For most men, growing a beard is always a possibility. Whether or not you actually do it depends how long you're willing to endure the uncomfortable and awkward stage of going from clean shaven to imperfectly scruffy. However, not all beards are the same, and some men have an easier time growing a beard than others. But if you really want to grow a beard, all it takes is a little commitment.
1. Take Care of Your Skin
Healthy hair starts at the root. If you take good care of your skin, your hair will grow longer and faster. You might think of hair care and skin care as different, but they're actually intertwined when it comes to your beard. "A good skincare routine is key," says Brownless. "Growing healthy facial hair requires healthy skin, keeping your skin clean will allow your beard to grow healthier, and even faster!"
2. Use Your Face Shape to Sculpt Your Beard
Just like assessing your whiskers, you need to take a good, long look at your face. If beards are good for one thing, it’s enhancing or changing the shape of your face. Take a step back and consider the overall shape: if it’s round, a beard could make it look longer and leaner (by trimming the sides short and leaving length on the chin); if it’s an oval, it could make it look wider and more angular (by doing the opposite - leaving the sides longer); and if it’s square, it can soften the harsher angles (by trimming rounded angles).
"We can’t change the shape of our chin, but we do have the power to shape a beard," says Brownless. "A good barber will be knowledgeable in how to manipulate a beard shape to suit you best and also compliment your hairstyle."
Generally speaking, a beard should work to make your face as close to an oval as possible, but beards can also make jawlines look more angular and defined. Turn your head slightly to each side to see if you’re going to want to trim your beard with sharp angles in mind.
"The main thing to keep in mind, and the hardest part of growing a beard, is that it isn’t necessarily going to look great or suit your face for the first few weeks," says Brownless. "Getting through that initial growth period can be tough, when you look in the mirror and it doesn’t look how you imagined. You’ve got to push through that stage until it’s grown out enough to be shaped and groomed, so hang in there!"
3. Consider Shaving Your Face Before Growing a Beard
It seems counterintuitive, but shaving could help grow a beard, at least at first. Many barbers recommend giving yourself a good, close shave to stimulate the hair follicles and possibly cut down on the amount of ingrown hairs you get once the hair starts to grow out. It’s also a way to prep skin to make sure your facial hair can grow out smoothly and without as much itch.
"If [your hair is] really short, a clean shave can be a really good way to have a full reset, and it’s always fun to take a before and after photo!" says Brownless.
Right out of the shower, apply a pre-shave oil and massage it into your skin to help the hairs stand up for easier shaving (it will also lubricate the skin to help cut down on razor burn). Then apply a thick shaving cream in a circular motion to create an even layer. Using a new blade on whatever kind of razor you prefer, begin shaving with the grain (the direction your hair grows). Don’t rush through it—make sure you’re taking smooth, even strokes to minimize nicks and cuts. Finish by rinsing off the cream and applying a moisturizing, alcohol-free lotion to calm and hydrate your skin.
4. Let Your Beard Grow for at Least Two Months Before Trimming
After your *final* shave, step away from a razor. To start a beard, you have to be patient and just let it do its thing. Plan on allowing your facial hair to grow for at least two months before you start even considering trimming or shaping.
"Go as long as you can before the first trim," says Brownless. "The more hair growth there is, the more options the barber has when giving it its initial shape. This can be tough, but [wait] until you feel like it’s really messy—then call in the pros."
Knowing what you’re working with is key to cultivating a perfect beard and the only way to do that is to allow it to grow. You may be surprised— length can fill out and hide patchy areas and a beard could grow in fuller and thicker than you ever imagined.
As your whiskers grow out, they can be itchy and uncomfortable, especially if the sensation is new to you. Many men who embark on bearded life don’t make it past the first month. To help soothe the itch, use a stubble balm to soften the shorter hairs of your beard and make them more tolerable or use a beard oil to help keep the skin underneath smooth and moisturized (dry skin will make your new beard itch more). If you feel like you could be mistaken for Bigfoot, it's time to see a barber for your first trim.
"[Once] you’ve dialed in the perfect beard shape with your barber, ask them for their advice on how to tame any fly aways in between appointments, and for grooming/product recommendations to keep it healthy and in shape," says Brownless. The styling products you choose to use are crucial for taming your beard, so heed your barber's advice in their suggestions for your new hair care routine.
5. Plan Your Beard Lines
There’s a caveat to not touching your growing beard: you still need to keep the lines crisp as it grows out to start creating what will be its final form. There’s a fine line between an intentional, well-maintained beard and just a bunch of wild growth and it all comes down to the neck.
As you start to get some length to the facial hair, decide where you want your neck line to fall. Some men prefer a higher line, about an inch or so above the Adam’s apple, and some men like a slightly lower line. Visualize a “U” from ear to ear with the lowest part hitting where you want the neck line to fall (turn your head from side to side to make sure you see it from all angles). Then use a razor or trimmer to shave below it. When you look straight ahead in the mirror, you should not see any hair on your neck below your chin. The same goes for your cheeks—keep them free of straggling hairs creeping up from the main part of the beard.
How crisp you keep those lines is up to you, but keeping your cheeks hair-free will say “I have a beard!” rather than “I haven’t shaved in a week!” Start experimenting with the lines as your beard grows out, so by the time you have enough length to start shaping it, you know exactly where you want the lines to fall.
6. Trim Your Beard Into Shape
Congratulations—you’ve made it through the hardest part! Once you have about two months of beard growth, the fun part begins. You now have an honest-to-god beard and it’s time to give it some shape. Begin by washing it with a beard wash (bonus points if you follow with a beard conditioner) to help soften the hairs. Then, using downward motions, brush it out with a coarse-bristle beard brush, which helps to smooth the hair and immediately identify flyaways and stragglers. Use scissors to trim those errant hairs so they don’t stick out (also use these scissors on any mustache hairs that fall over your lips). Then using a beard trimmer with multiple guards, begin to trim your beard into the shape you want. Start with the longest guard and gradually work your way shorter as you shape it. If this all sounds go complicated to you, head to your barber to ask him to shape it for you - then all you have to do at home is maintain the edges.
7. Get Regular Trims
Once you have your desired shape, it's important to get a trim every few weeks—about as often as you would get a haircut. Shape is everything when it comes to beards, and a few weeks of uninterrupted growth can take you from scruffy to fluffy real fast. Keep your beard in check by keeping a regular appointment with your barber or trimming every few weeks at home.