How to Trim a Beard Like a Pro
At the risk of sounding vain, a beard can be one of a man’s greatest assets and as such, it needs to be treated with the same care and dedication as women put into their skin or hair. We’re talking some serious maintenance here, including washing, combing, moisturizing (with a one of these quality beard oils or outstanding beard balms), and most important of all, trimming and shaping. Check out this article on how to maintain a beard.
If you want to pull off the bearded look and be taken seriously, you need to know what it takes to keep your facial hair under control and looking good. Male grooming is a thing, there’s no point trying to deny it to yourself, and the sooner you can accept that it takes work to properly rock a beard, the sooner you’ll start looking like a stud.
How to Groom a Beard
Trimming and shaping a beard is much more of an individual process, as every man’s face and facial hair is different. Nonetheless, there are a few tips on how to groom a beard that all men really should undertake.
As we said, men need to treat their beards like women treat their skin or hair, which means washing it with shampoo every day or two. The hair on your face is no different than that on your head, meaning it also gets greasy and dirty, which in turn can damage your hair and lead to acne and/or ingrown hairs. If washing your beard is causing dry skin, switch to a different shampoo, preferably something all-natural. Alternatively, you can also buy one of the many shampoos or soaps designed specifically for facial hair—it’s up to you, as long as you make sure to keep it clean.
If you or your significant other thinks your beard is getting a bit too bristly, you can soften it up by using a bit of conditioner after you wash it. The other option is to rub a dab of beard oil into the hair a few times a week, which will add a touch of manly fragrance and keep your beard looking soft, lush and healthy (remember, we’re not being vain—simply practical).
It’s also recommended that you also comb out your beard in the shower after washing it, as this will help to keep it straighter and prevent tangles and knots. You can use either a beard comb or a normal fine-toothed comb, just make sure to always comb it in the direction it’s growing, i.e., with the grain, as combing against the grain makes the beard look too fluffy. Combing also evens out the hair and makes it much easier to trim as well, but we’ll get to that later on.
Your daily beard routine still isn’t quite over after you get out of the shower because even how you dry your beard can have an effect on its quality. To prevent the hairs from breaking, you should gently dab the water out of the hair with a towel, instead of roughing it all up. Just make sure to get it fully dry, as being wet for too long can also damage the hairs.
All of this may sound a bit extreme, but keep in mind that you’ve got to do the work to look the part.
The Basics of Beard Trimming
Now that you know how to groom a beard, it’s time to move on to how to trim a beard. For our purposes, we’re going to first discuss the basics of trimming before moving on to more specific info on how to shape a beard separately. This first part is more of a universal concept—applicable to all guys, regardless of beard style or the shape of their face—whereas shaping is much more specialized and depends a lot on these aforementioned factors.
There are some basic areas that every guy really needs to trim at least every few days, possibly even daily depending on how quickly your facial hair grows. The most important area to trim is below the Adam’s apple, which helps even up the beard, adding more shape and definition to the face and beard –plus it keeps you from looking like a lazy slob.
Depending on your preference, you can either trim this area with a razor or a pair of electric trimmers with no guard. When trimming, try to follow the contour of the face, making sure not to trim anything above the Adam’s apple—unless you’re going for a goatee or other smaller style with no hair on the neck. After getting rid of the hairs on the neck, make sure to moisturize and condition the skin with a mild aftershave balm or lotion to help prevent ugly rashes and painful ingrown hairs. If your going to use a razor, I recommend using a safety razor for closest and most precise shave. Be sure to check out my article on the top safety razors to use as well as a video/article on how to shave your neckline.
The other important aspect of trimming is catching any stray or long hairs that stick out past the rest of the beard. This can either be done with scissors or trimmers with the longest possible guard, and probably needs to be done more often than you shape your beard, but at least once a week. It doesn’t take any time and it will help keep your beard looking neat and tidy, no matter what look you’re going for. After all, even the wild, rugged look actually takes a bit of work to properly pull it off. If your in the market for trimmers, be sure to check out our article on the best beard trimmers so you don’t waste your money.
Shaping It Up
While the above trimming tips apply to every man with facial hair, the next section is more general knowledge on the various ways to shape and style a beard. There’s really no exact answer as to how to shape a beard, since there are so many different ways to do it and great beard styles you can try. We also have articles about today’s best beard styles and best beard styles for black men. Still, we’ll try to simplify things a bit by approaching it from two different angles—trimming with clippers and using scissors. Deciding which tool to use comes down to a few different factors, most important of which is the length of your beard and which tool you’re most comfortable with.
Generally speaking, longer beards should probably be trimmed with scissors, not only because most beard trimmers don’t have a long enough guard to do it properly, but also simply because it gives you a bit more freedom and control to get exactly the right shape. On the other hand, shorter beards or neater, more groomed styles will definitely require the use of clippers to get the look just right. The same is true if you’re going for a more faded look, and also for those who are simply more comfortable with using a guard instead of trying to do it freehand with scissors.
Still, this isn’t to say that those who trim with scissors won’t also need to do a bit of touch-up work with a pair of clippers, so it’s a good idea to have both on hand before you get started.
Work With What You’ve Got- A Note on Styling
It’s probably obvious that not all beard styles look good on all men, so finding the right style may take a bit of experimentation before you finally settle on the best look for you. That being said, there are a few tips on how to style your beard so that it accentuates your features and compliments the shape of your face.
The first tip is to try to keep your beard as square as possible at the bottom, especially if you don’t have the strongest chin or jaw line, as this almost always results in a more masculine looking beard and can make even the weakest jaw look much stronger and more manly.
The other thing to keep in mind is the shape of your face, as how you trim your beard can either hide or exaggerate your features. For instance, if you have a very round or big face, you can give your face a more elongated look by trimming more off of your cheeks and keeping the hair on your chin a bit longer. Having too much hair on round cheeks can easily make you look like you have a fat face, so keep this in mind. For more details, check out this article on best beard styles for round faces.
On the other hand, if you have a longer, more oval shaped face, you probably want to do the opposite—trimming the hair on your chin shorter and leaving more on the cheeks to help round out your face. Having too long of a beard on a skinny, longer face can make you look unhealthy, whereas the other gives your face a more pleasant, cheerful look.
The exact trimming and shaping process will differ slightly depending on your particular beard style, but the main difference is how much hair you’ll be trimming off. For this reason, we’ll just stick to the basics of how the trimming should be done, on the understanding that you’ll read up on the exact process for your particular beard style.
How to Trim a Beard with Scissors
The first step to trimming your beard with scissors is to arm yourself with the right tools, in this case, a pair of small, sharp scissors—preferably barber’s shears. Don’t waste your time trying to use any other type of scissors, as they will likely either not be sharp enough or be too bulky to wield properly (recommended mustache and beard scissors on Amazon). Make sure your scissors are clean and sharp before getting started, then settle in somewhere with a good mirror and plenty of light.
As mentioned before, scissors are best for long beards or when you’re looking to take off a large amount of hair before doing the final trimming with clippers, as most men aren’t skilled enough to do the finer shaping work with scissors.
When it comes to the actual trimming, make sure to fully wet your beard first, as this straightens out the hair and makes it easier to cut. Once you’re ready to get cutting, you’re going to want to take a comb and use it as a guide in the same way as a barber does for the hair on your head. Comb out the hair with the grain, stopping at the desired length and using the scissors to cut any hairs that stick between the teeth of the comb.
Even if you know the exact length you’re going for, make sure to be careful not to take off too much hair at first. You can always trim it up further later, but if you cut it too short, all you can do is wait for it to grow back in. Plus, trimming it too short can make your beard look thin and patchy—similar to a teenager trying to grow their first beard.
Start at one side of your face, near the ear and proceed to trim that whole side of your face to an even length from top down, before repeating the process on the other side. If you’re trying to fade from shorter to longer, you can do this by taking off slightly less hair with every cut as you move down.
Once you’ve got the cheeks done, it’s time to repeat the process on the neck and below the jaw. You’ll probably want to make sure to take off more hair here than you did on the cheeks, or else you run the risk of ending up with more of a neck beard look. When trimming this area, make sure not to keep everything even so it doesn’t stick out past your chin, unless you’ve got an epic full beard, which requires a bit of specialized trimming.
After trimming the neck and jaw, take your comb and trim your chin hair so it’s the same length as that on the jaw line. Finally, comb the mustache down and carefully use your scissors to trim directly along the upper line of your lip, making sure no hairs hang down in your mouth.
Once you’ve finished the overall trimming and shaping, you can then move on to the final shaping and touch-up, which will be covered shortly.
How to Shape a Beard with Clippers
The best thing about using clippers or a beard trimmer is that the guards make it much harder to make a serious mistake, although it’s definitely still possible. When it comes to preparing and the actual trimming, the process is pretty much the same as using scissors. You’ll want to start off with a wash and comb, then do the trimming in front of a well-lit mirror while the hair is still wet.
It’s also a good idea to follow the same order, starting at the top of the cheeks and working your way down, before then doing the neck, jaw, chin and finally the mustache. Decide how long you want the beard to be and choose the corresponding guard. If you’re not sure which guard is best, start off with the longest one, and then progressively shorten it up until you’re happy with the length.
For those looking to fade their beard, having it shorter at the top of the cheeks and progressively getting longer towards the chin, it’s best to first trim the entire beard with the longest guard you plan to use. From there you can use the next shortest guard to fade up on the cheeks, and then an even shorter guard to touch up near the ears if you want a stronger fade.
It’s always a good idea to read the instruction manual for your clippers before using them for the first time, as many models work slightly differently. For instance, some guards are designed to cut with the grain while others work against the grain. Either way, make sure to keep the clippers firmly pressed against your face (without pressing too hard) and trim with smooth, even strokes.
Once you’ve got your beard to the desired length and shape, you should remove the guard to trim up your neckline, keeping in mind the tips discussed earlier. You can also use the trimmer to clean up your cheek lines or remove any stray hairs above the desired line.
A Quick Note on Clipper Maintenance
It’s super important that you properly clean and maintain your clippers after each use to keep them working properly. Many clippers come with a small brush that helps to clean out all of the small hairs from in between the teeth, which should be used after every use. If you don’t have one, any soft bristled brush will do—even a toothbrush (although probably not one you plan on putting in your mouth again).
Read your manual to see if your clippers can be rinsed off with water, as most, but not all can. If yours can, give them a quick rinse after brushing them to remove any remaining hairs. Along with the clippers, make sure to remember to rinse off the guards as well. In addition to regular cleaning, some beard trimmers also need to be oiled after every few uses to keep the blades sharp and also to prevent them from getting jammed from hair.
Properly maintained clippers will not only last much longer, but they’ll also make the trimming process much easier and allow you to get a much more precise look.
Final Shaping and Touch-Up
Once you’ve got your beard to the right length, it’s time to decide whether or not you’re going to trim up your cheek line, which depends on the style and look you’re going for. In most cases, we recommend guys with full beards leave their cheek line alone completely, unless you happen to have hair almost up to your eyeballs. Still, if you want a cleaner, more styled look, the next step is to shave the top of your beard into the desired line.
Again, how much to take off depends on the style you’re shooting for, but beware about taking too much, as definitely not all men can pull off the chinstrap look. Still, having sharp, clean lines can also add a sleek, sexy look, so it’s really up to what you think looks the best.
If you’re planning on trimming up your cheek line, after you’ve touched up your neck line with your razor or trimmer, you’ll want to do the same thing along the top of the beard. The most important thing here is to be patient and careful, trying to keep the line as straight and precise as possible. For this reason, we recommend using a new, sharp razor and taking your time.
If you plan on using a razor on your cheek and neck lines, make sure to first wash your face with warm water. Next, work your shaving cream into a nice lather and liberally apply it on only the areas to be shaved, trying to stick as close to your desired lines as possible. Then get your razor wet and start by trimming a bit above your desired cheek line, beginning up by the ears and working your way downwards. You want to leave the hair a bit above the final line at first to give yourself a bit of room to play, as you can then give the line a final touch afterwards.
After shaving, rinse off all the hair and shaving cream with cold water to tighten the skin. It’s actually a good idea to rinse your face off a few times during the process if you’re going for more sculpted lines, as this will give you a better feel for exactly how everything should look and help keep you from making a mistake. Check out our video/article on how to shave your cheek line.
The Final Word
Trimming and shaping a beard is very much an individual process, as every man wants to wear it differently. Still, by now you should at least have a basic understanding of how to trim a beard. No matter what look or style you desire, the most important thing to keep in mind is to start long. There’s nothing worse than accidentally taking off too much and looking like a fool, or worse still, screwing up bad enough that you’re forced to shave off what you’ve worked so hard to grow.
It may take some time before you perfect your own method and style, so have some patience, don’t be afraid to experiment and see where your beard can take you.
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.