If you’re like me and went into quarantine with a beard needing a trim, right now, you probably look like Robin Williams escaping the jungles of Jumanji. If you’re one of those guys who’s growing his first quarantine beard, welcome to the club. Let’s just get this out in the open — beards are not a fad, they’re a bodily function some guys choose to use to their advantage. But if you’re going to do that, you’ll need to know how to shape your beard to make it work.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t shape my own beard. I’ll trim a mustache hair here and there. But normally, I have my barber, Cole, take care of it at The Proper Barbershop in LA. I trust his hands more than my own and the final product is just far superior to anything I could ever produce. Who better to ask for advice on properly shaping your beard?
America is at its hairiest since the 1970s, and all I know is that I can’t eat food without getting a mouthful of mustache. Since I can’t see Cole right now (it feels like forbidden love), I called him for some pointers on how I can use my grooming tools at home to keep everything under control.
How to Shape Your Beard Like a Professional…
According to Cole, these are the eight steps guys should follow when shaping a beard:
- Comb it out
- Trim the body
- Line up the neck
- Get the cheeks
- Fade the sideburns
- Fix the mustache
- Clean any flyaways
- Condition the beard
Before you start, just know that all beards are unique. People have different types of hair, different jawlines and varying degrees of symmetry. While the final product may look different, use these tips as a starting point for how to style your beard. We’ve previously written about how to master daily beard care and our favorite beard trimmers. Now, take things a step further and learn how to groom and shape your facial hair like a pro.
1. Comb Your Beard
Before you take a trimmer to anything, you have to comb out your beard. Doing this allows you to detangle any knots, organize the shape and see the actual length you’re working with. I think a comb works best here instead of a brush. Brushes are better suited for styling whereas a comb has a single layer of teeth, evenly spaced, allowing for even distribution between sections of hair.
Different sized beards also call for different types of combs. For longer beards like mine, I prefer something with longer teeth, like a hair pick. For short or medium beards, any comb will work, but combs made from wood naturally help deter static electricity, which shouldn’t come as a shock.
Chicago Comb Model 7 Carbon Fiber
Chicago Comb Model 7 Carbon Fiber Pick Comb, for Long Thick Curly & Afro Hair, Black Color, 6 inches (15 cm)
Viking Revolution Wooden Beard Comb & Case
Wooden Beard Comb & Case, Dual Action Fine & Coarse Teeth, Perfect for use with Balms and Oils, Top Pocket Comb for Beards & Mustaches by Viking Revolution
2. Trim Your Chin and Blend the Sides
After combing out your beard, it’s time to define the shape you want. Cole said he starts by trimming the bulk of the body, working his way from the chin up to the ear. For short beards and medium beards, you can make things easy by starting with a large trimmer guard and gradually sizing down with each pass until you reach the longest overall desired length. Unfortunately for long beards, they don’t make seven-inch trimmer guards, so this has to be done freehand. In this case, either start with hair scissors or carefully use the trimmer without the guard.
Once you’ve established your length, carefully “fade” the chin up the sides into the ear. Make sure to move your beard around with your fingers from time to time to see the exact shape. If you’re looking for more of a tapered look, blend using a smaller guard up the side. If you’re looking for a fuller, boxy look, you may not have to trim too much.
I’ve been using the Wahl Stainless Steel Lithium Ion+ Beard trimmer for a few years now at home for minor touch-ups and it’s been incredible. The Precision Detailer is especially handy when trimming down a mustache. Wahl’s Color Pro Complete Hair Cutting Kit is another extremely effective choice. However, both are out of stock right now due to quarantine demand for at-home beard care.
No matter which beard trimmer you use, you’ll want a product that comes with a variety of trimmer guards to get the perfect length. Since our favorite Wahl products are out of stock, here’s another great trimmer from our recent ranking of the best beard trimmers.
Panasonic ER-GB96-K Beard Styling Trimmer
Panasonic GB96 Beard Trimmer
ONTAKI Japanese Steel Scissors
ONTAKI Premium Hand Forged Mustache Scissors Barber Salon Japanese Scissors Steel Beard Mustache Hair Shears Scissors Bangs Haircuts Beard Scissors for Men Hair Trimming Scissors 5.5" Rest Hook Silver
3. Line Up Your Neckline
“You don’t want too much of a neckbeard,” Cole says. That’s why taking care of your neckline is so important when learning how to shape your beard.
To line up your neck, Cole said to imagine a line running from ear-to-ear where the “neck meets the jaw.” In other words, aim for the center point of that line about a half-inch above the Adam’s apple. Keeping a tight neckline helps to define a strong jawline, but it all depends on what type of look you’re into. After getting the top of the neck, give yourself a nice clean shave for the remainder.
I find that it helps to tilt your chin up and move your beard around to find the natural boundary under your jaw and simply trace that with the trimmer. If you need to encroach a little more to develop that jawline, start from that boundary and work in slowly. If you mess up and it’s uneven, DO NOT try to go back-and-forth more than once.
One tool that can help here is a hand mirror. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it can give you an extra angle to help see precisely what you’re dealing with under there. This one from Burmax has an adjustable handle for gripping and for standing up on your sink.
Burmax Soft N Style 2-Sided Mirror
Soft N Style 2-Sided Mirror with Handle/Stand 1X/3X Magnification
4. Line Up Your Cheeks
The cheek line, Cole said comes down to personal preference. “Some guys like a natural look and don’t want to go into the side too much. Others sometimes want a sharper look where they push the line to make it look full.” Typically, Cole uses a straight-edge razor to define the cheek but warns that guys should steer clear of this because it can be dangerous for inexperienced guys (he mentioned the words “CAROTID ARTERY”).
On a personal note, this is where I fail the hardest. For me, I choose to not push into the side too much in fear of that dreaded back-and-forth, compensatory touch-up. Instead, I find it easiest to take my regular razor and carefully trace the natural line of my cheek, shaving away any stray hairs, landing naturally next at the lip. This way, you preserve the side of the beard.
If you want to get that sharp look Cole mentioned, here are a few tools that can help you do that.
5. Fade In Your Sideburns
Depending on the length of your hair, you may not have to do this too hard. Despite that, it’s essential to maintain a consistent flow from hair to beard.
Like the first step, Cole recommends starting with a large trimmer guard and working your way down. Most guys can differentiate where their beard ends because of the texture or color of the hair. If not, focus on the hair in the middle and upper parts of your ear and work up. Begin with the guard you used for the length of your beard. Gradually trim higher up the sideburn, using smaller guards each time, until blended with your hair.
6. Trim Your Mustache
An overgrown mustache can suck the fun out of life. You can’t sneeze without it being gross. You can’t sleep on your stomach without suffocating. Every bite of food comes with a side of bristles.
To successfully trim your mustache, first comb everything down with a fine-tooth comb. This includes the length of the lip as well as the wings on the side. I prefer something that’s easy to hold, that’s slender and also lighter in color to see the hair I’m about to trim. Carefully take a scissor or precision trimmer head and trace the outline of your lip from the middle to the end. After, use a pair of scissors to trim the wing to your desired length.
If you’re a beard-first guy, blend the mustache as you style your beard and rock it as you normally do. With that said, your mustache has the potential to add depths of personality if you allow it. Guys with styled mustaches, to an outsider, look like they’re aware of every detail in their look.
Kent Slim Jim Fine Tooth Comb
Kent Slim Jim Handmade All Fine Tooth Pocket Comb for Men, Hair Comb Straightener for Everyday Grooming Styling Hair, Mustache and Beard, Use Dry or with Balms, Saw Cut Hand Polished, Made in England
7. Clean Up Any Flyaway Hairs
Once you’re happy with the shape of your beard, take a step back and look at your masterpiece. Keep a keen eye out for any flyaway hairs that need trimming. Flyaways hairs are singular strands of hair that think they’re better than the rest and try to stick out. Grab your trimmer and put them in their place by cutting them down to size. You can also use a pair of scissors for this job.
8. How to Condition and Style Your Beard
Cole always offers to style my beard once he’s done shaping — he’s a good dude. Personally, I wash my beard out as soon as possible to get the stray hairs off my neck and face. But now that you know how to shape your beard, you do need to learn how to take care of it, the products best suited for it and how to use them.
First, to clean all beards, I recommend using Cremo Beard & Face Wash as well as Cremo Beard & Scruff Softener. These should be used on alternating days in the shower to properly wash and condition your beard. Lather a nickel, quarter or half-dollar sized amount and lather in your hands, depending on the size of your beard. Run up through your beard from the bottom first, getting the sensitive areas on your neck and chin, and then back down from the top. Don’t forget to wash the sideburns! These will help cleanse, condition and hydrate the hair and follicles to keep your beard healthy and prevent itch. If itching does occur, here’s what I recommend to fight it.
Cremo Beard and Face Wash
Cremo Mint Blend Beard and Face Wash, Specifically Designed to Clean Coarse Facial Hair, 6 Oz
Cremo Beard and Scruff Softener
Cremo Beard and Scruff Softener, Mint, 6 Fl Oz
To style a short or medium beard, I recommend using a good beard oil. The best beard oil contains a combination of essential oils that nourish, hydrate and moisturize follicles. I recommend beard oil for short beards because longer beards can end up turning into paintbrushes. Shorter beards, however, gain a nice sheen from using three to five drops of oil in the morning.
V76 by Vaughn Beard Oil
V76 by Vaughn BEARD OIL Hydrating Conditioning Formula for Men, 2 Fl Oz
For medium and long beards, I recommend using a balm or a clay to sculpt and shape the beard. Balms, clays and waxes all have varying holding abilities but are far better than beard oil for controlling any kind of length.
My balm of choice is the Cremo Reserve Blend Beard Balm. I’ve used it for light holding while also getting a nice sheen. Get a peanut-sized amount and warm it up by rubbing in your hands for a few seconds. Work it through the beard, again, underneath first and then from the top.
For serious hold, I turn to Brothers Artisan Oil Matte Fix styling clay. It’s the strongest hold I’ve found outside of Home Depot and can tame the longest of beards. I like to take a pea sized amount with wet hands and work it over the top of my beard, making sure to pass over the jawline as well. These kinds of products aren’t always needed for short beards, but they’re a necessity if you want to learn how to style long beards properly.