The most important thing to know about how to grow a beard is that you have to actually grow that beard. You need the canvas in order to throw some paint at it, and you need to commit some real time to not shaving if you want a beard. Many—most?—beard-growing attempts end before the beard even has a shot to establish itself. So commit to not shaving for a solid block of time–that’s rule #1.
But there’s a sweet spot someplace between letting it grow out naturally and knowing when it needs maintenance, and there are still some important dos and don’ts to keep everything clean and coming in nicely. So we’ve rounded up our best best beard growth tips to keep you going when growing your first beard. Or, perhaps this isn’t your first beard, but you’re determined to make it your best beard. (If you’re dealing with patchiness, we’ve got a guide for that.)
Wherever you’re starting from, with these tips the best beard your DNA allows can start right now.
1. Identify your goal, but be realistic
There are many different beard styles to choose from; you don’t need to stick to neatly manicured, uniform growth. Let your growth be influenced by the style you want to achieve. However, I emphasize “want” for one particular reason: You can’t necessarily achieve your ideal beard if your facial hair isn’t destined to grow that way.
If your beard is patchy, or if it has a unique growth pattern (sparse on the cheeks, full on the goatee, for example), then you’ve got to set your expectations properly. This goes for beards big, small, and medium alike.
2. Let it grow
Patience is a virtue. Not only can a little time help fill in some patchiness, but it’s also requisite for almost any style. A beard transforms into something new every week. So, if it’s seeming like you’ll never each your goal—in particular if it’s a long beard—then you honestly might wake up one morning and realize that you’ve arrived at the destination.
3. Mind the perimeter
One of the tenets of beard maintenance is to keep it defined. In short: shave the neckline and clean up the cheek lines. These keep it more beard-like and less neckbeard-like—unless, for some reason, a wooly stoner beard is your aim. In that case, let it grow wild and free.
4. Trim it as it grows
The second way to keep things looking intentional is to sculpt and trim your beard as it grows. It might feel counterproductive—and counter to #2—but it’s the same way you need to get haircuts while growing out your hair. This helps direct the hair exactly where it needs to be: Fuller in some spots, less so in others. The styling products in the next tip can of course help influence things, but you foremost want to keep hairs in check as needed: This can mean spot-checking strays, snipping away split ends, or simply taking out some bulk. You’ll want a beard trimmer or a sharp pair of scissors.
5. Use a few nourishing products
There are a handful of beard products you should consider picking up if you’re serious about proper care and maintenance. A few drops of beard oil will absorb quickly and give your hair the right nutrients (plus a pinch of shine), while also making it less wild and frizzy. You can also swap in a beard balm or cream, something slightly heftier than an oil, to help style the beard and keep it in place all day.
You also want to keep the thing clean. Shampoo works fine, but dedicated beard wash will be gentler on your face. Either way, that skin still needs hydration—a moisturizer will keep it from getting dry and flaky.
6. Brush it out every night
Beard brushes help exfoliate the skin beneath the beard, for starters, which lifts dead skin cells and prevents future flaking. Moreover, brushing your beard at the end of each day will ensure its health and tame-ability in the long haul. This distributes the natural oils produced in the skin, which otherwise collect at the base of the shaft and only nourish the bottom of each hair. This oil distribution prevents breakage, frizzing, and split ends. (This is a great time to apply a few drops of beard oil as a booster, especially after a shower.)
7. Try a new style
Once your base has grown out—this can take months—it’s time to really make it yours. One of our favorites is to snip the bridge between the mustache and the chin, thus marooning the mustache. Or, pare back the beard itself, leaving a fuller mustache. You have lots of options, and it’s your privilege as a beard grower to flaunt it.