Maintaining your beard is an important part of the manly pursuit of having good facial hair. While many men prefer the rugged, wild, let-loose look of simply not shaving, more men these days must confront their beard maintenance and grooming head on. It’s important that you know how to maintain a beard if your plan is to sport the best one your genetics will allow.
There are a few things you need to be concerned about when it comes to maintaining and grooming your beard.
The first thing is that you’ll need is to get a good beard trimmer to maintain the length and shape of your beard. We recommend something like the Wahl 8685 Peanut Clipper/Trimmer or the Philips Norelco G370 All In One Grooming System – but you don’t have to take our word for it. Head over to our interactive chart of the best beard trimmers here to make your choice easier.
The trimmer you choose will depend on your goals, your preferences, and your price range. There are good trimmers for almost every need so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one, whether you need one with multiple attachments to use as a full head and body grooming tool, or just a basic trimmer that has the right length comb and can give you a good edge.
Maintaining your beard means selecting the right length for the style of beard you want. Obviously, this goes hand in hand with your trimmer selection, which we discussed above, but once you have the trimmer, you’ve got to know what you’re going for.
There really is no end in sight for varying lengths of beards, simply because you could grow one for the rest of your life and it would literally get as long as physically possible (save any freak blender or wood chipper accidents). So where will you fit in?
The great thing about a beard is you can experiment with it and it will always grow back. As you start growing your beard, let it go for longer than you think you should. You’ll get a full range of looks, from the permanent 5-o’clock shadow look that’s popular right now to the full-on Grizzly Adams woodsman beard.
Your beard will depend on your face and jaw shape, the coarseness of your hair, and your personal preferences, of course. You may not be able to pull off a very full beard if your hair is somewhat thin and ‘puffs’ out a bit, making your face look slightly fat. Conversely, stubble may make you look like you’ve been up for 3 days on a bender.
Whatever style you choose, experiment a bit to find what’s right for you, and then set up a system to maintain the length, either by finding the right beard trimmer comb length, using scissors to trim errant hairs, or by going to a good barber who deals with facial hair.
Just remember that if you’re using a trimmer to keep your beard length right, start with a longer comb (higher number setting) than you think you need. You’ll be able to pick out stray hair while maintaining the volume of your beard, to begin with, but you also will not run the risk of accidentally cutting it too short. Keep it long to start with and then decrease the length slowly until you find the look you’re after. It can always be made shorter, but once you shave it too close, all you can do is wait until it grows back – if you’ve made a big mistake, that could be weeks.
The neck line of your beard is very important. Cutting it too high can make you look like you’ve got a double chin or simply make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. Leaving it to forage downwards until the stray ends of your neck-beard become one with your chest hair can make you look sloppy and unprofessional.
Choosing the right neck line will again be a bit of an experiment. The best tip is to start low and only cut more in incremental bits until you get the right look. For example, start by taking just a hair (okay, call it a millimeter) off from the bottom of your beard in an even line. You can do this by using the ‘naked’, non-comb setting of your beard trimmer, or by using a razor.
Once you have taken that first little bit, remove whatever shaving product you use (if you are using a razor, for example) and see how it looks. If you’ve determined that you need more, go back and remove another small amount and make that even across your neck. Check again. And again, until perfect.
Just remember not to venture too high or your beard will become an enemy, rather than a friend. Keep the neck line on your neck. Don’t let it creep up to your chin or jaw.
To cut your neck line, start in the middle with a clean straight shave downwards and then work your way to each ear separately, ensuring that you get an even, symmetrical cut. Remember to take your time. There’s nothing worse than cutting one side too high and having it look wonky, only to have to shave the other side the same way to get uniformity. After all that, it’s not unusual to realize both sides are now too high and you’ll have to either wait it out until it grows back, or start from scratch.
Your cheek line is an important aspect of your beard maintenance. You must decide, like your neck line, what look works best. Try the “shave a little bit at a time” method to find what works.
However, your cheek line may not be as much of a worry as your neck line. Unless your beard comes close to covering your entire face (cheeks and eyeballs included), you may not have to worry about your cheek line other than removing the odd hair that grows out of place.
Do not cut your cheek line down too low. Unless you’re going for the chin-strap look (don’t), you will want the height of your beard to be at least moderately high for the best look and shape.
Cleaning your beard
If you’re going to have a beard, you’ve got to maintain its cleanliness like you would any other part of your body.
As a basic rule, you should shampoo your beard once or twice a week – don’t do it every day, or you’ll lose the natural oils that keep your hair healthy. You can add a bit of conditioner more often than you shampoo to keep it from drying/splitting/frizzing. This can be altered if you’re really big about a daily shampoo or if you don’t think you should have to clean your beard the same way as you would your hair or any other part of your body.
The whole personal things gets weird here, because your hygiene is your deal. Just don’t think it’s cool to let your beard go completely wild and show up to events and meetings with children playing in the ratty locks of your chin sweater. Use common sense and be a clean person.