There was a time when growing a proper beard required only one thing – not shaving. Times have certainly evolved (or regressed depending how you view it) and beard maintenance now takes some actual effort to ensure said beard reflects one's personality and facial-hair related goals. Here are some tips to creating and sustaining a great looking beard.
Push Through The Crockett Phase: Obviously, the first step in growing any beard is to stop shaving. This can present an awkward few weeks (or months depending on your "sprouting level") where co-workers and friends aren't sure if you're lazy, hungover or vying for a spot on Miami Vice III. Keep doubters on their toes by avoiding extreme cases of "neck beard" (hair between lines b. and c. on illustration). Remove these hairs with a quality trimmer or fresh blade.
Get Soft: The main reason men prematurely pull the plug on beard growth is averseness to itching. There's a degree of this that'll always be there, but softening immature whiskers with a beard wash and conditioner can help a beard mature easier throughout its lifespan.
Pamper Those Whiskers: Just like the hair on a man's head, facial hair needs to be cared for to ensure it doesn't get wiry, dry and offensive looking (unless that's the goal). Having handsome facial hair can be accomplished by regularly washing and conditioning with targeted beard products and working out kinks and curls via regular facial exfoliation and a beard comb.
Outline A Perimeter: Unless going for the 100% bohemian look, setting beard boundaries on your cheeks and neck is essential from the start. Make lines too tight and you look like a tight-wad or gang member, let them sprout too long and you're in Haight-Ashbury territory. For the neck area, we recommend an inch or so below the actual jaw line (line b. on illustration) and for the cheeks, follow "smile lines" (line d. on illustration) up toward sideburns.
Hold The Line: Knowing where the beard ends is only half the battle. From there, one needs to effectively carve things out. Always use a mirror to ensure balance and symmetry.
1. On The Neck: Using a professional grade hair trimmer on the "0" setting or a fresh blade and some shave oil (its see through nature helps keep things straight), start at the center of the neck/chin and toward the ear, following the natural curve of the jaw line. Then, do the same on the flip side to maintain symmetry. If using a trimmer, apply light pressure downward or in the direction of hair growth. For a blade, gently "dig in" and create your line, then shave gently in the direction of hair growth below that point. Apply a gentle post shave solution/balm to shaved areas when complete.
2. On The Cheeks: Using a professional grade hair trimmer on the "0" setting or a fresh blade and some shave oil (it's see through nature helps keep things straight), work down or up the natural smile line (line d. on illustration). Apply a gentle post shave solution/balm to shaved areas when complete.
Regular Upkeep: Regulating the density and general bushiness of a beard can be easily accomplished with a professional trimmer and guard system. Start with a larger guard (bigger #) and trim up the stragglers, moving down a size or so as you desire. Don't push too hard and pesky or longer strands can always be terminated with a targeted facial scissor.