Why people look weird after shaving their beard [The psychology]

there are times in our lives where we want a drastic change. Maybe it is when we feel emotional and want our external self to reflect our internal self. No matter the motive for cutting or shaving your beard and changing your style dramatically, sometimes you can look weird after shaving your beard. Or you may notice that someone else has got a different beard style or removed their beard completely, and it looks really weird.

If you have shaved your beard and feel weird, you may have sudden social conspicuousness where radically altering your outward appearance gives you the feeling of sticking out in a crowd. Habituation means that you will notice a change immediately if a friend shaves their beard.

If you have to shave your beard, it can be very startling when you look in the mirror. You may notice that your face is a different shape from what you remembered it, and you may also notice that your skin is a little bit redder and swollen than you remember it being after shaving.

All of these reasons, and more, are discussed in the sections below. Some of them have an interesting psychological grounding that explains perfectly why you feel weird after shaving your beard, or someone looks weird after going through a large style change.

Sudden Social Conspicuousness

If it is you who has recently changed your style and gone to the lengths of removing a beard completely, you may be experiencing the sudden social conspicuousness created by the new hairstyle syndrome. It is a psychological feeling and can be felt in two ways.

  • Firstly, you may see your new style as a social asset where you feel amazing about it and create a new sense of confidence.
  • Secondly, this feeling may feel like a social liability and mean that you are very self-conscious about your look.

We have all experienced versions of this when we have purchased new clothes, changed our hairstyle dramatically, or lost weight.

The one thing that unites both the positive and negative feelings of sudden social conspicuousness is that you have deviated from a former version of yourself. You may have moved towards a better version of yourself (as you imagine it), or you may feel like you have got further away from the ideal version of yourself.

Because you now feel very different about how you feel, you assume that strangers will also notice this change. Unless they are particularly good friends, family, or workmates, a lot of the time, they will notice and then move on with their lives. They will not think about your new decision for much of the time at all.

I started going bald at the age of 30, and I decided to completely shave off my hair and go to the full shaped head look. I can assure you that it only took two or three meetings with people before they stopped mentioning anything about my new look.

The same will happen with your new beard style.

A single aspect of a person’s appearance rarely dominates the perceptions a stranger has of them. Beards are a very prominent part of the way people look, but after a couple of times without a beard, people will forget what you looked like before. In the same way, when you look at old photos of yourself, you forget what you looked like when you were younger.

Slight swelling on face

Another reason why you may look weird after you have shaved off the beard is that your face may be puffy from the irritation caused by shaving.

Regular shaving of your face hardens up the skin around your mouth and cheeks. The constant irritation thickens the skin slightly and means that it can stand up to the rigours of coming into contact with a sharp metal blade.

If you shave your face every day, redness and the puffiness generated by shaving is barely noticeable.

You may remember when you were first learning to shave, and your skin became incredibly sensitive after using a blade on your skin.

If you are shaving your beard for the first time in a long time, your skin has softened up, and it is not resilient to the shaving motions and materials used against your skin.

Shaving off a large beard means that you will have two past the tremor and the razorblade across your face numerous times, increasing the amount of irritation you experience.

Being a good beard owner means that you have been moisturising and nourishing the skin underneath your beard for several months or years. The nourishment we need to provide to our beards means that our skin also becomes very sensitive. Your beard hairs have been covering the cheeks and face areas for a while. The skin underneath has become softer and less able to stand up to slight irritation caused by shaving or rubbing.

To overcome the redness and slight swelling that can occur after shaving a long beard for the first time, apply a good moisturiser and use an ice pack to cool down the skin’s surface. This icepack will constrict the capillaries under the skin and significantly reduce the redness and swelling that you can see.

Change of face shape under the beard

Another reason someone (you or a friend) may look weird after shaving their beard is because of the change of their facial shape upon shaving.

Beards are a funny thing, and they hide the exact shape of the face. People are always amazed when I point out where my chin finishes and the beard begins.

Also, if you have had a beard for a particular;y long time, your face may have changed shape while you have had a beard. It may be very different from the shape you remember having when you first started growing your beard.

You may have put on or lost weight around your face. Since growing a beard, I have taken up running, and I doubt that my face will be much less round than when I first started growing my beard.

This change can also increase your sudden social conspicuousness feeling.

Potential lighter skin colour

Beards provide a lot of shade and cover for the front part of your face. This cover means that the skin underneath the beard has not been exposed to as many ultraviolet rays or harsh temperature conditions as your forehead or cheeks.

As the skin is subjected to light and other environmental situations, it can become weathered. The melanin in your skin reacts to UV light by darkening. Skin exposed to extreme temperatures and wind factors can also cause the skin to become darker and more weathered-looking.

If you have had a beard for a particularly long time, the skin underneath the beard may be in a better condition than your forehead and cheeks.

This fact is particularly true if you have been a diligent bearded person and have been applying beard oil and moisturiser to your beard and skin. A bearded person’s skin is very well looked after in general.

Habituation

Humans have an uncanny ability to get used to almost anything.

Habituation is a decrease in emotional or any response to a stimulus after repeated exposures. For example, if you have a new sound in your environment, you will notice it immediately. However, as you become accustomed to the sound, you will pay less attention to the noise, and your response will decrease.

Habituation is an example of non-associative learning which means there is no reward or punishment associated with the stimulus.

If your friend has a beard, likely, you have just got used to them being someone with a beard. However, as soon as the characteristics of that person change, you will notice it immediately.

Sometimes the fact that we notice it immediately can mean that we perceive that change as weird. It is not weird. It is just different.

Given enough time, you will also become habitually used to your new look (or your friend’s new look) if you (they) have recently shaved your (their) beard.

Summary

In this article, we have covered all the reasons why some people are particularly weirded out by someone shaving their beard.

It is an interesting grounding in psychology, but as with most things, most people will get used to a person without a beard after shaving it within a relatively short amount of time.

The Author


Andy Stapleton

Andy is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He is an avid beard grower and after many years of growing and trialing different beard styles, he started this blog to share the tips, tricks, and science that he has learned along the way!