Through thick and thin, the beard has maintained its spot as style’s manliest accessory (the spot right on the chin, that is). But not all men can grow a full face of fuzz. Indeed, patchy growth, weak connecting lines, and an inability to squeeze out so much as a whisker on the cheeks are the same of would-be beardies everywhere.
It’s a cruel fact of life that some chaps seem (Brian) Blessed with cheeks that erupt like Vesuvius, who must shave morning and night or start to look like a Victorian cricket captain, for others, facial hair hits puberty then halts, leaving beards as patchy as a Christmas tree in June.
There should be no shame in it, of course – it doesn’t make you less of a man (or does it?) – but there’s no doubt that being able to grow facial hair in great voluminous abundance can leave those who can’t green with envy.
Fret not though, smooth-cheeked men, because there are solutions. Before you start googling beard transplants (they exist, and the pictures aren’t pretty), here are some savvy tips to help you turn a barren beard lush.
If you’ve always baulked the minute your face starts looking a bit like professional scruffbag Keanu, then step away from the razor. This isn’t for you. But if you’re dead set on a full beard, it’s worth persevering.
Yes, there’s going to be an awkward month or so where your beard looks so patchy it’s like someone’s ripped off whole squares of hair with duct tape. But once you graduate from teen fluff and hit fisherman-level length, the fulsome zones should cover any holes. It’s the beard equivalent of a comb-over. And if that doesn’t do the trick, it’s time to work smarter.
Keep Things Trim
“Some patches you can get away with,” says Denis Robinson, artistic director of award-winning barbers Ruffians. “But if they fall in the middle of your cheek, trim your beard with a low-grade clipper helps lessen the contrast.” Which means it’s time get creative by shaving to the level of gaps high on your cheek, or low on your throat, to create face-flattering angles.
The length you’re shooting for is tomorrow’s five o’clock shadow. Set your clippers to grade two and let loose all over your face and neck. It’s short enough for holes not to seem so barren, long enough that you don’t look like you’re late for school.
Get Some Edge
If true lushness is an unattainable dream, dial up the contrast. Your sideburns and neckline may grow like the Eden Project, but if you let them run wild, you’ll only make those bare patches seem even more barren. A better method is to chop them back and add sharp edges.
That means putting your clippers through the fur, then a razor beneath your Adam’s apple and – as high as your patchy fuzz affords – on your cheeks. It’s essentially an exercise in high definition. “This can create the impression of a more angular bone structure,” says Robinson.
Don’t Get Mad, Get Even
If you’ve tried everything, but your facial hair still won’t play ball, a decent beard trimmer can create order amongst uneven, unruly growth. “You can do a sort of contouring, where you figure out which bit of your hair grows thicker, compared to the bits that are patchier,” says Robinson. Trim the long bits back to match the short and, when it grows out, everything should be even.
It’s a tricky self-operation, so you might want to visit a steady-handed barber. But once everything comes up uniform, it’s easier to manage at home.
Treat It Right
Okay, so slapping some moisturisers on your face isn’t going to make those bald spots suddenly sprout thick hair. But if there’s one thing guaranteed to make a patchy beard even patchier, it’s wiry, dry, or dirty-looking hair. So take care.
Treat the whiskers all the way down to the follicles with an alcohol-free beard oil and beard balm. Using an exfoliator to get rid of dead cells will also help stimulate the skin underneath, aiding growth and producing a thicker, fuller appearance.
Eat To Grow
Whatever you’re trying to goad your body into doing — get bigger arms, have better posture — there’s no substitute for a healthy lifestyle and diet. The same goes for filling in a patchy beard.
Water, along with a diet rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, iron and omega-3 gives hair the nourishment it needs to grow, most of which can be found in multivitamins or foods that contain biotin, such as eggs, avocados, almonds, cauliflower, bananas, sweet potato, and milk.
Niacin is another vitamin linked to hair growth, as it improves blood flow, meaning hair follicles get a decent supply of oxygen and nutrients. So while you’re at it, stock up on foods high in the stuff like white meat, peanuts, mushrooms, liver, tuna, beef, and sunflower seeds.
Shade Inside The Lines
It’s time to face facts, some patches are unfixable. That’s not to say they aren’t disguisable, mind. To counter any otherwise unfixable patches, barber Joe Parker advises colouring in.
“Get an eyebrow pencil to shade in any small gaps,” he says. “Obviously, you don’t want to look like a mime, so make sure you get one that matches your beard colour.”
Style It Wisely
If all else fails, you can always opt for a beard style that works around patchy growth, and there are plenty of options for such an eventuality.
The balbo (as worn by billionaire sex-symbol and superhero, Iron Man) is one such example. A three-piece combo — tache, chinstrap, and soul patch — it circumvents the areas usually afflicted by patchy growth.
That also goes for the Van Dyke and Verdi styles, which are both variations a moustache-plus-goatee two piece (think Johnny Depp’s trademark look). Or if weak growth on your cheeks is your problem, but you can connect the beard and ‘tache, try a Hollywoodian, which should be shaved as low down on your cheeks as possible.
Definitely Don’t: Use Minoxidil On Your Face
There are many topical treatments out there that claim to boost hair growth on top of your head, but unless you actually enjoy headaches, dry skin, heart palpitations, water retention, fatigue (shall we go on?), almost none of those should be applied to your face.
In the dark corners of the internet, masochists suggest using minoxidil — better known by the popular brand name Regaine — to reach a Bronson-level beard. Yeah, don’t do that.
Aside from all the above, the risk here is that the chemical (designed for the much thicker skin on your scalp) will be absorbed through your pores and into the bloodstream in quantities that, you don’t need to have binge-watched ER to know, won’t be healthy.