don’t fear the beard when it is your own

Steven, bearded adventurer

Many of the beard-growing mistakes that I see again and again may often be blamed on some extent to fear, anxiety, and a lack of confidence.  Don’t fear the full beard when it’s yours.  If you’re going to grow a full beard, go all in.  Otherwise, why bother?  You’re growing a full beard, for crying out loud.  Show the world that you aren’t afraid to do it right.

For so many men, growing a beard is such a huge stretch out of their comfort zones that they are afraid to embrace the experience fully.  They timidly grow out a full beard — and deserve commendation for that — but then stunt its growth or mutilate its shape out of some sort of fear that they’re going too far.  For some, letting the beard grow in fully will surely make them look just like ZZ Top or Rip Van Winkle.  We surely can’t have that now, can we?  Except, of course, letting a beard grow out a little beyond the stubble stage is hardly the equivalent of a ZZ Top beard.

Some of the most common beard-growing mistakes for a full beard are:

These errors do not plague new beard growers exclusively.  Plenty of veteran beard growers commit these mistakes all the time, too.  Let’s take a look at each one.

Cheek line

What’s the fear?  “If I don’t keep this cheek line down way low, I’ll look just like a wolf man.”

What’s the result? All too often, the result is a butchered beard that looks stifled and unnatural.

What to do?  Look at it this way.  Give your natural cheek line a fair chance.  And don’t be afraid to do so.  Some fear that their natural cheek line reaches all the way up to their eyes.  Usually, this is an exaggerated perception.  If your natural cheek line really is too high and you really do look exactly like a wolf man, then go ahead and lower the cheek line.  But don’t go too far.  If your natural cheek line is not truly that of a wolf man, but is a bit ragged and you’d prefer a neater line, go ahead and define a straighter cheek line.  Just take off what’s needed to define a neater line.  Don’t go too far!

Neck line

What’s the fear? “I’d better define the neck line way up high, otherwise this beard would be too big.  Besides, I’ve seen plenty of other guys with neck lines up high and they must know what they are doing.”

What’s the result?  A neck line that’s too high makes a full beard look truncated, unnatural, unflattering, and even “clown-like”.

What to do?  Think about this.  The idea of growing a full beard is to grow the full beard.  Why should the underside of the chin be clean shaven?  Some even have defined the neck line to be above the jaw.  That’s not a full beard.  It’s a full beard with the bottom part missing.  Don’t do this!  Instead, follow the guidelines for designing a neck line for your full beard.

Not permitted to fully grow

What’s the fear? “My beard is already an eighth of an inch (3.175 mm) long.  People will think that I’m ZZ Top!  This has gone too far.  I’d better trim it down.”

What’s the result?  Fear of letting your beard fully grow out results in essentially a stubble beard, or  maybe just slightly beyond the stubble stage.  That is pretty much just an extended unshaven look.  To see what your beard really looks like, let it keep growing.  If you look with an objective eye, rather than having a knee-jerk reaction based on lack of confidence, you can tell when it’s approaching the length limit for what you consider to be acceptable for your situation.  Even then, you might be safe in going longer.  The point is that too many are growing about an eighth of an inch (3.175 mm) and thinking that they’ve grown a real beard.  Well, keep growing and you’ll eventually see what a real beard can be.

What if I really want a low cheek line, high neck line, stubble beard?

If that’s what you really want, go for it.  Just make sure that it is what you really want and it’s not your fears calling the shots.

I am afraid that a fully-grown real beard with proper cheek and neck lines is too extreme and would not look professional.

A properly cultivated and well-groomed beard can always give a professional look. It can even enhance one’s professional appearance.  Just do it right.  Be prepared for uninformed comments.  That is, be prepared to brush them aside.  People feel compelled to comment and usually just say something without thinking.  Don’t worry about that.  Keep growing.  Grow a proper full beard.  Don’t give into your fears and grow a butchered, stunted beard.  Which one looks better and more professional?  You decide.

Steven, bearded adventurer

Steven, bearded adventurer

Steven, bearded adventurer

Steven, bearded adventurer

Steven, bearded adventurer

27 thoughts on “don’t fear the beard when it is your own”

  1. The problem with most beard growers are months 5 – 12, untouched. This is where most guys have trouble with the “ZZ Top” problem – so they think. Let it go and see what mutha nature brung ya for once in your life!

  2. Do you mean weeks? I see a lot of nervousness starting to set in after only two or three weeks. Then the temptation to butcher the beard and limit its continued growth begins to increase. And far too many give into it right away, ruining the beard.

  3. I let my full beard grow out for around 6 to 7 weeks. The length during this time very comfortable for me. It kind of looks like Jason’s from the Featured Beards gallery. I think that is a good length for a beard.I trim it but not too much though, just a little bit. I have a nice neck line on mine and my cheekline is not too high, or too low. I think I have the perfect beard. LOL! Love the site!

  4. Steve,

    I’m glad to see you touching on the topic of the too-high neck line! So many decent beards have been ruined by clipping them until the bottom edge is on the front of the face. My friends and I (all bearded (mostly)) like to call them face beards, which I understand is a bit of a redundant misnomer, but geez… it makes me wonder what people are seeing when they do this! A classic offender would be Mario Batali… love him as a chef/personality, but that face beard: Ugh! … a perfect example of why not to shave too high.


  5. (1) I’ve done the high neckline error too. I think it’s such a common mistake because a beard trimmed that way often looks perfect from the front, and that’s the direction the guy’s gonna see his beard 10x a day in the mirror and when he trims. I didn’t fully realize how bad it looks until I saw a profile shot of my face, and even then it wasn’t until I went to a goatee and returned to a beard years later that I finally avoid that mistake because I focused so strongly on NOT repeating it. I also have a face better suited for a goatee because my face isn’t very round so I can’t get a nice and natural looking hairline sweep under the neck. Oh well, I find I can’t really tolerate hair on my cheeks anyway.

    (2) The unintentional stubble beard thing (another mistake I used to make). The sad thing about these nearly stubble beards is that guys do it to avoid the negatives of a beard and end up maintaining a beard at a length that actually magnifies the problems they were trying to avoid.

    A lot of guys are afraid their beard will shred their wife or girlfriend’s tender lady face so they keep it short. In reality, the shorter you keep hair (any hair) the rougher it feels to the touch. Perfect example: ladies that haven’t shaved their legs in a while have legs that feel like porcupines but I have never heard anyone say the same about a guy’s leg with the usual untrimmed leg hair. So by keeping their beards only a few mm in length they actually maintain it at the worst possible length for comfort!

    A lot of guys don’t want to look sloppy and unprofessional, but once again by buzzing it down to nothing they actually make it look sloppy and unprofessional! Unless you’re a guy with perfectly thick density you’re going to have thinner spots and bald spots. When the hair is only grown to that just-beyond-stubble length the color difference between the areas of different densities is actually exaggerated and makes for a sloppy look. By allowing the hairs to get to actual hair length they will lay over and create a “shingling” effect where they cover up those thin regions and create a more consistent appearance of density.

    Even guys with great and consistent density look better with some length because short hair tends to stick straight out from the skin. That means the point close to directly in front of the eyes (like the chin) will often look less dense because you are looking at the tops of the hairs while the surrounding area looks thicker due to you seeing more of the sides of the hairs. By letting the hairs grow long enough to hang down this effect is minimized as well.

    Wow, sorry for writing a book. I hope something that fell out of my fingers was useful. 🙂

  6. I started growing my circle beard on my birthday, January 24, 2011.

    I was very pleased after the ninth week. At the 10th week, while on vacation, I decided to go for the full beard. My wife was not very happy with the early results. However, I was determined to go for it.

    This site has been a very big inspiration to me.Reading other men’s stories about there venture growing a beard has helped me. Read success stories. Chances are you will find a guy with the situation you’ll be facing.

    Its has been amazing to me how very little people have commented on the growth. I am at week 5 growing my full beard. It is really filling in nicely.

    I plan to shape my new beard on week 8.

    My advice to a man growing his beard is to go as long as you can until you shape the beard. I really feel week 8-9 is a good full growth goal. Also, use as your beard bible. Good Luck

  7. Hi, Mark!

    Congratulations on growing your new beard! Good for you!!!

    Thanks so much for your very kind words for It makes me happy to hear that the site has helped you out with the inspiration to grow your beard.

  8. I’ve worn a beard for the last twenty years or so, but I’ve always trimmed my beard after two weeks, due to impatience and insecurity. This time around, I intend to go at least 25-30 days without trimming it. I hope my wife does not complain because for once, I would like to grow a full beard. Bearded Brothers, wish me luck!

  9. hi guys have had full beard before lately have had goat or clean shaven but today i start growing back the full beard. wish me luck guys.
    ill keep you all posted on my progress

  10. been growing back my full beard about a month now coming along nicely i think will post more later.

  11. Well I’ve only been shaving for about two years now and I keep it small, just my chin, not saying I could go for much more other than my sideburns anyway. My concern is my cheekline, its pretty high in my opinion. I havn’t shaved my cheeks yet and i’ve been trying to keep it that way for as long as I can but now im feeling the urge to shave them, I just dont know how it will turn out. I just see my cheeks growing before the rest of my face has a chance to catch up, thats all.

  12. Austin,
    If you are that concerned about the cheek line, you can take it lower and then gradually bring it back up higher over time. Good luck with it!

  13. It looks like I’m a little late to the game on this entry, but I just want to say I don’t know how I didn’t find this site sooner. Every article I’ve read so far has made me laugh, and has also informed me that I trim my cheek line too low. Consider me converted!

  14. Hi,

    The neck line has been an issue for me also.
    First I let it grow out naturally, then had a guy at a barber shop set the line. Its about two fingers above my adam’s apple cause that’s what I read somewhere. But I am not happy with the shape. Steven do you have any suggestions or is there a guide on shapes for the neck line and then how do you determine how to connect it at the front of the neckline with the neck line at the sides. Hope I am making sense here. Mine looks a little more scruffy then I want it to for work. I have a desk job. But I don’t want something that looks unnatural or to high either.


    Roger S
    Lincoln California

  15. I started growing my beard out about the first week of December 2013. Didn’t shave at all for probably the first month, did a little sculpting starting in January. I’m one of those fellows with a very low natural cheek line— half an inch above the jawline on the sides. Above that, it’s just blond fuzz. So I’m growing what I’ve got. Trimmed my mustache a couple times, just trimmed the beard a little a couple days ago. From past experience, I know that I can get trim happy and take off too much. Don’t know when I’ll really trim it— just clipping especially wild hairs— but probably after another month or two. Or not. First time I’ve really committed to growing it out, and I get all sorts of compliments. Some people say I look like the guys from Duck Dynasty, probably because I’m growing my hair out too. It’s fun, and I don’t mind shaving once or twice a week at all. 🙂

  16. A bit late to the party but I have to say it’s a great article, like all others on the website. I’m follicularly challenged unfortunately, as my cheek are very patchy and full of cowlicks, so I tend to carve the cheekline very low and alternate between a Riker and Hollywoodian. People with natural wolfman cheek lines have all my admiration (and envy).

  17. Just discovered the site- nice to see all this – I wish I could have seen it 25 or so years ago when I first decided let my own beard grow. It took me a few years to learn how to keep my beard full but not sheepdog – I finally learned to trim shorter toward the ears but let the front (what you might call the goatee area) grow longer. I could have used some advice, but after all this time I sort of have it figured out. Good work and keep growin’!

  18. I’d like to reassure other new growers that whilst I found it extremely irritating and scratchy indeed (at the worst between 1 week and 3½ weeks in), now it’s getting longer it’s getting softer and more comfortable (I’m at 4 weeks today). The longest bits are the most comfortable bits. Stick with it.

    Thanks for giving me the info I needed before I started. I’m probably going to not do any neck line or cheek line and go full natural, but not terribly long, just long enough for comfort.

  19. Thanks, Andrew. Good luck!

    Andrea and Barry, I profoundly apologize for missing your comments until now. Thanks for stopping by. Hope your beards are doing great!

  20. Great article.
    It’s good that I went through it and already wear a full beard for more than a year.

    Especially I was afraid to look like ZZ Top, lol.

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