new passport if they've grown or shaved a beard (and the answer they gave is no, you don't need a new passport).
So it looks like you don't need to shave a beard for a passport.
If You Don't Want a Full Beard, Short Stubble is a Great Look
In fact, according to a study done by our friends at Prim and Prep (hey, fellas), stubble is the look that most women find attractive. Nice!
The best thing about stubble is that if you don't like it, you can get rid of it without too much effort, and then... grow more stubble! It's a best-of-both worlds situation: you get to have a beard (or the start of one), and then you get to shave, as well. Fantastic.
So... Are You Going to Shave Your Beard, or Keep It?
Up to you! Whatever you choose just be sure that it's what you want to do. As you would with any decision, gather all the info you can—all the facts, figures, responsibilities, opportunities, negatives, positives, etc.—and do your best. That's all you can do.
Whatever you decide, we wish you all the best! Be good, have fun, and happy beard (or not)!
Michael Morris is the head writer here at Rough and Tumble Gentleman. He's got a ducktail beard and loves Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's married to the woman of his dreams and lives in Brooklyn, NY.