Growing a beard doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. (Photo: Stocksy)
For the last 10 years, I’ve had a beard without spending tons of time or money on maintenance — and you can, too. The truth is, I’ve never been too excited about grooming myself. One of the reasons that led me to grow my beard in the first place was because it’s low maintenance! When I decided to let my beard grow out, I quickly realized that your beard can and will turn into a wild and tangled jungle of hairs if you don’t maintain it. But taking care of your beard can be easy, and I personally think it beats having to shave your facial hair every day or two. So, if you’re not into buying $80 beard oil or fancy, hi-tech trimmers, here are simple tips to keep your beard and your skin feeling good and looking fresh.
Buy only the essentials
It does initially cost money to get the right tools for the job. I hate spending money on this stuff, but after some time I narrowed it down to a short list of three must-haves that are lasting me a long time:
1. A pair of haircutting shears (basically a nimble version of scissors). I’ve had the same pair for years and they don’t really need to be sharpened — just never use them for cutting anything except hair. Try Mehaz Head Shears ($27), which have a comfy rubber grip.
2. An electric shaver. I use the Braun 340s ($81), which works wet or dry. If you use shave gel or anything to groom around the beard, you can rinse this under the faucet without any worries.
3. A fine-toothed comb. I have thick curly hair, so I prefer a longer one like Baxter of California Large Comb ($20) that I can use for my beard and my hair.
Cultivate an even beard
The first thing to keep in mind is that growing a beard takes patience. Sometimes you need to wait it out for your hair to grow to a good length before you can take a scissor or a shaver to begin styling. My hair growth is faster in some areas like my sideburns, and slower in my cheeks and moustache. Sometimes I used the trimmer setting to take down the parts that have grown in more for a more even length. Don’t be self-conscious if your beard looks less than ideal for a few short weeks — we’ve all been there and it’s worth the results.
When the time has come, rinse your face and bust out your comb and cutting shears to tackle any stray hairs that really stick out. In terms of technique, I use a comb to stretch out your hairs and run the shears just along the comb’s surface to ensure a straight and even cut. With this step, less is usually more. Don’t get too crazy with trimming your hair too short. It’s always better to let your beard hair relax before accidentally cutting too much. Step back from the mirror so you see the full picture and ensure you have an even length throughout.
Practice makes perfect with your electric shaver
Be sure to keep a steady hand any time you have an electric shaver in hand. They have the potential to slice a whole giant chunk out of your beard if you aren’t careful. If you’re feeling hesitant about trimming around your beard, just practice while the trimmer is off. Train your hand for the motion it’s about to make by moving in the exact path over your face. Then switch the shaver on and you’ll be good to go.
Keep your lip area clean
Trimming the lower side of your mustache by your upper lip is a quick and easy way to clean up your beard so it doesn’t look too scruffy. On your upper lip, take your haircutting shears and turn them horizontally to cut the hair from the corner of your lip toward the center of your mustache. Keeping the shears in the flattened position, make repeated cuts all the way across for a nice even look.
Beware the dreaded neck beard
No one ever talks about neck beards, but for me, the hair on the front of my neck down to my Adam’s apple grows just as quickly as the hair on my face. Once it gets to that prickly medium length, those hairs are going to stab into you when you turn your head and they are so annoying when dressing up with a collared shirt. At least once a week I use my electric shaver in front of a mirror to trim back my neck hairs.
Caring for beards in the cold, dry winter
As I’ve moved up and down the east coast, my beard has been through the freezing cold Vermont winters and the hot, humid, and sticky south Florida summers. Both require some tweaks to your routine. It’s really easy to forget about the skin that lives under all that hair in your beard, but that’s a big mistake. If you’re prone to dry skin like me, you can get dandruff – yes, even on your chin! A simple solution to this problem is probably sitting in your shower right now. It’s moisturizing conditioner, and it isn’t just for your scalp. I was told by my dermatologist to use Aussie conditioner. I use the Moist formula ($3).
Next time you wash your hair, get an extra glob of conditioner and work in all through your beard, using your fingertips to rub it into the skin under your beard. Leave it in until the end of the shower and then rinse it out. I also like to use a light moisturizer on my face after the shower like Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream ($47). Start by rubbing it into the open skin on your cheeks and once it’s mostly rubbed in, rake your fingers down toward the chin, so the moisturizer can penetrate down without feeling sticky in your beard.
Tending to beards in extreme heat
Unfortunately, the same tricks that work well in dry winter weather will be useless when you’re sweating in the heat, or swimming in the ocean. In the summer time, extra oils and sweat from your skin along with daily sunblock applications can quickly clog up your pores. This can create pimples that irritate your face even if they aren’t visible through your beard. It’s important to use some good soap and wash your face at least once a day, preferably at night, making sure that the soap gets deep down in your beard. It will take a while to rinse it all out, so this is most easily done in the shower, but it’s definitely fine to do over the sink too. I like Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Energizing Face Wash ($22) and Dove Men+Care Hydrating+ Face Wash ($4).