Yes. I now have a “yeard.” I have now entered into that select club of distinguished gentleman who have allowed their facial hair to escape to its natural habitat for over a year. Since embarking on my hirsute journey, I have fielded many questions from my facially-folicily challenged brothers. This is a tactical guide that will hopefully answer some of the questions for those just embarking on their bearded journey, and for those grizzly bearded brethren who want to get those bristles under control.
Step 1. Don’t shave
Yep. It’s that simple.
But, oh so hard to do.
I’ve been told by so many guys on how hard growing a beard can be. It itches, it gets hot, and a lot of times a guy’s significant other just doesn’t like it. Come on men. Suck it up. Nothing good ever happens without some discomfort. To combat the itching, purchase some high quality beard oil or make your own. But, for the first month, do nothing! That’s right. Don’t trim, fold, spindle, or mutilate. Leave that burgeoning beard of awesomeness to incubate on your face. I’ve seen many a beard revert back to its infancy because of a namby-pamby wannabe who had a moment of indecision due to discomfort.
Yes, your face will itch. It will be uncomfortable. Your face has lived its life having its bearded potential hacked off every morning. Those whiskers have developed a defense mechanism by turning into little spears of hellfire. Once you’ve started growing your beard, and your whiskers are getting longer those little spears have grown out, turned on you, and are irritating your skin.
Be patient. The itchiness will pass. In moments of weakness, tape posters of famous bearded men on your bathroom mirror or freeze your razor in a block of ice. Do whatever will get you through this patch of prickling discomfiture, and the results will be worth it.
Step 2. Trimming the Neckline
Don’t be this guy. I don’t know what he was thinking, but it reminds me of the feathers around a buzzard’s neck. Unless that’s the look you’re going for, trimming your neckline is an important step when growing out your beard.
First of all don’t trim your neckline to high (line A in the diagram below). If you do, it will…well, look weird. It tends to make you look tense and uptight. And a tense, bearded man can make people nervous, especially when carrying a back pack.
If you go the other extreme (line c) you’ll rock the Teen Wolf look before your beard can cover that unsightly Yeti neck hair.
Your best bet (line b) is somewhere in the middle above the adams apple. The simple rule is to shave where the neck meets the head.
The best way to maintain a clean neckline is to use a beard trimmer. I use the Braun Cruzer 3-in-1 beard and head trimmer (more on that later). This unique locking trimmer allows great control when shaping the neckline. Another word of warning… This is where rookie wannabe beardsman mess up. They take too much off trimming the neckline, see how goofy they look, get frustrated, and shave the entire thing off. Give yourself space when trimming. You can always take more off. You can’t glue those whiskers back on.
Step 3. What to do about the stache?
Every beardsman, as they progress on their voyage to true bearded glory, “mustache” themselves this question: Epic stash or trimmed?
Many of my short-bearded brethren trim their mustaches. Some trim it along the contours of the lip. Others let it creep down past the lip line. It really is a personal decision (or your significant other’s preference) that will determine the length of the stache.
A good beard trimmer like the Braun Cruzer can help you get a clean mustache trim, especially with the control the sliding trimmer provides. Again, remember when trimming a little at a time is best.
It takes a special amount of discipline and patience to let a stache get to epic lengths. I’ll admit I succumbed to trimming my stache at the beginning of my bearded adventure. But after careful consideration and research into the style I wanted to achieve, I was able to summon the discipline to let it grow into something to be proud of.
To grow an epic mustache, do not trim it. Ever. This was probably the most difficult issue for me to get over, even more than the initial itching phase of the beard. When your mustache starts growing past your lip, it is a whole new sensation for your face that is completely foreign to anything you’ve felt before. You’ll wake up from a deep sleep with your mustache in your mouth. When you eat a sandwich you’ll pull your hairs on your upper lip as you bite down on the bread. You’ll ask for extra napkins every time you eat out. Don’t even get me started on what happens when you have a cold. There is a reason epic staches are rare. They are not for the faint of heart.
The key to an epic stache is training. You have to train your mustache to grow the way you want it to. Once your mustache gets some length, the best way to train it goes something like this. After a shower, when your mustache is still damp, comb it in the direction you want it to go. Next, work in some mustache wax to add further control. The amount of mustache wax needed depends on the coarseness of your whiskers. Pretty soon you’ll be able to style it in the classic handlebar or emperial style if that’s your desire.
Step 4. Trimming the beard
This comes down to personal preference and genetics. Some people need to trim up their cheek line to avoid the wolfman look. Others are fine because they don’t get hairs creeping up their face. Personally, I can just touch mine up once a week and am good to go. The aforementioned Braun Cruzer makes short work of this.
The Cruzer also excels at allowing you to create a “fade” properly. A proper fade can make the difference between a well-styled mane of manliness or looking like Tom Hanks in Castaway. A fade is a technique used to gradually shorten the beard at the sideburns to give a cleaner look and match your hairstyle. You can also use the technique if you shave your head. Again, the Braun Cruzer is an excellent tool to achieve this.
When I’m trimming up my beard, I start with Cruzer at the 4 or 5 setting, depending on the length of my beard. I work my way up the sideburns. It’s important not to start too low on the sideburns in order to avoid trimming too much hair on the first pass.
After my first couple of trimming passes, I work my way up, decreasing the size of the Cruzer’s guard. I continue doing this until the sideburns connect and are close to the same length as the hair on the side of my head. The adjustable guards have up to 6 lengths so it will work with any length of beard and hairstyle. The fade is also a great technique for men who shave their heads and want a full beard.
One tip – Don’t try to even out your sideburns on your beard by using your ears as a measurement. Most people’s ears are uneven, and you may just end up with an uneven sideburn trim. Just eyeball it in the mirror and you’ll be fine.
Along with the Braun Cruzer Beard and head trimmer, another tool you will need is a good pair of beard scissors.
Not all beard hairs grow at the same speed, so trimming those wild beard hairs will be necessary before going out in public.
To trim out the bottom of your beard, start by combing out your beard. If a bunch of debris and/or last night’s dinner drops into the sink, you may want to think about washing that puppy a bit more (that’s another article). Once it’s combed out, start trimming by making short, precise cuts. Don’t just start hacking away or your beard or you will look like you have mange. Short, thin, sculpting cuts are the way to go.
Continue the short cuts until you have your beard cut and styled to the proper length. Then, if you are married, make sure to clean up the sink. This is very important! That, gentlemen is even more of a safety tip than not running with your beard scissors. You can thank me later.
If you are thinking about joining the bearded ranks, following these simple steps (as well as waiting patiently for your beard to grow) will help you get it done. If you’re just starting to grow a beard, welcome to a select group of bearded brethren. If you’ve been growing a beard for awhile, I’d love to hear what tips you would like to add in the comments below.
Beard on, gentlemen.