I first grew my beard about 10 years ago after a three-week raft trip down the Grand Canyon. At the time beards were not so popular. That’s because the war on terror was in its incipient stages and whether it was bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad or any of the other evil doers, they all had beards. Having a beard was practically a “scarlet T” across one’s chest.
As a patriot I was tempted to shave it off as soon as I hit civilization so as not to be associated with any of the evil ilk. But I didn’t shave it. After much reflection I kept my beard. I realized it was my patriotic duty.
I was not about to let the beard become a hallmark of hate. Too many great Americans were known for their beards. The terrorists may have hijacked a religion but I was not about to let them hijack the beard. For Uncle Sam, Abe Lincoln, C. Everett Koop, Grizzly Adams and every freedom-loving female circus freak with overactive follicles on her face, I kept my beard.
Initially I kept my beard as a political statement. Despite the burdens associated with a decade of dissidence, as time has gone by I have realized that having a beard also comes with quite a few perks. The first is that it saves time. Shaving takes at least three minutes every morning and if you add up those three minutes over a lifetime, a beard can add days if not weeks to your life. Is it ironic that putting the razor down will stop shaving valuable time from your life?
A beard also reduces pain. Because most men shave while hurried in the morning mistakes are often made and shaving such a sensitive area like the nape of a neck can be extremely painful. If the nicks from the razor blade weren’t enough, we finish the whole operation by slapping some alcohol-laden aftershave on it just to make sure we know exactly where each and every wound is. Every time I used it I acted just like Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone.”
More importantly, regardless of color, a beard is “green” and can greatly reduce one’s carbon footprint. A beard saves plastic and metal from all the disposable razors. It saves hot, clean water and keeps all that shaving cream and stubble from going down the drain and into our water and sewer systems. It keeps countless aluminum cans of shaving cream out of landfills and recycling centers. It saves electricity from any electric razor that goes unused. And now that I’ve trained my pet goat to trim my beard to just the right length, my clippings are now converted to compost that is naturally packaged in petite brown pellets. Talk about sustainability.
Not only is having a beard green, it can also save you some greenbacks. All those razors, cream and water can get expensive and during the Great Recession we’ve all had to shave something from our budgets. Why not shaving?
But as good as it is to save time, pain, the planet and some money, there is something even more important a beard could save: Your life. A beard can combat the one of the biggest threats facing each and every mountain man and mamma in this valley. And I’m not talking about driving on Highway 82 or suicide.
According to recent reports a study appeared in the journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry which states beards can help fight skin cancer by blocking 90-95 percent of all ultraviolet rays from hitting a person’s face. The bigger and bushier the beard, the better the blockage. As long as the aforementioned journal isn’t some subsidiary of the Onion, this is big news for mountain men.
Living in rarefied air, at a high elevation and under the sunny skies of the Colorado Rockies creates a combination that can greatly increase one’s chances of skin cancer. The fact that folks are so active and spend so much time working and playing outdoors only exacerbates the situation. And unlike other areas, the seasons don’t matter in the mountains and when it comes to one’s face, winters can be the worst. At higher altitudes, closer to the sun, and while the rest of the body is covered, the face is still exposed and it gets rays directly from the sun and those reflected off the snow. Come summer, many of us take to the rivers. It may be at a lower altitude but our faces are still assaulted by rays directly from the sun and those reflecting off the water. Once again we are doubling down on dangerous UV rays. Because of the lifestyles we lead there is no getting away from the sun — and the face is a constant target.
While many remember to wear sunscreen while skiing or rafting most of us don’t use it everyday or every time we step outside the house, even though we probably should. But when you have a beard you are always wearing some sort of sunscreen on your face. Over the years that protection adds up and could eventually save your life, as skin cancer is the most dangerous of all conditions associated with that deadly disease. Let’s also not forget all the damage sunscreen does to our oceans and coral reefs, and that one day, it could be banned in Aspen.
Employers should be paying attention too. If you are an employer who provides health care to your employees, you may want to encourage the men to grow beards and if there are any companies out there who currently have some sort of grooming policy that restricts or inhibits the growth of beards, especially for those who work outside, you may want to rescind or revise that policy. It could even give you a break on your insurance rates.
As for women not fortunate enough to find a job as a circus freak, I guess your stuck with sunscreen for your face. But that doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself in other places. Over the last decade while I have been growing my beard women have been shaving, sugaring, waxing and electrocuting theirs.
Commonly called a Brazilian, who knows what future consequences may come to all the lovely ladies who enjoy some extended sun bathing. Whether it’s on an upper lip, an eyebrow, leg, armpit, or anywhere else, there’s a reason why God gave us hair in certain places. Frida Kahlo may have been a good artist who suffered greatly, but it was her unibrow that made her famous.
Legally, who knows what this could mean for our justice system. Recently there has been a spate of beard cuttings that have terrorized the Amish. The perpetrators of those heinous acts were caught, charged and convicted of hate crimes, as they should be. But as bad as hate crimes are, perhaps in light of this new evidence the prosecutors should now pursue charges of attempted murder against those beard-cutting bastards.
I have watched the benefits of beards just keep on growing like hair on an unshaven chin. As a longtime benefactor of the beard I already knew it could save time, money and the planet, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that a beard could save your life.
Contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org.