The COVID-19 lockdowns have inspired a lot of people to embark on all sorts of personal projects that they had floating around in the back of their mind for years.
It’s the ideal time to clean the house, take online classes, learn to play bass, read those James Patterson paperbacks that have been lying around for years, or maybe just relax and try to take life one day at a time. For many men across America, their big Bucket List project is to let their facial hair grow—and grow.
That’s understandable. Many men were reluctant to start growing their beards out while they were still showing up at work five days a week. However, the quarantine has given them the ideal opportunity to experiment without the whole wide world needing to see all the mistakes being made as those little hairs get longer and longer on their face. And believe us, there are quite a few mistakes that can be made.
If you’ve never grown a beard before, you need to realize at the outset that there’s more to it than just putting the razor away for a few months and letting nature take its course.
There are important steps you have to take before you can achieve whatever hirsute look you’ve been thinking about. In that spirit, we offer this brief step-by-step guide on how to grow and shape a beard during lockdown.
Step #1: Give Yourself a Good Shave
You’ll need to start with a blank slate. Take the time to give yourself the closest shave you can manage. That may sound a little odd, but there are several reasons why you want to do this before you embark on your journey for the ideal beard.
For one thing, shaving can minimize the number of ingrown hairs you will have to deal with later on. Another reason is that shaving allows you to do some important prep work before you let your hair run free. Just remember to put on generous amounts of cream to get the hairs to stand out properly, and it’s probably a good idea to break out a brand-new razor for the task. Go slow and be careful.
While we’re on the subject, we might as well clear away a certain misconception about shaving. Many people believe that shaving causes your hair to grow back thicker. The problem with this idea is that there’s little science to support it.
There’s nothing about shaving that will increase the number of follicles you have, or cause your hair to become denser. So why do people believe that? One reason may be a simple visual illusion.
For many men, the ends of their facial hair become lighter due to exposure to sunlight. After you shave, the hairs that begin to grow out may be darker than what you’re used to seeing because they haven’t been bleached by the sun. That’s why they seem denser, but they really aren’t.
So you’re done shaving. Now what? It’s on to the second of our quarantine beard tips.
Step #2: Cleanse and Moisturize Your Skin
This occurs immediately after Step #1. First, you need to wash your face, and you’re going to do a really thorough job with it, just as you did in the first step. Get a natural soap; avoid the kind with weird chemicals—they’re needlessly harsh on your skin and tend to promote dryness. While applying soap, gently run your fingertip around your face to help remove dead skin cells.
When you’re done with that, it’s time to moisturize. You can do that really well with beard oil or balm. These are both highly effective moisturizing agents, and they share many of the same ingredients.
The difference between them is that beard oil is mainly for moisturizing your beard hairs, while beard balms moisturize your hairs and your skin. So which one should you use? That really depends on your personal preferences, and at this point in your journey you probably don’t have any. You might need to experiment a little.
As your beard grows, you should be using one of these moisturizing agents every day. This will soften your beard hairs, reduce dandruff, and help eliminate itchy skin.
But back to the present. Take some of that beard oil/balm and put some in the palm of your hand. Then get some on the fingertips of your opposite hand. Apply the liquid on your fingertips all around the area of your face where your beard will be growing. You don’t need a whole lot.
Step #3: Let It Grow Out
Now that you're done shaving and moisturizing, it's time to let your beard emerge. This is not, of course, an overnight process. You'll have to be patient and give your beard the opportunity it needs to flourish in all its rude glory.
That should take a minimum of one month, and preferably two—maybe even more if that’s what it takes. During that period, you're mostly just going to go about your business while those little hairs protruding from your face and neck get longer by the day.
Is that all you really need to do at this stage? Many people say yes—they advise just allowing your beard to develop and worry about trimming it down later. Others think it's a good idea to trim your cheeks a little while the rest of your beard fills in, to avoid inflicting yourself with an excessively "round" shape to your face.
If you like, you can also take steps to figure out where your neck line will be. You're going to need to keep your hairs from growing too far south if you want to avoid the infamous "neckbeard" look (unless that's what you really want).
Opinions vary on where the ideal neck line should rest, and ultimately it comes down to your personal preference. One popular style is to have a neck line just above your Adam's apple. Use your finger to draw an imaginary line starting at one ear, passing down across your neck, and this rising up to your opposite ear. That's your neck line. You're going to be shaving everything beneath that boundary.
You'll also need to figure out the top line of your beard. Again, you're going to draw an imaginary line with your finger from the bottom of your sideburn to the corner of your moustache. (As you may have guessed, it helps to have at least some growth in these areas so you have something to work with.) Anything north of that line is stuff that isn't really part of your beard and should be shaved off.
Again, keep in mind that you don't really need to do this yet if you'd rather let your beard grow to its full length before tinkering with it. But it is an issue you need to address before long.
There's another problem you may have to deal with: beard itch. A lot of men start getting itchy—really itchy—as their beard hairs lengthen. And the itch can set in pretty early in the process.
Fortunately, you have an important weapon in your fight against itching, and it's that beard oil stuff we already told you about. Beard oil helps remedy the dryness that promotes itching. It also keeps your beard clean—dirt is another cause of itchy skin.
Getting in the habit of using that stuff every day will not only reduce itchiness but also provide a number of other beard-friendly benefits. Beards that have been treated with oil are more supple, so they're easier to style and less likely to be affected by hair breakage. Some people also find that beard oil helps minimize patchiness—that is, areas where hair refuses to grow properly.
With luck, a bit of persistence (and beard oil—don't forget the beard oil) will give you a full beard that you can now style to your heart's content.
Step #4: Managing Your Beard
So you've now grown out your beard. It's likely you look kind of unruly, like a caveman or one of those unfortunate souls who turn into werewolves after dark. Maybe that's your ideal, but probably you prefer to refine your beard to some extent.
In that case, you need to learn the art of trimming. The good news is that this isn't too difficult. All you really need is a beard trimmer and the patience to learn how to use it to get the look you want.
What if you don't know what look you want? Experimentation is an important part of any novice beard aficionado. It may take a while to figure out how to trim a beard in a way that makes you look presentable.
The simplest strategy is to cut your beard evenly all the way around. Figure out what hair length you're comfortable with, and then make it that length all over. Depending on how quickly your beard grows, you can expect to find yourself trimming it anywhere from once a week to once a month, but some men do their maintenance outside this range, either more frequently or less.
If you're willing to get into slightly more advanced concepts in beard styles, keep in mind that an oval shape tends to be the most effective type. This means arranging your beard in a way that makes your face look like an oval.
For instance, if you have a naturally round face, you want your beard to be long around the chin and relatively short at the sides. And don't forget your mustache—most men prefer to keep those hairs from inching over the lip.
It's also a sound idea to become acquainted with beard maintenance products. There are a lot of good beard products to aid proper growth. The beard comb is just one of these useful items. Just run one of these combs through your beard to keep hairs from tangling up and help you create a smooth "clean" look. Additionally, combing your beard right after applying oil enables you to spread the liquid more evenly.
Just as you wash the hair on the top of your head, you should also wash the hair on your face. This is another way to prevent the dreaded beard itch and keep everything looking good. Washing 2-3 times a week should be enough, but this is another area where you need to figure out what works for you.
Bear in mind that washing your beard too often will strip out important oils needed to maintain health. You may also wish to consider investing in some beard shampoo rather than the generic stuff—many beard wearers insist that this type of specialized product gives them superior results.
Remember that keeping your beard in proper condition is an ongoing process. You can always find top beard products—everything from razors to lip balms—at Black Ship Grooming Co., a leading manufacturer of handmade shaving supplies since 2011.