How To Choose The Perfect Stubble Length


Choosing the perfect stubble length for your face is an exciting process. It isn’t rocket science, but you’ve got to be systematic about it. 

There may not be an ideal stubble length, but there’s most likely a length that suits your face better than the others. 

Is there a wrong answer? Probably not. But is there a right answer? Almost certainly, yes. 

That’s what I’m about to teach you. 

How to select the correct stubble length to best suit your face, your needs, and your personal preferences. 

Let’s get to it. 

An Introduction To Stubble Lengths

The beauty of stubble is that it’s simple

There isn’t a whole lot you can choose from. Stubble is very strictly defined and anything outside of this definition is simply something else. 

Stubble is defined as facial hair that is less than 5mm in length. 

So, anything more than clean-shaven and anything less than 5mm should technically be called stubble. 

Whether it’s trimmed or styled into a goatee, a chinstrap, or anything else, if it falls within this length range, it’s stubble.

If it’s more than 5mm in length, it’s a “short beard” at the very least and shouldn’t be called stubble. 

Having a strict definition of what stubble is might seem restrictive, but in many ways it’s the first step in choosing your ideal length. 

Here are the four broad stubble length ranges between 0mm and 5mm you can choose from: 

  • Very Short Stubble: < 1mm
  • Short Stubble (a.k.a light stubble): 1-2mm
  • Medium Stubble: 3mm
  • Heavy Stubble: 4-5mm

The goal is to get to grips with what length range works best for you. What’s great about this is that experimenting and finding the answer doesn’t take long. 

Even heavy stubble would only take between 7 and 12 days to grow, on average. 

These stubble length categories don’t just differ in length. Each of them leads to an entirely different look and feel. 

How To Choose The Perfect Stubble Length

Going from shortest to longest, it’s time to find out what each of these stubble length ranges would be able to do for you. 

Each of them has their own benefits and their own downsides; this is the knowledge you should use to choose your ideal length. 

Very Short Stubble

very short stubble
The 5 o’clock shadow produces a gentle shadowing effect. It’s incredibly subtle

This is stubble that’s less than 1mm long. It’ll usually take less than a day to grow from a clean-shaven face. 

But remember, whenever I throw an “estimated rate of growth” out there, that’s all it is. An estimate

The rate of stubble growth can vary widely among men, so don’t worry if you don’t quite hit these targets. You may be a little quicker, or a little slower. 

The question is – is very short stubble for you? 

Here are the main benefits and downsides you need to consider. 

Benefits

A major benefit to very short stubble is its ability to add a light shadowing effect to the lower portion of the face. 

This is great for contouring and adding definition to the facial structure. It makes the jawline and the cheekbones look sharper in a very subtle way. 

This simple tinting effect makes very short stubble look slimming. Because of this, it’s a great choice for men with a rounder or chubbier face. 

Another benefit of this stubble length is that it’s very versatile indeed. You won’t ever have to worry about whether the stubble looks professional or not. 

It’s so short and subtle that although the shadowing effect is powerful, the presence of the stubble itself is barely noticeable. 

Finally, very short stubble is great if you’re a man that hates shaving. There are plenty of men out there who do. 

Shaving can be irritating to the skin because the hair is being cut so close. This can put men off from doing it, particularly if they have sensitive skin. 

Trimming it down to very short stubble instead would still look neat and tidy like a clean-shaven face would. 

But because you’re not cutting the hair as close as you would be with shaving, there’s less soreness and irritation to the skin. 

Downsides

A downside of very short stubble is that it’s very hard to shape and style. 

There’s just not enough of it to easily shape into anything more than a simple, classic stubble beard with hair on the chin, cheeks, and mustache area, 

Even if you wanted to sculpt it into something a little more interesting, it probably wouldn’t be noticeable in the first place. 

But usually, this isn’t a problem. A man that chooses very short stubble isn’t looking for anything unique or complex. 

The light shadowing effect of a classic stubble beard is all they want. 

Another downside to be aware of is that it can look accidental if it’s not maintained properly. 

For instance, the 0.5mm beard is also known as a “5 o’clock shadow”. As the name suggests, it’s the length of facial hair you’d expect to grow as the working day comes to an end. 

It can simply look unshaven, unintentional, or accidental, instead of a sharp, sleek, and intentional stubble beard. 

Because of this, very short stubble needs to be well-maintained. It needs to be trimmed regularly to keep it looking even, and the neckline and cheek line (stubble borders) need to be well-defined. 

Maintaining permanent stubble is an art form in itself. 

Maintaining very short stubble is harder than you might initially think. A growth of even a millimeter is more noticeable at these very short lengths. 

You’ll need to trim it down every day to keep it within your desired length range. 

Short Stubble

Short stubble is also known as “light stubble”. It’s defined as facial hair that’s between 1 and 2mm long. 

short stubble
Short stubble is little more pronounced, but still subtle

It generally takes between 1 and 3 days to grow from a clean-shaven face. 

It may sound odd to define stubble length ranges in such small increments, but that’s really the whole point. 

Stubble is intricate and precise – understanding this will lead to the best results for you and your face. 

Benefits

A key benefit of short stubble is its ability to give off a relaxed and laid-back feel while still looking suave and sophisticated. 

Unlike very short stubble, it’s long enough to be noticeable. But it still looks neat and distinguished. 

It has very similar benefits to very short stubble. The length is still short enough to produce a nice shadowing effect on the lower face. 

It’s also short enough to be considered very, very versatile. There are very few instances where it wouldn’t be considered appropriate or professional. 

An additional benefit is that it isn’t long enough to get itchy. Longer stubble and short beards can become itchy, prickly, and uncomfortable, particularly when poorly-maintained. 

Short stubble just isn’t there yet. It’s very comfortable to have on your face. 

Downsides

Although short stubble is comfortable to have on your face, it usually doesn’t feel the same way when rubbing against the faces of others

Here’s a principle to get to grips with – the shorter the stubble, the sharper the edges. 

As stubble grows longer, the edges round off and the hairs feel less sharp. You may have had loved ones complain about the prickliness of your facial fur in the past. 

This may well be an issue and something you want to consider when making your stubble length choice. 

There are ways to soften stubble, but the results can be variable. In general, the easiest way to soften stubble is to simply grow it longer. 

The second point I want to mention here shouldn’t really be considered a “downside”, as it’s an important grooming habit to get used to. 

Let’s call it a “precaution” instead. 

Skincare is incredibly important, particularly when trimming very short or short stubble. The shorter you trim down, the higher the risk of skin irritation. 

In other words, the closer the blade comes to the skin, the greater the risk of skin soreness. 

If you’re a man that sometimes forgets to slather on some moisturizing cream after a trim or shave, short stubble may not be for you. 

Although I’d strongly advise that you get into the habit of regularly moisturizing after trimming to any length, you may want to go for a longer stubble length to save your skin the grief. 

Medium Stubble

medium stubble side profile

This stubble length is very popular indeed. It’s incredibly common, although the men who have it don’t usually know they fall within this range. 

It’s pretty simple – medium stubble is facial hair that’s 3mm in length. It takes around 5 days to grow on average. 

Let’s get to it. 

Benefits

As the name would suggest, medium stubble is a great compromise. That’s one of the main reasons it’s so popular. 

There are so many men who find that very short stubble and short stubble simply aren’t noticeable enough, while heavy stubble would be too noticeable or overbearing. 

3mm stubble provides a fantastic middle ground. Sitting in between short and heavy stubble, in many ways it provides the best of both worlds. 

It’s long enough to be very obvious and intentional-looking, while short enough to still remain versatile and (usually) professional. 

Medium stubble is also long enough to shape and style easier than short stubble would be. There’s just more hair there to work with. 

The longer the stubble, the easier it is to style and shape. 

It’s also just about short enough to produce that gentle shadowing effect that adds definition to the jawline and cheekbones. 

This effect isn’t as pronounced as it is with shorter stubble, but it’s more pronounced than with heavy stubble which is long enough to obscure the bone structure a little. 

Medium stubble also looks more masculine than shorter stubble, which is great if you’re trying to rid yourself of a babyface. 

Finally, it isn’t quite long enough to become itchy. This can start to become a problem as we reach a heavier stubble length, as you’ll soon find out. 

Downsides

There aren’t many downsides to this stubble length – another reason why it’s so popular. 

One thing to note is that although it is short enough to be considered versatile, there are some workplaces where it just might not fly. 

For example, corporate offices that pride themselves on clean-cut appearances and dress codes may not approve of medium stubble, but they may let you get away with short stubble. 

This is just something to be aware of. 

Other than that, as long as you trim it regularly and define the borders, you really can’t go too wrong with this glorious stubble length. 

Heavy Stubble

We’re getting a little more rugged here people. 

the guide to a heavy stubble

Heavy stubble is defined as facial hair that’s between 4 and 5mm in length. It takes between 7 to 12 days to grow on average. 

As stubble gets to this longer length range, the time it takes to grow is more variable. But this length of time is a pretty safe bet. 

Benefits

A key benefit of heavy stubble is just how masculine it can look. 

To pull out some objective evidence, it was deemed The most attractive beard length by an Australian study in 2013. 

It’s a manly option for men not willing to commit to a fuller, longer beard. It’s also easier to maintain than a longer, woodsman-esque beard. 

Other than its intense masculinity and ruggedness, another key benefit of heavy stubble is that it’s the softest stubble length range. 

As stubble gets longer, it gets softer. The 5mm beard is softer than the 4mm beard for this very reason. 

This may well become important if you’ve got a partner that hates the feel of stubble against their face. 

It can be very uncomfortable and for some people painful – a pretty common cause of conflict and trouble in paradise. 

Another benefit of heavy stubble may seem odd but is an increasingly popular and common practice to be aware of. 

What I’m talking about is the fact that heavy stubble is long enough to dye. Dying stubble is a great way to make it look thicker and fuller. Plus, it’s possible to do it without staining the skin if your technique is correct. 

Downsides

A downside of this length range is that it can be quite frustrating to shape the stubble

This may sound contradictory, as I literally just told you that the longer the stubble the easier it is to shape and style. 

This is still very much true. Heavier stubble is simpler to shape than medium and short stubble if you know what you’re doing, because there’s simply more hair to work with. 

But when you’re experimenting, it can be a little frustrating. 

The reason for this is that when trimming and shaping stubble, a slip-up or mistake could lead you to having to trim or shave everything off and start from square one. 

That’s fine – it’s a part of the process. 

But if you had to do this with heavy stubble, you’d need to trim everything down and wait a couple of weeks for it to grow long enough for you to try again. 

It isn’t the end of the world – just something to bear in mind. 

When comparing it with shorter stubble length ranges, another downside of heavy stubble is that it has higher maintenance requirements. 

It’s more likely to look scruffy or untidy than shorter lengths, so you’ll need to make an extra effort to ensure that the borders are well defined and the neck stubble is removed.

Applying beard oil on stubble is a good habit to get into, particularly with heavy stubble. It has great softening and moisturizing properties for both the stubble and the underlying skin. 

This isn’t something you’d even think of doing with shorter stubble lengths, but it’s something you may want to consider with heavy stubble. 

Finally, heavy stubble can itch. It may feel softer against the skin of a loved one. But it can still feel itchier and pricklier on your own face than shorter stubble would. 

It isn’t quite within the insufferable “awkward” phase of beard growth which usually falls within “short beard territory”, but for some men, it can feel pretty uncomfortable. 

Conclusion

There you have it – everything you need to know to make a fully informed decision. As you’ve probably gathered by now, there’s no such thing as the ideal stubble length. 

What works for one man may not work for another. 

But using this knowledge you should be able to find the stubble length that best suits your goals and personal preferences. 

Experiment and have fun with it.

Dilshan

A men's grooming obsessive looking to elevate your grooming regimen one article at a time.

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