How to Maintain a Perfect Five O'Clock Shadow

Fine-tune your facial hair into casual, confident, and powerfully rugged stubble.

It’s the season of the shadow. Sported by celebrity, athlete, and average men alike, the five o’clock shadow clocks the face with enough facial hair to keep you from looking like a child, but without the months-long time commitment or loudness of a full beard.

For the most part, growing a good-looking shadow is as easy as not shaving for a couple days. But according to the Blind Barber’s head barber Rob McMillen, there are a few small things to mind if you want to really nail the details.

Find a Quality Trimmer

This will be the key piece for maintaining your scruff, but also your go-to tool for all shaving techniques you may want to explore in the future. Do your research and buy one that's well-reviewed, with easily adjustable length settings.

Keep an Eye on the Length

McMillen says that normally a sixteenth to a quarter of an inch is five o’clock territory, and anything over is veering more toward an actual beard. That means you're gonna want to set your trimmers at the shortest or second-shortest setting. “But this also depends on how dense and quickly your hair grows,” he says. So if your beard is a bit sparser, you may want to compensate with a little extra length.

Get Acquainted with Your Setup

Gauge your trimmer’s settings, and figure out exactly which one is right for your ideal stubble. As McMillen says, “You always want to start on a larger setting and work your way down just to make sure you’re not taking off too much, and to find the appropriate trimmer length.”

Take Care of Your Skin

Post and pre-shave treatment will help slightly to keep your skin soft, though you don't need to baby it. Just cleanse with a gentle face wash and clean your trimmer before using it, then rub in some aftershave or moisturizer to soothe any irritation and keep your face from drying out.

Keep It Up

Once you've got the length where you want it, keep it in the sweet spot. Depending on how fast your hair grows, you can go without trimming anywhere between 5-7 days, or 3-5 days if your hair grows more quickly.

Once you get the hang of all that, a good five o'clock shadow requires almost zero effort to maintain. Quickly taking a trimmer to your face once a week or so will keep you looking scruff and suave for days.

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