In life, there’s the beard you want and then there’s the beard you can actually grow: most of us get our facial hair by default. But whether you can reach full Gandalf or struggle to just patch a goatee, maintenance is key. Basically, you want to look like you care, but not like you’ve had a spirit level up against your cheeks. Ben Vowles, senior barber at Murdock London Shoreditch, gives us the lowdown on how to get it right.
Get some decent scissors
Don’t let the mountain of (useless) attachments that come with a beard trimmer fool you into thinking it can do it all. A.I might be stealing jobs in other sectors, but nothing beats a steady hand and a sharp pair of scissors when it comes to getting your beard right.
“The general rule is, the longer the beard or moustache, the more you will need to use scissors to be more precise,” explains Vowles. “Then once the beard is too long to use clippers all over, simply use the scissors to trim away any rogue hairs, keeping the overall shape tidy. As for technique, for me personally you should always work with your natural cheek lines, so the beard doesn’t look overdone.”
Watch the neckline
Without seeing a plastic surgeon, the biggest difference you can make to your face is with hair. Stubble can work wonders on defining a soft jawline, and a beard can totally reshape a less prominent/overprominent chin or slim a round face. The tricky bit is always knowing how to trim the neckline. “On a shorter beard I recommend keeping it softer,” advises Vowles, “conversely, on a longer beard keep it more defined.”
Ask your barber
Want an objective opinion? Ask your barber. “Choosing the right beard length/style can be difficult, so always ask for your barber’s honest advice,” says Vowles. “For me I tend to advise shapes and lengths that will work with a gentleman’s facial shape and features to accentuate the jaw line and/or cheek bones. It’s also important to work with the hair type so try and avoid going for something that just isn’t going to blend well with your hairstyle.”
Let it grow, let it grow
Patience really is a virtue when it comes to follicle pursuits. According to Ben Vowles, one of the biggest mistakes we make is trimming it too soon. “You need to let it grow out for around three weeks before starting to trim, otherwise you’re just going to keep losing the foundation that you’ve grown. We are all guilty of over-trimming, which can lead to taking the beard too short but can also lead to making the beard look overly-styled, like when too harsh lines have been put in the cheeks.” The most important point to remember? “Once it looks good – leave it!”
Keep it clean
With longer beards, “shampoo and conditioner are as essential for the beard as they are for the head if you are going to grow a longer beard. Shampoos created for the hair on your head will dry your beard out however as they are much higher in acidity,” advises Vowles. “We recommend using a combination of a PH-balanced beard shampoo and conditioner to keep your beard feeling softer and fuller. Always finish with a dollop of beard moisturiser to keep that beard soft and the skin underneath healthy too.”
Go with your gut
When it comes to street style heroes, male model and Instagram influencer Richard Biedul always gives good beard. So, what’s his secret? “I actually have no idea what my ideal beard length is,” he confesses, “it changes from season to season. From mid-length to stubble to just a moustache. I usually just go with what I feel like at the time.”
What he doesn’t change, however, is his care routine. “Regardless of length you should still cleanse, exfoliate, moisturise, comb through and trim. A short beard is just as easy to care for as stubble and looks equally as smart or casual.”
How to Trim Your Beard
Whether you opt for designer stubble or a Tom Selleck-worthy ‘tasche, here’s the right way to trim your facial hair.
Moustache and Goatee
Use the smallest attachment for detailing on your trimmer and hold it like a pen to shape your desired look.
Stubble obviously requires the most frequent upkeep in terms of trimming. This is usually where we get a bit gung-ho with the trimmer and hack a hole into it by accident, resulting in an impromptu clean shave back to ground zero. Use scissors and willpower to prevent this from happening.
Use a combination of scissors and a trimmer with a sharp precision blade for the edging. Be patient in between trims. Remember: if in doubt, your barber does it better.