To grow an awesome beard, simply put away your razor and trimmer and wait. That’s all there is to it. That being said, there is actually a lot to learn about growing a beard; if you are into style – which I know you are. I’ve created this guide for the first time beardsman who doesn’t know what to expect. I’ll help you overcome common pitfalls and issues that arise with having a beard. After reading this article; you should have all the tools you need to sport an awesome beard.
Since this will be the most epic, comprehensive article on bearding on the Internet, I’ve broken it up into three sections – Building a Beard Foundation, The Psychology of Growing a Beard, and styling and maintaining a beard. The reasons why you should grow a beard are totally up to you as an individual. I personally have found incredible friends through beard clubs, gotten tons of compliments from random strangers, and have had my career skyrocket. You’re results will vary – but I promise that when you grow a beard it won’t be the same ole status quo.
Building a Beard Foundation
Your genetics determine pretty much everything when it comes to what your beard will look like. That being said; things like stress, bad diet, and physical damage can lower your full beard potential. These tips will help maximize your own beard growing potential to give you the best beard possible. First off, shaving your beard will NEVER make your beard grow faster – that’s just an urban legend and anyone who says it makes your beard grow faster is just trolling you. If you have a perfect diet, perfect work out regiment, and perfect stress levels, than this section won’t help you – but if you aren’t living the ideal life; they will help your beard grow better.
First, you can take supplements to make up for any deficiencies in your diet. My regiment usually consists of a multi-vitamin, biotin, and fish oil. Biotin will help your hair and nails grow faster and in other countries it’s called vitamin H for hair. In addition to these basics, you can add zinc, vitamin B (specifically B6), and magnesium. Again, all these supplements can be found through a healthy diet and aren’t necessarily required.
One of the most important attributes to growing a better beard is to boost testosterone. To do this you’ll need to eat more red meats, avoid soy-based products, and lift weights. Other good foods are: spinach, nuts, avocados, olives, broccoli, and olive oil. Brett wrote an excellent article over on Art of Manliness about naturally boosting your testosterone.
Once you have the internal stuff taken care of, you need to focus on the external tips to grow a better beard. That will mean that when growing your beard you’ll need to focus on stroking the beard rather than picking at the beard. Picking split ends, or simply focusing on single beard hairs can lead to patches, more split ends, or other damaging effects.
The final thing you need is patience. Beards take time and they will get longer – you just need to wait. Hell, the best things in life take time, right?
The Psychology of Growing a Beard
If you are new to the beard growing process you’ll find the most challenging part being how to handle other people’s reactions. If you were left on a desert island by yourself you wouldn’t have this issue; but going for a different look with without doubt get comments from others.
The first and most difficult challenge will be communicating with those who are closest to you. I’ve found that if you ask for support from them, you’ll usually find success – especially if they are understanding and considerate of you as an individual. (If they aren’t perhaps it’s time to find someone who is more supportive – but that’s another article). I like to say something along these lines, “[Loved one] I’ve decided to grow a beard and I know it’s going to be a little bit different. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but never had the confidence to do. I’m hoping to grow it for [length of time] months and can really use your support. Please help me through my thoughts of doubt and help me reach my goal.”
If they give a little bit of push or aren’t 100% supportive, then I like to put it into perspective for them: “[Loved one], I’m [Age] years old and am looking to spend another 50 years with you. Please give me [length of time] months of these next 50 years where I can try something that is very important to me.”
If that doesn’t work, the whole “Fuck it anyways, I’m growing a beard – it’s my body.” should do the trick – although, an argument may ensue.
Once you get beyond your close loved ones, you’ll have to get past the peanut gallery at work, or with your buddies. You can go with the sappy, “I need your support” strategy, but I think with them I’d start busting out the confidence card. When ever they make a comment about your beard you should follow up with a “hell ya I’m growing a beard and it’s going to be badass.” People feed off your confidence and will quickly accept that’s your choice. One thing I always like keeping in the back of my mind is the phrase – “Haters gonna hate.”
You can’t please everyone; nor can you control their actions and emotions. What you can control is your own actions and emotions and you need to do things that make you happy. After a while of growing your beard, you’ll find that as you meet more and more people they will only know you as the guy with a beard. The hurdles of dealing with comments from the peanut gallery will decrease and you’ll just be who you are – an awesome man.
There are a lot of groups on the internet that will provide support if you are having a bad beard day. My favorite places to hang out are: http://www.reddit.com/beards, www.beardboard.com, and www.beardedgents.com. Upload photos of your beard growth progress and bask in the positive and constructive comments from other beadsmen. In addition to that, I like to go Beardbrand’s tumblr page on how to be stylish and wear a beard. With great style comes confidence, and that confidence is required to keep an awesome beard.
Styling and Maintaining (the physical)
Like I mentioned above, the best thing to do when growing a beard is to put away the razor and build your patience. In fact; one of the most impressive traits you’ll gain as a beardsman is patience. A beard is not measured in length, but it’s measured in months. You’ll have a 1 month beard, 3 month beard, yeard (year long beard), or the holy grail of beards – the terminal beard (maximum length you genetically can grow).
Each length presents slightly different challenges. From beardless to about 2 weeks you may notice that your beard gets pretty itchy, may appear patchy, and is generally shaggy. The reason your beard is itchy is because when you shave, you are essentially creating little spears on the tips of each hair. They finally get long enough to bend around and poke at your skin. Your neck is very suspect to this because of the angle where the neck meets the head.
There are three tips for overcoming this stage of growth – 1) “man it up” and just wait. It’s only temporary and will pass shortly. 2) apply ample amounts of moisturizer like a beard oil, or other product. Try to avoid moisturizers with alcohol in there as they actually dry out your skin. 3) In the early stubble phase (day 1 or 2) use Soft Goat scruff softener. This product is designed to help make stubble softer and more touchable.
At this stage, you shouldn’t be using a shampoo as the length is still fairly short. I’d recommend using a natural bar of soap that doesn’t have irritants in them (like sodium laurth sulfate). There are a lot of soap options out there, and one I’ve personally used and enjoyed is Rocky Top Soap.
When dealing with patchy beards it’s best to let your beard grow to give time to all the slow growing beards. Like fine wine; beards take time to reach its peak. Give it at least 1 month or more to see what you are really working with.
Once you get through the itchy phase, you’ll get to the point where your beard will look untidy. To neaten up your look, I recommend trimming the neckline, upper cheeks, and mustache lip. If you are going for the yeard, or natural beard, you should leave your beard untouched. At this point is when we lose the most amount of beards. Men will typically get a little ambitious with their razors, cut too much and then shave the entire thing off. Because of the risk of mistakes, I recommend waiting at least a month to trim.
Most new beardsmen trim the neckline too high. The ideal location for the line is where the neck meets the head. I’ve created this neckline trimming video to help as it’s hard to put into words where you should trim. The big take away is that there is very little of your beard that needs trimming around the neck. You shouldn’t need to look up to trim and aim to shape a nice round curve from one ear to the next.
When trimming the mustache, I recommend you use a pair of scissors over clippers. This will give you a little more control and only cuts a few hairs at a time. With the cheek line try to go with your natural line and only trim off the one or two stragglers that are outside that line. If you have very dense cheeks, you should trim no lower than the bottom of your nose.
For the “euro style, corporate look” I’d go with a 1 day to 2 week look. To get the look go ahead and trim using clippers on the lowest setting. Do this every few days. Do not tidy up the neckline or cheek line as the natural stubble look is what you should be aiming for.
For a “corporate beard” I would aim for about 1 to 2 month of length. It will be good to keep everything trimmed and tidy as mentioned above. To keep the length, I’d recommend using scissors instead of clippers. This will help prevent against wrong guard mistakes and gives you more control. Use a comb to guide out hairs to the desired length and trim away. Remember that less is more and you can always trim more another day. In terms of maintenance I’d recommend rinsing the beard thoroughly everyday in the shower and apply beard oil daily. You can wash the beard with a beard wash anywhere between one and 3 times a week.
For those growing out the beards, this is where all the fun starts to come in. After about 2 months you’ll notice your beard does some really funky things. What was once a straight and neat look becomes wavy, curly and what you may think is wild. This is natural and it should be embraced as your natural beard. At 3 months and longer, you’ll only want to wash your beard about once at week or as needed. Again, a thorough rinsing daily is also recommended. Apply daily beard oil for moisturizing, and trim only with scissors. Never trim or shave off your beard if you are depressed or under the influence of alcohol. A general rule of thumb is for every month of beard growth give it a day to think about shaving it off. So if you’ve been growing for 6 months, think about it for a week. This will prevent any errant beard losses.
With a longer beard, you may find that using a blow dryer will help your beard look fuller and tidier. To use a blow dryer, I will blow from the neck up that will essentially “poof” out the beard. If you want to use styling products, I’d recommend applying a beard balm while your beard is still damp, then blow drying. After the beard is dry, use the blow dryer on a low setting to blow the beard down and into it’s final resting place. Use a nice acetate, wooden, or metal comb and finish it off with a boar’s hairbrush. Watch this video on how I style my beard.
The beauty with beards is that you can style it in many different ways. I recommend that you “grow what you got” which means, based on your beards genetics try to grow a style that fits your best parts of the beard. If you grow a full thick mustache – don’t trim that bad boy off. If your cheeks are very sparse and patchy, then go for the goatee. The full beard is timeless, but other styles will come and go with fashion.
Growing a beard is a wonderful experience that I recommend all men trying at least once in their lives. If it’s not for you, feel no worries about shaving it off – but you should at least try the grow. Through the journey you will have a more open mind towards others, more patience, and more confidence. Ultimately it’s one of the items that helps you become a better man. If you need any more tips or guidance, I’ve created a YouTube channel that goes over a lot of the topics in this article in greater detail. Or ask questions in the comments and I’d be happy to answer them. Thanks for reading and of course, beard on!
Written by Guest Author – Eric Bandholz is the founder of Beardbrand, a company that fosters style for urban beardsmen and delivers beard care products through its online store. He has appeared in the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Men’s Journal, and Business Insider.