No “good beard” is an accident. If you see a guy whose whiskers are well groomed and look healthy, it’s because he’s putting in the time to make it that way. Growing a beard is one thing, but how he cares for it determines how great it looks—even if his beard is patchier or thinner than others.
Guys with good beards don’t have dry or irritated skin either. Their partners don’t suffer from beard burn, and the men themselves aren’t scratching at an itch all day. Their necklines are shaped just right—and yes, their facial hair looks styled in the best way possible, too.
Achieving this on your own comes down to three main things: minding the edges, trimming as needed, and nourishing both your skin and hair. To learn the best ways to do this, we asked a couple experts for help: Garrett Pike, founder and head barber at No Club Barbershop, and Robert McMillen, founder and head barber at Mildred Barbershop. Below is the beard maintenance advice they think every guy should put into practice, guaranteed to result in soft, satisfying scruff.
YOUR BEARD NECKLINE SHOULD RESEMBLE A “U”
If you don’t carve your neckline the right way, don’t worry. It’s tough to know exactly what you’re supposed to do, and it’s easy to get it wrong. You see necklines that creep into the cheeks, or on the underside of the chin. Meanwhile, other guys grow a neckbeard. But there is one correct way to do this, no questions asked. “Take your index and middle finger, and place them together above the Adam’s apple to determine the baseline for the bottom of the beard,” says McMillen. “It’s helpful to set a line from this point straight across the neck with your trimmer or razor first, then trim the hairs below.” Next, from this point above the Adam’s apple, shave a “U” shape from the back of both ears, behind the jawline. This is your neckline, and should be every guy’s neckline. No debate.
YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO FADE YOUR OWN BEARD NECKLINE, TOO
To blend your bare neckline into your beard—in the same way a barber fades the sides of your haircut into the fuller top—all you need to do is follow a few simple steps with your trimmer. “Put a 1-guard on your clipper and close it all the way,” says Pike. Trim roughly one full inch into the beard (assuming it’s not extremely big and bushy, in which case a faded neckline is pointless). “This will create a soft contrast,” he says. “Then you can take the guard off and trim halfway up into the 1-guard line for a steadier contrast.” The result is a graduation from bare neck to full beard over the course of one inch.
RELAX YOUR FACE WHILE TRIMMING THE MUSTACHE
It’s just a small strip of hair, but the mustache deserves more attention than you’re giving it—namely when it comes to trimming. One key to a successful trim, McMillen says, is to “maintain a normal ‘resting’ face when trimming, to assure your mustache is even with all expressions.” Pike adds that mustache scissors are imperative instead of electric clippers, because they allow you a more natural result.
“You also need a small comb,” McMillen says. “Comb the mustache hairs straight down to determine how much length and bulk need to be trimmed. Once the length has been determined, the bulk can be reduced by combing the hairs away from the face and removing the top layer. Your comb and scissors should do the trick.”
REMEMBER THAT “BEARD MAINTENANCE” ALSO MEANS “SKINCARE”
Here’s some neckline-shearing insight that will remind you of your clean-shaven days: “Most guys treat shaving as a chore and not a process,” McMillen says.
Some guys might think “I need to remove this hair” instead of “I need to keep my skin healthy.” If this sounds like you, then you might be a prime candidate for irritation, infection, and razor burn on and around your neckline. McMillen says to take your time shaving around the beard, just as you would have a full regimen for shaving your face. “Any proper shave takes time, especially when it comes to pre- and post-shave care,” he says. “Even if you’re just maintaining facial hair and shaving around certain patterns, be sure your skin is clean. You need to make sure the pores are open beforehand and properly sealed after to avoid irritation.” That’s why you should start the shave with a hot shower, and end it with a cold splash of water before applying a nourishing beard balm barrier.
KNOW WHEN TO USE BEARD OIL AND WHEN TO USE BEARD BALM
McMillen is a proponent of both beard oil and balm, but suggests you get familiar with their respective benefits. “Beard oil acts as a moisturizing and conditioning agent that can help stimulate growth and treat your beard as well as the skin underneath,” he says. “On the other hand, beard balm is a styling agent that can help add volume and shape to your beard, [and] it can also deodorize and assist with locking in moisture.” So, while both can nourish the hairs, oil is for softening the bristles and hydrating the skin, and balm is for styling and protecting the hairs from environmental wear and dehydration.
By Adam Hurly