You might think that growing a beard requires little more than, you know, growing it. But that’s not the case. Like the hair on top of your head, beards require maintenance: washing, trimming, conditioning, and yes, even brushing. To keep your beard looking (and smelling) good, you’re going to have to put in some work. So to prepare you for that impressive beard you’ve been itching—possibly literally—to grow out, here’s everything you need to know about keeping it in tip-top shape.
YOUR BEARD NECKLINE SHOULD RESEMBLE A “U”
If you don’t carve your neckline the right way, don’t worry. It’s tough to know exactly what you’re supposed to do, and it’s easy to get it wrong. You see necklines that creep into the cheeks, or on the underside of the chin. Meanwhile, other guys grow a neckbeard. But there is one correct way to do this, no questions asked. Take your index and middle finger, and place them together above the Adam’s apple to determine the baseline for the bottom of the beard. It’s helpful to set a line from this point straight across the neck with your trimmer or razor first, then trim the hairs below. Next, from this point above the Adam’s apple, shave a “U” shape from the back of both ears, behind the jawline. This is your neckline, and should be every guy’s neckline.
FADE YOUR BEARD NECKLINE
To blend your bare neckline into your beard—in the same way a barber fades the sides of your haircut into the fuller top—all you need to do is follow a few simple steps with your trimmer. Put a 1-guard on your clipper and close it all the way. Trim roughly one full inch into the beard (assuming it’s not extremely big and bushy, in which case a faded neckline is pointless). This will create a soft contrast. Then you can take the guard off and trim halfway up into the 1-guard line for a steadier contrast. The result is a graduation from bare neck to full beard over the course of one inch.
RELAX YOUR FACE WHILE TRIMMING YOUR MUSTACHE
It’s just a small strip of hair, but the mustache deserves more attention than you’re giving it—namely when it comes to trimming. One key to a successful trim is to maintain a normal ‘resting’ face when trimming, to assure your mustache is even with all expressions. Mustache scissors are imperative instead of electric clippers, because thy allow you a more natural result.
You also need a small comb. Comb the mustache hairs straight down to determine how much length and bulk need to be trimmed. Once the length has been determined, the bulk can be reduced by combing the hairs away from the face and removing the top layer. Your comb and scissors should do the trick.
BEARD MAINTENACE ALSO MEANS SKIN CARE
Some guys might think “I need to remove this hair” instead of “I need to keep my skin healthy.” If this sounds like you, then you might be a prime candidate for irritation, infection, and razor burn on and around your neckline. Take your time shaving around the beard, just as you would have a full regimen for shaving your face. Any proper shave takes time, especially when it comes to pre- and post-shave care. Even if you’re just maintaining facial hair and shaving around certain patterns, be sure your skin is clean. You need to make sure the pores are open beforehand and properly sealed after to avoid irritation. That’s why you should start the shave with a hot shower, and end it with a cold splash of water before applying a nourishing beard balm barrier.
You wouldn’t use regular face soap on your hair, so it makes no sense to use it on your beard as well. They’re both hair, and hair needs shampoo. Fortunately, there are plenty of great beard-specific shampoos out there that use special botanicals to help soften the hair and keep it from getting dried out. Just make sure that whatever you, use you like the smell of, since it’s right there by your nose.
Keeping your beard soft is the key to not wanting to shave it all off. A dry scratchy beard will be unbearable, and the way to avoid that is to use a beard conditioner. A good conditioner will moisturize your beard, and it will keep it healthy—two important factors in maintaining face comfort. A conditioner also has the added benefit of working almost like a styling gel, so you can keep that thing tame and not look like you just rolled in from eight years of living alone in the woods.
Baseball mitts, butcher blocks, and beards. What do they all have in common? You need to oil them. While a conditioner does soften your beard, a good beard oil will soften it even further, plus has the added advantage of warding off the dreaded beard dandruff. No one wants to see a guy with a dusting of skin flakes down the front of his shirt after all. And perhaps the coup de grace of a good beard oil is that it will make your beard smell amazing. And since it never leaves your face, smelling amazing is a pretty sweet perk.
Beards can get pretty gross—all that food, sweating, sneezing, etc. So, while washing it is essential, a good added measure is an antibacterial beard balm. Something that further helps soften, but also kills all of the little microscopic critters hoping to set up shop in there.
Keep your beard from getting tangled and unruly by brushing it every day with a beard brush. It’ll also help spread the beard oil you’re using (as well as your natural face oils) to keep your beard as healthy as possible.
The final piece of maintenance for your beard is that you need to occasionally trim it. Beard hair doesn’t always grow evenly, plus, as it grows out, you’re going to want to give it a little bit of shape. This is best done with a quality beard trimmer—one with a selection of attachments that you can use to keep from accidentally carving out giant bald spots if (or when) your hand slips.