Masks, eh? Who’d have thought it? The hot, new, enforced-by-law trend of the decade. The things are everywhere; in shops, on the streets, in taxis, trains and Ubers. Even major fashion houses have started selling them (£180 for a Louis Vuitton Face Mask? Count me in!). But they’re more than accessories, obviously. Masks — in all their elastic-eared, voice-muffling, government-mandated glory — are here to save our lives.
But, if that’s the case, then why do they hurt so much? You know what we mean. For any man blessed with a beard, masks are a curse. A necessarily evil, of course, but itchy, scratchy and unsightly nonetheless. But it doesn’t have to be so bristling. So, to remain both safe and stylish as you brave a new masked year, listen to a top St. James’s barber as he answers: How do you trim a mask-ready beard?
How long should our beards be under our masks?
It’s the sensible place to start. After all, if your beard is so bushy that a mask can hardly cover it, you should already be thinking about a tidy-up. But how short should you be going? Is it best to shave off your beard entirely — or is there a safe, sanitary sweet spot you could trim it to?
“If a man simply can’t live without his beloved beard,” reasons Michael Symeon, Master Barber at Truefitt & Hill, “I’d suggest he keeps the length between three and six millimetres. If the beard is any longer, it will, over time, irritate the skin when a mask is worn — as well as give you much less protection against Covid-19.”
Where should we be shaving our beard line?
Another pertinent point. Should we align our beard line with the edge of our mask, or instead let it grow beyond the confines of our face coverings? Again, we turned to Michael Symeon of Truefitt & Hill — the world’s oldest barbershop — for advice.
“It would be a good idea to shave in your beard line where the edge of your mask sits,” says the Master Barber, “as this will give you greater protection around the rim of the mask. To do this, you need to mark the middle of your neck area — around two to three millimetres above where your mask sits — and then follow your natural jawline to just below your ears.”
What are the best tools for precision shaving?
So you’ve made your plan. But how will you trim your beard to the strict, specific line that lies just inside your mask? It’s a precision job — and one you can’t afford to get wrong. Truefitt & Hill, Royal Warrant holders and bastions of grooming tradition, unsurprisingly suggests that a wet shave should win out.
“Many people aren’t aware of this,” Symeon adds, “but on the back of a standard Gillette Fusion cartridge, you’ll find a single blade that is perfect for marking-in guidelines for both beards and goatees. A double-edged razor is also a great option because it has a single blade — which is perfect for adding definition to your beard line.”
Should we be protecting the skin beneath our beards?
So you’ve marked up your beard line and trimmed it tidily with a one-blade or double-edged razor. What next? Is it time to mask up, or should you be paying attention to the skin beneath your beard? Even without the extra face coverings, beards have been shown to irritate neglected skin. Could masks be causing even more damage?
“You should remove your mask whenever it is safely possible to do so,” advises Symeon. “This will let your skin breathe — as it will be starved of oxygen.
“Also, refrain from using beard-styling products,” he adds, “and instead use facial moisturisers. From Truefitt & Hill, I can recommend our Advanced Facial Moisturiser. It’s important to protect the skin beneath your beard — as well as regularly washing and conditioning the beard itself for increased hygiene and cleanliness.”
Looking for something to spritz? Could this have been James Bond’s aftershave of choice?
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