One of my least favorite things about "normal" life is shaving. It's time-consuming and painful. Plus, a few hours after going through all of the trouble to shave, the hair comes back. When I started doing scientific field work about 11 years ago I made myself a promise:
Field work time is a holiday from shaving.
In other words, it's against the rules to shave when I'm out on extended field expeditions. This tenet has served me well over the years. If I'm going to cold places, the beard helps insulate me and protects my face from windburn. In hot climates, the hairy cover means I don't need as much sunscreen. Furthermore, when working under the time and logistical constraints of an expedition, one doesn't generally have time for frivolous things like shaving. Growing facial hair is also a good measure of the passage of time, and there is just something so satisfying when the hairs start to get bleached by the sun.
When I do make it into space, I'll have to decide whether to continue my no-shaving rule or conform to the typical clean-cut image we're used to seeing for astronauts. I wonder what NASA's policy is on shaving. I haven't seen too many astronauts with beards outside of the movies 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes when the space travelers wake up from hibernation. The Mars astronaut lego figure shown here is sporting some stubble.
This is the seventh time I've grown a full beard on an extended expedition like FMARS. At five weeks, FMARS is the second longest period I've gone without shaving (the longest being 8 or 9 weeks). Here are some pictures of my beard growth over the course of the mission:
Okay, now it's time to shave!