Growing a beard is a right of passage.
I’d say that every guy should try growing a beard at least once in their lives.
Having a beard can make you look older and more distinguished. Surprisingly, it also has a number of health benefits as well.
Beards can protect your skin from harmful UV rays. The skin on your face is some of the most sensitive on your body, and your beard can act as a built-in layer of sun protection.
In colder weather, a beard adds an extra layer of protection to keep you warm.
Facial hair can even help keep airborne bacteria and irritants out of your mouth. A beard can protect you from colds, flu, and throat infections.
Most importantly, it can make you feel more attractive and confident in yourself.
The problem is that an unchecked beard can start to cause issues for you.
If you don’t properly maintain your beard, your skin can quickly start to feel itchy. Beard hair is much more coarse than most other body hair, so it’s important to keep it soft and moisturized to keep you from scratching.
An unkempt beard can also leave you looking like a vagrant, which isn’t something you want if you’re dating or trying to climb the corporate ladder.
In this article, I’m going to show you what you need to do to properly care for your beard at all stages of its growth.
The Early Stages
For most guys, the hardest part of growing a beard is just getting started. Going from smooth shaven to a full beard is a significant change. Your face is going to feel different for a while until you adjust.
Commit to It
The best advice that I can give you when trying to grow a beard is the old phrase “less is more.” As your beard starts to grow, you’ll feel a strong urge to micromanage it. This can be a big mistake.
I recommend not cutting your beard at all for the first 30 days, even if you just want a mustache or sideburns at the end. You won’t know how you feel about a full beard until you give it a try.
Consider starting your beard during a vacation or some other natural break in your work routine. This helps to remove a lot of the stress about keeping up appearances during the awkward stubble phase.
Most importantly, be patient! You can’t grow a whole head of hair in a couple of days, and your face isn’t any different.
Dealing With the Itch
By far, the worst part of dealing with a new beard is that it can get super itchy. This can start just a few days after you stop shaving as your stubble starts to get longer.
I find the best way to quickly deal with an itchy beard is just to wet it. Improperly drying your beard can contribute to dry skin in the long run, but I find it really helps early on. If you’re at work and the itch is driving you crazy, you can just go in the washroom and splash a bit of water on your face to get a few hours of relief.
Conditioner can help reduce itching as well. Shampooing your beard is great once and a while (1-2 times per week), but it can strip the natural oils out of your hair, so conditioner is a better choice. It cleans and softens your beard without being as harsh.
There are a number of beard oils, balms, and special soaps that you can apply to your beard to keep them feeling softer and less scratchy too. There are hundreds of beard products to explore and experiment with for yourself. They’ll all leave your beard feeling less scratchy, so I’d mostly decide what you like based on scent. Here’s my favorite beard oil if you’re curious.
Combing your beard can help reduce the itch as well. It helps to stimulate your hair follicles, which increases blood flow. It also helps remove weaker hairs and dead skin that might be causing irritation. Combing also helps train your hairs to grow in a single direction. That reduces the risk of getting ingrown hairs and scratching. Regular brushing will also give your beard a smoother texture and a cleaner shape.
Once your beard gets a bit longer, you might want to have two different combs for it. A detangling comb has a broader space between its teeth and helps remove the tangles and knots. You can then use a finishing comb with finer teeth to clean up your beard without risk of ripping out tangled hairs.
Keeping your linen clean is another way to keep your beard and skin at its best. It often gets overlooked. When was the last time you washed your pillowcase? Over time, pillowcases and bedsheets collect bacteria, dirt, dust, and dead skin cells. Then you rest your face on that stuff for hours every night while you sleep. Regularly washing your linen will keep your beard and skin happy.
Maintaining Your Beard
After you’ve left your beard alone for about a month, you’ll have a good idea of how it grows. You might find that you have bare patches in certain spots, or that your beard generally grows thicker in some areas than others.
This pretty much comes down to genetics, and there isn’t a whole lot you can do to fix it. If you’re in your teens or twenties, maybe in a couple years your beard will have grown in thicker. But after your thirties, you’re pretty much stuck with the beard you’ve got.
Picking the right facial hair style for you will come down to working with what you’ve got. You might not be able to grow a full beard, but you might still be able to have an awesome goatee or mustache.
If you can grow a full beard, you’ll still want to pick a beard style that matches your face shape.
If you have a square face – keep your hair fuller on the chin and shorter on the sides.
For a round face – keep it longer on the bottom and shorter on the sides.
A rectangular or oblong face – keep the sides fuller and the bottom shorter.
If you have an oval face – most beard styles will work.
Defining Your Beard’s Edges
There are two big mistakes that I see guys make with the neckline of their beards.
The first mistake is not defining a neck line at all. This leaves you with the “neckbeard” look which just gives the impression that you don’t care about hygiene. The second mistake is making your neck line too high (on the jaw or higher) which can also give an unflattering appearance.
Here’s the general piece of advice that everyone seems to give for designing a proper neck line for your beard:
Imagine a line extending down from behind both of your ears and meeting just above your Adam’s apple.
You can trace your fingers from behind your ears to your Adam’s apple to get a good visual for how much you’ll be removing from the bottom of your beard. If you want a more clear guideline, you can mark out your neckline using shaving cream.
If part of your beard extends back past the edge of your sideburns, you’ll want to carefully clean that up as well. For most guys, this will only be a little patch.
Once you have an idea of where you want your neck line to end up, it’s time to take out your razor and make it a reality. In my opinion, this is one of the most stressful parts of the beard growing process. More than once I’ve ended up entirely shaving off beards and starting from scratch after messing up my neck line.
A razor with a single blade is best for defining the neck line of your beard. If you use a disposable razor with three, four, or five blades, it can be tough to know precisely where your edge will end up.
Remember to go slow. It’s always easier to take more off later than to grow back part of your beard that you remove by mistake! You might want to cut your neck line a little lower than you intend the first pass to give you a bit of flexibility and room for correction.
You don’t have to go as extreme as me and start from scratch if you mess up your beard. There are ways to repair an existing beard.
One method is just to stop shaving again entirely and let the desired areas grow back in.
You can also gradually move the neckline of your beard further and further over time so that you don’t end up with two distinctly different lengths of hair in the process.
I’d consider the cheek line another part of your beard design that can make or break the overall look of your beard. Although a lousy cheek line isn’t nearly as devastating as a bad neck line.
The biggest mistake with defining the cheek line your beard is going too low. Unless you’re specifically going for a chinstrap style of beard, you want to leave your cheek line pretty close to how it naturally grows. The big choice is whether you want to leave it all-natural or define a clear edge.
Most guys can get away with an all-natural cheek line to their beard. I don’t feel like a natural cheek line gives an unkempt appearance in the way that a neckbeard does. A natural cheek line can make your face appear softer and more friendly, plus it doesn’t require any work to try and shape it.
Personally, I prefer a defined cheek line though. This creates a clean, crisp edge on the top of your beard that extends from your sideburns to your mustache. You don’t need to overdo it. For me, the difference between a natural cheek line and a defined cheek line is only removing about a dozen stray hairs from each side, but it makes a big visual difference.
If you plan on having any kind of facial hair for the long-term, it’s worth investing into a beard trimmer.
A good trimmer will only set you back $20-$50.
Here is the trimmer that I use.
I’d recommend getting something cordless and rechargeable so that you don’t need to fight with cables while grooming. You’ll also want something with several different guard lengths to easily get the exact beard length you’re after.
There are some beard trimmers for $60 or more. I’d tend to steer people away from these and tell you to go with the cheaper models, which from my experience seem to work just as well. I’d rather just replace a cheaper model every couple of years rather than try to maintain a more expensive trimmer.
Before you start trimming your beard, it’s a good idea to comb it out. Combing helps get all the hair facing in one direction, so they’re easier to cut. Your beard should always be dry when you trim it as well.
Keep my beard-trimming “golden rule” in mind: it’s easier to take less beard off than to try to put more back on. Start with a longer guard and gradually work your way down.
You should also be aware that different brands of trimmers may have guards that vary in length slightly. Just like when you’re buying shoes, a size 10 in one brand might feel more like a size 9 in another. Clipper measurements vary slightly, so always test a new trimmer on a higher guard before going to your regular length.
When trimming hair on your neck, it’s good to stretch out the skin as much as possible. Otherwise, it can bunch together and make it harder to get all the hair the same length.
To trim your mustache properly, comb your hairs to the side and then clip on the setting you want. Then comb your mustache down over your lip and remove anything that hangs down with the edge of your razor.
You can use scissors for any fine details or remove any stray hairs that the trimmer missed.
Finish with a beard oil or moisturizer if desired.
To Dye, or Not to Dye?
Some guys start to get grey hairs as early as their twenties. If that includes you, there might be a temptation to dye your beard to maintain your youthful appearance.
It’s not fair, but men get held to a different standard than women when it comes to grey hair.
Women will often complain about how much they hate grey hair. Men misinterpret this to mean they hate ALL grey hair. In reality, they typically only mean on themselves.
A bit of salt and pepper in your beard can work in your favor. It makes you look more mature and distinguished. Think George Clooney or Barack Obama.
A bad dye job can make you look worse. Think Paul McCartney’s hair. There comes a point where you’re not fooling anyone .
If you do want to dye your hair or beard, the trick is to get to it early. If more than about 20% of your beard is already grey, it will be obvious if you start dying it.
Don’t try it at home with the boxed stuff. It’s unlikely to match your natural hair color, which can leave you looking like you’ve glued a fake beard on your face or appled shoe polish to it. Get a professional barber or hairdresser who knows the products and can give you a natural look.
If you want to keep your beard grey-free, you’ll need to make an appointment every two weeks or so. But you should be in and out in about 40 minutes.
White and grey hairs tend to grow faster than normal hair and need to be managed. But simply trimming your beard regularly should help keep them under control.
My advice if you’re starting to turn grey? Embrace it instead of trying to cover it up!
Getting Rid of Your Beard
You might go straight from clean shaven to ZZ Top the first time you grow a beard and never look back. But most guys will want to remove their beard again at some point.
There’s some prep work required to go from a beard back to clean shaven. If you try to put a razor on your beard, it’s going to immediately clog full of hair and not be very effective.
You need to trim your beard down as close as you can with scissors or an electric trimmer before you try moving on to a razor.
Have a hot shower or put a warm cloth on your face first to soften the hairs too. If your skin hasn’t been touched by a razor in over a month it could be extra sensitive, so you want to be gentle.
You’ll want to use a brand new disposable razor to make sure it’s as sharp and effective as possible. A dull blade can pull and tug as it catches on your hair. If you have a safety razor or straight razor and know how to use it, they tend to more effectively remove longer hair than a disposable razor.
Growing a beard can be a test of patience and willpower more than anything else.
The growing process itself is natural and happens completely automatically. The hard part is not getting impatient and trying to intervene! You need to commit to growing a beard and then let your body do its thing.
The biggest downside to having a beard is that it can get itchy if you don’t take proper care of it. Combing and washing it regularly with the right products can help with that. You can try a variety of beard oils, balms, and other products to keep your beard feeling extra soft.
Once you’ve grown your beard for a while, you’ll need to keep it tidy by defining a neck and cheek line and trimming it regularly.
I can almost guarantee that people will look at you differently after you’ve grown a beard. Your friends, family, potential partners, and even strangers could all treat you differently once you’ve grown a beard. Generally, it’s a positive reaction. You’ll look older and more mature, and people might treat you with more respect.
At the end of the day, growing a beard is something you should do because you want to though. So just do it! Have fun, and enjoy the process.