Maintaining a Professional Appearance While Growing Out Your BeardBy Jack Shaw (Guest Post) | Last updated 30th October 2023
Growing out your beard while maintaining your professionalism is a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, you want to accelerate your beard’s growth as much as possible, which requires some awkward stages. On the other hand, you want to avoid looking unkempt and earning a negative reputation amongst your work colleagues.
How can you balance these two goals? Here’s everything you need to know about maintaining a professional appearance while growing out your beard.
The Tense Beard-Workplace Relationship
Facial hair is a growing trend in the United Kingdom. Approximately 44% of adult men in the U.K. sported full beards as of 2017. One would imagine that that number has increased in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Despite the high prevalence of facial hair among men, beards are not welcome in all workplaces. Many work environments don’t allow employees to have beards for health and safety reasons. The British military is one such organisation. Construction companies, chemical plants and other businesses that deal with hazardous substances also have restrictions.
Most white-collar occupations follow the business casual dress code, which specifies that men should have neatly trimmed facial hair if they want to keep their beards. Your co-workers will not think highly of you if you come into work with a long, shaggy beard. You must navigate the dress code and find a stylish and professional look.
Benefits of Beard Maintenance in the Workplace
Timely maintenance is the key to looking professional while growing your beard. You must become an expert beard stylist and know the appropriate times to make adjustments. The right amount of maintenance has numerous benefits in the workplace:
- Maintains facial symmetry: The main benefit of timely stylisation is that you maintain your face’s symmetry. Regardless of your beard’s style, facial symmetry is always the most important quality.
- Accentuates your jawline: Styling your beard accentuates your jawline, which is an important facial feature for men. A strong jawline displays strength and confidence, which you must have in the workplace.
- Improves your beard’s fullness: Contrary to popular belief, growing your beard out isn’t the best way to enhance its fullness. You must also periodically remove outlying hairs to make it appear fuller. Patchy beards look unprofessional, but full ones look classy.
- Prevents skin irritation: Styling your beard helps prevent dirt, dead skin and oil from building up in your facial hair’s pores and causing irritation. Clean and smooth skin is preferable to dirty and greasy skin in professional settings.
- Makes you look younger: One of the worst things about growing out your beard is that it makes you look older, which can be a disadvantage in young and competitive work environments. Styling your beard will help you look your age.
All these benefits have one thing in common — attractiveness. Symmetrical facial features, a strong jawline, a full beard, smooth skin and a youthful appearance create the perfect recipe for physical appeal. Like it or not, good-looking people have a huge professional advantage in most work environments.
Become a Beard Maintenance Professional
To take advantage of these benefits while growing out your beard, you must master a few maintenance tasks. This list contains all the necessary skills for styling your beard while increasing its length and thickness over time.
1. Determine Your Face Shape
The first key to proper beard maintenance is identifying your face’s shape and trimming your facial hair accordingly. Everyone is slightly different, but professional barbers use eight primary forms:
- Diamond: wide cheekbones, small forehead and chin
- Heart: wide forehead, small defined chin, rounded cheekbones
- Oval: narrow face, long and slightly rounded jaw
- Oblong: long and narrow face, rounded jaw
- Rectangular: narrow face, long and blocky jaw
- Round: wide face, long and wide jaw
- Square: wide face, jaw and cheekbones
- Triangle: wide forehead and cheekbones, small pointed chin
As a general rule, wide faces should have narrow beards and angular faces should have round beards. Opposites attract when it comes to face shapes and beard styles. Your face and beard balance each other out, creating that symmetrical look mentioned earlier.
2. Use the Proper Tools
A cheap razor or electric trimmer isn’t good enough to maintain a professional appearance. They can cut through hair easily enough, but they often cause razor burn and show a decline in performance after just a few months. You must be prepared to spend a little more on proper styling tools that will last for the long haul and won’t irritate your skin.
These tools are the “big three” of professional-level beard maintenance:
- Beard trimmer
- Beard scissors
- Straight razor
The trimmer and scissors will help you pinpoint stubborn hairs and make those small changes that require a steady hand. The straight razor is primarily for your neck and upper cheeks, which are the most problematic areas when growing out a beard. Remember to clean these items with soap and warm water once they accumulate loose hair and dead skin.
3. Define Your Neckline
A neckbeard has been the downfall of countless men who tried to grow out their facial hair. Too much neck hair can turn your appearance from a masculine businessman into an unemployed basement dweller. You must define your neckline if you want your beard to look professional.
Many guys make the mistake of shaving too high up their necks, which causes their beards to have the weird George Lucas look that accentuates their neck fat. Generally, you should not touch any neck hair above your Adam’s apple. This technique makes your beard look fuller at the bottom and creates a smooth transition between your neck and jawline.
Since neck hair can have inconsistent growth patterns, the straight razor is the best tool for this area. It will slice through every hair, no matter which direction it grows.
4. Line up Your Cheeks
Your upper cheeks can also make or break your beard’s professional look. Most guys have some rebellious cheek hairs that grow almost all the way up to their eyes. An uneven cheek line is one of the telltale signs of a poorly maintained beard. You must take care of these loose hairs and keep your cheeks smooth.
Cheeks are also the most common areas where men have patchy beards. You only have two options if you have bare patches on your cheeks. First, let the beard grow for a few months and see if the cheek hair gets thicker. If that doesn’t work, you may have to move your beard farther down your cheeks and remove the patchy areas altogether.
5. Clean Around the Lips, Nose and Ears
Regardless of how long you want to grow your beard, you must regularly clean around your lips, nose and ears. Trim your moustache so no hairs are dangling over your upper lip. Shave inside your nostrils and around your ears, too. These little details will significantly improve your beard’s appearance.
You might not realise it, but other people have a much better view of your beard than you do. They can see it from every angle, which means they will easily spot your beard’s weak points — especially around your other facial features. This maintenance task is an absolute necessity for maintaining a professional appearance.
Know When It’s Time to Trim
Mastering maintenance skills is just the first step to becoming a professional beard stylist. You might know what to do, but you must also know when to do it. These pointers will help you determine when it’s time to trim your beard and restore its professional look.
1. Abide by the Two-Month Rule
If you recently started growing your beard, you can safely abide by the two-month rule. Master barbers recommend giving your beard two full months of uninterrupted growth to avoid the risk of doing a lopsided trim. You must establish a solid foundation before making any significant changes. Let the patches fill out and observe your beard’s strengths and weaknesses.
2. Monitor Your Hair’s Health
You might notice the hairs becoming dry and brittle as your beard gets longer. If this problem arises, it means two things — your beard needs a trim and your face needs more moisturisation. Trim off the ends and use a lotion or beard oil to give your facial hair more sustenance. Split ends are a bad look you don’t want to bring into the workplace.
3. Don’t Let It Impact Your Hygiene
You know your beard is too long if it impacts your overall hygiene. It might develop a musty odour, interfere with your eating habits or lead to serious health problems, including severe acne, lice and staph infections. If you notice signs of any of these problems, play on the safe side and trim your beard back. The last thing you want is to look unkempt and unprofessional on the job.
4. Take Feedback From Co-Workers
If you’re ever in doubt about your beard’s appearance, you can always take feedback from co-workers — especially those of the opposite sex. Most guys are impressed by any thick beard, but women have better taste when it comes to identifying attractive facial hair. If you get approval from your peers, your beard is probably safe for now. If not, trim it as soon as possible.
Keep Your Beard Looking Professional
Maintaining a professional appearance while growing out your beard won’t be easy. It will require lots of careful maintenance and honest self-evaluation. Several years might pass before you achieve your desired length and thickness. Just practise these maintenance habits, be realistic about your facial hair genetics, and always remember — your livelihood is more important than your beard. Never let it interfere with your job performance.
Jack Shaw is a writer, editor and grooming enthusiast. His explorations of men's health, fitness and fashion can all be found on Modded, a men's lifestyle publication on which he serves as the senior writer.