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Chances are you’ve never given your beard the opportunity to flourish. Once those first patches pop up after a week or two, you go straight for the razor. We dubbed it the Stubble Cycle, and it does nothing but keep you in a perpetual state of patchiness. Try this: The next time you feel the urge to clean shave your stubble, don’t. Give yourself at least a month. It’ll be hard. It’ll be itchy. But there’s no other way to reach your mug-rug potential than by letting your face run free. Once you’ve let your follicles spread their wings, assess the situation. Tidy up your neck and shape your jawline. If everything is satisfactory, congratulations, you have a beard. If you look like Wooly Willy, it’s time to move on to our next tactic.

How to Fix Your Patchy Beard

GQ

By John Lockett.

Growing a beard is pretty much the final milestone on your way to manhood. You spend your formative years looking up to bearded wizards like Ernest Hemingway, Chuck Norris, and Obi-Wan Kenobi fully expecting to one day join their ranks. Then you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and see...patches? No one ever said there’d be patches!

The cold, hard truth is that not all beards are created equal. For every Galifianakis, there are at least a dozen sad, scruffy Keanus out there. If you find yourself on the splotchier end of the facial-hair spectrum, don’t worry. The good news is that facial-hair growth can only get better with time for most young guys (sorry, old-timers). And though there’s no magic potion for miraculously filling in the gaps and growing a full-fledged beard overnight, there are ways to work with what you’ve got.

This story originally appeared on GQ.com.

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