Beard care information can be confusing and misleading. Unfortunately, if you want to both have a beard and a job, this means paying close attention to beard care.
Back when I was making my attempt at growing a yeard, I found myself in a conversation with other beard-owning friends and someone mentioned that a co-worker had accused him of being lazy and sloppy for not shaving.
We all shared a hearty laugh over it because this particular group of friends and I have often discussed beard care in the past. We’ve frequently shared tips and helped each other through the times we felt like we wanted to just shave it all off and start over.
Most of us have had to figure this out on our own. There are some good online resources for beard growers where people share tips, advice, and support each other (reddit.com/r/beards, for one), but I was never able to find a comprehensive start-to-finish beard care routine explained.
The Complete Beard Care Guide is my attempt to fill in some of the gaps in information. Not everyone will need every single step outlined below, but I recommend experimenting and trying them out. I recommend adding one step at a time to create your own routine. There’s no need to rush out and purchase every beard care product on the market this way, and you know the benefit that each steps brings.
Similarly, it’s not necessary to try and immediately implement every step into your personal beard care routine. Some people find their beard is easier to manage without ever washing it at all. Others (like me), find the opposite.
I have made an effort to make this guide as informative as possible, but if you would like to see some products for each of the steps, just click the image for that particular step.
The first thing to know is that when you’re starting out growing your beard you should resist any kind of trimming for about 10-14 days (about the length of a decent vacation from work — HINT!). This gives the beard a little bit of time to develop. At that point, you’ll have a good idea of your beard’s strengths and weaknesses. Unless you’re going for a yeard (according to the official r/beards guidelines, a yeard is simply this: no trimming below the cheekbones and above the adam’s apple. At all. FOR A YEAR.), you can start thinking about your trimming strategy as you approach the ten day mark.
Exactly how you trim the top part of the beard is a bit of an art form, but there are two basic schools of thought:
- You know those parts of your beard that grow thinner than the rest of it? SHAVE IT OFF. This may mean your beard line is relatively low on your cheeks. Almost to the jaw line for some people. It can still look good, you just have to give it a shot.
- No shaving at all on the top part of the beard. This is what I personally side with. I did try #1 once and I just didn’t like the way it turned out. In fact, my beard was totally disconnected from my hair and I just didn’t like it. I wish the hair on my cheeks came in a bit fuller, but that’s just the hand I was dealt.
The bottom limit of your beard should be no lower that your Adam’s apple, or else you’re entering ‘neck beard’
territory. You can trim a bit higher than the Adam’s apple if you like, but it’s a good idea not to go any higher than the spot where the skin under your jaw connects to your neck.
Step 2: Shampoo
I’ve personally found that once a week is the ideal frequency for shampooing my beard, and it should always be done
with a beard-specific shampoo. The hair on top of your head is different from your facial hair, and regular ‘ol shampoo can really dry out the sensitive skin of your face.
It took me a long time to implement this step though, and I’d heard may people say it’s best not to wash a beard at all, except for whatever soap and water gets in there in the course of a regular shower.
When I finally did start washing my beard with a beard shampoo about once a week, the beard became much more manageable.
Yes, I know the term “beard oil” sounds pretty straightforward. Here’s the thing: the biggest benefit of using beard oil will actually be received by your poor chafing, sun-starved skin underneath your beard.
Sure, the oils will soften your actual hair a good bit too, but nourishing our hair follicles is the primary reason we use beard balm. For oil, the benefit your hair receives is not the highest priority (although it is much cheaper to make a DIY beard oil at home to test the waters than it is to buy an expensive beard balm).
In fact, the benefit beard oil brings to your hair might even come in after fragrance. Many beard care product companies pay particular attention to the scents in their beard oils to the point that the pleasant smell actually seems like the main point of the oil.
If you have a shorter beard, it’s a simple enough process to oil your
beard skin. You can just put a few drops on your hands, then rub it into your beard, making sure to massage it directly into your skin as much as possible.
For those with beards longer than an inch or so, it’s a bit tougher. You have to make sure to massage the oil into the hair and skin thoroughly. Some beard oils come with an eye dropper to help you apply it directly to your skin, but if not you can always pick one up at the local drug store for cheap.
In my case beard balm was the very first product I introduced into my beard care routine. I was having issues with control and hairs sticking out in random directions. If I tried to trim all of them off, well, I would have had to cut a huge percentage of all my facial hair. Obviously this wasn’t an option.
The beard balm helped right away with weighing down the hairs and making them more manageable. I soon discovered that you need to start using a comb at really the same time.
The introduction of the beard comb to my routine is where I had a big improvement in the appearance and management of my beard.
I’ve also figured out that there are real benefits of regularly applying a beard balm to my facial hair even when my beard is quite young. Similarly, combing through the facial hair at least once a day as soon as it gets long enough also helps to train the hair to fall easily in the direction you want (particularly important for moustaches).
As for combs (which you can find here), again, there are different schools of thought. I like my tiny Kent handmade comb, which is about 1/4 the size of one in the picture. Wooden combs are popular with longer/thicker beards and supposedly reduce tangles.
Regardless, for many reasons, it’s good to get a beard comb early on and get into the habit of using it.
Step 4a: Blow dry to control curly sections
I tried this exactly once to deal with ‘wavy beard,’ and it didn’t work. My beard (at that point it had about 8 months of growth without any trimming) actually wasn’t long enough yet for this to be effective. Most people probably won’t need to go this far in their beard care regimen. In case you do, here is the basic procedure:
- After the above steps (it’s okay to experiment with changing the order though to see what works best for you), lightly towel dry your beard (it should still be damp).
- Run a comb through your beard and when it gets to the bend of a wavy section of hair, curl the comb so that your are forcing the hair in the opposite direction from how it wants to go.
- Blow dry targeting that part.
- Repeat until the offending sections of the beard are dry.
I wish I had discovered brushing with a very stiff boar’s hair brush years earlier because it gave my beard a remarkable turnaround in appearance.
I’d always assumed brushes were only useful for very thick and long hair, but from the time I had about 2 inches of growth, I’ve found a brush useful for making my beard soft and pliable.
You know what? This quickly became one of my favorite parts of beard care. Whenever I find myself with down time around the house, I reach for my comb and go to work. I’m not sure what makes it so enjoyable, but it is.
Wax, sometimes referred to as “moustache wax” or “beard wax” can be a really useful beard care product to have around on those ‘bad beard’ days.
A gentle or medium hold wax can reign in some of the odd hairs sticking up in odd directions. It will also allow you to experiment a bit with the style of both your beard and, yes, your moustache.
Even if you have no desire to go for a handlebar or one of it’s variations, wax can help you train your moustache to grow in the direction you want (so you’re not always chewing on your hair while eating a sandwich).
If you don’t think you would use a beard-specific wax enough to justify the cost, you can try traditional hair products like a pomade or, well, wax. It won’t work well for anything gravity-defying, but it might work in a pinch and you an use it for your regular hair as well.
Although not directly related to beard care, I’d like to wrap this up with one final bit of advice:
The more unruly your beard is, the more important is to tighten up all of your other grooming. Even the clothes you wear. It will be obvious that you worked to maintain your look, and everyone will assume that your crazy, unmanageable beard is just as intentional.
Thanks for reading my ultimate beard care guide. I hope it was helpful in understanding the various parts to a beard care routine.