How to Grow a Beard and Caring For It
You would be forgiven for wondering why, on a website specifically targeting the hair removal sector, we have chosen to talk about growing a beard!
In fact, many men with bald heads choose to grow a beard nowadays as a matter of style choice, and the grooming and trimming of the hair that you keep is as important as how you remove the hair that you decide to get rid of.
We therefore thought that, as the two often go hand in glove, our readers would appreciate some information about beards.
Why Grow a Beard?
I always imagined that the reasons for growing a beard were obvious; you like the look and/or you don't like shaving on a daily basis!
However, having researched the subject and given it much more thought, it turns out that there are actually quite a few very good reasons why you might choose to join the beard brigade:
- Style - well yes, this is the obvious reason after all is said and done - and sporting a well-groomed beard has become more and more popular in recent years. Often, and rather unexpectedly, this comes together with a bald or buzz-cut head - which seems to be quite a sexy and attractive look for many ladies.
- Masculinity - growing a good, full beard exudes masculinity, in part at least due to the fact that it is an exclusively male preserve. This seems to be particularly true in the attitude of men, who often view the ability to grow a beard as proof of "manliness". In fact the ability (or inability) to grow a full beard is genetically determined.
- Confidence - there has been research that concludes that having a beard can lead to improved confidence in the bearer. Perhaps this has something to do with the masculinity point above, or it could just be that looking good automatically boosts confidence. It seems that a beard creates a positive look which in turn helps promote positive feelings.
- Cover Up - there is no doubt that a beard provides a great cover up of skin blemishes, wrinkles and to a certain extent even double chins! If you have acne, the beard will not only cover it up, but will also mean that you will not have to aggravate the condition by shaving.
- Protection - a beard not only provides a good shield for the skin from the elements (especially UV rays) but your mustache and a full beard may also help with allergies such as hayfever or asthma, by providing a natural filter.
- No Shaving - obviously, no need for shaving any more but if you are thinking that this will save you time and the motivation for growing a beard is one of laziness, then think again. You will need to look after your beard, keep it clean and well groomed. You may save some money, but keeping a beard in good order will involve a certain amount of ongoing outlay for beard grooming products.
Where to Start?
Pretty much all the best advice is to start from a "clean sheet" by having a good, close shave.
Tips for the Best Shave
- Cleanse Thoroughly - wash with soap or cleanser and warm water (having a shower is ideal), rinse carefully and pat dry. This not only clears the skin of oil but opens the pores and softens the hair making the shave more efficient.
- Exfoliate - this will remove any dead skin cells and help prevent ingrown hairs.
- Sharp Blade - make sure that the razor you will be using has a good, sharp blade. Using a blunt blade causes dragging and increased irritation/razor burn.
- Pre-shave Oil - to help with softening of the hair, nourishing the skin and act as a barrier to increase the smoothness of the blade glide a pre-shave oil can be used. Put a couple of drops onto one palm and massage gently into the other palm so that both are oiled. Then use them to rub into the beard for long enough to thoroughly cover all the hair and penetrate the skin beneath. Leave for at least 30 - 40 seconds and then apply your shaving cream. There are proprietory brands of pre-shave oils available e.g. Art of Shaving or Lather & Wood . However, any natural oil such as coconut oil will do just as well.
- Lather - the ideal is to use a shaving cream with a brush, to get a really good lather, but if you prefer use a favourite foam or gel.
- Shave - at a 30 degree angle to the skin, in the direction of the hair's natural growth, from the sideburn down, making sure that the skin is taut with your spare hand.
- Cold - splash with cold water, or use a flannel steeped in cold water to remove excess cream/foam and close the pores.
- Balm - use a post-shave balm to soothe and moisturize the skin
The first thing you will notice as your hair starts to grow back is the itchiness, which can be absolutely relentless!
This is due to brittle hair and the skin being dry and dehydrated beneath the beard, plus the build up of dirt and dead skin cells.
If you have ever gone for a length of time without washing your hair, you will know how itchy your scalp becomes, and this is very similar.
Beating the Itch
Although the itchiness is very tiresome and may well drive you mad, it is worth persevering and here are a couple of tips for alleviating it:
- Clean - wash the beard with a beard shampoo and rinse it thoroughly. It is important to use a beard shampoo rather than your regular hair shampoo, as it is specifically designed to enrich and moisturize the hair whilst cleaning it, rather than stripping it of its natural oils.
- Moisturize - use a beard balm all over the hair and massage into the skin beneath to leave the hair softer and the skin more supple and hydrated.
You will need to grow your hair for at least a month to realise anywhere near it's full potential, before you think about trimming or styling it in any way.
Make sure that you have approximately 3cms growth before you start.
Daily use of beard oil massaged into the beard and skin will also help to alleviate itchiness.
Choosing a Style
As your facial hair grows, you will need to decide on the look you want to achieve and hopefully, a style that will suit the shape of your head and face.
There are endless styles to choose from, below are just a few - from full untamed beard and mustache to small, well shaped goatee.
If you have just spent weeks putting up with itchy skin and a scruffy look to grow a full beard, we would strongly recommend that you go to a barber to have it professionally shaped for the first time.
They should be able to advise you as to what will look good, and once done, keeping it in trim at home will be a lot easier than trying to get the right shape first time.
Of course, this is a matter for personal choice, and if you decide to go for it yourself, there are a few basic rules of thumb to follow to ensure that you like the finished look and it actually suits you.
First, take a good look at the shape of your face:
If you have an oval shaped face, then the good news is that pretty much any style of beard will suit you, so you just have to pick a look and go for it!
If you have a round face then a beard that accentuates the chin, such as a goatee type beard, would be a good choice to give it more definition.
Choose any style that has more length than width, that is to say one which does not have too much hair growth at the side, but more on the chin, which will balance the shape and elongate the face.
If you have a long, straight sided face, growing a beard with fuller sides will help to shape the face and make the cheekbones appear more prominent.
Always bear in mind that you can take a bit more off, but not stick it back on, so take your time and do not go mad all at once.
The ongoing care of your beard includes regular washing and moisturizing as well as trimming to keep it tidy and in shape.
Depending on your lifestyle and working conditions, you should wash and condition your beard at least 2 or 3 times a week, or more if you work in a dirty environment.
Using a good conditioner will stop the beard becoming dry and wiry and the ends splitting, as well as softening and hydrating the skin beneath.
To trim the beard, electric trimmers are fine for round the edges of the beard and neck or for shorter beard styles, as they can be set at a certain length, to make it easier.
However, for longer beard styles you will also need a comb and scissors for trimming the actual beard.
In addition we would recommend that you have a beard brush, for longer beards, to brush the hair through regularly and keep it looking tidy and untangled.
The You Tube video below shows how to trim and shape your beard using either comb and scissors or electric trimmer:
As you can see, although it is not difficult, there is a technique that you will need to master and do take care not to take too much off at once until you are proficient.
- Dry - make sure your hair is nice and dry before you start so that you can see the finished length properly as you go along
- Comb - using a wide-toothed beard comb first comb the beard down in the direction of hair growth, and then comb it upwards so that it is standing out away from the skin
- Angle - angle the comb outwards from the face for the desired length and trim hair to the comb using barbers scissors
- Define - the edges of your beard are best defined using a razor or electric trimmer, to give a good, sharp outline
- Comb - when you have finished, comb the beard down and snip off any individual stray hairs that you have missed (again - be careful not to go mad!)
- Electric Trimmers - if using electric trimmers, set at the longest setting first and then gradually reduce until you have the desired effect
Using beard oil will moisturize your hair and the skin beneath your beard.
It will prevent the skin from becoming dry and flaky (who wants dandruff in their beard?) and keep the beard hair soft and sleek.
You only need a few drops in the palm of your hand, rubbed into the beard and skin thoroughly on a daily basis - ideal is after your morning shower.
If you have a long beard, you can comb it through to make sure all the hair is coated in a light layer.
It is better to use a properly formulated beard shampoo rather than your regular shampoo.
This is because regular hair shampoos are designed to stop you having greasy hair, and so may strip your beard and the skin of natural oils with the risk of causing dry, flaky skin.
You really want the opposite from your beard shampoo, in that you want to hydrate the skin and moisturize the hair, to soften and nourish it.
Beard balm offers the benefits of beard oil, but is more solid and also helps to hold the shape of your beard in place, preventing strays.
So if your main reason is to soften and moisturize your beard and skin, beard oil is the best, but if you also wish to sculpt your beard for a very polished look, use beard balm.
The oil is easier to get through the hair and absorbed into the skin, so there is a case to be made for using it a couple of times a week even if you use the balm regularly as well, as an occasional intensive moisturizer.
A beard brush is a useful item, for several reasons:
- Grooms - brush your dry beard through to straighten the hairs out and give a tidy, well-groomed appearance. Use to help distribute beard oil or balm evenly through your beard.
- Softens - the act of brushing your beard stimulates the skin and promotes sebum production (the natural oil produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin) which is then brushed through the hair to naturally soften it
- Cleans - helps to clean the beard by brushing out any dust and debris accumulated in the beard throughout the day
As the beard gets longer, a beard comb comes into its own.
Unlike a beard brush, you can use a beard comb on wet hair and whilst drying with a hairdryer if you use one, to keep it straightened out and in order.
When it comes to trimming, a comb is ideal to use for greater control - as shown in the video earlier in this article.
You will need to choose how far apart the teeth of the comb are. If you have a long or bushy beard you may want to have one with very wide teeth to use first, and then one with narrower teeth to use afterwards.
Many combs come with two different widths combined, as the Myhsmooth Beard Comb depicted above.
When trimming your beard regular scissors are just not up to the job.
Beard and mustache scissors are specially designed to trim the coarse hair of your beard and are extremely sharp.
It is important that the scissors do not allow the hairs to slip away when cutting, but are sharp enough to cut a good, clean line.
When choosing, make sure that the length is right for you - they need to be just long enough to cut hair along the comb, but short enough to handle easily.
Also, check that the finger holes are OK for you, as some can be rather small for large hands!
Be aware that the pointed tips of the scissors can be very sharp and you need to take care when using the tips to trim strays at the edges not to nick the skin.
There is a vast array of electric beard trimmers on the market, and choosing can be a bit baffling.
The key thing to think about is obviously your beard length and what length settings the beard trimmer has.
Another important consideration is whether you want a rechargeable device so that you can use it cordless, and if so, how long it takes to charge.
After these two main points, you might want to think about other features and whether you want a multi-purpose device or simply a tool for the one job.