Your beard coverage ranks somewhere between stupendous and outstanding. It draws admiring glances and accentuates your personal style. Not only does it flatter your face, but it also protects it. Your father taught you how to shave, but his own facial hair inspired you to pencil whiskers into your future. Is achieving your dad’s family-vacation-photo level beard a cause for celebration? Absolutely! Is it also the cause of those breakouts that have been driving you crazy? Probably. Your dad always blamed his itchy face on the local mosquito population instead of his majestic mutton chops, but here’s a breakdown of how beards cause acne.
The beard is just a little too good at its job. It helps keep the skin safe from harmful radiation, nasty weather, and maybe even a few of those annoying mosquitos. While that layer of protection shields your face from outside threats, it also cuts it off from outside help. Moreover, it frequently fails to protect the skin from itself.
The beard is a dedicated guardian, but sweat is no stranger to the daily grind either. An essential tool in regulating body temperature, sweat puts in the time to keep you from getting heatstroke. For what it’s worth, sweat’s smelly reputation comes from its combination with the bacteria on the skin, rather than the sweat itself. In fact, sweat actually has an antimicrobial effect, so long as it doesn’t linger on the surface of the skin. And that’s where the beard comes in. Sweat is an escape artist. The beard is a gatekeeper. The inevitable stalemate results in a sort of stagnant sweat marsh. Unlike the kind of gel moisturizer for oily skin that is designed to improve the surface’s ability to retain hydration without clogging the pores, the beard is not providing an ideal holding pattern.
Sweat isn’t the only thing caught in the beard trap. The grime, dead skin, and other debris that would ordinarily be worked loose with sweat and sloughed off by regular cleaning is now matted around the roots of that beard hair. Add in the residue of a greasy breakfast that otherwise might have been dabbed off with a napkin or swept away by the righteous cleaning action of a charcoal face wash. Now you’ve got a stew going. While the beard is not a health hazard that some make it out to be, it doesn’t take a microscope to see that it holds onto a lot of the face’s crap. Nor does it require an advanced degree to realize that the beard might put a wrench in the entire exfoliation process.
You don’t need a microscope to see that debris, but the beard does make it hard to see to the root of the matter. That makes it harder to monitor the conditions for a breakout. Ideally, skin care is about prevention rather than reaction, but the visible signs of skin irritation get our attention and our assistance. You might be glad that your beard conceals your acne, especially in its early stages, but don’t let it become an excuse to ignore the issue. That’s like trying to hide a fire with newspaper – it might obscure the flames for a moment, but it increases the odds that you burn your house down.
Even after you’ve been alerted to the threat, you are hampered in your ability to deal with it. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but not only is that beard causing the breakouts, but your beard habits might also be making them worse. Think about your daily interaction with your beard. Are you further inflaming the skin irritation by frantically scratching at it? Are you absentmindedly adding to the oily cocktail by stroking it after you overdid the beard oil? Have you ever paused in your cleaning routine when you reached the beard line, uncertain what to use or how to proceed?
But don’t despair! Your beard might be causing breakouts, but that doesn’t mean breakouts will cause you to lose that beard. The good news is that the science of skincare has come a long way since your pops started taking you on those fishing trips. He may still swear by his old rod and reel, but there’s no reason to feel the same nostalgia for those pesky beard pimples if there’s a way to remove them from the picture. So as you replenish the tacklebox for your annual Father’s Day lake trip, consider taking advantage of those scientific breakthroughs to eliminate those annoying breakouts. If the menfolk return from the expedition marginally less itchy and irritable, it’s more likely to impress mom than a tally of all the fish that were almost caught.