There aren't many things more manly than an unabashedly rugged, boldly confident full beard. Unfortunately for most dudes, though, growing one isn't as simple as laying the razor down for a few weeks.
Even if you're one of the lucky gents who just so happens to grow thick, perfectly symmetrical, filled-in facial hair, odds are that you're gonna need some maintenance as your stubble turns into a respectable beard.
Like growing out your hair, you've got to consider that it's not gonna naturally develop into the perfect shape. You've got to let it grow, sure, but there's more to it than that -- a trim here, a fade there, some moisture to keep the thing from itching, and a few other steps are key to making you look like a well-groomed woodsman, rather than a deranged mountain man.
Invest in a Beard Trimmer
This is your beard's new best friend. Pick up a trimmer with adjustable lengths, because you're gonna need it to keep your neckline and the shape of your beard looking neat.
Fade the Neckline
If your hair grows too far down your neck, anything more than slight stubble will start to look unkempt very quickly. But whatever you do, don't retaliate by shaving the neck clean up to a higher point, or worse, all the way up to your jawline. It'll look too unnatural, and after half a day the new stubble will accentuate the problem.
Instead, use your trimmer to create a fade. Use the shortest setting on the bottom inch or so of your beard, then move up slightly with the next shortest setting, and so on. Go slow, and work your way up gradually. Repeat every once or twice a week, depending on quickly your beard grows.
Spring for Some Beard Oil
Seriously, this stuff works. Rub a few drops into your beard every morning and you'll see a world of difference – your face will be less itchy, your beard will look healthier, and the whiskers will feel softer & more manageable. That's especially helpful if your facial hair is naturally curly or wiry, since those whiskers can stick out and be tough to wrangle into a well-groomed look.
A bottle of jojoba oil from the drugstore will work, but we recommend springing for some of the carefully blended barbershop stuff like Beard Balm or Brooklyn Grooming's beard oil, which is more fine-tuned to hydrate the hair follicles without throwing your skin off-balance.
Comb It Regularly
Once you've got some good length going, pick up a pocket comb or two (they only cost a few bucks) and keep 'em at home and at your desk. Run it through your whiskers for a few minutes to get all the hairs going the same way, and you'll look remarkably more put-together. It works especially well after a round of beard oil.
Take it Easy on the Shampoo
Just like with your hair, washing it too often will strip out all of the natural oils, leaving your beard dry and unmanageable, so hold off on the shampoo until you think you really need it. Just got back from a muddy camping trip? Sure, go ahead and wash. But in most cases, a thorough rinse gets it plenty clean without messing with your hair's natural oils.
If you're not into the idea of going without a wash, beard-specific cleansers that are specially formulated for maintaining moisture can help you stay clean day-to-day without messing with your oil levels.
Whichever route you take, you should be reaching for conditioner regularly. Using it every couple of days will deeply moisturize the follicles, making for an extra soft beard that's easier to manage.
Shape Things Up
There's a world of difference between a wild, untamed beard and one that's been subtly trimmed into shape. You don't have to reign in the whole thing and sacrifice your hard beard-growing work, though. You just need to touch up the edges to keep the whole thing looking neat.
Brush out your beard by combing it upwards, against the grain – it'll look puffy and ridiculous, but you'll be able to clearly see the shape of the thing once the whiskers are combed outwards. Then take your beard trimmer on the longest setting and run it through your sideburns.
Reduce the length setting and keep going at it until you get your sideburns looking neat, but not too short relative to the rest of your beard. Then set the trimmer one step longer and move forward gradually, adjusting the length as you go so that your sideburns look neat, your chin is at full length, and the in between is seamlessly faded. You'll also probably want to scale back some of the hair under your chin, too. Use the same technique of getting the sides short and neat, then fading to a longer length towards the front.
If that sounds intimidating, just swing by the barber. You should get a good idea of how it's done – and then be able to do it yourself in the future – if you let a pro take care of it the first time.
Don't Forget About the Moustache
If yours is especially full, you can add a light touch of pomade or moustache wax and sweep the hairs sides.
If yours isn't as thick, you're better off trimming it neat. Comb the whiskers on your upper lip straight down, then use a small pair of scissors to cut them in a neat line along your upper lip. Do the same thing to the whiskers on either side of your mouth, combing them towards your lips and carefully trimming any section that reaches your mouth. You'll hardly be able to notice a difference in your beard, aside from looking a little more put-together. And as an added benefit, those whiskers won't bother you the next time you're eating, which can happen when they get too long.
The most important step, though, is patience. Like all good things, a quality beard takes time. Keep at it and eventually you'll be able to fine tune the thing into a perfectly groomed full beard that any guy would envy.