Stubble vs. Beard: Can You Tell the Difference?

What is difference between stubble and beard

You might think you know what stubble is, but can you answer that question with confidence? Do you know how long it takes, on average, for stubble to become a beard? How about which look the ladies prefer?

If so, then tell me. When does stubble become a beard?

Immediately, it turns out. Stubble is hair and a beard is just a name for the hair on your face. So scientifically, stubble is a beard. But a stubble beard only lasts until the hairs are more than 10mm long. At this point the hairs no longer just brush against the skin but rather they’re long enough to protrude away from the face, at which point the stubble beard would then be considered a small or short beard.

A stubble beard is a good look these days, so you shouldn’t feel bad if the beard you thought you had turns out to just be stubble. This look goes over well with the ladies. Stick around to learn more about stubble beards and why you might want to rock one after all.

Understanding Stubble Beards

As mentioned above, even stubble is a beard when you get down to the science of it. Not only that, the stubble beard is a great look. But a scientific explanation doesn’t help us any. If stubble is technically a beard, then we need to ask a very important question: When does a stubble beard become a short beard?

This question we can answer, create a timeline for, and use to guide us through styling a stubble beard with the same level of precision we would a short beard.

A stubble beard is a beard that is no longer than 10mm. But when does a stubble beard become a beard? Is five o’clock shadow a beard?

You might not think so, but the answer is a strong “maybe”. As soon as the hair follicle begins to form and push out of the face, you have the start of a beard. Five o’clock shadow is a vague area in which you can see the hair follicles forming in the dermal layer and begin to protrude. If they are coming out, then it is a stubble beard. But if they are still just within the dermal layer, your skin, then they aren’t yet a stubble beard.

Really, a stubble beard might just be the difference between five o’clock shadow and six o’clock shadow.

These days, stubble beards between 1-10mm are very attractive. In the 1980s, designer stubble was a trend worn by some of the most handsome celebrities in the world. But despite dropping the word “beard” from the trend, these were still just beards—specially maintained beards, but beards nonetheless.

Facial hair will get to 1-3mm long within a couple days of a clean shave. It should be around 10mm within two or three weeks. From there, you have yourself a short beard. It might still be patchy and not fully developed, but as the hairs begin to grow beyond 10mm, they stop resting on the face and can no longer be considered stubble.

Many electric razors offer settings for trimming in the 1-10mm range and can be used to shape a stubble beard almost as well as a full beard. However, you will want to have a blade on hand to clean shave as you shape. A stubble beard still shows the skin underneath the beard and a clean shave will smooth out the transition between the beard and the rest of the face.

The most important part of maintaining a stubble beard in comparison to a larger beard is that you will need to use a skin moisturizer on your face rather than rely on a beard oil.

In fact, one of the big differences between a stubble beard and a short beard is that you don’t need to use nearly as many products. If you are wearing a stubble beard on the long end of the spectrum, then you could benefit from some beard wax but only if you are interested in styling it.

Can Stubble Be Attractive?

Can Stubble Be Attractive

Can be? Stubble is attractive as can be. Take a look at the various winners of “Most Attractive Man of the Year.” You’ll see people like George Clooney, Ryan Reynolds, and Chris Pine. While all three of these men have rocked beards at various times, their most attractive photos always show them with a stubble beard.

Could this just be a coincidence? 

Sure, it could. But it isn’t.

Just look what happened when scientists asked women if they prefer men with beards. Stubble beards came out on top. Later studies have confirmed these findings, as noted in this video:

Stubble isn’t only a good look, it’s the top-rated look.

Will I Be Stuck With Stubble Forever?

You might be looking at the timeline above and thinking that you’re doomed. It’s been more than two weeks and you’re still just looking at stubble. Is stubble your new normal?

Nothing is forever. You can always shave it clean.

I kid, of course.

Your beard will grow. It just might do it slowly. It is important to realize that everybody’s beard grows at its own rate. If you’re looking at that timeline and stressing out, you really shouldn’t be. You’re just a slow grower. Besides, women love the stubble look, so maybe you’ve got a blessing in disguise!

Does Stubble Count as a Beard When Working?

Have you ever gotten a new job and then found out you’ll have to shave your beard? It sucks, but we do what we have to in order to earn a paycheck. The biggest issue with beards is loose hairs and the possibility of something getting stuck in it. That doesn’t happen with stubble beards.

So, can a stubble beard be the answer to keeping both your beard and your job?

Maybe, but it is going to depend on where you work. There are plenty of jobs that will allow a stubble beard, including kitchens. But there are just as many that won’t allow stubble either. You might be able to get away with stubble, but you won’t know until you ask your employer.

If you work a job that uses Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as face masks or respirators, then you will want to make sure that you are always fully shaved in a manner which doesn’t impede the protective seal around your face. Always stay safe by following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chances are quite good that you can get away with a stubble beard if you keep it in the 1-3mm area. At this length it is easy to shape and control without giving the illusion of being more than some perfectly maintained shadow.

Plus, workplaces still like it when everybody looks good. So, if you can pull it off with the best of them, they’re less likely to say anything to you about it.

What’s More Hygienic? Stubble or Beard?

Stubble is much more hygienic than a beard. The logic here is really simple. Since the hairs are too small to get tangled up or to really catch anything in them, they don’t really get so dirty.

Beard hairs are much longer, so they do tend to catch more dirt and germs. Their length also makes it more likely that the skin beneath will go mistreated. Some men seem to think that having a beard replaces the need for skin care on that half of their face.

However, just because stubble is more hygienic than a beard, that doesn’t mean that you can’t clean your beard and keep it as neat, tidy, and clean as stubble. Get yourself a beard grooming kit like this one from ZEUS. Use the brush, shampoo, and conditioner regularly, and you’ll have no problems with poor beard hygiene to hold you back.

Remember, with a great beard comes with great responsibility. Nobody likes a messy, unkempt, or smelly beard. The last thing your lover wants to find when they go in for a kiss is leftovers from supper. Treat your beard like a temple.


Now you know that when it comes to a stubble beard or a short beard, the difference is all about length. Anything longer than 10mm is at least a short beard. Five o’clock shadow may sometimes actually be a very short beard.

So, the next time your wife tries to tell you to shave that stubble, you can politely inform her that it isn’t just stubble—it’s a beard, baby.

But, you know, you should probably still listen to her. Unless you like the couch.



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Hi, my name is Roland. I started Beard Guidance so I can share the knowledge I’ve acquired from years of beard-having experience in easy-to-read but informative and practical articles.

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