Even if a beard isn’t your normal style, lots of guys go through phases where they rock one. Who hasn’t at least considered participating in No Shave November? Once the time comes to get the lather going and pick up the razor again, you think you’re looking sharp and a little James Bond then you’re hit with the back-handed compliment: baby face. Was your beard really doing all the work making you look older?
A beard can make you look older, especially if it shows a lot of grays that may not be obvious in other places yet. Even without gray hair, a beard can age a young man by implying maturity and covering up obvious signs of youth like fuller cheeks. However, it can also make an older man look younger by concealing signs of age such as sagging jowls.
Keep reading to learn how a beard can make you look older, and some ways to keep your whiskers from making you look old.
Why your beard makes you look older
Growing your beard is a figurative rite of passage for most young men, and is a literal one for some cultures. For example, Sikhs do not cut or trim their head or facial hair while an Amish man begins to grow his beard once he’s married. In both these cases – and many others – the beard is indicative that the wearer is no longer a child. In many ways, most people subconsciously recognize the beard as a sign of manhood whether or not it is a cultural requirement.
Growing a beard can make you look older because they:
- are signifiers of age
- are associated with wisdom
- take time and patience to grow
- show gray
Let’s dive into each of these factors and examine how they can contribute to the appearance of age.
Beards are signifiers of age
Santa Claus. Stonewall Jackson. Grigori Rasputin. What do they all have in common? We only think of them as being old, either because of their actual age (have you ever seen a young St. Nick?) or because of how long ago they lived.
Beards are often considered signs of age because we’ve spent our lives being exposed to images of men we consider old with beards.
Whether it’s necessarily fair or not, for most of our lives, “modern” men have been clean-shaven.
Beards are associated with wisdom
Older men – especially sophisticated ones – tend to be associated with beards, so it only makes sense that you can hijack that perception.
Beards can make you look older because they are associated with wisdom which is, in turn, associated with age.
A 2003 study showed that men with a full beard may be associated with older age, especially by younger people.
Beards take time and patience to grow
If you’ve ever set out with a specific plan to grow your facial hair, you know how frustrating the time between stubble and an actual beard can be. On average, male facial hair grows so slowly that it can take 2-4 months to grow a beard.
Beards take time to grow. Both the amount of time required to grow a full beard and the patience needed to do so are often taken as indicators of age.
Not for nothing, but many young men also struggle to grow full beards so the ability to produce that much facial hair may also contribute to a perception that you’re older.
Beards show gray
Even if the hair on your head is starting to go gray, it probably won’t be as obvious as it will be in your beard.
Beard hair turns over more quickly than head hair and so it’s likely to go gray first. Moreover, your beard is literally front and center on your face, so any grays will be more obvious.
Are you more interested in using your beard to look younger? Check out this article for tips on how your beard can make you look more mature!
Does the color of your facial hair make you look older?
Have you ever noticed that lots of guys tend to shave their beards when they start going gray, then come back a couple of years later and embrace the salt-and-pepper look?
Guys whose facial hair has a higher contrast to their natural color tend to look older because we associate gray and white hair with age.
Going gray is part of the human experience. When you get older, your body will produce less melanin. Melanin is the color-producing pigment in the skin, hair, and iris, giving color to all body parts. As you age, the lower amount of melanin causes will cause a change in hair color.
Does the thickness of your facial hair make you look older?
Much like the ability to grow a beard at all, facial hair tends to thicken with age, at least up until about 30.
The thickness or density of your beard can contribute to looking older, at least up to a point. Men tend to have their thickest beards during the prime of their lives, from the end of puberty until testosterone levels start to fall.
If your beard is full and thick, chances are good you’ll look older but not yet old.
Trying to make your beard look thicker? Try out the tips in this article!
Does the length of your facial hair make a difference in terms of age?
Beard length is a big question in the world of beard men – too short, and you’re scruffy. Too long, and you run the risk of looking sloppy. But what does facial hair mean in relation to age?
Longer beards – especially well-maintained ones – tend to make you look older for the same reasons that beards make you look older than a clean-shaven face. Longer beards take longer to grow, more time to maintain, and more overall patience to deal with.
However, if your beard is long and scruffy, it may contribute to your looking either older and immature or just plain old.
How do you style your facial hair to look younger?
While young men may embrace a beard in order to co-opt the look of maturity and respectability, looking older may not be your goal.
Guys who want to maintain a beard while rocking a youthful look should:
- embrace trends
- focus on clean lines
- keep it short
How can these tips help keep you looking young despite the beard? Keep reading to find out!
As with most things in fashion, styles come and go; it is the same with facial hair.
To look younger, look to the beards of young men. Typically, your best bets will be stubble, a goatee, or a short-boxed beard, but watching the trends will help keep you looking fresh.
A word to the wise, though: don’t go too crazy with the trends and know when it’ll work for you and when it’ll just look try-hard.
Focus on clean lines
If you don’t decide to go the clean-shaven route, it is best to keep your facial hair groomed to maintain your youthful appearance.
An unkempt beard makes you look older; a clean, well-maintained beard can add the air of maturity without the years.
Based on my personal experience, the simple act of cleaning up the edges around my facial hair makes me seem younger.
Keep it short
We already established that long beards equal age in people’s minds. A short beard allows you to run counter to that perception.
Keeping your beard neatly trimmed, and relatively close to the face can keep you from looking older.
This allows you the benefits of wearing a beard without concealing the more youthful aspects of your face.
Other benefits of having a beard
Deciding to grow a beard is a personal choice, and it’s more than just choosing not to shave. A good beard requires maintenance, but it’s worth it for a lot of guys!
Benefits of having a beard include:
- It’s a built-in accessory. No matter what you’re wearing, you automatically look more put together if your beard is on point.
- Chicks dig it. Sure, not every woman prefers a man with a beard, but some do!
- Confidence – Studies have shown that men with facial hair are actually more confident than other guys.
- Never worrying about your face getting cold. If you live in colder areas, a beard will keep your face warm during the winter!
Other drawbacks to having a beard
Of course, a few drawbacks to having a beard exist.
Some potential disadvantages of having a beard are:
- Upkeep. Unless you are going for a full Santa beard, there are a few things you have to do to keep looking sharp. Trimming, shaping, and shaving all have to be done routinely. Actually, even if you go for the full Santa beard, you still have to condition your beard.
- Potential mess. Often a crumb or two can get stuck in the beard, and if left unchecked is just as unflattering as a piece of spinach in your teeth.