At some point, every man has looked in the mirror and thought, “What would I look like with a beard?” Whether it happens out of genuine curiosity or from shaving fatigue, it’s a rite of passage. For some men, that first attempt opens up a lifetime of beard enthusiasm and they rarely, if ever, see their clean shaven mug again. Others are underwhelmed by their attempt, whether they notice patchy growth or just don’t like how they look. But if you want to really grow a beard, you have to actually commit.
Everyone can grow a beard, but to really get the most from your whiskers, you need a plan, man. Think about it like starting a new exercise program: you have an idea of where you want to end up, you have steps to get you there, you commit to the process, and most of all, you’re patient. You don’t become a gold medalist overnight and nor do you wake up with a flowing Jason Momoa beard.
With the right strategy, a glorious beard is within your grasp. But remember: not all beards are created equal and the first step of any great beard is to manage expectations and work with what you have.
Here’s how you can grow a beard with the right steps to achieving the best look.
Know Your Facial Hair If You’re Going to Grow a Beard
Understanding your facial hair is the first step in both managing expectations and formulating a solid plan. You don’t have to have been bearded before to know what your facial hair is like. If you shave every day, you already understand how far down your neck your whiskers grow and what direction they grow in. If you’ve let yourself have a few days of stubble, you may already know whether the hair on your face comes in patchy or full, not to mention how quickly it grows. These are all things to consider when you’re planning a beard. Patchy hair, for instance, may mean you need to go for a longer beard and thick, fast growing hair could mean you’re in for more regular trimming.
Consider Your Face Shape When Growing a Beard
Just like assessing your whiskers, you need to take a good, long look at your face. If beards are good for one thing, it’s enhancing or changing the shape of your face. Take a step back and consider the overall shape: if it’s round, a beard could make it look longer and leaner (by trimming the sides short and leaving length on the chin); if it’s an oval, it could make it look wider and more angular (by doing the opposite – leaving the sides longer); and if it’s square, it can soften the harsher angles (by trimming rounded angles). Generally speaking, a beard should work to make your face as close to an oval as possible, but beards can also make jawlines look more angular and defined. Turn your head slightly to each side to see if you’re going to want to trim your beard with sharp angles in mind.
Shave Your Face Before Growing a Beard
It seems counterintuitive, but shaving could help grow a beard, at least at first. Many barbers recommend giving yourself a good, close shave to stimulate the hair follicles and possibly cut down on the amount of ingrown hairs you get once the hair starts to grow out. It’s also a way to prep skin to make sure your facial hair can grow out smoothly and without as much itch. Right out of the shower, apply a pre-shave oil and massage it into your skin to help the hairs stand up for easier shaving (it will also lubricate the skin to help cut down on razor burn). Then apply a thick shaving cream in a circular motion to create an even layer. Using a new blade on whatever kind of razor you prefer, begin shaving with the grain (the direction your hair grows). Don’t rush through it—make sure you’re taking smooth, even strokes to minimize nicks and cuts. Finish by rinsing off the cream and applying a moisturizing, alcohol-free lotion to calm and hydrate your skin.
Let Your Beard Grow for At Least Two Months Before Trimming
After your *final* shave, step away from a razor. To start a beard, you have to be patient and just let it do its thing. Plan on allowing your facial hair to grow for at least two months before you start even considering trimming or shaping. Knowing what you’re working with is key to cultivating a perfect beard and the only way to do that is to allow it to grow. You may be surprised— length can fill out and hide patchy areas and a beard could grow in fuller and thicker than you ever imagined. But the thing about facial hair is that this grow-out phase is tough to get through. As whiskers grow out, they can be itchy and uncomfortable, especially if the sensation is new to you. Many men who embark on bearded life don’t make it past the first month. To help soothe the itch, use a stubble balm to soften the shorter hairs of your beard and make them more tolerable or use a beard oil to help keep the skin underneath smooth and moisturized (dry skin will make your new beard itch more). And while there are some supplements out there that claim to help facial hair grow faster, they’re less than scientifically-proven, so the best thing to do is just be patient.
Plan Your Beard Lines
There’s a caveat to not touching your growing beard: you still need to keep the lines crisp as it grows out to start creating what will be its final form. There’s a fine line between an intentional, well-maintained beard and just a bunch of wild growth and it all comes down to the neck. As you start to get some length to the facial hair, decide where you want your neck line to fall. Some men prefer a higher line, about an inch or so above the Adam’s apple, and some men like a slightly lower line. Visualize a “U” from ear to ear with the lowest part hitting where you want the neck line to fall (turn your head from side to side to make sure you see it from all angles). Then use a razor or trimmer to shave below it. When you look straight ahead in the mirror, you should not see any hair on your neck below your chin. The same goes for your cheeks—keep them free of straggling hairs creeping up from the main part of the beard. How crisp you keep those lines is up to you, but keeping your cheeks hair-free will say “I have a beard!” rather than “I haven’t shaved in a week!” Start experimenting with the lines as your beard grows out, so by the time you have enough length to start shaping it, you know exactly where you want the lines to fall.
Trim Your Beard Into Shape
Congratulations—you’ve made it through the hardest part! Once you have about two months of beard growth, the fun part begins. You now have an honest-to-god beard and it’s time to give it some shape. Begin by washing it with a beard wash (bonus points if you follow with a beard conditioner) to help soften the hairs. Then, using downward motions, brush it out with a coarse-bristle beard brush, which helps to smooth the hair and immediately identify flyaways and stragglers. Use scissors to trim those errant hairs so they don’t stick out (also use these scissors on any mustache hairs that fall over your lips). Then using a beard trimmer with multiple guards, begin to trim your beard into the shape you want. Start with the longest guard and gradually work your way shorter as you shape it. If this all sounds go complicated to you, head to your barber to ask him to shape it for you – then all you have to do at home is maintain the edges.
Beard Products Help Your Beard to Look Its Best
Now that you have a full, mighty beard of your own, it’s time to make it shine. Right after you trim it, use a few drops of beard oil to smooth and moisturize your facial hair. Beard oils work best if you massage them into the skin underneath as well, which can get dry easily when it’s covered by facial hair. Then use a beard cream or balm, depending on how coarse your facial hair is and how much control you want, to smooth it and shape it into place. You’ll want to do this routine often, even if you’re not trimming your beard (which you’ll want to do every two weeks or so). Use a beard wash every time you shampoo your hair, which should be about every two days, and brush your beard every day after you shower. This will help distribute the natural oils and keep the wiry hairs moisturized as well as exfoliate the skin underneath. Use your beard oil and balm after every time you wash it and on the days between as needed.