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Stubble Vs Beard: Differences And How To Choose

August 1, 2023
Stubble Vs Beard: Differences And How To Choose

Choosing the right length for your facial hair is an incredibly personal decision. There’s no such thing as a “right” answer for any one person. But how does a man choose between stubble vs a beard? 

Maintaining stubble is better than growing a beard for men who prefer lower maintenance facial hair and are less tolerant of awkward and itchy phases of beard growth. However, full beards do generally look more masculine, more intentional, and more noticeable. As you can imagine, personal preference plays a huge role. 

The beauty of facial hair is that experimentation is easy. You don’t need to commit to a single decision for a long period of time. 

Don’t like having a beard? Just trim it back down to stubble – it’s simple. 

Understanding how the two are different is the key to figuring out which one is better for you and your needs. 

Let’s get to it. 

Stubble Vs Beards: The 5 Main Differences

As you read through these, reflect on which of these factors is important to you. That’s the first step to deciding which one is for you. 

1. Length

Length is the most objective difference between stubble and beards. Essentially, it’s the simplest way to define the two. 

Understanding what defines “stubble” and what defines a “beard” is crucial. If you don’t understand the difference, the rest of this article won’t even really make sense. 

Stubble refers to any length of facial hair that’s less than 5mm long. 

Medium Stubble


Once it crosses that 5mm length, it can officially be called a full beard. To be more specific, it crosses into “short beard” territory. 

Facial hair usually crosses the 5mm mark after around 8 to 12 days of growth from a clean-shaven face. Of course, the rate of growth varies quite a lot among men. 

It’s quite reasonable to call stubble a type of “beard”, but this can get confusing. 

A Short Beard
From Shutterstock

If you stick to this definition you’ll find it much easier to fully grasp the other differences between the two. 

You may not have realized this definition even existed. If length is something that’s important to you, you may already be able to figure out which is best for you. 

For instance, you may already know you wouldn’t want facial hair that’s 6mm, 7mm or 9mm in length. It may just be too long for you. 

That’s fine –  you’ve probably already got your answer. Stubble might be a better option for you. 

But if you’re still unsure, there are other factors to consider. 

2. Maintenance Requirements

I don’t want to give you the impression that beards have much greater maintenance requirements than beards or vice versa. 

Facial hair, no matter what length, will need to be maintained. 

But it’s pretty safe to say that the maintenance requirements for full beards are a little more intensive. 

Longer facial hair will need more rigorous taming and discipline, with long beards needing more than short beards. 

Trimming and shaping it will generally take longer. Once you’ve got a long beard, you may want to consider getting it done professionally. 

Slip-ups are more of a pain, as you could undo months of solid beard growth with a single awkward flick of your wrist with a trimmer. 

After around 3 to 4 weeks of growth, you’ll need to start using a boar bristle beard brush to train the beard to grow in your desired direction. It’s also great for re-distributing natural oils. 

After around 8 to 12 weeks of growth, you’ll probably need to start using a beard comb in addition. It’s necessary for detangling the deeper hairs within that glorious woodsman-esque beard you’ve got by now. 

Styling products may also be more important. 

For instance, beard balm for flattening stray hairs and keeping simple styles in place. Beard wax may be more suitable if you need a greater level of hold for the fancier stuff. 

Plus beard oil is essential. It nourishes, moisturizes, and softens beard hair and the underlying skin. This is especially more important in the awkward phases of growth. 

Let’s move on to stubble. 

Stubble may not require brushing, combing, or styling products. However, maintaining permanent stubble is no joke. 

Poorly-maintained stubble can look awful. It looks lazy, unmasculine, and accidental. 

You’ll need to trim it regularly, shape it, groom it, and perhaps even attempt to soften it if you feel it’s necessary. 

1 Week Stubble


You’ll also need to define the stubble neckline and get rid of unsightly neck stubble. Sharpening up the cheek line will make a big difference too. 

Applying beard oil on stubble, particularly heavy stubble, is also encouraged. It’s long enough to benefit from it’s nourishing properties. 

So, as you can see, although the maintenance requirements are a little more intense for full beards, stubble has different maintenance requirements you don’t want to ignore or forget. 

3. Comfort

Growing a beard can be a rough journey. You can fall into the trap of thinking it’s all going to be smooth sailing. 

One day you’re clean-shaven and the next you’re an unstoppable Viking with luscious locks sprouting from your face. 

But it doesn’t work like that. 

When choosing between stubble and a beard, you’ll need to take comfort into consideration. 

Light stubble and medium stubble are pretty comfortable. You most likely won’t even notice it’s there until you rub your palm over it. 

Heavy stubble is fairly comfortable, but you may start noticing a bit of an itch and prickle. 

Beards go through awkward phases of growth. The first one you’re likely to experience is usually around the 3-week mark. At this point, it’s longer than stubble and is officially a “short beard”. 

But it’s not quite long enough to brush effectively (although you should), the direction of growth is going to be all over the place, and length is going to be uneven. 

All of this adds up to a dreaded “beard itch”, or just a mild state of persistent discomfort. 

You’ll go through phases like this as your beard grows longer. If you don’t maintain it properly with regular brushing, combing, and oiling, it probably won’t just come in phases. 

It’ll always be uncomfortable. 

That’s something to bear in mind. 

Are you able to tolerate occasional phases of itching and discomfort when growing a beard? 

Are you willing to put in the effort to maintain it and prevent itching from becoming a more permanent problem? 

If not, sticking to stubble might be a better solution. 

As a side note, although stubble can feel more comfortable on your own face, it can sometimes cause problems with the faces of your loved ones. 

The shorter the stubble, the sharper it is to rub. If you’ve got a partner, they may be quick to remind you that those tiny bristles on your face feel like sandpaper on theirs. 

This is something to bear in mind. If it’s a problem for you, heavy stubble is generally going to feel a little softer than short or medium stubble. 

4. Versatility

This one might be a clincher for some men. 

The versatility of a certain length or style of facial hair refers to how easily it fits into different situations. 

Although beards are seriously trending at the moment, it’s no secret that not all settings welcome them with open arms. 

For instance, some workplaces may have a “no beards” policy. This may be the case in stricter, more corporate office settings. 

For this reason, stubble is generally thought to be the more versatile choice. You’re less likely to have trouble with it in a wider range of settings. 

Stubble might not be considered professional in all settings, but it’s going to be a safer bet. 

For example, that same corporate office might not even notice light or medium stubble on your face. But try rocking a Ducktail and Janet from H.R might be sending you a passive-aggressive email. 

Part of versatility is just not drawing as much attention. A basic, classic stubble beard is just less in-your-face than a full beard. A long beard is usually going to be more in-your-face than a short beard. 

So, if you feel as though you need versatility in your facial hair to get through your day-to-day life, stubble may well be a better option for you. 

5. Aesthetic Preferences

In other words, what do you actually think looks good? 

Do you just love the look of a full beard, with it’s intense, rugged masculinity?

Or do you just prefer the look of stubble? 

When we’re talking about looks, stubble beats full beards for some men in one crucial way.

It’s better at adding shadowing and definition to the lower part of the face. 

That darker “tint” that stubble adds to your face is great for defining the structure of your face. 

This is particularly true when it’s well maintained. 

It makes the jawline look sharper and the cheekbones more defined. What it does is essentially contour the face. 

heavy stubble
Heavy Stubble


A fuller beard doesn’t make your face look more chiseled. Thicker growth and longer hairs actually cover up and obscure the bone structure of your face. 

But that’s fine – this may actually be what you want. 

You may just love the look of a full beard – whether it’s short or long. It’ll usually be more attention-grabbing and it often looks more masculine (although not always). 

It’s yet another way in which personal preference will be so important when making your decision. 

Love the look of one over the other? Go for it. 

Stubble Or Beard: Which Is Better?

When choosing whether stubble or a beard would be better for you, consider what you value the most. Maintenance requirements, comfort, and versatility may have different levels of importance for you. Consider them all. 

But as you’ve gathered by now, it isn’t as simple as one being “better” than the other. 

Different men hold different factors to be more important. Now, you’ve got the know-how to figure out what’s most important to you in a structured way. 

Stubble Vs Short Or Long Beard? 

It’s not a good idea to put short and long beards in the same camp. 

Yes, they’re both “full beards”. But when comparing them with stubble it’s a better idea to separate them. 

This is because although a stubbled man may not even dream of growing a long beard, a short 9mm or 10mm beard may be completely fine. 

So, for that specific man, stubble may be better than a long beard, but stubble may not necessarily be better than a short beard. 

He may be able to cope with the brushing and oiling requirements of a short beard, for instance, but the thought of combing and regularly using beard balm is just too much. 

Longer beards are generally going to be harder work than both stubble and short beards. The maintenance requirements are higher and most people would say they were a little less versatile too. 

But like I said, if you just love the look of long beards like Ducktails and Garibaldis, don’t worry about it. 

Just try it out and see for yourself. Remember, experimentation is easy with facial hair. Don’t like the look of the long beard you’ve been growing? Trim it down – you’ll have a short beard within an hour. 

Miss the look of that stubble you used to love? Trim it down a bit more – you’ll be fully stubbled before you know it. 

That’s the beauty of it – facial hair isn’t permanent. You can switch between one and the other. Sure, growing a beard can take time. 

But if you trim it down you know you’ll get it back one day if you change your mind. 

So, experiment regularly and enjoy the process. 


Choices. Men’s style is full of them. 

Whether you’re choosing between a pair of penny loafers or deciding what number buzz cut to go for, you’ll have to get used to it. 

But that’s the fun part. 

Getting to grips with what you prefer is a lifelong process. What you may love in your 20s, you may hate in your 30s and 40s and vice versa. 

Facial hair is no different. Understanding what you prefer and what works best for you is an essential part of the process. 

Hopefully, this article has taken you one step closer.