Any dude who’s ever attempted to grow facial hair understands the importance of maintenance. Keeping your beard in check keeps it looking great, sure, but also makes it feel better and helps the hair stay healthy. It’s the same reason you get regular haircuts, so why wouldn’t you give the same thought and care to your whiskers?
No matter how long your beard is or what style you have, knowing how to trim your beard is the cornerstone to even the most basic facial haircare routine. Bottom line: if you have a beard, you have to know how to trim it. Get ready to trim as soon as your whiskers reach about a half inch in length, or the length of “your pinky nail” according to Rich Mendoza, owner of Filthy Rich Barbershop in New York City. You want enough length for the trimmer to actually do something, but don’t wait till you’re into ZZ Top territory.
If you’ve never trimmed your beard, getting your barber to do it for you is a perfect way to learn the ropes and understand how to maintain your look. But don’t rely on a barber for every beard trim. Not only are most barbers not offering beard trims at all right now due to COVID-19 safety precautions, but you’re probably going to need to trim your beard more often than you’re going to get a haircut. Plan on “trimming your beard once a week,” says Mendoza, and adjust your schedule from there, depending on how fast it grows.
All of this makes learning to trim your own beard more important. The good news is that it’s easy, and once you get the basics down, you can start playing around with different shapes and styles. Follow these steps to trim your beard like a pro.
Wash Your Beard
Before attacking your beard with a trimmer, you have to get it to baseline, which means giving it a good wash. Mendoza recommends using a beard wash, which will help clean and soften your facial hair and make it easy to cut. Hop in the shower, lather up your beard, and rinse. Once you get out, don’t attempt to cut sopping wet hair—give it a quick towel dry instead so it’s damp but not soaking.
Brush or Comb Your Beard Out
While your beard is still damp, brush or comb it out to get rid of tangles and make flyaways easier to see. If your beard is short, a comb will do the trick, but if it’s long or thick, you may need a brush. “Don’t brush or comb too hard which pulls the beard,” says Mendoza, and always brush or comb in downward strokes in the direction the hair grows. For especially dense or wiry hair, he also recommends using a pick to “spread it out” and make flyaways more visible.
Trim the Flyaways
Before you go in with the trimmer, take a moment to trim away flyaways, which are the errant hairs that stick out separately from the bulk of the beard (we all have them). If you’ve brushed or combed the beard down, they’ll easily stick out. “You could use scissors and cut them bit by bit, but honestly the trimmer will knock it out faster,” says Mendoza. Use the trimmer without a guard and carefully cut way any hairs that stick out, without getting too close to the beard itself.
Trim Your Beard
Once you’ve washed, brushed, and snipped, it’s time for the main event: trimming. Mendoza recommends always using a beard trimmer with adjustable length guards to make it easy to adjust the length evenly. If you’ve done this before and know which guard gives you the length you want for your beard, you can pop it on and go. If you’re not sure what length you want, always start with a higher guards and gradually work your way down one by one until you reach your desired length.
Begin by holding the trimmer at a 90 degree angle to your face then gently and steadily move the trimmer down your face in a straight line. “Don’t go in and out with the trimmer,” says Mendoza, “and always go with the grain.” If you trim against the grain, you run the risk of thinning out your whiskers; going with the grain (in the direction the hair grows) will keep your beard looking fuller and camouflage patches more easily. Work your way around the entire beard till it’s all one uniform length. This technique will work for short beards and longer ones, but if your whiskers are too long for the highest guard (and you want to keep them that way), you’ll have to shape it freehand. Once you master a basic trim, you can start getting creative with different lengths and fades.
Define The Lines
It’s easy to forget the neckline of your beard, but a good neck line is an essential part to any beard trim. Generally, your beard neckline should be slightly above your Adam’s apple, according to Mendoza. Using your trimmer without a guard, etch a line that connects the top of your Adam’s apple to the corners of your jaw or your ears on both sides (Mendoza recommends a straight line but you could also do a slight U shape). Then shave all the hair below it. To make it extra clean, wet your skin with warm water and apply a shaving gel to the skin below your beard. Using a razor, shave any remaining hair to create a distinct line between the beard and your neck. When you’re done, look at your face straight on in the mirror—you shouldn’t be able to see any hair on your neck below your chin and jaw.
To leave a more natural look on your cheeks, shave away any hair high up on your cheekbones, but don’t shave a distinct line. But for a crisper, cleaner look apply the same philosophy you did with your neck. Use the trimmer without a guard to draw a line from the corners of your mouth to your sideburns following the curve of your cheekbones. Then use a razor and clear shave gel to shave any hair above it.
Don’t Forget to Trim Your Mustache
You’re almost done but before you put down the tools, don’t forget the mustache. Use the same guard you used for your beard and use the trimmer in downward strokes to trim the ‘stache area. “If you go against it, you’ll cut it too short,” says Mendoza. Then comb it down and use scissors or the trimmer to cut any hairs that fall onto your lips.
Style Your Beard
Put down the tools and pick up a beard balm or beard oil. Smooth a little bit through your beard, comb it out again, and “pat it into shape,” says Mendoza. “Then look at yourself one more time. If you feel there are still flyaways, you can go back in with the trimmer [or scissors] and clean it up.”
Don’t Be Afraid To Go Back In
If you’re still a beard trimming beginner, Mendoza warns that you may not get a perfect trim the first time. There’s not shame in going back in for a second (or third) trim if you’re not 100 percent happy with the first attempt or you notice the the shape is lopsided. It may even take a day or two to notice, but if you do, start back from step one.
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