You’ve stopped shaving.
You may even take a few minutes every morning to comb your beard, or apply a little oil.
But are you doing enough?
Considering the importance and impact of first impressions, and the fact that a beard is hardly a subtlety, it is absolutely vital that your beard improves, rather than detracts from, your appearance.
And that means your grooming routine needs to become a priority, rather than an afterthought.
First Impressions Are Immediate, Impactful, And Long Lasting
Whether or not you think judging a book by it’s cover is right, the fact of the matter is that it’s human nature.
In fact, studies show that first impressions are made within one-tenth of a second. And instead of giving us time to think about and alter our impressions, longer exposure to a person simply makes our original opinion stronger.
One of the reasons this is so important is that first impressions create confirmation biases.
That means that whatever your first impression of someone is, you’re more likely to notice things about the person that you think reinforce your original opinion.
Bringing it back to your personal grooming habits, if someone notices the neckline of your beard is not even, and it’s been a few days since you last shaved it, they might think you lack attention to detail.
If that person then sees you with a small stain on your tie after lunch, or a pant leg flipped up exposing your sock, they’ll consciously use those instances to strengthen their original argument that you lack attention to detail.
If the person is a potential lover, or a potential boss or client, when the time comes to make the decision between you and a competitor, they may find their project requires a keen eye, someone who won’t miss the small things—and they’ll pass you up.
And it takes a lot of work to convince someone that their first impressions are wrong.
In a study referenced by The Guardian, students still held the same first impression of their instructor that they had formed 2 years previously. And the original impression was made before the students had even sat through a lecture by the instructor.
Is it worth potentially being rejected by a boss, lover, or client, simply because you made a sloppy first impression, thanks to an unkempt beard?
Perhaps you’re beginning to see the importance of your grooming habits.
How Does Your Beard Impact First Impressions?
Most people have two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. And while it will vary quite a bit, most people have hair on the top of their head in a reasonably normal manner.
But for men, you either have a beard, or you don’t have a beard, and that’s a significant thing to notice about a person.
I know that anecdotally, my eye is drawn to a beard almost instantly.
It usually covers a large portion of the face, it is usually darker than the skin on which it sits, and even though beards have never been more popular, they are still not the common, or expected, look.
So, people are going to notice your beard, that’s point number one.
Point number two is that beards have the equal tendency to significantly improve or significantly undermine your look and attractiveness.
I’m not a “beard bro,” I don’t profess that every man should simply throw away his razor and start fighting bears with the rest of us beard wearers. So I have no problem admitting that a beard can be a horrible thing.
A quick note about that. I still maintain that most men can look good with a beard. It’s just that many men end up looking ridiculous because they don’t follow basic grooming rules, as we’ll talk about below.
So you’re drawing attention to your beard, and it has the potential to be ruinous to your appearance.
To see the more positive impacts of beards, check out my article on Order of Man here.
And we’ve learned that first impressions are made instantaneously, and that they’re hard to break.
It should be increasingly obvious that the way your beard looks matters.
This is why I encourage you to view your beard like a handshake.
It is your introduction. It informs others around you who you are. It can make or break you.
Don’t let your beard be a limp fish introductory hand shake.
Take control, and achieve greatness. Here’s how:
Beard Grooming Is Manly
Let’s just get this out of the way.
Grooming your beard properly is manly.
And yes, I have to say it. I’ve talked to men who think that taking care of appearances is a woman’s domain.
Needless to say, those guys are prone to making mistakes and ruining a first impression.
Groom Your Beard To Perfection
Now it’s time for a bit of how-to.
First of all, make sure you’re rocking a beard style that actually suits you.
Generally some variation of the full beard is going to look best, so before you try to go crazy and trim it into a “business beard” by cutting down the cheekline and bringing the neckline up, just let it grow naturally, and see what you’ve got to work with.
A quick warning: a neckline that’s too high is one of the worst beard mistakes you can make. Your neckline should be trimmed about 1/2 to 1 inch above the Adam’s apple. Just about the point where your neck and head meet.
With a great style chosen and crafted, you’ll need to focus on the following to get a great beard:
1. Condition with balm or oil
The first commandment when it comes to beard grooming is to condition that sucker.
Your beard hairs are dry and thick. That can turn your face into a mess.
To combat that, and improve the health of your beard and your skin underneath, you should apply a beard balm or a beard oil daily. Applying right after you towel dry your beard out of a shower is usually best.
The natural oils in these products will help to condition and strengthen the hairs, making them softer, shinier, and easier to tame.
2. Style and clean with a brush and comb
If your beard is long enough, there’s nothing more pleasing than the comb and brush combo.
When my beard was at its longest—which was about 10 months growth, mostly untrimmed—I would apply beard oil to coat all of the hairs, then comb it through. Then I would apply beard balm as a top styling layer, and then brush my beard.
The combination worked like a charm.
Some guys like just a comb, some like just a brush. I recommend experimenting with both and seeing what you like.
The brush is handy because not only does it help to style the beard, but it can actually improve the health of your face and beard.
It can pull out discarded beard hairs, pull away dead skin cells from the face that are stuck in the beard, and help disperse the oils (both the ones you’re applying and the ones naturally made by your body).
Whatever you choose, try to go for a quality item and don’t brush more than once per day, or it’ll be overkill and you can actually damage the hair.
3. Wash properly, but don’t shampoo regularly
Do not shampoo your beard daily.
Same goes for your hair, but it is especially important with your beard.
If you shampoo daily, you’re stripping the good oils out of your hair, leaving it dry and brittle and prone to split ends.
Basically you’ll end up doing damage while you think you’re doing your beard a service. That sucks.
Rinse your beard daily, to be certain, and use your hands to scrub it clean. You can even apply a conditioner a few times per week, and shampoo once or twice weekly.
Make sure you spend more time than you think you need on the rinsing stage. There is nothing worse than the shampoo residue in your beard making it look like you’ve got a bad case of beardruff throughout the day as it flakes onto your shirt.
4. Keep things in check with mini-trims
This is a new one for me, and I’m glad I’ve added it to my grooming arsenal.
Once every week or two, I will go in with my shears and trim 10, maybe 20 hairs.
It’s an almost laughably small amount.
But those few hairs can make a huge difference.
Sometimes a few hairs appear to grow faster than others. Some hairs simply won’t lie flat.
Your beard ends up looking a little fuzzy around the edges. You probably wouldn’t notice it unless you saw yourself after you trimmed, but once you do see yourself after a trim, you’ll be amazed at the difference.
I’ll just go in very slowly and make a few trims to hairs that are simply out of place, even after brushing. Take off the ends of those hairs and the beard suddenly looks much more streamlined and purposeful.
Remember, your beard is a handshake. Don’t let it be a limp fish! Groom it properly and you’ll make significantly better first impressions, which will lead to people viewing you in a better light, thereby opening up more opportunities for you to succeed.