By Jodi Helmer
Do you sport a well-manicured goatee, or are you more the wooly-and-wild mountain man type? Like the hair on your scalp, your facial hair deserves loving, natural care.
Here’s how to keep your beard looking its best.
Keep It Clean…
Despite being nicknamed the crumb catcher, your beard is not the place to save leftovers. Look for beard shampoos that are formulated to moisturize coarse hair and steer clear of conventional shampoo and bar soap. “Those products will dry out your skin,” says James Vestal, stylist at Shine Salon in Charlotte, North Carolina.
…But Not Too Clean
You should rinse your beard daily but wash it less often; Vestal suggests lathering up just two to three times per week. “A lot of men over-wash their beards,” notes Alan Dattner, MD, author of Radiant Skin from the Inside Out (Picture Health Press).
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
Beard hair is thick, dense and coarse, which makes it prone to looking scraggly and unkempt, according to Vestal. “The more you moisturize your beard, the tamer the hair will lay,” he says. Use a natural conditioner daily—there are countless oils, balms and other products for facial hair care. Vestal notes that these products should be rubbed into the skin beneath, too. “It keeps the skin from getting dry and flaky and giving you beard dandruff,” he says.
Avoid Harsh Ingredients
Dattner suggests reading labels on all personal care products, including beard oils and balms, and avoiding products with parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde. “These products have harmful effects and can cause skin allergies,” he says. Look for brands with the green-and-white USDA Organic label.
Keep It Combed
Use a beard comb; the teeth are further apart to accommodate thick, coarse hair. Choose wooden combs over plastic; the latter can generate static and make your beard jut out in dozens of different directions.
Shave With Care
Shave with the direction of hair growth to avoid ingrown hairs. “When you shave against the grain, the razor takes the top off of the [hair] follicles, the hairs twist and grow back into the skin,” says Dattner. The painful red bumps—called folliculitis—can get infected.
See a Pro
Your beard should be trimmed—but that doesn’t mean grabbing the clippers to DIY. “Trimming a longer beard needs to be done freehand and keeping it even takes a trained eye,” says Vestal. Make an appointment every six weeks.
Guide to Beard Styles
Balbo: At first glance, this neatly trimmed style resembles a goatee, except that the moustache and beard are not connected.
Full beard: This classic style has a distinct shape: It starts at the sideburns and grows naturally to cover the cheeks, chin and upper lip. It’s typically worn neat and trimmed.
Goatee: A beard and mustache limited to the area around the mouth.
Handlebar moustache: A moustache that is longer on the sides and styled into upward curves that resemble motorcycle handlebars.
Mountain man: A wild-style beard that’s allowed to grow unfettered.
Mutton chops: Long sideburns extend past the corners of the mouth; the chin remains bare. Mutton chops may or may not connect to a moustache.