Hey guys. Perrin here from aPennyShaved.com. I write about wet shaving, beards, mustaches and the gentlemanly arts. I heard you guys like beards, and I figured there a few guys among you who were going to be trying it for the first time, so I wanted to impart a bit of hard-earned wisdom where I could.
So, check it out: a quick beginners guide to growing a beard.
Tip #1: Just grow it.
If that sounds like plain old common sense, that’s because it is. However, I consistently find that the first step is often the most difficult for beard-growing novices. And it’s especially true for guys who tend to grow patchier beards.
So, my first and simplest tip is just to let that bad boy grow. More importantly, be ready for an awkward phase. If you’ve ever shaved your head, you know that the time between being bald and having hair that actually looks like something is pretty friggin’ awkward. Your face is no different. The good news? There’s lots of stuff you can do in between, and there are plenty of styles for virtually any beard length.
If you’re one of those guys who can magically sprout of a full warrior’s beard overnight, then congratulations! You’re ready for my second tip.
Tip #2: After 2-3 weeks of growth, make the tough decisions.
Listen, not everyone can have a beard like Brian Wilson. I know I can’t. So, one of the tough realities of growing a beard is that, to some extent, you’ll be limited by genetics. If you’ve take a few weeks to let your beard grow, you should take an honest look and seriously ask yourself what kind of beard is possible for you.
What you want to be looking for is: (1) overall thickness, (2) significant bald patches, and (3) un-sprouted hair.
For thickness, take whatever you see at 2-3 weeks and multiply it by about two. Mots beards will appear much thicker with more volume (which just comes with time). Take note of any significant bald patches and decide if you can live with and/or if they’ll fit with your ideal beard. If you do have a few bald patches, it usually just means you won’t be able to sport super-full, super-clean cut styles; but there are still lots of messier styles you can rock (so don’t worry).
Then, for thinner areas, check to see if hair isn’t growing at all or if the hair is just having trouble sprouting from the follicle. Most of the time, if you can see the hair in the follicle, it means the hair is there but un-sprouted. For this kind of hair, you can sometimes encourage it to grow by using minoxidil, which promotes hair growth. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s something to try, and it works for a lot of guys.
In other words, be honest with yourself about the styles that will actually work with your beard. There’s nothing worse than seeing a guy with a wispy beard trying to sculpt a few strands of hair into a visage of Ulysses S. Grant.
Tip #3: Consider your context.
This tip is mostly theoretical, but it’s extremely important to think about as you start to grow your beard – especially if it’s your first one – and especially after you’ve figured out the styles available to you (tip #2).
Context is basically how your beard fits into your overall look. The same beard can look totally different in two different styles, so it stands to reason that when you begin to grow your beard, you can’t just think about your beard. You have to think about how it’ll jive with your image.
This is the example I usually like to use. Suppose you enjoy a long, wiry beard (a la ZZ Top). One way to wear that beard would be with long hair, leather, lots of accessories and an integrated mustache (a ‘stache that flows into your beard). That’d be a very rock-and-roll kind of style, and it would be awesome.
However, you could wear the same beard with a super clean haircut, a well-tailored jacket, and a bowtie. Kind of see what I’m getting at here? That same beard would look totally different in this context, and it would be equally as awesome.
The important thing in here is that, while you cannot totally control your beard, you can totally control the context in which your beard lives. So pay attention to it. Plan it. And then execute it!
Tip #4: Use the right tools for your beard.
I’ve had plenty of arguments about how you should shape your beard. As in the shaving community, the beard community sometimes seems to have a weird divide between “traditionalists” and non-traditionalists.
Traditionalists tend to use hand-crafted, homemade products and shape their beard with scissors. Non-traditionalists don’t mind using a good set of trimmers.
For my money, it doesn’t matter at all. Just choose the right tools for your particular beard or what is the most fun for you.
Here’s what each is good for. Scissors are usually best for longer beards; however, I always keep them handy for stray hairs. The important thing to understand about scissors, though, is that if you’re going to use them to regularly trim a full beard, you need to keep them sharp to avoid pulled hairs and split ends.
Trimmers, on the other hand, and great for shorter, uniform beards. They’re also great for styles that include a clean neckline.
You don’t have to choose one. I use both. Just make sure you understand the strengths and weaknesses to get the most utility out of your instruments.
Tip #5: Build a good kit.
You obviously need timmers and scissors in your beard grooming kit, but there are plenty of other things you should have if you’re going to seriously pursue the beardly arts. Here’s what you should have in your grooming kit.
- Scissors and/or trimmers
- A few good beard oils (I enjoy the Pilgrim’s Classic Hair & Beard Tonic)
- A sturdy, high-quality comb
- Nose hair trimmer (more important than you think)
- Wet shaving supplies (safety razor, brush, shaving soap) to give your neck an ultra-close shave (for styles with a clean neck)
- Leave-in conditioner
- Mustache wax (for beard styles that include non-integrated, styled mustaches)
The most important thing to remember when building a beard grooming kit is to never, ever skimp on supplies. Seriously. When I buy stuff for my kits, I ask myself, “Could I pass this on to my kids?” If you can, that’s quality.
It’s also why I buy stuff from these guys at Brooklyn Grooming.