How to Decide If Your Beard Is Too Patchy to Keep

You should start by snapping a few photos, because you should never, ever trust a mirror.

Man looking at shaved face and beard in mirror.

How to Decide If Your Beard Is Too Patchy to Keep

Like many of us, you may have been using the last year as an opportunity to experiment with your facial hair. And like many of us, you may be, well, disappointed with the less-than-magnificent result. It can be easy to disparage your own looks, though, and you might just need a little guidance when it comes to deciding whether your beard — or rather, your random patches of hair — are actually worth keeping.

For advice, I reached out to Allan Peterkin, author of One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair and coauthor of The Bearded Gentleman: The Style Guide to Shaving Face. Now grab yourself a mirror so we can take a look-see.

First of all, Peterkin says, “Take good head-on and side-shot photos, and take honest stock of what you’ve got. Romantic partners should also be consulted about the actual success of your recent beard experiment.” That way, you can at least have a few different perspectives, even if only from the lens of a camera, which can help you be more honest with yourself.

Next, Peterkin says, “Play to your strengths. Keep what’s full, like your goatee, sideburns or stache, and shave off what looks wispy or thin. You can have combos, like sideburns and a mustache, if you’d like.” Now, this part can be a little tricky, because deciding whether your beard is worth keeping is exactly what brought you here. But remember, nobody says a beard needs to be all or nothing, and if you have a strong stache game, but a weak cheek game, roll with your stache and get rid of any patchy bits that detract from it. (Also, consider a mustache with stubble, it can look great!)

If you have just a few patchy bits, though, Peterkin explains, “Shaving down to stubble all over your face is another good strategy for more even-looking coverage. Beard dyes, if used judiciously, can sometimes make lighter, grey portions of your beard look more full and uniform.”

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And if, in the end, you decide that your beard is too lackluster to keep any of it, Peterkin says now is a fine time to give up on the bearded look. “Many grooming experts predict a symbolic return to ‘clean-shaven’ faces post-COVID-19,” he explains. “Facial hair cycles and styles are always cyclical. Since this current beard craze has been going on for 25 years, the pendulum may indeed swing right back.” In which case, we got you, bro.