The world has seen a new global phenomenon this year – lockdown beards. Millions of men who would normally opt for a clean-shaven look in the office have decided to grow out their beards during lockdown. Will the trend continue when the world returns to work and just how do you grow a beard properly?
By Angus Wright
In recent years the popularity of beard growth has been on the increase, love it or hate it the beard is becoming a staple across the UK. Now with lockdown, more and more men are letting it grow, pushing the number of beards up even further.
With many people working in office environments (30% of UK workers in 2018 worked in the administration sector), there is a pressure to maintain a professional appearance. With many offices still holding old fashioned views when it comes to appearance, beards are frowned upon. While not outlawed in many places, there is a conscious link between clean shaven men and professionalism, especially if you are in a position where you deal with clients and or management regularly.
Since lockdown came in to effect, up to 50% of office-based workers across the UK are now working from home, this gives those who are so inclined the freedom to explore the world of beard growth – a route many men are choosing. With limited face-to-face contact with people outside their households, there is less pressure to maintain a clean-cut appearance, making this the perfect time to try growing a beard.
For many men, growing a beard can be difficult – as with many things it’s the luck of the gene draw. Being a member of the bearded community myself, these are my tips for your first time growing;
- Don’t be disheartened at the start; many beards start off very patchy, I know that mine takes at least a month to fill in properly. Persevere through this phase and you’re well on your way – the bonus of lockdown at this point is no one (outside your household) will see the gaps!
- Don’t be too eager to trim; when your beard starts to fill out, don’t rush to the clippers to start styling and shaping your new found facial foliage. You want a decent bit to work with, if it’s too short to start, any slip of the hand could result in big chunks of bare skin showing.
- Beware the itchy phase; as your beard starts to gain some length you will be hit by the itch. This is the point where most men give in and shave due to the discomfort. The cause of this is your newly grown beard drawing the moisture from your skin (stubble will do this to a lesser extent), causing dryness and irritation. Left unchecked your skin will dry out and start to produce dandruff and this also stops the moisture supply causing your beard to dry out as well. The best remedy is beard oil, apply this once a day (or after every face wash/shower) and your skin will remain in top condition, stopping the itch and providing your beard with the nourishment it needs. Beard oils are easily found, the best are made with natural oils which mimic the oil produced by your skin. Be aware – popular base oils used are nut oils, make sure to check the label if you have allergies!
- Keep it clean; along with beard oil, a specific beard wash or soap can work wonders. Not only does it clear your beard of lurking bacteria and food & drink remnants, it also helps keep your beard healthy and feeling great!
- Don’t buy into gimmicks; if you are really struggling with your beard growth, don’t bother trying out growth formulas and follicle stimulators (there’s a lot of these out there!). The best thing to try which I have seen recommended again and again is biotin supplementation. Biotin helps your body produce hair and can work wonders for beard growth.
- Get the right gear; investing in a good comb and beard brush can make a huge difference to your beard. A wooden comb will not produce static like a plastic one and also help to distribute oil throughout your beard with use. A brush will also help shape you beard and draw out unruly stray hairs – depending on your inclination, brushes can be produced with either natural or synthetic bristles, there’s one out there for everyone.
With lockdown now easing and people returning to work, we will see if this is going to be a lasting trend or the curve will flatten. People returning to offices where ‘old school’ appearances are valued may feel pressured to shave so to not draw negative attention.
Others may embrace their beard as a new piece of their identity, wearing it proudly back to the office. Some workers may not return to the office altogether, many companies now are recognising the benefits of employees working from home, if this is the case then maintaining that sharp appearance may become an afterthought – ushering in a new wave of beard sporting professionals, maybe even outnumbering their clean-shaven colleagues.
The next few months will tell whether the latest rise of the beard is here to stay or a flash in the pan. Either way it will be indicative of the UK’s approach to work, appearances and men’s fashion/style.
Growing a beard is a very personal thing. It is a lesson in patience, nurturing this new addition to your body, watching it develop and grow into something to be proud of.
One thing you find is many people are quick to voice their opinion on it whether positive or negative, over time you get used to this and roll with the ups and downs. This can be overwhelming at the beginning, especially if you’re not used to the attention being on you, just remember it’s all up to you how you go on.
I have found the bearded community to be extremely welcoming, there are groups becoming ever present online, bringing in new members all of the time ready to help with any product suggestions, growing tips or even just a non-beard related chat.