A couple of months ago, Mrs Zoo Keeper suggested I attempt to grow a beard. I’m 42 years old at the time of writing, and have never managed much beyond a straggly goatee. I’ve always experienced patchiness and itchiness, to such a point where the razor has had to come back out. This time, we agreed that I should stick it out. We researched beards, beard products and accessories (seriously, they’re out there), the growing of beards and how to help the itch. I then set out on the mission to become a manlier man, and apparently beards are also fashionable right now. I have always been an admirer of the beards of others, so this opportunity to join the bearded brethren was not to be missed.
Many of the words in this “Grow a Beard Now” article and its comments, along with the information in this beards.org page gave me the will to “power through”, and accept that the itch would fade, and that patchiness is normal. In fact, the patchiness didn’t last too long at all. If you poke around my beard with a comb, you can see some bare spots, but the beard as a whole looks complete, and they are totally hidden.
I’m a little sad to report that I too late realised that my dreams of being bearded would come true, and that I didn’t take a picture of the growth every day. If I ever have to start again, I’ll do just that.
Considering I’m now well into my first beard’s journey, I thought I might as well jot down a few notes on where we are so far:
O.M.G. I do not want to experience the itch again. If for some reason, my beard must be sacrificed, I hope I’ll be prepared to “man up” once more and return to hirsute glory. It seems the itch is caused by sharp hair edges after blade shaving (the points curl back in), dry skin, and other such fun things. The itch seems to start after a week or two, and last for a couple more weeks. For me, it lasted a little longer, and I still get the odd itch 10 weeks or so later, but nothing like that first nightmare period. All I can say is that it’s worth it – I think the best thing to do is consider the itch as a right of passage.
My main thoughts when I hit “the itch” were along the lines of “what the hell can I do to stop this?”. The research pointed towards washing the beard every day (I do), using beard oils, using moisturisers, conditioning, trimming the ends with an electric shaver etc. I tried them all. I have never been a “products” man – Vosene shampoo is about my limit. Luckily Mrs Zoo Keeper has a strong relationship with Lush, and a solid supply of hair conditioner and moisturisers. I now every day use Kalamazoo to wash my beard, followed by some standard hair conditioner which is washed out in the shower. After showering, I use a bit of R&B throughout the beard, with sometimes a little bit of Aveeno… I occasionally use a beard oil, but have reacted badly to Argan oil for some reason. I’ve not yet tried a beard balm!
Sometimes when the itch was really bad, I used E45 cream, combed through with my manly Kent beard comb:
I’ve never really taken much notice of beard colours I suppose, but mine seems to be a little odd. You see ginger beards, you see black beards, you see grey beards, you see salt and pepper (black and grey) beards. Mine seems to be light brown, dark brown, ginger and every colour in between. I’ve seen no grey yet – I’m obviously not distinguished enough.
I haven’t yet decided upon a final style. Right now I just don’t want to trim or shape it, and want it to be a big bushy sign of manhood. I think I’m in the middle of a phase colloquially known as “The Homeless Look”. I get the feeling that I don’t want to shave gaps in my beard, or even shave the cheeks / neckline. I think that the bigger the beard, the better – time will tell!
The aforementioned beard oils and conditioners are the main form of maintenance for my beard. I am also very lucky that Mrs Zoo Keeper enjoys occasionally raking through my beard for the odd infected follicle or ingrown hair – these are still present, but much less prevalent than when I was a shaver.
I’m yet to try a beard balm – maybe when I get a little more weight in there I’ll give it a try. I much prefer the R&B to the beard oil – I find that the fragrance of the beard oils fade a little too quickly, and they can feel a little greasy. Odd that to be manly I enjoy a fragranced beard…
It’s so interesting how growing a beard has impacted on my life. I now not only admire the beards of others, but I compare them to my own. I look for beard products and accessories, beard related T-Shirts and other regalia. I stroke and comb my beard like an old wizard… 🙂
I have taken to quoting T-Shirt logos, such as “There is no beard without man, there is no man without beard”, and “There is a name for people without beards – women”.
My new favourite band is obviously “The Beards“, with this being my new number one tune (note that this video contains some “colourful” language towards the end):
I hope that my relationship with my beard continues for many years, and I will welcome with open arms all those who wish to join me in the quest for beardhood!
I’m aiming to blog more about my beard, as time goes by and length becomes a factor.
One more thing! Here’s my beard on 22nd December 2014:
Quick edit, on the 14th of June 2018
I’ve been contacted by a chap called Jason, asking if I’d link to his post on the WiseBeards blog, which after reading, I’m happy to do – it seems like a really useful beard guide for the beginner, or just to freshen up your beard care skills.
Whilst I’m doing this, I figured it might be a good idea to give you a quick update on my own beard. We’re now a few months from my beard being four years old, and it’s seen some changes in its time. I’ve had it tidied, trimmed, shortened, edged, plaited, coloured, and generally messed about with, but I still find that leaving it to grow and letting it go wild is the best thing for my beard. It’s not quite as long now as it was a couple of months ago, as I’ve chopped a couple of inches from the length, but it’s still a fairly full bit of face-fuzz: