The Importance of Beard Maintenance
Of the many great reasons for having a beard—feeling manly, looking more stylish and sexy, increasing confidence, etc.—simply letting your facial hair grow wild because it’s easier than shaving shouldn’t be one of the them. There’s no doubt that beards are definitely the “in,” trendy thing nowadays, but there’s still a fine line between looking hip or fashionable and looking like a lazy bum, which is why it’s so important to know how to maintain a beard.
Much has been written in men’s magazines about beard maintenance, yet most men remain blissfully unaware of even the basics. Just as it takes a lot of time and patience to grow a good, full beard, it also takes quite a bit of effort to properly maintain your facial hair to keep it looking its best. We’re talking washing, combing, trimming, and yes—even putting products in your beard if you really want it to shine. Whether you want to sport a short, well-trimmed goatee, chinstrap or a full, epic beard (think Zach Galifinakis)—you need to know how to maintain a beard to have any hope of properly pulling off your desired look.
Keeping it Clean
One of the most important aspects of beard maintenance is keeping your face and hair thoroughly washed and conditioned. However, this is also the one area that a lot of guys tend to neglect the most. The coarse, thick nature of beard hair means it’s great at trapping in dirt, grease, food and other particles, which can lead to ingrown hairs, acne, brittle hair and other problems.
Basically, if you don’t continually wash your face and beard properly, there’s a good chance that greasy cheeseburger you ate yesterday may come back to haunt you in the form of a big, ugly zit—and don’t let yourself be fooled, people will still notice it despite your beard.
In an ideal world, you would wash your beard numerous times throughout the day. Still, since this isn’t possible for most people, you should at least make sure to wash it both when you wake up and before you go to sleep.
Some people recommend using shampoo to wash your beard, but in our experience we’ve found it can lead to other problems like dry skin (think beard dandruff. bandruff?) or acne—so we’d recommend just using a good quality, natural face soap and warm water. After washing your face, take a clean towel and make sure to dry the hair as much as you can.
To Condition or Not to Condition
Quite a few men refuse to use lotions, conditioners, beard oils or other products on their face for fear that it will make them seem less manly. While it’s definitely true that you should steer clear of any products designed for women, due to their feminine scents, there’s nothing wrong with using a good beard oil or face moisturizer, as long as it has a light, masculine scent.
In fact, men have been using beard oils for thousands of centuries to help them keep their beards soft, healthy and looking their best. Oil will help keep the ends of your beard from becoming too sharp or splitting, which can help eliminate ingrown hairs. Your partner will definitely appreciate your less bristly beard as well.
There are lots of decent beard oils on the market, but just make sure not to use any products that contain olive oil, as it doesn’t easily absorb into the skin and will usually lead greasy skin and/or acne. Instead, look for something made from avocado, almond or jojoba oils. If you can, look for products that only use natural, essential oils instead of artificial fragrances. We have actually already tested and vetted practically every beard oil and beard balm out there, so be sure to check out our list of the best beard oils and best beard balms to help point you in the right direction.
How to Keep a Beard Neat
Keeping your beard washed is just one step in keeping it neatly maintained, as—no matter what style of beard, mustache or goatee you have—you’re always going to be faced with the almost daily task of keeping it trimmed. There’s no denying that the all-natural, epic “I don’t give a damn” beard works for some men, but let’s be honest—most men either can’t or don’t want to even attempt it for one reason or another.
So this means that you’ll need to do a bit on manicuring to keep everything in good order. For this reason, it’s recommended you invest in a good quality male-grooming kit that at least includes sharp scissors (great beard and mustache scissors on Amazon), a good razor, a beard comb and a facial hair trimmer with adjustable guards. We recommend you picking up one of these top safety razors as well as one of these first-rate beard trimmers.
Determining where, when and how much of your beard to trim is an art form, and it can be quite tricky to master at first. In a perfect world, you’d head down to the barber every few days to have it done professionally, but since that’s not a reality for most of us, we’re left trying to understand how to keep a beard neat as best as we can on our own—which is again why it’s necessary to equip yourself with the right tools.
When to Shave Your Beard
One of the best parts about having a beard is not having to deal with shaving your whole face on a daily basis, and luckily, you probably won’t need to trim your beard every day either. Still, if you’re like most men, then you probably struggle with knowing when to shave your beard. A good rule of thumb is to go over it at least once or twice a week with a razor, clippers or scissors to help keep it shaped and to catch any stray hairs.
When it comes to exactly where and how much to trim, that will partly depend on what style you’re going for. However, there’s one area that really should always be trimmed—even if you’re growing a full, long beard—and that is the neckline.
Trimming the Neck
Keeping the neckline trimmed ensures that the beard properly frames the face and accentuates the jawline, so make sure to shave everything from the Adam’s apple down—following the curve of the jaw on the sides. To help prevent razor burn, wrap your face in a warm towel for a few minutes before shaving, and then mix a bit of warm water with your shaving cream to help it better lubricate your face.
The key to shaving your neck is to never shave too high, as this can make you look like you have a double chin. The general rule of thumb is that you should never shave anything above where the neck and head meet, i.e. only shave the hairs on the vertical surface of the neck. Take special care when trimming up this area, as this is where many men make a mistake that forces them to shave the whole thing off and start all over.
There’s nothing wrong with letting your neck growth go a few days without trimming, but in most cases you’d be better off not trimming it at all than going with something halfway in between—so make sure to give it a quick touch up every few days to keep it looking neat. Check out our video/article on how to shave your neckline.
Trimming the Cheeks
Unless you have a wild, unruly beard that grows above your cheekbones, you really want to avoid trimming this area as much as possible. Instead, just take your scissors and snip any stray hairs you see. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, if you’re trying to grow a chinstrap or going for the fully trimmed, manicured look. Still, you run the risk of it looking overly maintained, so beware. Check out our video/article on how to shave your cheekline.
Shaping- How to Keep Your Beard Short
If you want to keep your beard shorter, more professional looking, it’s probably going to take a bit of trial and error with your clippers before you can regularly achieve the look you’re going for. Still, there’s no one overall answer on exactly how to keep your beard short, as shaping and styling it depends on quite a few different factors, such as how fast and thick your beard grows and what style you want.
Still, while the actual trimming and shaping process will be different depending on whether you’re growing a circle beard, full beard or simply going for a five o’clock shadow, there are at least a few things that remain the same no matter what you’re doing.
For instance, whenever you’re trimming or shaping your beard, you need to make sure to use your beard comb to comb all the hair downwards so it’s all going in the same direction before shaving. This will help make sure you get a more even trim and don’t leave long, stray hairs behind.
The other major thing to remember is to always start long when trimming, before gradually changing to the shorter settings on your clippers. If you’re not going with a uniform length, make sure to fade in between the different lengths to give more definition. Starting out with a longer guard will help make sure you don’t take too much hair off and ruin your carefully crafted look. For longer beards, its recommended you forego the clippers all together and do all of your trimming with a pair of scissors for the same reason.
The question of beard maintenance and trimming depends on how much you’re willing to work to achieve it. Growing a beard takes dedication, but with the right knowledge and tools in hand, you’ll be ready to finally achieve your bearded dreams.
Ben Rose is the founder and senior editor at Prim&Prep, the definitive guide to male grooming. He is a wet shaving expert and body grooming aficionado. His work has been featured on many other prominent publications including Good Men Project, Addicted to Success, Steven Aitchison, and Sharpologist.