So you've decided to take on growing a beard. Awesome. Now, fast-forward about two weeks. How do you feel?
A little itchy?
Maybe a little prickly?
How about those patches that look a bit thin?
Ready to give up?
Growing your best beard is a long term endeavor. It takes commitment and patience, but it also takes a bit of education. It's not as simple as just not shaving. Here are a few simple tips to help you meet your goal.
1. Set a goal
If you're growing your first beard, you probably don't have a real strong concept of what your beard's potential really is, but you will have a bit of an idea about your own genetics. Are beards strong in your family? Chances are you've been blessed too. Think you may have a few thin patches? That's ok.
Start off by finding some images of beards that you like, and that you think might fit your potential. Visualize yourself with that beard and set yourself a goal to attain that look.
It's just a start, and the goal will likely change along the way, but the imagery will keep you going in the beginning.
2. Be confident
This is one of the most important things you can do to power through the awkward early stages of beard growth. Remember that you have a goal in mind and embrace it.
As your beard starts to grow out, you may find a few color or texture surprises. You'll notice that some parts of your beard grow faster than others, or that your hair will grow in conflicting directions. All of this stuff is normal.
Don't get embarrassed by a young beard and lose sight of where you want to be. Take solace that anyone who has grown their beard has been in the same place, will understand where you're at, and will likely encourage you along the way.
3. Don't trim your beard
This may seem like the most obvious step, but it is the one that will get you into trouble 90% of the time. Many people get anxious about the often uneven appearance of a young beard and want to try and trim it before it's ready. This will generally make your beard look worse, and you will end up shaving it off thinking you've wrecked all your progress.
It is best to avoid this scenario altogether. Just don't touch it for a minimum of 4-6 weeks. If you are trying to grow a longer beard, you will want to hold out as long as possible before you really work on giving it any shape. This could mean 2-3 months or longer.
4. Use beard oil
If there is one ultimate beard hack to help you achieve your goal, beard oil is it. Beard oil will help soften your beard and alleviate your itching. It will help keep your beard and skin moisturized and will also help give you some shape and control without having to actually trim your beard. This stuff is the silver bullet and the secret to achieving a healthy looking beard in the long run. Just apply a few drops on a towel dried beard, right after the shower, and you will feel like a new man all day long.
5. Evaluate your progress
After you have been growing for several weeks, you are going to have a much better handle on what type of beard you've got. Now is the time to determine if you need to change up your beard goal.
If you have thin patches within your beard, then you may want to let it grow a bit longer. Over time, many of these minor patches will fill in or be covered by longer hair. If your beard is thinner around the cheeks, or conversely, if you grow hair up to your eyeballs, then it will be time to start evaluating the cheek line height that will best suit you to give you both the fullest and sharpest look you can achieve.
This same advice is relevant to shaping your chin line. If you are going to keep your beard a bit shorter, most guys look good with a chin line that follows the curve of their ear and ends just above the Adam's apple. Personal preference will play a large role here. Some guys like hard trim lines, other guys keep it natural, while still other guys like nothing under their jawline at all. I would caution that this last look tends to accentuate a multiple chin effect on heavier dudes, so keep that in mind.
6. Now trim your beard
After several weeks, and reassessing your beard goals, now is the time to start to shape your beard to that end. Take this step very cautiously though.
If you are going to a barber to have them give you a beard trim, I would start by letting them cut your hair. Get a feel for their skill level and your personal comfort with them before you let them touch your beard. Ask them questions. How often do they trim beards? Do they prefer scissors or trimmers for fine detail work? Explain your beard goals. Are they willing to listen and can they understand your goals?
Don't be afraid to ask them and don't be afraid to walk away without a trim if you are not feeling comfortable. The last thing you want after weeks or months of cultivation is to have someone hack your beard off into some ungainly monstrosity.
Some people would rather take the plunge themselves rather than letting someone else, even a professional, handle their beard. There's nothing wrong with that. However, you need to work slowly and get comfortable with the tools of the trade.
Trimmers are fast and clean, but can be high risk to an unsteady hand. Start to work on your control by combing out your beard, and then using the trimmers to just snip the ends of those hairs that stick out from the rest. Get a feel for the weight trimmer and how to use the mirror to maneuver the trimmer. Over time, you will get more comfortable and be able to make quick and clean precision shapes with your beard.
Scissors, or shears, are generally lower risk for a beginner, but caution is still warranted. You want to learn how to manipulate the shears in the mirror and how to keep them perpendicular to your face. You do not want to cut into your beard with scissors. This will create holes. You will also want to start with the ends and just the wild hairs at first. As you start moving into the meat of your beard, you can create some really hard and unattractive lines in your beard if you don't understand how the scissors are going to cut. Usually a slightly shorter set of shears is more controllable than a longer set designed for hair professionals.
Finally, razors, like straight razors, are a awesome tools for shaping your edges around your cheek and chin lines. Some people can even use them to trim their beard in lieu of scissors and trimmers. This is an advanced skill though and should not be taken on during the first few trims. There is a real risk of cuts as well as damaging your beard, if you don't know how to use them, so be careful with this option.
Growing your best beard is an ongoing project. Setting goals and visualizing your next phase will always help prepare you for the path ahead. Be confident in your decisions and be patient with your progress. Don't try to rush it or you will end up making a mistake that you'll regret. Learn how to use the tools of the trade, and don't forget your beard oil.
Embrace what you've got and accept the beard you were given. If worse comes to worse, just remember that you can try again. Your next beard will be better than your last one.
Until next time.