If you are one of the many faces sporting a new beard this November, you are not alone. Each year, many men discover that the fall — November, in particular — offers guilt-free excuses to grow a beard and get in touch with their inner lumberjack.
One such justification can simply be chalked up to what some refer to as “fall beard.” It’s hard to say if this seasonal sprout is due to social tradition or if it can be attributed to something more primal, such as the need to create an extra barrier against the elements. Whatever the cause, men have been growing and shaving beards with the seasons for eons.
Probably not so coincidentally, two awareness campaigns — both related to facial hair — are also in November: No-Shave November and Movember. Look into them and decide for yourself, but we think that experimenting with your beard for a good cause can be a ton of fun.
Regardless of the reason why you have decided to grow facial hair, maintaining a beard takes some work. Quite a few men are initially resistant to the idea of putting time and energy into daily grooming routines, but it’s not as complicated as it may seem. Even if you’re not one of the lucky few blessed with epic beard DNA, the only things standing between your dream beard and the itchy, patchy, not-so-legendary beard of last year are a few minutes a day and these simple steps:
1. Use a beard wash, not shampoo
Some men think the shampoo that runs off of their head and down their faces while showering is a good enough cleaning regimen for their beard. Other men reach for whatever they have in the shower — shampoo for color-treated hair, baby shampoo, conditioner — and those options are all wrong.
Although it seems logical to think that soap is soap, the hair on your head and the hair on your face are two completely different things. Your beard is much more susceptible to becoming brittle and breaking. Commercial shampoo strips your beard of its natural oils; your beard, however, needs these oils to thrive. A good beard wash will not contain harsh chemicals, and it will successfully clean your beard without drying it out.
The best part about using a beard wash is that you don’t need to overdo it; you only need to wash it two or three times a week. Of course, if you encounter something out of the ordinary, such as an unpleasant odor, use more as needed. Otherwise, keep your beard wash in the shower and use it only every few days or so for best results.
2. Condition with beard oil or balm
A good beard oil or beard balm makes all of the difference in the world between a patchy, uneven beard and the lush beard of your dreams. By using these conditioners, you are giving your beard that extra something it needs to stay hydrated. How much you need depends on a number of things, such as genetics, environment and working conditions, but the bottom line is that dry beards are brittle and more prone to breakage. To keep your beard strokable, soft and looking great, use beard oil, beard balm or both.
If you are trying to decide between the two, it really just comes down to preference. Think about whether you will be applying your conditioner at home — in which case oil should be just fine — or if you’re going to want something that’s more portable — perhaps a balm. For maximum impact, we recommend using both beard oil and beard balm.
3. Brush your beard at least once a day
Brushing your beard is important for the obvious reasons — there is something about a messy beard that just screams “wild” — but brushing regularly has a few other benefits as well:
- The brush acts as a natural exfoliator, keeping the itching and flaking to a minimum. When you brush your beard, get close to the skin and gently move the brush in a circular motion before pulling the brush through your beard.
- The brush redistributes the natural oils your beard already has, boosting its shine and luster. You can also use the brush after applying oil or balm to help with the distribution, but use caution when brushing a wet beard.
- By gently removing loose particles of dirt and debris, brushing also keeps your beard clean. Keep the dust from settling in your beard by running a brush through it a few times a day.
4. Learn how to trim your beard correctly
Some of the best beard-growing advice sounds so silly when you hear it, but it’s sound advice nonetheless. Ready? Don’t shave! Let it grow. It seems obvious, but hear us out. Some people get frustrated with their beards at a certain stage and just shave it off. They often think that the patchiness is permanent or that the tiny flip at the ends will be there through the end of time. In most cases, though, these things work themselves out if you just hang in there.
Trimming too much is another common mistake. When you only have stubble, trimming high up on the neck has no effect one way or the other; however, if you keep doing that while letting your beard grow, you will end up with a beard that looks scraggly and sparse at its ends. Wait until your beard has taken shape to see what areas are going to be out of bounds before you begin to shave them off. You may find a few that you don’t want (high on your cheeks or low on your neck), or you may find that all the areas where hair is growing play a significant supporting role in your full, lush beard.
One exception: As far as the ends of your beard are concerned, don’t be afraid to snip off a few troubled areas if need be. Believe it or not, there is sometimes a small section that, for whatever reason, grows at warp speed while the rest of your beard is happily growing at its regular pace. Suck it up and even it out, because unless you’re going to braid that section and start a new trend (a la the rat tail), an even beard looks best. If you’re afraid to do it yourself, have a trusted friend or barber do the honors.
The final question to ask yourself is this: Should I keep my beard? You are the only one with the right answer, but with beards more popular than ever, it seems like now is the perfect time to give it a try.