The average beard grows at a rate of half a millimeter per day and is comprised of an average of 25,000 individual hairs.
While ethnicity, hormone levels and your overall health also play roles in the health and vigor of your beard, lack of proper grooming can cause skin irritation, damaged hair and an unkempt appearance.
If you want to grow a luxurious beard but have always shaved in frustration after a few days or you just can’t seem to tame your facial hair, here are some tips for getting the look you want.
Familiarize Yourself with Beard Styles
There is a huge array of facial hair styles you can consider that fall under the ‘beard’ terminology. Many men give up in their attempt to grow a beard because they are not grooming the hair at all and quickly amass a bushman beard worthy of Grizzly Adams.
Having an idea of what you’d like to accomplish with your facial hair will make getting the results you want much easier.
Consider Your Ethnicity
Men with European ancestry, especially around the Mediterranean, usually have thick facial hair that can become bushy and itchy. Men with Asian, Native/Aboriginal or Latino ancestry may be frustrated by sparse hair. If you want to grow out your beard, try to work with the framework your genes have given you.
If a full beard looks patchy or bushy, consider other styles such as a Van Dyke or a short-boxed beard. If you don’t grow a a mustache very well, a goatee or chin strap style may be better. For those lucky enough to have fairly straight, full beards, ZZ Top is the limit!
Beard Shampoo and Conditioner
Now that you have a particular style in mind, knowledge about proper beard shampooing and conditioning is critical. The first rule of growing a beard? Do not use the shampoo and conditioner you use on your scalp to wash your beard. The skin on your face is more sensitive, thin and prone to irritation than that of your scalp, and beard hair can be more fragile than scalp hair.
Scalp shampoo can dry out the follicles, making your beard itchy for you and unbearable as steel wool to your partner. Use a good conditioning cleanser to wash your beard a few times a week. If you smoke, sweat heavily at work or indulge in messy meals, you may need to wash and condition your beard more often to avoid stains or an offensive odor.
Beard Oils, Balms and Butters
These products are designed to add moisture and, most importantly, lock in moisture to keep your facial hair soft and manageable. If you suffer from dandruff or skin flakes in your beard, a good balm can help soothe the skin and discourage flaking.
A little of these products goes a long way, so you will want to use them sparingly and blot away any excess with a soft towel. If you or your partner have asthma, allergies or other sensitivities, you’ll want to choose one that doesn’t have a strong scent.
The Essential Beard-Care Tools
Depending on your hair type and the style of beard you want to wear, you will need to invest in some high-quality tools for maintaining your facial hair. While the most expensive option is not always the best, cheap items will usually not perform up to your expectations.
Scissors. You will want scissors that are made for cutting hair. If you are left-handed, purchase scissors specifically designed for you as right-handed scissors will not give you a decent cut. Stainless steel is a good option, with Japanese varieties being prized among barbers and hairstylists.
A Detangling Comb. This type of comb looks similar to the small pocket comb you may carry for your head hair. While plastic is okay, you want to avoid cheap combs that have a rough edge and rigid bristles as this can damage your hair follicles.
Wood and steel are excellent options. Always comb your beard gently, as yanking the comb can make any knots worse and can damage it. If you are growing a long beard, always comb from the bottom and work up towards your face when detangling.
A Finishing Comb. Fine-toothed and smaller than a detangling comb, use the finishing comb to remove divots and train your facial foliage into the desired shape. If your beard has a tendency to clump up even after you’ve detangled it, a finishing comb will leave your beard more polished and urbane.
Quality Safety Razor. Unless you are planning an ‘all-natural’ look or are blessed with a perfect beard pattern, you will likely need to edge your beard under your jaw, at the neck and, possibly, at the cheek line. Use a sharp blade to create a precise edge, if necessary.
An Electric Trimmer. If you’re going for a short beard, trimming with scissors alone can be time-consuming. Invest in a quality electric trimmer with a variety of blade guards. The guards will allow you to choose the length you want and trim your beard quickly.
A Wall Mirror. Attempting to do all of your beard grooming while leaning over the sink can be uncomfortable. Put up a wall mirror so you can stand close to it and see what you are doing easily. This is also indispensable if you share a bathroom with others and don’t want to monopolize it.
Knowing When to Trim
Each individual will have a different experience with trimming, based on how quickly your hair grows, how easily it’s damaged and the desired appearance. When first growing out your beard, you may want to trim it once a week until it grows to the desired length and fullness, then every two weeks thereafter.
Of course, modify this schedule if you notice your growth is not keeping pace with trimming or you’re dissatisfied with the texture of your facial hair. Never trim facial hair when it’s wet, as you may be dismayed to discover how short you’ve cut it when it dries. If you are having trouble with trimming, your barber can trim your beard for you.
When It’s Time to Shave
While plenty of men wear beards year-round, shaving for the hot summer months isn’t uncommon at all. To take your beard off, first trim it down as close you can with scissors or an electric trimmer. Take a hot shower or lay a warm, damp towel over your face to soften the hairs. Using a quality shaving cream, lather the stubble and shave as normal.
Your first shave will likely not be as smooth as you’d expect. Don’t make the mistake of over-shaving, as this can lead to irritation and ingrown hairs.
As with any body hair, grooming is essential to an attractive appearance. Growing and maintaining a beard can be a challenge in our shave-centric society. By following these tips and tricks, you can find a style of beard that suits you and care for it properly.