Growing a beard can be an expression of freedom, but it’s also a commitment. Beards don't take care of themselves any more than your lawn or your nails. They need some upkeep.
"If you don't pay any attention to your beard, pretty soon, you're going to look like a wanderer from the Alaskan wild," says Sandy Poirier, celebrity stylist and owner of Shag, a salon in Boston.
Whether you're just past the stubble stage or trying to tame a 2-foot mass, here are some beard care tips.
Grow It Better
- Fight through the itch. This is the point where the faint-hearted give up. If you stick with it, it gets better after a few weeks, Poirier says.
- Let it grow. Wait a few months before trying to shape a beard. That’s even if you plan to keep it short and close to the face in the long run, Poirier says. Shaping and trimming a beard too early is a common rookie mistake -- a mistake that can take weeks or months to fix. "Let it get a little wild at first," Poirier says. "Once you have about an inch or an inch and a half, then you can start shaping it."
- Know when to give up. It's a hard truth, but not all guys can grow a beard. It's just a matter of genetics, Poirier says. "If it's been two or three months, and it's still patchy and scraggly, it's not going to get better," Poirier says. "Let it go, shave it off, and move on."
Now you've got your beard. How do you take care of it?
- Shampoo. Lots of guys don't wash their beards -- or if they do, they use the bar soap they'd use on their armpits. Bad idea. You'll dry out your beard and the skin beneath. Instead, shampoo at least a few times a week, Poirier says. Use a moisturizing shampoo to prevent the hair from getting brittle.
- Condition. Poirier recommends a thick, heavy-duty conditioner to keep your beard from getting too wiry. "Let the conditioner sit there," Poirier says. Consider the leave-in kind that you don’t have to rinse out.
- Use products (if you want). Whatever you rub into your beard is bound to get on your skin, too. Use products that are noncomedogenic, says Seemal R. Desai, MD, a dermatologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. That means they won't clog your pores.
- Trim it. Even if you grow your beard long, Poirier recommends a trim every two months. It's like getting rid of split ends in your hair. If you’re keeping it short, trim your beard every few weeks or so.
- Have the right tools. Poirier says an electric trimmer is fine for the edge of your beard on your face. But for shaping the bulk, he recommends scissors and a comb. "If you're using scissors, you're not as likely to cut off too much by accident," Poirier says.
Keep It Healthy
What else can help your beard look and feel good?
- Eat a healthy diet. There are no special foods that will improve beard growth, Desai says. But he says a balanced, healthy diet is good in general for hair and skin. What about supplements? Some people say that biotin, a B complex vitamin, strengthens hair. However, there's no strong evidence showing it helps. Always check with a doctor before starting any daily supplement.
- Sleep. One study found that losing sleep could slow down beard growth. So if you want a healthy, full beard, take care to get your ZZZs.
- Eat with care. How do you keep your lunch out of your beard? Poirier recommends taking small bites, wiping your face after each one. "Always ask for extra napkins at restaurants," he says.
Of course, some of this beard-grooming advice might seem too fussy. Maybe the very idea of beard care contradicts your manly man ideal?
Poirier, who has an impressively long beard, disagrees. "You have to take care of your beard," he says. "Beards have a strong presence. They're the first thing that any person you meet will see. Grooming is worth the effort."