I hate all of my facial hair options
January 25, 2021 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Caucasian male, mid-fifties. Shaving takes forever. Growing a beard creates other problems. More inside.

1. I have to shower for a long time before my beard gets soft enough to shave. Currently I use an electric, then touch up with a disposable razor. I feel like this two step process is cumbersome and I'm wasting the natural gas due to the long shower.

2. If I grow my beard out, I look about ten years older, because it is gray. I can live with that, but then I have two other beard problems:
a) It gets itchy and feels like I can't clean my face and b) I start developing minor beard dandruff.

Please help me solve this non-vital but still vexing beard problem, thank you.
posted by mecran01 to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Keep it trimmed to a very very short length like what Jon Hamm does and use an exfoliant and moisturizer.
posted by phunniemee at 9:09 AM on January 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

I think you'd be a natural fit for the sort of permanent stubble/very short beard look. You can even dye it if you want, but lots of people will think the grey looks good too.

You could trim it quickly and easily with a wahl trimmer, every maybe 3-5 days depending on speed of growth and desired length.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:16 AM on January 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Came here to suggest the very-short-beard option, which is what I do. I use the very shortest comb on my Wahl clippers every 2-3 days -- takes about 20 seconds. As long as I keep it that short, I don't find it itchy (and I don't use any kind of moisturizer or anything).
posted by sriracha at 9:24 AM on January 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

I have the same short grey beard. You can also use beard oil if it itches - you’ll only need a few drops.
posted by rd45 at 9:28 AM on January 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Instead of showering to soften your beard, you can use a steaming hot towel (just soak it in very hot water and wring out slightly) and drape it around your face like at the barber shop. It will probably take around the same amount of time, or less since it will be much hotter than the shower water. Also did you know you can use rinse-out conditioner on your beard?

Almost every clean shaven dude I know uses a similar two step process. Some do just use a (non-disposable) razor, bc they shave every day.
posted by ananci at 9:32 AM on January 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I used to keep my entire head and face clean-shaven, but now I just use a pair of Wahl clippers to shave down to the lowest level (i.e. without a blade guard) every couple of days and the consensus of opinions is that the "permanent stubble" looks better on me that way. Once every couple of weeks I will go entirely smooth with a good quality blade, but I still use the electric clippers first.

Also n-thing both the hot towel softening method, and the necessity of exfoliation and moisturization on your entire face, not just the shavey parts.
posted by angry.polymath at 9:58 AM on January 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have very stiff facial hair too. I've found that applying plain old 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner softens it up.

In fact I can take a normal hot shower, get out, and then apply this with some warm water and lather it up and it works 10x better than any shaving cream I've ever used. And that's with a cheapo Schick Xtreme3. But the conditioner is the key.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:23 AM on January 25, 2021

Response by poster: These are all wonderful answers that are leaving me optimistic about my beard future. Keep it coming.
posted by mecran01 at 10:26 AM on January 25, 2021

I wonder if the electric razor is part of the problem. Since you already have and use a disposable razor, maybe use that instead? Any time I've ever used an electric, my stubble has been a lot more stiff and uncomfortable than when I wet shave.

I've used the wet-towel method, and it does work. I don't do it often, though, because it's pretty cumbersome, and if your current process is too much, that might be a little even more so. I also use a facial moisturizer, but I think even just rubbing hand cream on your face softens my beard just a little.

One thing I've done for most of my life is shaving every other day. When I was younger, my beard was sparse and slow-growing enough that it took a couple of days to really notice that I'd skipped a day. I kept the habit even as it started getting thicker (although, full disclosure, I have gone back to shaving nearly every day at this point). My general experience has been that longer stubble is easier to shave, so skipping a day would let it get a little longer and thus easier.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:55 AM on January 25, 2021

I've never tried them, so I don't know how they compare to the 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner method suggested above, but there are products designed specifically to soften beards for shaving, for example Furbo Sansdolor Pre-shave Gel.
posted by middlethird at 11:47 AM on January 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I realize it's anathema to my only-showering USA brethren, but this clean-shaven dude's been shaving in the bathtub since his 20s. Immersion shaving, we call it. Yes, it can lead to a serious ring, but the results are worth it -- here's what you do. Lay down in the bath, get comfortable and begin shaving -- turn your head first one way (but not so much that you can't breathe), then the other, holding your multi-blade razor in your good hand, and checking your progress with the other. When done, lather up and finish your bath. (As I've joined the anti-soap brigade, I only actually wash my pits, now. But I used to shampoo my hair at this point, also.) You could then shower, if the bathwater residue bothers you; but I never notice it. You don't actually need any shaving creams or lotions!
posted by Rash at 12:16 PM on January 25, 2021

Middle aged man with male pattern baldness here. I gave up on my electric razor way back in college, and switched to a cartridge blade and gel. That was much better on my skin than the electric, which struggled with my beard hair. When I started losing too much hair I got a Headblade and went for the clean look all over. A little more than ten years ago I switched to wet shaving in the shower, and that's even better than the gel was. A few years after that I switched from a cartridge blade to a double edged safety razor for my face, and that's even better for me than the cartridge was. I still use a cartridge in my Headblade, because my experiments with using a safety razor on my scalp didn't go well. I can shave my face and head in about 20 minutes, including five just to get the lather going.

If you want a clean shaven look rather than the shadow or stubble you'd get with a trimmer, I'd advise you to start at least with a cartridge and a gel (I liked Aveeno the best), and if that's an improvement in time and/or irritation then you can try wet shaving and/or a safety razor. I find the safety razor to be calming, in a way, because as long as I'm using it I'm 100% focused on technique. But there's no shame in just going with Better Shave Club or Harry's or Gillette, if one of them works better for you than an electric.
posted by fedward at 1:00 PM on January 25, 2021

Plain short stubble skimmed over lightly with generic hair-clippers once or twice a week, for the least amount of effort. The same clippers for short hair-cuts.
posted by ovvl at 2:05 PM on January 25, 2021

If you do decide to go down the clippers & beard route, I highly recommend a clipper with a fixed guard. a) You don't risk the guard slipping mid-trim and b) I've never had very good luck with adjustable guards and consistent results - the hair slips between the guards and the cutting head.

I use these every week, but I can stretch it to two before I start feeling scraggly. 3mm is long enough for me to feel like it's a beard and not just that I skipped a few days, but short enough that none of the annoying maintenance downsides start to accumulate like beard-druff and complicated greasy beard versus overdried face. Conveniently, I just run it over my head too in these times where barber access is hit and miss.

(To be fair, 3mm is _also_ long enough that the gray is also pretty obvious. Eh.)
posted by Kyol at 2:15 PM on January 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Incidentally, oldstyle, heavy, plug-in-to-an-outlet wahl clippers with fixed guards meant for hair salons/barbers are real Buy-It-For-Life material - cost 40-50bux.

I bought mine in 2010 and they're still ticking with nary a dent; i expect them to outlast me. I shave probably an average of once a fortnight, oil the blade every year, store them in a ziploc.....I've replaced the blade once.

The one i have is a Wahl 8451 5-Star Series Magic Clip Hair Clipper V9000

Do some googling for the real salon pair with a HEAVY motor. These things were designed to shave recruits heads at army inductions - because they are overpowered, they never feel like they will jam or snag, nor slow down if they encounter any inhomogeneity, no matter how scraggly the beard is.
posted by lalochezia at 8:12 AM on January 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

For thirty years or so I've shaven in the shower.

Just touch up the sideburn lines before you go in, and at the end of the shower, your beard may well be soft enough for an ordinary razor to do the job. You can tell if you're done by touch, and you can do a second go-over on rough spots.
posted by nothing.especially.clever at 2:09 PM on January 26, 2021

Response by poster: Part of the problem is that since I only use soap on my armpits and nether regions, in order to protect my skin's microbiome, my showers are absurdly short.
posted by mecran01 at 7:39 PM on January 26, 2021

Hair clippers can be used without the guard for close face trimming, it's a vaguely close-enough but not-quite shave without fuss that leaves a fairly short stubble. I dampen my face to soften those beard-hairs, towel-off lightly, and trim before taking a shower. This is the least-effort system for a lazy person such as myself after years of experimentation, but you will have to decide if this particular look works for you.

I've used a reliable light-duty Vidal Sassoon clipper for many years, but I have fine hair so maybe I can get away with it better.
posted by ovvl at 4:42 PM on January 28, 2021

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