Beards are quickly venturing out of hipster territory and becoming status symbols for men everywhere. People associate wisdom, power and sex appeal with beards maintained with style by men who have the balls to let them grow out. However, growing a beard isn’t as simple as doing nothing and letting nature take its course—it requires commitment to achieve a bushy, lustrous mane that will set you apart from the unwashed masses. Herein, we break down how to get the look that’s more Michael Fassbender than Pual Bunyan.
Growing it out
Maintaining your skin
The most important part of growing a beard is actually taking care of your skin. The worst thing you can do is forget about what lies beneath your fledgling follicles, as growing a beard can plunge your skin into chaos. Skin will get dry and flake more easily, which can lead to irritation and itching. Begin by adding an exfoliating wash to your grooming routine, using it at least twice a week. You’ll need it to help remove dry and dead skin particles from your face, something that daily shaving to skin did without you realizing it. You also may have to switch up your moisturizer to an oil-based solution like this one from Clarins, which won’t create a white build-up in your hair and will even benefit the beard itself. However, if you aren’t experiencing excessive dryness, an oil-free solution like you already use should keep your skin moisturized and free of fissures that can lead to irritation or infection.
Maintaining your beard
If you’re new to having a beard, you may never have tried products such as beard oil. However, these are integral to keeping your beard healthy, just like you would the hair on top of your head. Maintenance begins with a shower, where you should consider using a light, soap-free shampoo and conditioner on your beard, skipping the shampoo every other day or so. Once you’re done with that, hop out of the shower and towel it dry, leaving a little bit of warm water in. This moisture will keep your beard supple and help you apply beard oil, which keeps parts of your beard furthest from your face from drying out and breaking (they receive less oil from your face than the roots). Using beard oil, like this one from Beard Brand, is as simple as warming up a few drops in your hands and massaging it in, starting from the roots all the way out to the ends, and cleaning it up with a fine-toothed comb. This step is also useful for passively removing any dead hairs that have outstayed their welcome on your face.
Having a hard time?
Some guys simply can’t grow beards as well as others. It’s a face, and one that may come with a lot of emotional baggage. However, you can try to give your face a boost (and we don’t mean joining the Hair Club for Men). Taking vitamins that promote healthy hair growth can go a long way, and you should try to take them regardless of your beard-growing ability. Testosterone is closely linked to beard growth in men, but we advise against trying that out unless a doctor tells diagnoses a deficiency in your body. Instead, try adding minerals such as iron and zinc, which directly promote hair growth, to your diet. B-complex vitamins give your hair thickness and lustre, while vitamin A helps repair damaged hair and keep it and your skin moisturized. Vitamin D helps your skin ditch unwanted follicles and grow new ones. As a last resort, you can consider a beard graft, which transplants hair-producing skin from your head to your face.
Shaving it off
There are times when you’ll need to bite the bullet and break out the razor—your anniversary dinner, a wedding, a meeting with the regional director—but you may have noticed that it’s gotten a whole lot tougher to scrape your mug down to size, especially now that your beard is a lot bigger. Start off with an exfoliating wash to prime your skin and soften your beard. Next, pull out a set of clippers to get your beard down to about a half centimetre (a number three works). Going shorter or to stubble will remove a few steps, but can irritate your skin more since it’s gotten unused to shaving. Now that you have a manageable amount of hair, apply beard lubricant or pre-shave oil to your skin to give you an extra layer of protection when using a razor and shaving cream. After that, it’s all going with the grain and cleaning up. Follow up with a quick cleanser and moisturizer, and you’ll be baby-faced and good to go.