“Is that ferret sleeping on his mouth? Oh my God, maybe it’s some horrible skin condition. I think I’m a terrible person.” If you’ve had this train of thought, or something similar to it, you’re not alone. And no, you’re not a terrible person. Well, maybe you are – we don’t know you like that. Either way, a little facial hair-related confusion is understandable at this time of year. With Movember in full swing, it’s hard to miss seeing a guy with an awkward patchy something of “ugh” for the first half the month. Whether the messy man in question is trying to grow a razor-thin John Waters ‘stache or a full-blown lumberjack pelt, genetics can often make these dapper dreams more of a DO NOT disaster.
Some blame beards’ recent popularity on hipster culture influencing the mainstream. Maybe. Realistically, beards have been “a thing” forever but it seems in a decidedly more androgynous era of fashion, they have become a stark marker of masculinity for men. The question of the hour is then, “What if I can’t grow a beard?”
Traditionally, one would have to just suck it up and embrace his facial baldness. However, just as for women who want a bigger cup size or a tighter brow, men have cosmetic options. The beard implant trend has received significant coverage in media and Vv Magazine had to get our hands dirty with it as well. We chatted with facial plastic surgeon Dr. Ashlin Alexander of Ashlin Alexander Facial Cosmetic Surgery Clinic to get his professional opinion and experience. Interestingly, the average age of customers is between 25 and 45 (read: yuppies). Dr. Alexander notes, “Before 25, they’re not that concerned about [facial hair] and then after 45, if they’ve made it that far, they’re not so bothered anymore.”
Of more interest, however, may be the ethnic demographics of people getting beard implants. While our culture constructs the idea of the beard trend around white hipster men, in actuality, “You typically see it in ethnic populations that place weight or importance on facial hair and attach a certain masculinity to it. South Indian populations or Middle Eastern populations are the two most common groups we see come in for this sort of procedure.”
But what about the hipsters, you ask? While Dr. Alexander has seen an increase in recent years of white males getting beard implants, he does not believe the weightiness of hipster culture in Canada is enough to convince people to get the procedure. It’s certainly not a walk in the park: it takes generally a half-day to complete, you’re awake for it under local anaesthetic with oral sedation, and the hair follicles are harvested individually — most commonly from the back of your scalp. It’s also not cheap: generally costing anywhere from $3,000 for a little goatee work, and up to $9,000+ for a more a major transplant. “Part of the reason [beard implants are so expensive] is because it is such a delicate, precise, and artistic procedure, involving a whole team of assistants to help with the various steps. It’s surprisingly labour intensive.”
If you’re interested in the procedure but are worried about not being able to grab hair from your head due to baldness, you have options. “If somebody has advanced scalp balding but a very hairy back or chest, hairs can be harvested from these areas. The kicker here is that body hair generally has a different texture and has a lesser viability when transplanted, so it’s not ideal.”
Part of the reason we do not see as many hipsters getting beard implants in Canada may be because our culture is generally less comfortable with cosmetic procedures compared to America’s. Also, let’s be honest: Toronto is not a “fashion city.” The pressure to look a certain way in a metropolis like New York or L.A. is exponentially higher than it is here. As Dr. Alexander notes, “The U.S. market, in general, is a lot more commercialised, so there’s much more pressure to get a procedure done. The cosmetic world is so much bigger there than here. If you’re on the fence, with all the media pressure and big-budget advertising in the U.S., people might be more easily swayed towards a procedure south of the border.”
So are there alternatives to getting a beard implant? Anybody who has been watching this cycle of America’s Next Top Model— or who has spent more than 2 hours on the internet in the past 3 months — has likely heard of the infamous “beard weave.” More formally known as a lace-front beard, the principle is similar to the hair black women get hair woven onto their heads (a.k.a weaves). We spoke with the victim of Tyra’s newest Tyra-nny, Denzel Wells, who wore the beard weave for the extent of his time on the hit reality show.
While woven into Wells’ natural facial hair, the beard weave was also adhered to his face using prop glue; though the formula could cause breakouts. “The beard is God-awful. It is the most irritating thing you could put on your face. There’s the lace-front part, which you actually glue on your face, but to make it more real, we’d use my actual beard hair. We’d take the real beard, trim it down, and then glue the fake beard to it. Basically, you’d have hair poking through from every which direction.”
It’s also not the easiest thing to put on or take off. While Wells could do it himself, he found it much easier when aided by a makeup artist. This is because going on, it must be lined up with your face’s contour. Upon removal, the right amount of glue-dissolving solution has to be used or it can take off chunks of your skin. Yikes. In terms of day-to-day wear, Wells says, “Eating is the worst part. If the beard is on, you’re very constricted. You can’t really move your mouth a lot, move, or talk animatedly. If you open your mouth or jaw too wide, it’ll stretch and it will get loose. A big laugh or chuckle could make it move. As far as kissing… well, Marjana didn’t complain too much.”
Would he recommend it for somebody who wanted a fuller beard? “Hell no. Let’s put it like this: when I’m paid to recommend it to somebody, I’ll recommend it to somebody. Until then, I would not recommend it be worn by the everyday man. Until they get it as good as women’s lace-front weaves, you will not be seeing any beard weaves on my face again.”
We say just man up and fork it over for the beard implants.