Growing, Caring for and Maintaining Your Beard
According to research, beards are in — not just the perfectly manicured facial hair but also the scruffy look. [Are Women Attracted to Men with Beards? | Psychology Today] Men who shunned facial hair in the past are growing beards with good reason. Scientific evidence suggests that people perceive men with beards as more masculine and strong. Researchers have found women are likely to find men with beards more attractive than men with clean-shaven faces. [A multivariate analysis of women's mating strategies and sexual selection on men's facial morphology (nih.gov)]
But it’s not only the people looking at men with beards that likely have these perceptions of manliness. Bearded men themselves reported stronger feelings of masculinity and even had higher serum testosterone than clean-shaven men.[ A multivariate analysis of women's mating strategies and sexual selection on men's facial morphology (nih.gov)]
In addition to making men look more masculine, beards can hide those not-so-perfect facial features. It’s like a natural form of cosmetic surgery! Now that you know your beard has this much power, let’s talk about beard maintenance and how to take care of a beard so you can continue to rock it with confidence.
Growing a Healthy and Full Beard
It’s one thing to be able to grow facial hair; it’s another to know how to maintain a beard so it stays healthy and looks good. If you don’t know how to take care of a beard or what it takes to grow one, don’t worry — there’s no one secret to growing and maintaining a beard; it’s a combination of all the little things you do every day that will make a difference in the long run, and it’s not complicated. As you follow a healthy diet and stick to a daily grooming routine, you’ll start to see a fuller beard in no time!
Never underestimate the importance of a healthy diet. The food you eat goes a long way toward making skin and hair healthier if you’re eating the right things. A low-quality diet can have the opposite effect; vitamin deficiencies can lead to brittle hair, hair loss, and dry, itchy skin.
Vitamins and Minerals
Some of the best vitamins for beard growth include biotin, niacin, and B vitamins (B7, B12, etc.). These contribute to stronger, softer, and more resilient hair by promoting blood circulation to the hair follicles. [How to Make Facial Hair Grow | Healthline] You can get these vitamins through supplements or naturally through vitamin-rich foods, such as meat, seafood, eggs, leafy greens, nuts, whole grains, and legumes.
In addition to eating healthy food, you should also do the following as part of your beard maintenance:
- Get 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
- Get enough sleep for better bodily function.
- Find ways to alleviate stress and prevent hair loss.
- Avoid smoking, which can lead to hair loss.
- Follow a skincare routine.
With beard maintenance, consistency is the key. As you follow the recommendations below, you’ll find your facial hair looking and feeling healthier.
Keep It Clean
Not all women find facial hair attractive. Some think it’s downright gross and a sign of poor grooming. [A multivariate analysis of women's mating strategies and sexual selection on men's facial morphology (nih.gov)] Especially in the age of COVID-19, many might want to know if beards are germ carriers. The answer, according to science, seems to be no. A study of male health care workers found similar rates of bacterial colonization on bearded and shaved faces. Interestingly, some types of bacteria were more likely to be found on clean-shaven faces. [Is Your Beard Packed With Germs? (webmd.com)]
Even so, a big part of knowing how to groom your beard and ensuring its thickness is keeping it clean. To keep your beard clean, use shampoo or a mild cleanser once a day and gently massage it into your beard and the skin below with lukewarm water. The key is to rinse all the product thoroughly so no residue gets left behind.
Keep It Tangle-Free
Combing or brushing beard hair is a vital step in maintaining a beard. Doing this keeps it looking good and helps hide any patchy parts. Find a comb or brush that is easy to hold and does not snag and break the hair. Some recommend wooden combs to limit static.
Hydrate and Condition
There are hair care and conditioning products made specifically for beard hair. These include shampoos, conditioners, and even oils that, when used daily, help to soften hair follicles, nourish beard hair, and improve beard hair health.
However, dermatologists caution those who are acne prone against using beard oil. For men with acne, a small amount of conditioner for facial hair grooming is OK, but it’s best to avoid using pore-clogging oils. [A dermatologist's top tips for a healthy beard (aad.org)]
Beard oil is recommended for men with regular to dry skin, while a light, fragrance-free moisturizer is recommended for sensitive (itchy or dry) skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. [A dermatologist's top tips for a healthy beard (aad.org)]
Prevent Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs and razor bumps are names for the same dilemma — short, curly hairs that grow wrong under the skin’s surface or curly hair that grows out and curves back into the skin. When this happens, the hair causes unattractive and sometimes painful or itchy bumps. This condition, called pseudofolliculitis barbae in the medical world, tends to occur more often in men of African or Asian descent. [Pseudofolliculitis barbae; current treatment options (nih.gov)]
Dermatologists recommend these beard-grooming tips for preventing ingrown hairs. [A dermatologist's top tips for a healthy beard (aad.org)]
- Consider not trimming your beard or shaving only the parts of your face and neck around your beard when your beard hairs are softer.
- Wait until the end of your shower or right after you get out to shave.
- Use a pre-shave gel for 30 seconds before shaving.
- Use gentle, fragrance-free shaving cream to soften hairs and apply it 2 to 3 minutes before shaving.
- Use a moisturizing shaving cream even if you use an electric razor.
- Use a sharp razor.
- Use short strokes and go over each area only once.
- Shave in the direction you want your beard hair to grow.
- Be gentle — don’t pull the skin tight or press the razor down while shaving.
- Use lukewarm water for rinsing and rinse thoroughly.
- Pat your skin and beard dry, leaving a little moisture behind.
- Massage moisturizer into your face and onto the skin under your beard with a circular motion.
If all else fails, dermatologists offer laser treatments that diminish pseudofolliculitis barbae. Go to someone experienced in laser treatment in light- and dark-skinned men to avoid complications.
What to Do If You Have Trouble Growing Facial Hair
Some men find their beards come in unevenly or never come in at all, even when they follow all the beard-grooming tips above. Whether due to burns, scars, genetics, or some other factor, patchy beards, facial hair loss, and an inability to grow facial hair can be traumatic for men. The good news is some solutions have been shown to work in studies.
Find Over-the-Counter Treatments
Sometimes, men need a little extra help. But not everything that works for the scalp also works for facial hair. For example, minoxidil is an FDA-approved ingredient to treat hereditary hair loss on the scalp. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends consulting a dermatologist before using this over-the-counter option to grow hair on the face.
Try DefenAge Topical Hair Serum
DefenAge’s topical hair serum has been scientifically shown to stimulate the regeneration of hair follicles, even in severely injured skin. The active ingredient is alpha-defensin 5, the patented technology in DefenAge skincare formulas. (Link to this study: Stimulation of the Follicular Bulge LGR5+ and LGR6+ Stem Cel... : Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (lww.com))
Defensins improve skin quality by stimulating LGR6+ stem cells so that defensins can refresh the skin under the beard and scalp. In the process, Defensins improve skin and scalp conditions and normalize oil production. (Multi-Center, Double-Blind, Vehicle Controlled Clinical Trial of an Alpha and Beta Defensin-Containing Anti-Aging Skin Care Regimen With Clinical, Histopathologic, Immunohistochemical, Photographic, and Ultrasound Evaluation - JDDonline - Journal of Drugs in Dermatology).
Doctors using DefenAge skincare in their practices have reported that clients’ hairlines, brows, and beards have become healthier alongside treated skin. By bettering the health of the hair follicles, DefenAge improves skin and hair quality, according to the company that makes these products.
Men who use DefenAge skincare products to grow healthier, fuller beards also benefit from healthier skin. Defensin molecules have been shown in multiple studies to reprogram dormant cells in the body to hydrate and promote newer, younger-looking skin.
Practice Proper Facial Hair Grooming
In addition to using good skincare products, be sure to practice optimal facial hair grooming to improve beard hair quality and coverage. A patchy beard might mean it hasn’t grown out completely. One tip is to let growth happen. In other words, let your facial hair grow over months to see if the patchiness disappears.
Consider Other Facial Hair Styles
If the coverage of your beard still isn’t ideal, consider other facial hair styles that may be more realistic for your face. There are lots of different styles —from shorter beards to three-day stubble. You may find you like the five o’clock shadow more than the idea of a thick beard.
Seek a Hair Transplant
Follicular unit extraction (FUE) is an option that works but is more complicated than using a cream to stimulate facial hair growth. During the procedure, trained clinicians take hair follicles from one area of the body and transplant them to the beard area.[Beard Reconstruction - PubMed (nih.gov)]
Recommended Supplies for Beard Cared
Beard Brush and Comb
Brushing out your beard should be the first step in your beard care routine. Do this before showering to bring beard dandruff to the surface so it’s easier to wash out. You’ll need a boar bristle brush or a wooden comb to avoid static and promote exfoliation. Start by gently and slowly brushing across and against the direction of growth. Then, use a soft-ended brush to gently massage the skin under the beard and promote blood circulation to the hair follicles.
Next, you’ll want to trim your beard, and you need a trimmer or a clean, sharp pair of scissors for the job. This only needs to be done when your upper cheeks, mustache line, and neck start to get long and scraggly. While the hair is dry, use your trimmer or scissors to clip stray hairs along the natural lines of your beard, being sure to snip away any mustache hair that has grown below the lip.
Shampoos and Conditioners
Now, it’s time to wash your beard, either as part of your shower or evening skincare routine. You will need a mild shampoo and conditioner — just enough to cover your beard and get a rich lather. Make sure to use lukewarm or cool water, as hot water may contribute to dry skin and dandruff. Rinse thoroughly and pat your face dry with a clean towel. If you want to blow-dry your beard, use a warm or cool setting.
Beard Oils and Balms
If you’re working on growth, these products are a must-have. If you don’t know how to groom your beard, balms and oils can significantly impact your beard's appearance with minimal effort on your part. They’re great for keeping facial hair in place, hydrating your skin and beard hair, locking in the moisture, and making your beard look shiny and healthy. Each time you finish a shower, apply a dab of beard balm or oil to your fingertips and massage it gently through your beard. Finish by brushing your beard once more to ensure the beard oil or balm is evenly distributed.
While many men leave the shaping of their beards to professional barbers every week, some take matters into their own hands. Most prefer to use razors to shape their facial hair because they provide the closest possible shave and allow you to achieve clean lines. There are many types of razors available, from straight razors to safety razors and electric razors, so do some research to find out which is best for your skill level. Whichever razor you choose, shave slowly, gently, and with the grain.
Why Put In the Effort?
Many men grow beards so they don’t have to keep up with constant shaving and wonder why they should exert the extra effort to maintain their beards. While there are many aesthetic reasons, beard maintenance is also a matter of skincare, professionalism, and basic hygiene. Some of the most important reasons are listed below.
Although society is gradually becoming more progressive with workplace dress standards, that doesn’t mean you should show up to work looking grungy. Coming in with a messy beard can give your boss and coworkers the wrong impression that you don’t care about your job. A scraggly beard can also be unsanitary if you work in food service. It’s worth the effort to comb, condition, and trim your beard.
Shape Your Face
The wrong beard shape for your face can be unflattering and may conceal your best features. The most common face shapes include round, oval, square, triangular, diamond, and oblong — and each profile has a recommended beard style.
For instance, if you have an oval-shaped face, you would want to add beard width to the sides of your face and keep the hair on your chin short and tight to avoid elongating the oval shape and ensure proportionality. An experienced barber can help you determine your face shape and which beard style best matches your features.
Your beard is like an extension of the hair on the top of your head. Just like your scalp hair, it requires regular washing so it doesn’t get smelly and greasy. But unlike the hair on top of your head, it’s next to your mouth. Think of all the times you’ve gotten food caught in your beard in the last few days while eating a meal, and consider how often you drool in your sleep. Do you want that to stick with you? Probably not — so it’s worth the effort to wash your beard regularly.
Protect Your Skin
While a well-maintained beard can shield your face from the sun, preventing aging, sun damage, and skin cancer, an unkempt beard can cause various skin conditions and cause you to overlook skin problems you’d notice without the beard. [Scientific Effects That Happen When A Man Grows A Beard (grunge.com)]
For example, beard acne is a common problem. Beard hairs can trap skin oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, clog pores and cause breakouts without good skincare. It’s also common to develop dandruff underneath a beard; the tell-tale signs of beard dandruff are flakes, an itchy rash, scaly skin, or greasy patches under your beard. [DIY treatment for 5 common beard problems (aad.org)]
The good news is that breakouts and dandruff are easily prevented or treated. Dermatologists recommend a few simple things to avoid under-beard breakouts:
- Keep dirty, germy hands away from your face.
- Gently brush your beard daily before washing your face.
- Shampoo your beard at least once a week using a dandruff shampoo with 2% zinc pyrithione, 1% ketoconazole, or 1% selenium sulfide.
- Wash your entire face, including the bearded skin, once or twice daily with a gentle cleanser and avoid scrubbing (because it tends to worsen acne).
- Use a cleanser with salicylic or glycolic acid — ingredients that fight acne.
- Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water and blot skin dry.
- Apply an acne-fighting topical or an over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1% solution to treat rashes and greasy patches.
See a dermatologist if the rash, acne breakouts, or other skin issues don’t go away with at-home treatment.
Men know that growing a beard is only half the battle. The other half is choosing the right look and learning how to keep up with it. Here are some additional beard-grooming tips for maintaining your beard and making sure your facial hair stays looking fresh!
Give Your Mustache Additional Care
Your mustache has more of an impact on the overall look of your beard than you may think. All you need to care for it is a good pair of scissors and a small comb. As part of your beard care routine, comb your mustache hairs straight down while the hair is dry so you can see any hairs below the lip line that need a quick trim. Be sure not to do this while your mustache hair is wet, as it will appear longer than it is while dry and cause you to over-trim, leading to an unbalanced look.
Some men feel self-conscious when their beard hair grows gray or doesn’t match the color of the hair on their heads. If this is something you’re worried about, there are plenty of box dyes available online and in local drug stores and supermarkets that can help you achieve continuity with your hair and beard color. Just make sure to consult with a barber or hairstylist to get a color match before purchasing.
Neck and Cheek Lines
Cleaning up your cheek and neck lines every so often will help you maintain that crisp, fresh-from-the-barber look. For your neckline, use your trimmer to shave from your sideburns in a U-shape down to the area two fingers above your Adam’s apple. For your cheeks, simply smile and trim along the line up to your sideburns.
Now that you know how to maintain a beard, stay consistent with the recommendations above, and you should see results over time. Visit the DefenAge blog for more tips and information on men’s hair and skincare.
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