The Bristle Blower
Guy Farmer gives us an introduction into growing and maintaining a beard
As long as I can recall, I've had some form of facial hair poking out of my face. You'd have to look pretty far back to see me clean-shaven, and there's definitely a reason for that. For one, I use my beard to hide my weak chin, which otherwise sits feebly at the bottom of my face, slowly collapsing into itself like a dying sun. It also balances out my forehead-to-nose-to-chin ratio, and, on a good day, pulls me up to a solid 6/10 - with extra points in poorly lit rooms and generous Instagram filters.
Up until recently, I was quite happy to let my beard sit scruffily on my face, with maybe a quick comb here or there. However, in the last year or so I've become a bit obsessed with beard culture and maintenance. Here are some tips to get started with:
Grow a Beard
I cannot over stress the importance of this step.
Seriously though, beard hairs don't all grow at the same speed, and the only way you're going to see your true potential is to put down the trimmer for two or three months and let it grow. I repeat.
Let. Your. Beard. Grow.
If your face is roughly 60% stubble, then congratulations, chances are you're probably going to have an epic Zeus-esque style beard in about a week. Know that I hate you for this.
If not, don't worry, this doesn't mean you won't be able to grow a full beard. There's a lot of guys out there with solid beards without the same kind of crazy follicle coverage that others are blessed with. Also, don't forget, beards can continue to develop into our 20s, 30s, 40s and even 50s. Check out Greg Berzinsky for a perfect example of this phenomenon. He often says his beard only really started to come in from his mid 30s and then all the way through to his 50s. He now has the best beard since sliced bread. Check out his Instagram @berzinsky.
I don't have the greatest beard, but by just letting it grow, I've developed a better understanding of how to make it work. My beard grows strongest on the chin (thankfully), moustache, and along the jawline, but it's weaker and a bit patchy on the cheeks. So, for these reasons I usually go for styles such as ‘goatee’, ‘Van dyke’, ‘beardstache’ or just a medium length full beard. These are my comfort zones, and I can wear them with confidence because I know they work to my strengths.
The 'Morning Beard'
Possibly the hardest thing about growing a long-term beard, one that you care for and nurture every day, is resisting the impulse to rip it off your face at the slightest hint of any imperfection. If I've learnt anything in my beard journey, it's that you should never judge your beard by how it looks in the morning. My morning beard looks like a traumatised paintbrush fresh from an infant's art class. I've grown to accept that. Push past this phase and know a little beard oil, and some light combing can go a long way.
Beard hair is not head hair
Anyone who has tangled with a beard before knows you have good days and bad days. This is true for the hair on your head as well. Don't be fooled though, their constitution is actually quite different, and the products you use should reflect this. Beard hair is thicker and more coarse than its brother upstairs, so your average shampoo is likely to strip your beard of its natural oils - leaving it dry and wiry. Beard washes (or shampoos) are typically less aggressive, and specifically formulated to not only clean your beard, but also preserve its condition after use. Saying this, you should still only be using a beard wash about 1-2 times a week, and ideally you'd follow this up with a beard conditioner.
Condition, Condition, Condition
Want to have a great looking, healthy beard? Let me introduce you to your new best friends: Beard Oils and Beard Balms. Both serve the same purpose - to condition your beard, but there are a few key differences to keep in mind. Beard balms are much thicker and creamier than oils, so if you're rocking a big beard, balms are usually the way to go as they can keep your beard conditioned all day. The beeswax in balms also provides a small amount of hold, which will help maintain the structure of you beard after you style it. If you've got a small length beard then you won't really need the heavy conditioning or hold of a balm, so I'd recommend beard oil instead.
And don't forget to explore the myriad of scents that beard products have to offer. Finding the perfect fragrance for you is one of the best parts about shopping for beard products. My favourite scent at the moment is Temple Smoke, from Beardbrand, but vary it up to avoid going nose-blind.
A good tip is to apply your chosen conditioner fresh out the shower, after a gentle towel dry, when your pores are open and ready to absorb the most product.
Comb is where the heart is
Get a decent comb. You're going to be using it every day, multiple times a day. Avoid cheap plastic combs that are going to whip your face with static at every stroke and make Kent Brushes your first port of call - they are the staple brand for anything to do with beard brushes and combs.
If you have a particularly dense or curly beard, look for combs with large teeth. Brushes are ideal for shorter beards, as they reach the hairs that combs are simply too big for. They also stimulate your hair follicles and redistribute your natural oils to promote a healthy beard. Good stuff.
By using brushes and combs each day we not only style our beard, but also begin the gradual process of taming it. Through continual brushing we can train our beards to grow in a downward incline, rather than sprouting awkwardly in various directions.
It can be a slow process but it's completely worth it in the end.
Now go out and grow!