A list of beard grooming tips isn’t something we thought we’d have to publish, but listen, we’ve got a bone to pick with you: whilst doing the rounds in our extended backyard, London’s Victoria Park over the Easter weekend, we’ve come across one too many unkempt facial shrubs than we’re happy to brush off. It’s high time to grab a pair of secateurs and cultivate those man bushes – and the stache, for a hot twirl summer.
What’s better than waving goodbye to winter? Why, coming out of lockdown, of course! And as much as we’d like to pretend the past year hasn’t changed us, some of us are clearly reemerging from their dens as fully-grown bears; except not the type we like. Regular readers will know we’ve been all about gardens recently (from those in the Cape Winelands to the ones at Versailles), so when our unsuspecting selves took to the parks of East London over the weekend, nearly having an eye poked out by the prickly muttonchops of Hackney wasn’t what we’d planned.
There are, of course, a million and one ways to make a beard shine, and thanks to facial hair reaching new heights of hip in recent years, the grooming industry whips out specialised products much like the Kardashians launch contour kits – one every two hours. But when we tell you less is more when it comes to beards, we speak from experience: taking care of our very own specimen has become second nature, and boy, do we enjoy parading those stubbles around the neighbourhood. Looking to follow in our footsteps? Read on for our ultimate list of beard grooming tips. Santa would approve.
If you’re not already blessed with some fine bristles, start growing before lockdowns end. You’ll undoubtedly go through a phase of funny-looking hairs sticking out from your face in places you hadn’t expected. And conversely, there might be ‘bald’ patches you can only hope to cover by letting growth take its natural course. This is the most unpleasant part for many, but once you’ve made it past the first four to six weeks, and got accustomed to the initial itchiness, you should have something to work with. Pro tip: choose a bearded idol to keep you motivated during your darkest hour. Ours is Jamie Dornan.
Keep it clean
It should go without saying, but we’ve fished one too many breadcrumbs out of others’ facial hair not to mention it. When cleaning your beard, remember facial hair and top hair are not the same. Aggressive shampoos containing Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) will only strip your bustles and the underlying skin off their natural oils, so we recommend something gentle and nourishing, instead. Although it was developed for the body, LeLabo’s Santal 33 soap bar does the trick for us. Simply prep some lukewarm, soapy water and work it through your beard – the iconic Santal 33 line’s woody scent is a plus!
It might seem illogical, but this bit isn’t actually where most people go wrong. Set your trimmer to the desired length (ours is 7mm), run it across your beard in upward movements and from side to side if you’re feeling adventurous. Bear in mind you can always go shorter, but it’ll be difficult forcing your facial hair to grow back on-demand once you’ve gone too short. Though don’t make a fuzz if you’ve made mistake. Going short and regrowing facial hair every now and then can actually make it thicker! Before you put your clipper down, make sure to define your neckline and trim the sideburns. As with everything in life, the devil’s in the detail. Just don’t do a chinstrap. Ever.
If you’ve read Huysman’s À rebours, you’ll know of the joys of going Against the Grain. And what goes in life, goes in beards, too. Invest in a good-quality comb (or a brush for longer beards) and go against the grain to see inconsistencies in length and make single hairs stand out. We take to flyaways with our trimmer, taking off the guard, while others prefer hairdressing scissors. Whatever you do, don’t reach for a pair of paper scissors under any circumstances – you’ve been warned.
Cultivate the outskirts
Nothing is worse than a gorgeous beard that’s not accentuated by an equally lush moustache. In fact, the last man to have been able to pull off the look was Abraham Lincoln, and honestly, it was a different time. If you have a steady hand, clip your moustache using your regular trimmer, again without the guard, or opt for scissors instead. The thing to keep in mind here is to adjust the shape of your stache so that it runs diagonally along your upper lip, rather than creating a horizontal beam that would flatter no one (John Waters being the exception to the rule). And whilst you’re at it, trim that nostril hair. There are countless excellent gadgets to help you do the job, and frankly, the taller you are, the more grateful we’ll be you rose to the challenge.
Keep it smooth
Perhaps the single most important lesson in manscaping is to give your facial hair the nourishment it needs. Not only because it’ll look and feel better, but also because it’ll make a beard easier to comb and trim. Specific beard oils can be good, but they’re often heavily scented and contain ingredients, that will ultimately dry out those stubbles or burden the skin with excess oils. Instead, opt for the organic and single-origin cosmetic argan oil by Arganic, an oil so light and non-greasy, it’s easily absorbed and won’t make you break out. We actually bathe in the stuff, thanks to the oil’s fantastic anti-ageing benefits and, oh well, you get 100% of the real deal, not just a few droplets in a fancy bottle full of non-essential ingredients. Ethically minded beard boys will be glad to hear the oil is vegan, never tested on animals and the Berber people producing it in the villages outside Essaouira are paid better than Morocco’s women co-operatives who defer to cosmetic giants – and we would know, we met them on a visit to Arganic’s partners, the Sidi Yassine farm, in 2015!
One last thing to remember once you’ve groomed your facial manscape to perfection and people start turning their heads in awe: argan oil works wonders in other situations that might require something oil-based, too. Just saying.