Paul Eli (@hipstagramlul) by Scott Bakken (@scottcbakken)

With a stretch of snow and blistering conditions upon us, the scraggly season has begun. In our opinion, there’s no better time to grow a beard than winter. Beards become darn practical, acting as an insulated scarf while preventing windburn. But keeping your beard long and thick during this season also has its downsides. Let’s take a look at what to expect from growing a winter beard.

Pro: Your beard acts as natural insulation

Walking in subzero temperatures is not pleasant. While you can cover up your face with a scarf, doing so also obscures access to breathing channels (your mouth and nose), which sucks. With a beard, you can kiss red, frozen cheeks goodbye. A beard acts as nature’s scarf. In fact, some evolutionary theorists argue men grew beards while women did not because while on hunting expeditions, men needed to keep warmer than their shelter-dwelling women and children.

Your beard also guards against windburn, a type of sunburn you get in cold weather. In fact, beards block up to 95% of UV rays - the equivalent of SPF 21. The thicker your beard, the more protection it offers. Just think of your beard as your personal furry fortress.

Con: Low temps + low humidity dry out your beard

Despite the ever-so-masculine appeal of wintry whiskers, it comes at a cost. Frigid temperatures combined with low humidity suck all the moisture from your beard, making it brittle. There are a few steps you can take to combat these adverse conditions, including shampooing less frequently and hitting your gym’s steam room. We get in depth on how to keep your beard robust through winter’s chill here.

Pro: Your beard becomes its own holiday decoration

Now, this one is not for every beardsman, but if you fancy yourself festive, a burly beard makes an awfully good base for hanging holiday baubles. Some more adventurous beardsmen have ventured so far as to adorn their beards with tinsel and lights. And true daredevils may embark on the glitter beard route - just realize you’ll be finding glitter in your beard through next April.

Con: Being asked if you’re growing the beard to look like Santa for Christmas

Any man with a respectable beard of medium length or longer has had this happen repeatedly in the month leading up to Christmas. It can get annoying after the 4,326th time.

Pro (and Con): Ice Beards

The ice beard - a furry, frozen visage caused by walking outdoors in subzero temperatures - is celebrated with aplomb during the colder months, and even has its own hashtag (#IceBeard) on Instagram. Worn by only the most rugged stock of dedicated adventurers, the ice beard projects strength and mettle. The longer your facial fur, the heavier and more elaborate your ice beard. It’s truly one of the most glorious displays of the holiday season.

Moustache-wearers experience a similar phenomenon with ‘stachesicles, icicles which form on sizable moustaches. Keep a small, ice-free margin between your nose and moustache hairs to prevent your ‘stachesicles from being confused for snotsicles.

But should you choose to harvest said ice beard (or ‘stachesicle), proceed with caution. Frozen condensation on your face is a master dehydrator, making your whiskers dry and prone to breaking. So be sure to thaw your face as soon as you get indoors, and immediately give it some R&R with beard oil. If you don’t have one on hand, a bit of face or body moisturizer will do. And on days where you’re not down to deal with the post-ice beard slush, wrap a scarf around your beard to prevent beardiscles.