Nobody teaches you how to grow a beard. It just grows however it’s genetically designed to grow. And for many of us, nobody jumps in to give a beard grooming lesson, either. Sure, dad is there to teach you how to shave, but you’re likely out of the house and on your own by the time you need some beard trimming tips. Plus, since beards are generally a generational fixture of the past 10-20 years, dad might have never grown a beard for himself. So you’re on your own.
But you’re also not alone. At GQ, we’ve all given it a go, and over half of us wear a beard pretty much full time. That means we get to sample the best beard products, test the best beard trimmers, and try a few new beard styles along the way—and we get to call it research.
In all that “studying”, here are the most important beard grooming tips and tricks that we’ve learned, and that should help you maintain something neat and grandiose—whether it’s stellar 5 o’clock shadow or a 5-month stallion.
How to Trim Your Beard
If you’re going to grow a beard, then you need to know how to trim a beard—whether you’re maintaining its length or just cleaning it up. First, though, you should learn which kind of beard style flatters your face shape.
The beard-trimming tools you’ll need:
A beard comb:
Facial hair scissors:
A beard trimmer with numerous guard heads:
5 Beard Trimming Tips
If you aren’t sure what length you want, start with a higher guard head, and work your way down.
Use the beard comb to coach everything into place, including the mustache. Snip any strays that stand out or hang over the lip.
Facial hair scissors work well for mustache trimming and spot-checking, too.
Trimmer guard lengths change from one device to the next, and are often determined by whether the trimmer is exclusively for beards or hair. Sometimes a “1” means “1mm” and other times it means 1/4". It’s on you to find out, but more importantly, you need to remember which guard length you like on your device, and commit it to memory.
Always trim your beard when it’s dry, since this is how it’s going to look when you wear it out in the world.
See below for tips on how to fade your beard, how to trim the beard neckline, and how to keep the beard soft. Are you growing your beard out? You still need to trim it as it grows. This will help it grow into place, while avoiding awkward in-between stages.
Most of the above tips are applicable, with a bit of styling strategy. Read how to trim your beard (if you’re growing it out).
How to Fade Your Beard
Yes, you can use your beard trimmer to get a perfect fade. Dzenad "Geno" Bicic of Geno’s Barberia, in NYC’s West Village, breaks it down:
Buzz it: "Set guard to 3 and buzz your whole beard."
Clean the lower neck: "Switch guard to 1 and buzz from your Adam’s apple to two inches below your jaw."
Fade it: "Switch guard to 2 and buzz that remaining two-inch area, finessing and fading the 1 zone into the 3 zone."
Remove strays: "Remove guard (so that it’s on the 0 setting) and buzz below your Adam’s apple and any strays on the sides of your neck."
More beard shaping tips: If you’re feeling fancy with your trimmer, consider sporting a new beard style.
How to Trim Your Beard Neckline
Before you fade your beard, you need to define the neckline. This prevents you from having a neckbeard, and it also shows that you’re serious about this beard grooming thing. The neckline is pretty straightforward: Take two fingers and place them above your Adam’s apple. Imagine a U-shape that connects to the back of each ear, and meets in the middle at the base of the U. Shave everything below this line, with an actual razor or with the naked guard on your beard trimmer. Et voila!
How to Trim Your Beard Without Making a Mess
In the market for a solid, no-mess trimmer? Get one with a built-in vacuum, which promises to collect up to 90% of stray hairs. It’ll save you 10 minutes on cleanup, instead of wiping down every surface in a five-foot radius.
GQ’s picks for best vacuum beard trimmers:
3 Beard-Growing Myths, Debunked
New York dermatologist Dr. David Colbert sets us straight on three common beard misconceptions. Though, there’s still some room for convincing...
Myth 1: Certain foods and vitamins make your beard grow quicker.
"No food or vitamin makes the beard grow faster. However, we do need amino acids or protein in our diet to grow hair. For instance, guys who are anemic often experience beard thinning." (Still, many dermatologists will tell you to take supplements like biotin to strengthen hair and beard growth, and some still believe it speeds up growth too. So, this one remains a myth.)2.
Myth 2: If you shave more often, your facial hair will get fuller.
"Shaving absolutely does not make your hair grow at any different rate,” he says. “One reason it might seem that way? If you shave often, you’re feeling the prickly sensation of hair growing back more frequently."
Myth 3: Gray beards are coarser.
"If anything, our follicles become smaller as we age. Gray beards are not much different than regular ones, structurally speaking. If a Santa-like beard seems coarse, it’s just because it hasn’t been conditioned properly or is full of split ends." Which leads us to…
How to Keep Your Beard Soft (And Avoid Beard Itch)
You know the phrase “you are what you eat”? The same can be said for your beard. If you don’t feed it anything, it turns into a brittle skeleton, and starts scratching everything it touches. (This is how beard itch happens.) The best way to avoid this is to routinely apply beard oils, conditioning creams, and nourishing balms to the whiskers—of any length. They hydrate each whisker, softening them, and keeping them from frizzing and flying astray. These products also hydrate the skin beneath the beard, preventing beard dandruff and dry skin.
Here are our picks for the best beard oil, conditioner, and balm.
Beard Grooming Essential: The Beard Brush
A beard brush is essential for numerous reasons. First, if you’ve got a long beard, it helps to distribute oils from the shaft throughout the rest of the beard—whether they’re the natural oils from your skin or the ones you’ve applied by hand. Secondly, a beard brush helps exfoliate the skin underneath your beard, so that you never need to worry about beard dandruff. (Just pair it with a good oil or conditioner, as mentioned above.) And third, it pulls debris from the beard that you may have otherwise missed, and much more effectively than a comb.
Here are GQ’s picks for the best beard brushes:
How to Maintain Perfect 5 O’Clock Shadow**
You are one device away from maintaining perfect stubble. First, you need to decide what length you want to have—5 o’clock looks different on us all—and then you need to choose how often you’re going to manage it. (Perhaps you’re content with anything from 5 o’clock to 48 hours past 5.)
Here are GQ’s picks for the best electric shavers and stubble trimmers, designed specifically for the task:
If you want to wake up with stubble the next morning, or have actual 5 o’clock shadow at the end of the day:
If you want to trim every few days, use this trimmer’s bare guard:
The Shaving Products You’ll Still Need
Whether you’re shaving your neck or cheeks, or for the day you just need to make it all go away (sniffle), then keep these shaving essentials at the ready. They’re all targeted at sensitive skin, which you might need after going so long without a shave.
(By the way, to shave a beard, you need to trim it all the way down to stubble first. Believe it or not, some people never knew that.)
The Cream: Kyoku’s sake-infused shave cream lands on your face like little grassy clouds. Thick as it is, it won’t clog up your razor, either.
The Blade: The Xtreme3 gives a smooth glide, which is made possible by the aloe and vitamin-E coated cartridge strip.
The Aftershave: Aesop’s hydrating post-shave lotion is lighter than a cream but just thick enough that you still get a good tingle. It also happens to be some of the best-smelling stuff we’ve ever slapped on.
Originally Appeared on GQ