don’t be afraid of heights


I hear from far too many beard growers, especially new beard growers, that they are afraid of the cheek line of their full beards being too high.  So they butcher their beards into unflattering shapes in their misguided attempts to make their beards look more “acceptable”.  Some use the excuse that their beards grow all the way up to their eyes and that they will look like the much-feared “wolf man” should they leave the cheek line natural.  They say that even when there are actually inches (or even more centimeters) between the natural upper cheek line of the beard and their eyes.  The beard-growing-all-the-way-up-to-the-eyes fear is almost always an exaggeration and a misperception, likely based on shaky self-confidence with respect to the new full beard.  In uncommon cases, the beard nearly does grow all the way up to the eyes.  In such a case, the cheek line could be lowered without butchering the beard by not going  too low.  The main point here is not to jump to the conclusion that your beard nearly grows nearly all the way up to your eyes when the reality is that it does not.

Another common rationalization for butchering the beard’s cheek line is that it somehow makes the beard less objectionable to potential naysayers.  Don’t fall into that trap.  You’re growing a beard.  Embrace that fact.  People are going to see it.  You are already stepping out from the norm by growing the beard.  Why not grow your beard to its full potential, which is usually its best look?  That’s a lot better than butchering it down to some unattractive and amateurish shape.  Again, you’re growing a beard.  Do it right!  Don’t ruin the shape of it just because you fear that leaving the cheek line natural is just going too far.  It almost never is.

Another common fear is that the natural cheek line does not look “professional”.  The “professional look” is subject to interpretation.  In general, however, it would likely mean maintaining a neat and tidy appearance by following good grooming habits and practicing good hygiene.  A natural cheek line does not contradict good grooming and hygiene.  There are countless full-bearded professionals who maintain natural cheek lines, yet project a completely professional appearance.  Just keep your beard well-groomed along with everything else.

What if you’ve given the natural cheek line a truly fair chance and you just can’t stick with it?  You feel that you really must give the cheek line some sort of “clean-up” or definition.  Well, if you are convinced that you must, then just take off the minimum amount to smooth out the cheek line and give it a more defined look.  This keeps your beard the closest to its natural shape while giving the cheek line a more precision look.  In other words, you’ve created the best-defined cheek line possible without needlessly butchering the beard.

Fear of the cheek line breeds fear.  Don’t spread it further.  Butchered beards set bad examples.  Great beards inspire.

Don’t be afraid of heights!  Let your full beard’s cheek line go natural with confidence and pride.  And if that’s just not for you, at least define your cheek line by taking the least amount possible away from the natural.

33 thoughts on “don’t be afraid of heights”

  1. I absolutely agree! I keep my natural cheekline no matter what. I think it’s perfect. There is nothing to fear, but fear itself a great man once said. Man up and grow it out!

  2. I tend to agree and usually leave the natural cheek line. However, sometimes I do trim just a smidge to shape the cheek line, and I’ve noticed when I do that, my beard looks thicker on the cheek than it does natural. This may be because my beard isn’t the thickest of beards on the cheek, I’m not sure. But it does create the illusion of more thickness on the cheek when trimmed a bit. Odd.

  3. I’m trying to be as large as possible but in my work is almost impossible.I work for medical device industry and i need to use hair and beard cover so i need to constantly trimming my beard to not expose it ,the beard cover cannot cover completetly my beard .

  4. Hey, Jason. Sounds good!

    Norbert: Thanks. You clearly demonstrate that there are always reasons for exceptions. In general, however, you are following the spirit of this advice!

  5. Well, not everyone has a perfectly defined cheekline. I shave just a few hairs above it, but not because I feel it’s too high! In fact, I wish I had a higher cheekline! But if you have some sparse hairs above it that seem far from one another…. I think it’s best to shave them indeed.

    That Brian guy has a truly awesome beard.

  6. Hi, Arturo. I didn’t say that a natural cheek line is perfectly defined — as in a perfectly straight line. The way it naturally occurs, however, usually looks fine even with some irregularities…that makes each one unique to its owner. But if those make you uncomfortable, then go ahead with the shaping…just don’t go too far! I’m saying that for others because it sounds like you’re not taking it down too far.

  7. Totally right on for me. I moved from a goat & stache to a full beard in August of 2010–no shaving, just 0 guard for the neck since that time. It took a couple of months of course for the cheek line to develop naturally since like many guys my beard grows at different rates on different parts of my face. But now it looks totally professional. I realize some guys’ beards do extend higher than they might like but the biggest error other than a high neckline when growing a full beard is creating a shaved cheek line. Patience is necessary to let it grow until the point it can be considered for trimming–probably two to three months minimum in my opinion. Glad to see you wrote this up–great subject.

  8. Another part people shave is their neckline. If you go for a long beard, people can not see the neckline anyway. Your neck is the lowest part of your beard and adds to the overall appearance of length.

  9. Hi Guys, I do not have a beard but I do have a grandson who most certainly does have a great beard. He has cerebral palsy and so I get to be in charge of his beard. I have zero experience so your comments and pictures help me a bunch. There is no way Kris will part with his beard so I look forward to your tips for years to come.

  10. Hi,

    I’m 30-something days into growing my full beard out. My cheek beard growth is really thin so I have to be patient. I do it similarly to Jason, it appears a bit thicker and more defined that way at the moment. But once I have the volume all over (I do hope I get there eventually….) I will grow out the cheek line naturally.

  11. Jane: I’m glad that your grandson is so fiercely devoted to his great beard! Take good care of him and his beard!

    Mike: I hope that your beard growth has been coming along nicely. Congrats to you on growing it!

  12. I support this fact i’m determined to give nature a chance.When i see others who have high cheek lines and its groomed well its very impressive.My beard being 95 % grey is also a challenge ,look forward to the end results.

  13. I trim my cheek line because imho it makes my beard look more neat, trimmed, and full. I trim the cheek just where to hair becomes a bit more sporadic, thin, and fine.
    For me, an uncheeklined beard does not look as full because the sporadic hairs draw your attention more than the of the beard which should look more like a sheet of hair.
    However, my personal face shape and beard density and configuration are all fixed in a way that that is how it looks best for me. I think it’s more up to the individual but I am of the opinion that sporadic and thin gives less groomed look.

  14. Well I don’t have a thick beard at all, without shaving anything, my cheek line stops where many people shave to define it. It is naturally low, like it ends below my mustache some cm below my cheekbones and not sparse hair. My mustache is even separated and alone as i the cheekline descends to the chin-goatee area, that excluding 2 hairs has the holes, some people carve when they trim their beard. Ok my neck line goes up to part of my adam’s apple, but that’s sparse and not broad, it doesn’t go alle the way behind the jaw.
    Well sometimes I shave a nice neck line, just for fun,as I figured by my self how to define it, shaving behind my jaw and shaving halfway below my chin. More rarely I also lower my cheek line and thin out my sideburns, just a little vanity, I’m not the all “masculine” guy. But often I trim the beard a few mm and let it all grow, neck included.

  15. I grew in a full beard for the first time last winter, and found out that it comes in TRI-COLOR! It literally is blond on my lower lip, red on my upper lip and cheeks, and brown below my jaw, neck, and sideburns. I can totally see what you say about each beard being unique because I didn’t even know such a beard was possible. So now that it’s coming to the cold half of the year here in the Adirondack Mountains, the beard is coming back, and this time 4 friends and I have a bet on who can grow their beard for the longest amount of time, and to the winner goes $500. I am so totally going to win this bet even if I have to grow a raging feral beard down to my belt! Thanks for the awesome beard website. Beards are all that is man!

  16. Sounds amazing and awesome, Ross! I hope you enjoy the $500 prize along with your prize-winning beard!!! Be sure to keep us informed. Thanks!

  17. You forgot the people who cut it low because the natural cheek line leaves big bald gaps and just looks scraggly on some people who can’t grow full beards on their cheeks. So they go with the Hans Gruber cut.

  18. Mat, a cheek line that is naturally low should be cultivated to the best advantage. One that’s naturally low will almost always look better than one that is naturally high but has been artificially cut way down low. For those unable to grow sufficient hair on the cheeks to achieve a full beard, a better option is to go with a goatee or some other style that their growth patterns can support.

  19. I’d like to go natural but the growth is different on each side so I have to shave it down to where the growth is the same on both sides. Still have trouble getting it perfectly symmetrical but perhaps I’m stressing too much. Anyone else with this problem?

  20. (Long post alert)

    Andre –

    Unless you’re Sylvester or Scott from the featured beards section of this website, you won’t have a perfect cheek line naturally. All the neatly-curved cheek lines you see on men with good beards here and elsewhere are artificially-attained through careful shaping with an edging blade. Beards simply don’t grow the same on both sides, much as the hair on your legs or arms grows in different densities and patterns on the left and right.

    The key is to define your lines (neck and cheek) in a way that preserves as much of your dense growth area as possible, the better to have a striking, full-looking beard. That takes practice and patience, because we’ve all made the mistake of constantly scrutinizing our handiwork a few days later and feeling we didn’t quite get it even or perfect. That’s what leads to over-management of the beard and creates the conditions for a) maintenance nightmares over time or b) the full elimination of the beard altogether when you realize it doesn’t look right even with the latest adjustments. It took me personally three years of shaping and experimenting before I realized the best method is the simplest: follow your sideburns as they curve beneath your cheekbones into the natural cheek line and simply remove stray hairs that grow above that. Then repeat the action on the other side. Once you review the results, you’ll clearly see if one ends higher than the other near the mouth/mustache. In that case, simply adjust the higher ones to match the lower one. After that, let the stray hairs regrow for at least one (1) week between shapings. If you do it too often, you’ll irritate the skin and risk removing beard hairs you want to keep.

    The same principle applies to the neck lines. Make an honest assessment of your natural neckline and visualize it in a way that both sides connect with one another at the throat and taper off in a bell curve that connects to the beard on your jawbone beneath the ear. Like many men I’ve made the mistake of raising the neck line too high in order to follow the jawbone to the chin. That works for short, stubble-style beards that favor sharp lines which follow the contours of your face. It doesn’t work for fuller, longer beards which naturally become bushier with time and don’t look normal when those longer hairs hang down over the diagonal line you set in the early period. Problem is, by then it’s too late to fix and you have to start over. If you want an example of what a full beard with a good neck line looks like, go visit Rich’s featured beard section. While his genetics are unique to him, the shape of his beard isn’t. Look how full it looks underneath the jaw: That is what you need to go for if you want a beard that connects everywhere and fills out properly. Anything below there should be shaved off at the same frequency as the cheek line I mentioned.

    As the owner of this site suggested in the beard-growing tips section, you can of course leave your lines natural in both areas. But it generally looks scruffy and can actually make your beard less striking because it draws attention to the stray hairs’ patterns rather than the developed main beard below. So my recommendation is to set lines after about 10-14 days of growth (not the 4 weeks recommended in that section – that’s far too long in my humble opinion). After that, the hard part begins. You have to keep what you’ve created for 3-4 months and accept that until the beard is ready for a trim (the ‘final product’), the hairs will grow at different speeds and there will be days it looks scruffy or even flat. That will pass. Once beard hairs grow sufficiently long, they stand up on end and give that characteristic “thick” look that we associate with good beards (eg. Zach Galifianakis).

    Enjoy the process and remember: When it comes to shaping, less is more.

  21. My first beared in 1984 was all natural no razors went near it, all or non was my motto. I then gained employment in a office and was regularly meeting the public so I hit it with a number 4 and trimmed the cheek and neck. For 3 years I did this and was depressed with the result all the time. Now I am letting it grow back full again only trim the neck and have a perfesional girl trim it every couple of months, this is realy only because I get to look at her cute face close up when she dose it.
    Real men grow beards.

  22. J,

    Thank you very much for your in depth reply!

    I agree that shaping is hard to get right at least for a while… It’s taken me over a year to really start to get consistent results.

    I’ve actually been following your suggested method for a while and have finally been able to get it right (most of the time). I start by shaping the side where I have less growth and then shape the other side to match. I’ve also made the decision to stop obsessing about every hair on my cheek like and I’ve found that this way I enjoy being bearded more.

    Re neck lines, personally I’ve seen more perfectly good beards ruined because of a neckline which is too high than because a cheek line which is too low. It really amazes me how so many people shave their neck way to high and just ruin the beard.

  23. No problem, Andre. It took about 6 months for my response to be approved, but I’m glad the admin finally approved it. Hope he’s doing OK!

  24. I’m sorry for the long delay. I didn’t see a notification that the post was in moderation. When I was clearing out a ton of spam, I found the post waiting and approved it. Thanks for your extra patience.

  25. I have found the information on your site exceptional. Now that I’m done with the military I’ve found myself in the excellent position to cultivate a beard. From a physiological perspective, is it possible that frequently shaved follicles produce a finer whisker which, once allowed to grow and are put under tensile strain, begin to extrude beard matter with greater diameter? My mustache has always been the first not to meet muster, usually in about 5 hours, but I’ve found that once I committed to a full beard and respected its right to privacy my cheek line has gone from sparse and non-committal to something approaching definition. I think whiskers are like trees and as they grow taller, so wider they do also. As a result, and am I am sure you can relate, I have taken to the customary practice of stroking my beard-in-waiting when I wish to appear unavailable for comment. A modicum of brow furrowing completes this picture. When I do so, I feel an impulse to gently pull on my whiskers, as if there are unexpressed lengths of beard trapped just below the skin! Practically I realize that the tactile sensation caused by trying to “stretch out my beard length” is likely just as satisfying, if not more so, than would be having a Play-Doh factory for a face, but doesn’t it seem reasonable that the body would respond to strained hair follicles with more robust hair follicles? Again, thanks for publishing an excellent site.

  26. Welcome, Eddie. I thank you for your kind words. Thanks, too, for your military service. It’s good to know that you’re joining the ranks of the numerous former military men who are proudly bearded.

    With respect to shaving, studies have shown that it does not play a role in transforming the hair produced by follicles. Here’s a brief look at that from way back:

    As your beard grows out more and more, the effect of the greater volume of hair on your face fills in more of the spaces between individual hairs. That’s why it’s important to give the beard enough time to grow out and see how well it turns out. In many cases, it turns out better than the first-time beard grower may have expected.

    Thanks for visiting and thanks again for the kind words for the site. I wish you all the best with your beard!

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