As the leaves begin to drop and the trees become bare, the faces of a lot of men begin to sprout hair. Cooler weather just seems to encourage beards.
Scott Spencer of Tops Off Barber Shop on Hale Street in Charleston said, “You’ve got No Shave November or Movember, where men grow mustaches. You see that for people raising money or awareness for men’s cancers.”
For No Shave November, men give up shaving, grow beards and donate the money for shaving expenses to causes that promote cancer awareness. Women can also participate by not shaving their legs.
For Movember, men grow mustaches to raise money and awareness about men’s health issues. Women can also participate by running or walking 60 miles to raise money and awareness.
“And there’s also just hunting season,” Spencer said.
Call it camouflage fashion. Maybe safety orange goes better with a face full of fur.
Growing a beard looks easy. You’d think all a man needs to do is stop shaving and let nature take its course, but after a week or so, the itching sets in. Within a couple of weeks, the hairs feel more like wires and look like the end of a bottle brush.
You might have set your sights on a lush, full beard, but what you have might be something between a tumbleweed and a used Brillo pad.
Growing a beard is easy. Growing a good beard takes a little effort — but not a lot.
“The thing about growing a beard in the fall,” Spencer said, “is that it’s a lot less humid. Your hair dries out naturally.”
If you shower regularly (and you should), chances are you’re showering with hot water.
Spencer said, “You shower in the hot water and then you step out into where its cold. That dries out your beard, too, just like it dries out your hair.”
Meanwhile, antibacterial body washes, soaps and shampoos strip out the natural oils in the facial follicles, which can make the hairs brittle or curl.
Kelly Dunlap, one of the stylists at Tops Off, said it was important to dry your beard after you wash.
For men just jumping into growing a beard, Spencer recommended turning the hot water down to warm and to treating the hair on your face the same as you ought to treat the hair on top of your head, which means not shampooing every day.
“You can wash your hair every day,” Spencer said. “You just don’t have to use shampoo. Maybe do that every other day or every few days.”
On those other days, you can rinse with warm water or use a conditioner.
“They make special shampoos and soaps for beards, ” Spencer said with a shrug, adding, “They’re fine, but regular shampoo works good.”
There are a variety of oils, butters and balms that a man can put in his beard. Spencer said what products you should use depends on your taste, but also what you’re trying accomplish with your beard.
Do you want a long or short beard?
For shorter beards — a scruff of hair or beards in their early stages of growth — Spencer recommended using an oil. The brand of beard oil doesn’t matter, as far as he’s concerned — just apply a couple of drops to your fingers and work into your face.
For longer beards, he suggested going with one of the beard butters, which look like creams.
“These are heavier,” he said. “Some of them you can use like hair product to shape your beard, but you can just add them into your beard to help them grow.”
The extra weight from the butters encourages growth.
Butters, balms and oils also moisturize the skin, which should reduce the itching, though it may not eliminate it entirely.
“That usually passes,” Spencer said.
He also recommended buying a comb. An ordinary comb will suffice, or you can pick up a beard comb for a fuller beard. Beard combs look like stockier, sturdier versions of regular combs.
Most of them don’t cost much. Tops Off had them for sale at the front counter for a couple of bucks each.
“You just run it down your face and straighten out the tangles as they come out,” he said.
If you decide to keep the beard, whether for a season or forever, Spencer said to invest in some man tools, some trimmers that can help shape and detail the beard.
“You can get a good set for not much money at Walmart,” he said.
If you want a dramatic look, a few shops, including Tops Off, offer a beard blowout.
“We take a flat iron, use product and a Dyson dryer,” Spencer said. “We can take a burly beard with all the curlicues and curls and extend the length of the beard anywhere from half an inch to about three inches.”
Tops Off charges $15 for the service. The blowout should be done about once a week. Spencer said men can do it home; they just need the right brush and a hair dryer.
“You want to set the temperature on high, but the motor on low,” he said.
Otherwise, you’ll burn your face.
A long beard isn’t for everyone.
If you decide to get rid of the pelt on your face by the first of December, the first day of spring or any time in between, Spencer said to start with the trimmers.
“Maybe start with a No. 2 guard,” he said. “Trim it down, and then shave the rest with a razor.”
Use a good new razor, and maybe not the last razor you used before you began growing the beard.
“Just wash and use a hydrating cream to finish,” he said.
And get used to the draft.