Here are all of the tips, tricks, and products that will make your beard fuller, softer, healthier, and more flattering. If you’re a first-time beard grower or a 20-year veteran of the game, there’s always room for growth. (Figuratively, and literally.) And even if you’re sticking with a shorter style, these same rules apply.
Make a plan
Before you decide to grow a beard—even if it’s short—it’s important to know which beard styles flatter your face shape. The general rule of thumb is to allow the beard to soften any extremities, and pull everything closer to a central, more oval place. Think of it this way: if you have a longer, more oblong face, you don’t want to magnify the fact with a long, narrow beard. Visually, it’s going to be the first thing everyone associates. Instead, you should widen your face and plan for fuller sides but trim things up under the chin. The opposite can be said for a square, wide face. Soften the jaw with trimmed-up sides and a fuller patch under the chin.
The biggest obstacle between you and a good beard is time. The beard you’re capable of growing might be way bigger and fuller than you anticipate, simply because you haven’t ever grown it past the patchy first-month. Beards aren’t reserved for guys with A+ stubble. Lucky for all of us, beard hairs grow out thick and scraggly, and they fill in those patches after a while. So, keep on the path. Follow the next tip in those early weeks so that it looks like a defined beard, even in its shorter stages, and soon you’ll wake up and realize that you crossed the threshold.
Shave the perimeter
There’s one major difference between lazily letting your beard grow and actually taking charge of the growth and style: The neck and cheek lines. You have to maintain them, as they give your beard its intentional shape, even in the first few weeks. Your cheek line will be determined by how full your whiskers grow there. Rely on your own intuition, but if you need help with fuller cheek fuzz, pick up a beard-stenciling tool that helps draw neat lines.
As for your neckline, there’s one easy way to do this: Take two fingers and lay them above your Adam’s apple. Trim an imaginary “U” shape from behind both ears and jaws, and meet in the middle at this point on your neck. Shave everything below this line. This is your neckline, and you have officially defined your beard as such, and not just “5 days of not shaving”.
Use a conditioning styler
The shortest step to a soft, itch-free beard (and a burn-free one for your significant other) is conditioner. You can find this in the form of beard oils, balms, and creams. Massage any of them into your whiskers—early stage or fully grown—to keep the bristles soft and healthy. (This also makes for a more painless, reduced-friction shave when the time comes.) Best of all, most conditioners act like stylers, in that they tame flyaways and allow you to sculpt things into place.
Brush it out
Guys with long beards, this is especially important for you: Brushing your beard at the end of each day will ensure its health and tame-ability in the long haul, and also from one day to the next. This helps to distribute the natural oils produced in the skin, which otherwise collect at the base of the shaft and only nourish the bottom of each hair. You want to maximize your gains, nourish the whole thing to prevent breakage, frizzing, and split end. (Also, apply said conditioning agents post shower or cleansing every morning, which is when your natural oils have been flushed away and need to be supplemented.) Brushing can help shape and sculpt your beard into place, but it’s a bit aggressive and more functional as an oil distributor. Instead, rely on a beard comb for any styling finishes.