Exactly where some fashion trends are born is anyone’s guess. Most just seem to be cyclical, coming around every generation or two reaching critical mass and then slowly fading away until rediscovered by the next generation. In that sense they’re a verification of the adage “everything that’s old is new again”. The beard is one such trend. It’s been going in and out of favor since the days of ancient Greece and while it was hard to find guys with beards at the end of the 20th century it’s made a remarkable comeback over the course of the past 5 years or so. And that’s great because we don’t really understand why it would go out of fashion to begin with. After all, the beard is both cool and evocative, trendy and timeless, beautiful and manly. In this article we’re going to go over the best ways to keep your beard looking and feeling its very best.
Cleanliness is Next to Manliness
The act of washing your beard is only one part of the larger process of grooming your beard, which entails cultivating the beard, keeping it trim and neat, practicing good hygiene and caring for the underlying skin that supports it. Let’s take a look at the different steps in that process:
Picking a Style That’s You
To a certain degree the right beard will be determined by your haircut. So, for instance if have a short carefully groomed haircut a Grizzly Adams type beard just isn’t going to work. Likewise a chin strap beard isn’t going to work with a mullet. Or a Van Dyke with a men’s standard haircut. The two (beard and haircut) have to be in sync. The good news is that hair grows continually so you can always make adjustments to your beard or your haircut to bring them in line with each other. Beyond that you’ll want to pick a beard style that’s doable for your hair growth patterns as well as one that agrees with the shape of your face and your personality.
Cultivating a Great Beard
You are what you eat. Few truisms are more fully grounded in reality than that classic. If you relentlessly consume low quality food and practice dangerous habits like smoking it will be reflected in your physical appearance and that includes your beard. To encourage healthy beard growth you should eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and definitely put out the cigarettes once and for all. Cigarette smoke starves the skin of oxygen which makes it harder for the skin to support robust hair growth.
Grooming the Beard
Once you’ve decided on a style you’re going to need to establish good grooming habits while the beard is still growing out. That includes trimming it as necessary, remembering to shave those areas you’ve decided to leave clear and keeping it clean from the outset.
Washing your Beard
There’s no substitute for keeping your beard clean. You can’t avoid washing it and compensate by just working in a bit of beard oil now and then. You should wash your beard as thoroughly as you wash the hair on the top of your head every time you shower. You won’t need anything exotic but you should use something that will cut through any beard waxes and oils you’ve used since the last time you washed. There are a number of beard shampoos on the market that will do just that. But if you don’t have any at the moment your standard or hair growth hair shampoo is certainly better than nothing. The same with conditioners; there are many beard conditioners out there but it’s perfectly acceptable to use your hair conditioner in a pinch. Keep in mind too that if your beard is cropped pretty close to your face there’s no need for a conditioner of any kind. The most important thing to remember is that the hair on your face is no different than the hair on the top of your head. It needs to be washed thoroughly on a regular basis in order to stay clean and hygienic and to remove dirt, grime, pollution, oils and anything else from the underlying skin.
Should you suffer from the dreaded beard dandruff, or Beardruff, it’s not a great idea to use your normal anti-dandruff shampoo. That’s because those shampoos are formulated to act on the specific chemistry of the scalp, which is hardier than the skin on your face. By using one of the Blue shampoos on your face you could actually make the beardruff worse than it already is. Instead, we recommend you shop around for a beard oil that will help you address the problem. There are many out there and most of them do a fine job arresting the scourge of beardruff and turning off the snow machine.
Maintaining the Perfect Beard
Once your beard is fully grown in and you’ve developed good grooming habits it’s time to think about other steps you’ll need to take to maintain both a healthy beard and a healthy face under and around it.
The Value of Beard Oil
We mentioned beard oil briefly while discussing ways to treat beardruff but beard oil performs myriad functions besides keeping the flakes at bay.
● Beard oil keeps your beard smelling fresh – Beards, especially thicker, longer beards, can attract all kinds of atmospheric pollutants that can make your beard smell, let’s say “interesting”. Beard oil can prevent this from happening and provide your beard with a light, but typically somewhat musky scent that can actually double as a cologne.
● Beard oil helps moisturize the facial skin – A lot of guys complain that their face feels dry and itchy after they grow a beard. This is not because of the beard itself but because they’ve forgotten that the skin under the beard needs attention. Beard oil reaches through the beard to the underlying skin and provides it with the moisturizers it needs to stay supple and healthy.
● Beard oil provides a nice shine – You can always tell a beard that’s been neglected because it looks dull and dry. Beard oil will provide your beard with a handsome sheen that’s hard to quantify in words but is unmistakable to anyone who sees it. An added benefit is that your beard will feel as good as it looks.
When to Apply Beard Oil
Beard oil should be applied just after you wash and dry your beard. Not only will you be applying the beard oil to clean hair but the pores of the underlying skin will also be open and clean and ready to absorb the beard oil. Just rub a bit between your hands and then work it into the beard making sure to reach down to the skin if you have a particularly long or thick beard.
What About Beard Wax?
Not everyone with a beard will have use for beard or moustache wax. This type of wax is used to provide form to the hair, as in when someone wants to create a handlebar moustache. If that’s you, great. One thing to remember about beard or moustache wax is that it’s not the same as beard oil. It’s not intended to be worked through the whole beard unless you have some sort of beard-wide shaping in mind. Rather you apply it just to the areas you want to shape and even then it should only be used in moderation because you’re going to have to clean it out later.
What About Those Areas That Get Shaved?
Many beard styles call for large portions of the face to be clean shaven. If this is the case with your beard you’ll want to make sure you keep those areas just as clean and fresh as you would if you didn’t have a beard. Thing is you can sometimes experience razor burn in these areas, which really isn’t going to be such a good look when paired with the beard. To deal with such things you should consider using an aftershave. So after you’ve had your usual shower with a decent face scrub (and probably a little dance while listening to your shower speaker), pat dry the freshly-razored skin to avoid irritation. Then apply your choice of aftershave lightly over the skin’s surface. Just ensure you don’t get an aftershave whith a scent that clashes with that of your beard oil.
Don’t Slack Off
If you’ve had your beard for a while it can be tempting to slack off on the maintenance. Don’t. Establish a beard maintenance routine early in the life of your beard and stick with it for as long as you have the beard; whether that’s a month or a decade. As we’ve discussed that routine should include everything from a healthy diet to a good aftershave. If you maintain your beard properly you and anyone that gets close to you will enjoy its fuzzy luxury. Let it go and you’ll have a dirty carpet stuck to your face.
A Few Additional Tips
● Check Beard Creep – Just like soldiers experience mission creep (where things lead to other things and before long everything is out of control), you could experience beard creep where your facial hair slowly migrates closer and closer to your eyes as well as further and further down your neck. There’s no need to draw hard and fast boundaries if that’s not the kind of beard you have but keep an eye out for beard creep and be sure to trim things back to maintain an attractive countenance.
● Embrace the Comb – If you have a long beard you shouldn’t let it simply turn into a bird’s nest. Give your beard a quick run through after every wash so that it not only smells fresh and clean it looks healthy and more considered as well.
● But Not to an Absurd or Unnatural Degree – While it’s good to give your beard a quick run through with the comb to prevent knots and keep things looking good you don’t want to go overboard with it. After all a beard is supposed to accentuate your manliness, at least in part, and a manly look is often one that’s a bit rough around the edges.
Follow these tips and you’ll have the best looking, freshest smelling, manliest beard on the block.