In many of the hip and stylish men’s magazines today, a lot of the models sport a now-fashionably scruffy look to their faces with those 25 millimeter “shadow” beards. So do a lot of big name athletes. In fact, this has been a specific male facial hair style statement since the 1980’s when Miami Vice was the big, popular show on television and featured one of the lead characters, Sonny, sporting “designer stubble”.
Then there are my male patients, of a certain age, who want to maintain a clean-shaven look and find they just cannot. By the time mid-afternoon rolls around, they’re pulling out their personal shaving kits from their work desks and lockers for a quick shave to get rid of that creeping up 5 o’clock shadow!
I have to chuckle a little thinking about men and their facial hair issues as the subject always reminds me of that old favorite song, Me and My Shadow. Whether you see it as a fashion statement or a nuisance, it’s always with you everywhere you go and you have to deal with it one way or the other! Believe me, I know, I go through the same issues you do every day dealing with my shadow. That’s why I’d like to offer you some options for handling this particular male grooming dilemma, whether you want to grow it or want to lose it!
Loving The Shadow
For those of you who enjoy having that dark, stubby, sandpaper shadow around the lower part of your face, here are some specific grooming tips that you might find helpful in growing your shadow.
• Good facial hygiene: First and foremost, a clean face with healthy skin is the best backdrop for a shadow to look its best. If acne, blackheads, whiteheads plague your facial skin, it would be best to work on getting rid of those issues first and restoring your skin to better health. Excess facial hair can trap dirt, oils, debris, against the skin and worsen these breakout conditions.
• Maintain length: The trick to having a good-looking shadow is to keep the proper length. This can be done using a trimmer with the guard removed. There are also specific beard trimmers available that have “stubble guide” settings that calibrate different lengths so you can try out a few different looks to see what looks best on you. Remember, you want to look stylish not unkempt.
• Face/Head shape: Let’s face it, all of us don’t look like Clint Eastwood or Andre Agassi, both of whom can sport pretty decent looking shadows on their well-known faces. Consider the proportions of your features, the size of your nose and eyes, is your jaw strong and angular or is it soft and receding, do you have a lot of facial weight with full round cheeks or is your face thinner with a more sleek and sculptured look? All these issues can determine how well a shadow will wear on you.
Losing The Shadow
For those of you who don’t want a 5’oclock shadow re-emerging on your jaw line by mid afternoon, you will likely need to shave at least twice a day to maintain a truly clean-shaven look. Some men, particularly past the age of 45, just do not look good with a dark shadow around their face – it can literally give them a “dark” and tired looking appearance.
In fact, political historians have said that Richard M. Nixon, our former president, lost the race with John F. Kennedy because of Nixon’s deep, dark 5’oclock shadow that kept cropping up in the television debates! Indeed, later, in Watergate days, Mr. Nixon’s dark facial shadow didn’t help to foster trust and credibility in the American public!
Men whose careers require them to deal with the public, in customer service roles, may find it hard to convince management that they want to wear the latest shadow style on their face. In general, business customers and clients respond more positively to a clean shaven man. 5 o’clock shadow, whether deliberate or accidental, at any age can come across to others as a person who does not care much about his personal hygiene. It can actually serve to undermine trust in the man or the company he represents and put a damper on friendliness in clients or customers.
The best way to maintain a clean shaven appearance is the following:
• Use a good quality razor or electric shaver. Razors tend to give the closest shave, but good quality electric shavers can work quickly at your desk without water or shaving cream to keep your face looking smooth. Alternating between the two, razor in the morning and a shaver in the afternoon seems to be the best combination for many.
• Guard against beard rash: After shaves or shaving creams, soaps, that contain alcohol, or other drying ingredients, may aggravate the skin and make it appear red and bumpy, as can too-dull razors. You can develop a case of folliculitis, where the hair follicles become inflamed and irritated causing itching, and even infection. This condition may require treatment by a dermatologist. Keep razors clean and try not to share them.
• Shaving up versus down: Some men swear by shaving in an upward motion, against the growth pattern of the beard, in order to get a cleaner shave. Splashing it with cold water, or witch hazel, or an astringent type aftershave, will close the pores and make the skin appear smoother. Also look for a good skin moisturizer that will also help heal cuts and abrasions.
• See a barber: Sometimes you may want to visit a professional barber who can give your face a closer shave that can last up to 10 days!
There you have it, pretty simple common sense advice really. It all depends on what your preference is, what kind of look you want and what kind of image you want to project. In addition, your significant other may have a lot to say about whether you keep your shadow or not. Shadows can be picker-like, scratchy and cause “beard burn” on someone who rubs up against it. Experiment a little with the look first maybe on vacation to see if you and your shadow are a good fit with each other and if you’d like to have it with you all the time!