If you’re serious as a heart attack about growing your beard out—and I mean a yeard or more — learn from some of these mistakes I made early on in my journey. I wasn’t as lucky as you; I had no guidance. But now you can learn from some mishaps I had along the way, and avoid them.
The first thing you’re doing wrong is using regular bar soap or shampoo on your whiskers. That’s bad, m’kay? Sure, you’re used to washing your face with just any old soap, and you shampoo your hair all the time. But what’s good for other parts of your body is probably hurting you if you’re applying them to your beard.
I did this all the time during the early months, and it set me back considerably, leaving my facial forest brittle and prone to breakage. I’d continue to wash my face with bar soap, then started lathering up my beard with the same shampoo I used on my hair.
But remember what soaps and shampoos do—they basically just strip beneficial oils. I get that you want to keep your hair from looking greasy, but liquid shampoo wasn’t even a thing until the 1920s. What I’m saying is that shampoo is only a cosmetic product, and not necessarily something that’s good for you.
Take a moment to feel the hair on your scalp, then feel the hair on your face. It’s not the same, is it? So don’t use the same stuff you use on your hair for your beard. While we’ve been culturally conditioned to keep our hair looking free of the natural oil that keeps it healthy, it’s not a mistake you want to make when it comes to your beard.
Choose a gentle, moisturizing cleanser. If you’re into bar soap, look into some of the pine tar variety. It makes you feel nice and clean, but it also brings moisture and nutrients to the table. If you prefer shampoo, find one that’s specifically for facial hair, and check the ingredients. Avoid those containing any sort of alcohol, and make sure it’s giving something back to your skin, not just stripping it of oil.
As a beardsman, you should always strive to keep those whiskers and faces hydrated and nourished, and avoid drying them out. That said, if you’re not using beard oil, you’re doing your face project a disservice.
Early along my path to glorious bearddom, I viewed beard oils as luxuries, not necessities. And I couldn’t have been more wrong. No matter how short or long your facial hair is, it replaces the natural oil we lose when washing our faces. And if you’re just getting started, it’s going to help you with that itch.
Few things can be more cringeworthy than a neckbeard. We’ve all seen that guy who thinks he’s fooling anyone into not being aware of the chins he’s trying to hide with creating shaving. But I’m here to tell you that if your desire is a long, full beard, then go ahead and let that neckline grow. As a new beardling, I was used to employing a razor to keep my face looking orderly. I’d keep a jawline cut. The result was that when the rest of my beard grew out, it was left looking thin because of the depth I’d been preventing by trying to maintain tidy edges around the perimeter.
Same thing applies to the cheeks. Being the North Pole of your facial growth, it tends to look thin, right? A bad tendency, as with the neckline, is to shoot for sharply defined lines. Beards go beyond borders, my man, so let it do its thing. I get it, though. Many of us will get that stray whisker way up on the cheek, far from any of his brethren. I’ll give you that one. Go ahead and teach it who’s boss. Meantime, though, give those thin-looking whiskers at the geographic top of your beard grow. When you do, you’ll notice that they start to blend in nicely, and make your beard fuller.
As we’ve already learned, what’s good for the hair on your scalp is usually not good for the stuff on your face. This applies to cheap plastic combs. Dust off the microscope that’s been hibernating on your closet shelf for decades. Now take a look at your plastic comb under it. You’ll see that the tines look like saw blades—and they are destroying your beard.
Spend a few extra bucks on making your face happy. This badass metal comb doubles as a beard shaping tool to get your lines on point.
There are also some good acetate combs on the market that are sawn and polished by hand, leaving the comb free of those jagged little edges our eyes otherwise miss on cheap combs.
Handmade wooden beard combs are a safe bet for the same reason. And if they’re cut from something like sandalwood, they smell really, really nice.
I know how it is, bro. You can’t stop touching that work of art in which you’ve invested so much passion! But this could become a very poor habit indeed. While I, too, know of a beard’s loving ways when stroked while deep in thought, be mindful of what you’re doing.
If you have dry hands, for instance, your rough, thirsty mitts are going to draw beard oil away from your face. And if you’re always picking and tugging at your whiskers, or twirling them between your idle digits, you’re promoting breakage.
The bottom line is that you should only be touching your beard with an open hand, and infrequently. You’ll get the satisfaction of occasionally being reminded it’s still there, and that it’s looking fantastic.
For me, the mustache was the worst temptation of all. I habitually toyed with the ends of my handlebars, trying to keep the perfect curls. Don’t do that. Just get yourself some mustache wax, and/or beard balm, apply it and style once a day, then leave it alone.
If you’ve been making any of the mistakes outlined above, now you know it’s time to consciously change some habits. Your beard will thank you. And when it does, tell the little guy I said he’s welcome.
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