In the first part of our beard care series, we discussed some of the benefits of growing a beard and shared tips for making the transition from smooth shave to bearded as seamless as possible. In the second installment, we discussed How To Trim Your Beard.
And today, I’d to talk about my experience with the products and tools that are going to make beard care and maintenance so much more enjoyable.
Just as caring for your skin and the hair on your head yields better results when you use the correct wash, conditioner, or treatments, proper beard care products are key to creating a healthy, professional looking beard.
Beard oil is the most essential beard care product, period. Without it, your beard feels dry and crunchy and becomes prone to snags and breakage while combing. Especially after washing, your beard needs to be re-hydrated.
Go with Jojoba Oil
The best beard oils are based on lightweight carrier oils such as jojoba, which is the oil that most closely mimics our skin’s natural oil. When you wash your beard to remove dirt and sweat, some of the beneficial oil is lost along with the grime. Beard oil simply replaces the natural and beneficial oil that’s unavoidably removed when washing your beard.
Avoid Olive Oil
Budget-range beard oils usually use heavier carriers such as olive oil, which helps bring costs down, but these thicker oils tend to sit on the surface of the hair rather than get absorbed. This isn’t the best thing for the health and appearance of your beard and I can say from personal experience, these cheaper oils are much more likely to stain your shirt collar. Fortunately, I learned my lesson after the first ruined shirt.
Aside from the carrier oils that provide the base of the product, beard oils often contain other ingredients to provide pleasing scents. It’s usually best to look for products that use natural essential oils rather than synthetic fragrance oils, since these products will be applied around your mouth and under your nose.
There are times when synthetic fragrance oils are acceptable, however. Certain essential oils either don’t exist, are prohibitively expensive, or are too difficult to blend into the desired scents, so brands will resort to synthetic fragrances for these cases. I still use beard oil with synthetic fragrances, but limit them to occasional use.
If you have a frizzy or hard to control beard, we highly recommend you to look into beard balms and waxes. But keep in mind, there’s no industry standard for what constitutes either product, so the terminology can be a little ambiguous.
Most are a blend of natural oils, waxes, and butters in varying amounts. The ratio of the given ingredients causes the finished product to fall somewhere on a wide spectrum, with hold being at one end and conditioning at the other. In general, this category of beard care products are kind of a heavy leave-in conditioner at the light end all the way up to heavy duty styling products on the heavy side.
Products To Take A Look At
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty conditioning product, look for a balm with a a softer hold like this one from Zeus. If you want more hold and styling power, choose a heavy-duty balm like this one from Honest Amish. The level of control will often be listed on the label, making shopping easier. But you may still have to experiment with several products to find the one that works best for your particular needs.
Generally, longer beards look more balanced with longer mustaches. But as your mustache gets longer, it can get in the way of your mouth. To solve that little annoyance, just use a little mustache wax to tame the hair on your upper lip.
There are many types of mustache wax. Some provide a great shine but never harden like Col Conk Model 118. Others, such as Clubman Pinaud, go on as a thin cream and harden within minutes like a hair product. Then you have heavy-duty mustache waxes like Can You Handlebar Extra Strength that have a high beeswax content. These waxes have a high hold, but won’t ever harden.
When I was wearing a high hold handlebar mustache, I actually wasn’t using a mustache-specific product at all. Instead, I was applying multiple thin coats of Layrite Superhold pomade and it worked beautifully. If you prefer a minimalist approach, you can always opt for something like Layrite that can perform double duty.
For mustache-specific products, the obvious safe choice is to choose from mustache waxes that are beeswax-based simply to avoid putting petrochemicals right under your nose and around your mouth. But sometimes, synthetic ingredients can greatly enhance the performance of a product.
There’s a mustache wax out there for everybody. Some will help you achieve just a little control and shine while maintaining a natural look and others will make possible a highly-styled handlebar mustache. The choice is yours!
Since your face produces less oil than the hair on your head, it’s best to use a wash specifically formulated for your beard. Washing your beard with shampoo is essentially the same thing as using it as a face wash. I know I’ve had to use shampoo to wash my face when it was all I had and my face felt dry and tight afterwards. Trust me on that one: you don’t want to do that on a regular basis, so having a wash designed for use on your beard is the way to go.
For shorter beards, using your normal face wash is just fine. But I find a dedicated beard wash lathers, smells, cleans, and just plain feels better than a face wash for my longer beard. Plus, since the majority are made by your favorite beard care product companies, you can often find a wash to match the scent of your beard oil.
To help restore some of the moisture that was lost during the washing process, adding a beard conditioner can help soften and add shine to your beard. My beard is really coarse and tangly, so I’ll take all the help I can get to soften it up. Applying a liberal amount of beard conditioner and letting it soak in for a minute or two leaves my beard feeling much softer.
This is a particularly important step during the winter. If your beard is feeling exceptionally dry, you should consider using beard conditioner in place of a wash. You still get a clean feeling and great scent, without over drying your face and beard.
With the products covered, let’s discuss some of the hardware that can help you in maintaining your beard.
We recommend having separate combs for your beard, mustache, and head hair for several reasons.
Using a comb coated in beard oil on your waxed mustache or hair can diminish the holding properties of other products. Let’s assume you want a high hold side part for my hair. If you get beard oil on my hair, it tends to sag and fall out of place. To avoid having to wash your comb in-between grooming steps, it’s much easier to just have multiple combs.
Especially for men with very coarse beards, a regular comb will never be able to make it through your curly beard after it gets longer than an inch or two. For that reason, I like to use this extra wide tooth comb by Swissco. It’s made of tortoise shell patterned Italian acetate, fits perfectly in a pocket, and easily passes through my tangly beard.
Standard hair cutting shears can do a fine job of trimming your beard and mustache, but they’re ultimately designed for regular hair, which is comparatively easy to cut. However, beard and mustache hair is very hard and has a tendency to “walk out” or escape the cutting surfaces of regular shears.
Having a pair of small scissors with a micro serrated edge (like these from Dovo) actually grip the sturdy hairs in place so they can be cut accurately. The small design also gives me greater control when trimming my beard as well as my mustache.
As recommended before, using scissors to snip unwanted cheek hairs is a much safer option than using a razor to establish your cheek line. The probability of accidentally going too far down is greatly reduced when using scissors than if using any type of razor.
A beard trimmer is a particularly useful tool for maintaining short beards (Wahl make a great beard trimmer). You simply select the guard that corresponds with your desired length, run it through your beard against the grain and you’re all set. It’s also very useful for maintaining neck and cheek lines (very carefully!). And as mentioned in How to Grow a Beard, they’re also great for use on your last shave before embarking on your beard growing experience to create a softer cut at the end of your beard hairs.
Equally as effective as a beard trimmer, if perhaps a little unwieldy, is a standard set of hair clippers. If you already have these at home, feel free to try them out before buying a dedicated beard trimmer. The only downside is that they tend to be corded and may not feel as nimble while working the contours of your face.
An electric razor is a much safer option for maintaining your neck and cheek lines. Once you have your lines established with scissors or a beard trimmer, you take the areas down to a smooth shave every few days with your electric razor (I prefer one by Braun with straight cutter heads for accuracy).
With a traditional blade, the risk of butchering your beard is just too high for my personal comfort level. But an electric razor is entirely dependent on the hairs being short enough to thread themselves through the foil, so the likelihood of accidentally cutting longer beard hairs is nearly zero.
Just because you give up the razor (perhaps only temporarily) doesn’t mean your shaving brush has to collect dust. Keep it on hand for occasional exfoliation when your beard is longer. This can be a great addition to regular washes, helping to remove beard flakes and invigorate the skin.
This tool is going to be invaluable to those of you who are used to frequent shaving and exfoliation. The shaving brush will definitely help ease the transition. Since a shaving brush provides a mechanical cleaning effect, be sure to pair it with a gentle beard or face wash to avoid over-drying.
Hair dryers can be extremely useful for the bearded gentleman. They’re great for straightening an unruly beard, heating beard oil into the hair, and taming long mustaches. In our experience this Conair hair dryer helps you achieve a handlebar-style mustache and you can still use it daily before applying wax to maintain the established shape.
You can also use a hair dryer to straighten your beard when it is shorter. To do that, apply beard oil and then hold the hair dryer a few inches away from your beard as you ran a comb through it. This technique doesn’t work with longer beards but it makes your shorter beard look immaculately groomed.
Beard Grooming Routine – putting it all together
Now that we’ve covered all of the different products involved in beard care and grooming, you may be thinking that it sounds like an awful lot of work. But don’t worry, I’m going to break down what I do on a daily basis, every few days, and about once per month so you can see just how quick and painless beard care can be.
These steps are the ones that I feel are most essential to maintaining the health and appearance of my beard, while also being speedy enough to be a practical part of my grooming routine.
Wash or rinse
Since your face is less oily than your scalp, it isn’t necessary to wash your beard every single day. However, it’s just fine to do it as long as you use a gentle beard wash and follow up with some type of moisturizer or beard oil to help re-hydrate your face and beard.
I wash my beard about every other day and on the days in between, I just thoroughly rinse and massage my beard and face under the shower. However, I do wash my mustache and area around my mouth with face wash on a daily basis.
Oil and comb
I find it best to apply beard oil right after a shower when the hairs are softened and primed to accept the product.When my beard was shorter, I would only use 2-3 drops of beard oil, but now use 6-8 since it’s gotten significantly longer.
After massaging the oil into my beard, I’ll run a comb through it to help better distribute the oil and align my beard hairs. This helps tremendously with maintaining a respectable appearance with a longer beard. If I just oil and let my beard dry naturally, it crinkles up and looks much more unkempt.
This step really only applies to longer and especially curly beards, since shorter hairs will be much less willing to change shape.
After I’ve oiled and combed my beard, causing the hairs to lie in a lengthened position, I use the palms of my hands to gently cup and compact it into the shape I want. This step helps big time in cutting down on the number of strays I have to trim.
Also, since the same amount of beard hair is being compressed into a smaller package, it helps tremendously with making it appear more full and dense.
Blow dry and wax mustache
One of the most annoying things about growing a beard is having your mustache get in the way while eating. So as soon as it was long enough, I started training my mustache into a classic handlebar shape.
After my shower, I use a hairdryer on high to shape my mustache from the center out. A comb is useful for holding in place so you don’t burn your fingers. The heat makes the hairs nice and pliable. Then, when my mustache is good and hot (after only 15-30 seconds), I press the cool button for a blast of cold air that effectively “sets” the hairs in place.
After I have the general shape established with a hairdryer, I use a beeswax-based mustache wax to add additional control and all-day hold.
Every few days
In addition to my daily beard care routine, every few days I’ll add a couple steps to keep my beard looking its best.
Trim neck and cheek lines
I would advise you to line up your neck and cheek line at about the same frequency as you would shave your entire face. If your beard grows extremely fast and heavy, daily or every other day would be best, but if your beard growth is lighter and slower, twice per week will be fine.
Also, the longer your beard gets, the greater the contrast between your main beard length and the spots you maintain, meaning you can go longer between touch ups. When my beard hair is longer than 2 inches, it can take up to 4 or 5 days before my neck stubble is even noticeable.
There really isn’t anything wrong with using a conditioner every time you wash your beard, but I personally limit it to a couple times per week to save time during my grooming routine.
Always follow the instructions listed on the bottle. Most manufacturers will recommend that you massage the conditioner into your beard to evenly distribute, let soak in for 30 seconds, then rinse. The process is really the same as with hair conditioner.
To keep the temptation to majorly alter my beard at bay, I’ll snip anything that is outside of my desired silhouette about once or twice per week. This is just enough maintenance to keep it looking good between more substantial trimming sessions.
I reserve the major beard decisions for less frequent consideration to avoid impulsively cutting it too short.
Length and shape
About once per month, I’ll evaluate my beard’s length and overall shape. I’ll ask myself how I’ve felt about it on a daily basis over the past couple of weeks. If I’ve been really pleased with it in general, I’ll just trim a few strays and let the length continue to grow.
If I’ve found myself constantly struggling to get it to look right (bad beard days are real), then I will trim some of the length or work on getting the proportions back in line with my chosen style.
If I’m just not sure if I should shorten trouble areas, I’ve found that hanging in there for a couple more weeks will sometimes help me overcome an awkward stage and my beard will start to behave on its own with time.
If I decide it’s time for a more involved trim, I follow the steps I laid out in How to Trim a Beard.
I know this may sound like a lot of maintenance, but as with anything else, you become very efficient over time. To put it into perspective, if you were to describe all of the products and every step involved in wet shaving, you end up with The Shaving Guide, which is much longer..
On average, I don’t spend more than five minutes on beard care during a single day. It really is all about experimenting and developing an efficient routine.
Good luck growing your beard!
Beard Care and Grooming Guide: Products and Tools
A comprehensive list of essential products and tools that will surely make beard care and maintenance so much more enjoyable.