During a recent Q&A on Instagram, I was asked: "Do you have an (article) on how to maintain/style a beard?" My answer was "I actually don't but I'll do one." Never let it be said that I'm not a man of my word so here for your reading pleasure is my comprehensive guide to facial hair.
Not all beards are created equally. In fact, some say you don't choose your beard, your beard chooses you.
A lot of guys find growing facial hair about as easy as catching fish in the Sahara. But even if you're not one of the follically fabulous chosen ones a bit of no-how can still guide you towards goateed glory.
It'll take a bit of effort but it'll be worth it as the right beard style can transform your look and take you from clean-cut baby face to rugged man of mystery in just a few weeks.
Why Grow Facial Hair?
Well, first of all, it's a lot kinder on your skin than forcibly dragging a razor across it on a daily basis. Secondly, beards are a great way to mask imperfections such as uneven skin pigmentation and acne scars. A well-defined beard will also boost the size of your jaw and, by virtue of colour contrast, draws attention to your smile.
Another big reason that guys grow beards is to make them look older. Given that facial hair is one of the signs of sexual maturity in men, it's no wonder that guys with smooth chins getting asked for ID in their 20s can feel a little put-out.
Arguably the biggest reason that men grow beards is that it makes them feel more attractive. Do women like beards? A 2016 study at Northumbria University rated men on their appearance.
The women surveyed singled out bearded blokes as their preferred choice of partner, viewing them as more masculine and dominant looking than their clean-shaven brethren.
How to Grow A Beard
Before you start your bearded journey, it's important to start with a level playing field.
So clean shave properly as this allows for healthy and consistent growth which will form the foundation on which your moustache mountain will be built. If you lack the tools then visit a barber for the full hot-towel, wet shave experience.
Depending on your testosterone levels, your growth will either be glacial or rapid. Either way, when you've got a sharp stubbly chin, you're at stage one. Congratulations. However, the hard work isn't over. While you can't change genetics, exfoliating regularly will stimulate growth. Keep an eye your diet too: drink plenty of water and take vitamins B and C, iron and omega-3 to give the grass all the nourishment it needs to grow.
Once you have a healthy amount of growth, you need to decide on which beard style is right for you. The right beard style can add weight to your jawline and make you look more masculine but it should be in proportion and needs to complement your face shape.
So whether you grow a robust mane or sprout a few patches of stubble, here are some suggestions on what style is right for you.
Stubble is often confused (rightly or wrongly) for laziness/a lack of shaving, though there are ways to make stubble your signature look while looking fresh and accentuating your features. Stubble can be a good option for guys with larger, rounder faces. By sharpening up the lines around your cheeks and jaw, you can give more definition to your face – like make-up but with hair.
Groom your stubble with an electric trimmer (set at 1-3mm) twice a week and use a light exfoliator before and a moisturiser afterwards so that your skin can handle the abrasions of an electric beard trimmer.
Shorter beards generally work better for guys with full even coverage as if you have patchy facial hair, a shorter beard will only serve to further highlight the gaps. If you don't have full coverage then stay patient in the early stages as it might look better after committing to some growth and then trimming evenly. To groom a short beard – and I'm speaking from experience here – set your trimmer to 3-5 mm and use it every 2 or 3 days. If you have thicker growth in some areas (my moustache being an example) go a grade shorter on that area so that everything looks even. Use a scissors or remove the guard on the trimmer to trim any hairs hanging down over your lip line. As with stubble, take care of your skin by exfoliating and moisturising before and after respectively.
A tailored beard is defined by neat, full facial coverage no longer than a centimetre at any point. A tailored beard plays well in smarter environments as it's neat and consistent – like a well-fitting suit. It's great for guys looking to emphasise their cheekbones or jawline.
It also works well if you're looking to make your chin look fuller or slim down a rounder looking face.
You'll need to trim it every 4 or 5 days to keep it looking neat. Rinse your beard with water and towel dry it before adding some beard balm to keep things fresh and healthy. Take a scissors to your lip line and remember to always check the settings on your trimmer before use.
Longer beards work for those lucky, testosterone packed dudes with good, thick facial hair growth. You can use the extra hair to create good facial proportions. For example, if you have a small chin, you can use the hair to elongate your face. If you have a thin face then you can use the hair to fill out your silhouette.
Once your beard gets as long as the hair on the top of your head, you must treat it as such.
Shampoo and condition every few days to avoid the risk of your beard drying out and taking moisture from the skin beneath with it. Use beard oil to keep it nourished and help it to retain its natural moisture.
When you visit the barber get them to tidy it up and clean up your cheek line.
If you work around food then it's probably best not to go full lumberjack as facial hair nets look good on nobody and no one likes finding a long reddish hair in their Caesar Salad.