If you’ve had a beard for a couple years, you know your personal routine forward and backwards, and chances are, you can do it in your sleep (or when you wake up and you’re really groggy). If you’re a proud new beard-owner, you may find yourself wondering if you’ve got everything right. After all, growing a beard—and most certainly maintaining a beard—is a little more difficult than it looks. So to help you out, we’ve created the beard checklist you see below.
Use it a couple of times when you’re doing your grooming, and before you know it, proper beard care will seem second-nature to you.
A good deal of your beard routine is actually done before you bathe, because most guys trim their beards before jumping in the shower (if you trimmed your beard after you showered, you’d be covered in small sharp whiskers, that would itch you like crazy). So before you jump in the shower…
Make Sure You Have a Plan
This sounds silly, but make sure you know what you want your beard to look like before you start trimming it. If you step up to the mirror and start shaping it without a clear idea of what you want your beard to look like, chances are it’ll look odd when you’re done.
Get Your Clipper Work Done If You’re Trimming
Your main tool, when shaving, will be your clippers. There are some fantastic tutorials out there on how to use them, and here’s one of our favorites:
Decide how much you want to take off, and go gently—once it’s off, you won’t get it back for a few weeks.
Take Care of Lip Over-Hang Issues
This is one of our all-time pet peeves: a full, gorgeous beard, sitting under an unruly mustache. For some reason, a lot of guys will trim their beards beautifully—and totally overlook the mustache.
Ideally, you should be able to see most (or all) of your upper lip, and the best way to do that is wish a pair of mustache scissors. They’re usually a little shorter than regular scissors, and very sharp, and they’re great for getting in close to your whiskers and doing detail work.
If you don’t have mustache scissors, there are plenty of “one-size-fits-all” beard-and-mustache scissors that work well. Whatever you use, make sure it’s very sharp, and that you can grasp them solidly—you don’t want those things to slip.
Make Sure Your Sideburns Are Even
This is another sign of a sloppy beard: asymmetry. Whiskers on the left side of the face tend to grow in at the same length as whiskers on the right side of the face, and that’s why you tend to look really good when you come home after a camping trip: you have that “unruly-yet-natural” look that works really well.
It’s when you start grooming yourself that things can go awry. If you shave one side more than the other, you can look a little lopsided and odd. And, while there is some dispute about whether symmetry is the key to attractiveness, a lopsided shave just looks sloppy.
With that in mind, your sideburns are one of the key areas that can make you look uneven. Sideburns frame your face, so if you get them wrong, you’ll look a little uneven—and because the sideburn whiskers are shorter than your other facial hair, you need a little more precision to get them the same length.
So, take a little extra on your sideburns. They may seem inconsequently, but they’re actually very important to your overall look.
The next item in our beard checklist is one that often gets overlooked:
Shave in a Beard Line
This is another important task that a lot of guys overlook, and that makes sense—you, yourself, don’t usually see the facial hair underneath your chin, and when you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, it probably looks fine.
When you take from another angle—as people who are looking at you all day do—the crazy neck hairs underneath your beard can look really unruly and weird.
So make sure to shave in that beard line. Ideally, you’re looking to put the beard line about a half-inch above your Adam’s Apple, and there’s a test you can do to make sure you’re in the ballpark: take your pointer finger, put it on your Adam’s Apple, and make sure you don’t feel any whiskers underneath your finger.
Also—for a very clean look, use a razor to shave away any of the whiskers below your beard line, instead of using the lowest setting on your clippers. It may take some extra time, but it’s a shaper, cleaner look.
We’ve written a post about shaving in a beard line here, if you need a little more info.
Check Out Your Nose and Your Ears
It’s sad but true: if you’re old enough to grow a beard, you’re probably old enough to find that whiskers are growing out of your nostrils and ears. You’re a brute, and you’re just going to have to get used to it.
So take a close look at your nose and ears. Your age will have an impact on how much hair you may see—if you’re younger (in your 20s or 30s), you may notice a stray hair every week or two; if you’re more of “an experienced gentleman” (that is, if you’re in your late 40s, 50, or 60s), those fellas may sprout up a little more often.
Also check the actual rim of your ear—the section from the top of your ear down, that’s arched. You may find little dark hairs growing out of it, and if that’s the case, there are specialty clippers that can cut those whiskers for you.
Clean Up the Sink
Yeah, it’s a pain, but if you’ve got family members, a romantic partner, or roommates, it’s an absolute must.
Or, actually, if you live alone, it’s a must. Cleanliness is godliness, as they used to say.
During Your Shower
So now you’re ready to hop in the shower and get all those whiskers off you and clean up a bit. Here’s what you should do:
Use Some Beard Conditioner
Beard conditioner is one of those often-overlooked products that the newly-bearded forget, but it’s actually really helpful: it softens whiskers, can relieve some of the itchiness you feel if you’ve got a shorter beard, hydrates your individual whiskers, and provides it with some nutrients (like Vitamin E).
Generally speaking, there are two types of conditioner: the kind you use in the shower and then wash out, and the kind you apply to after your shower and leave in for the day (and we’ve written a post comparing the two types here). If you’re new to beard maintenance, the in-shower variety is probably easier.
DON’T Use Shampoo
So, technically, we shouldn’t include an item you’re not supposed to do in a list of things you’re supposed to do, but we’ll make an exception here, because it’s important: don’t use shampoo on your beard.
A lot of guys think, “It’s all hair, right? What’s the difference?” That makes sense, kind of, but it’s not accurate. The hair on your head is very different from the hair on your face, and shampoo is designed to strip some of the oil (called sebum) from the hair on your head. Your whiskers, when stripped of their oils, become brittle and break, and that’s the last thing you want.
So, avoid shampoo. Avoid using soap in your beard, as well, for the same reason. Soap is meant to strip the oil from anything it touches, and that’s the last thing you want in your beard. We recommend using a specially formulated beard wash for your facial hair.
"Just a small amount the size of a peanut or almond springs into a sudsy cloud that's easy to work into the beard, and easy to wash out. The scent is invigorating—a little mint-y, maybe menthol-y, or like tea-tree—but it doesn't last too long, so you can use a beard oil or beard balm afterwards."
- RTG Editorial
Post-Shower Beard Checklist
You’re all clean and feeling great and relaxed! You’re almost done. Here’s what you need to do:
Make Sure Your Beard Is Relatively Dry
Some guys actually grab a dry cleaner and blow dry it out, but that may seem like a bit much. Grab a soft towel or a washcloth and gently rub downward. If you’re the wild type, you can shake your head like a wet dog. Up to you.
Grab a Wide-Tooth Comb and Run It Through
Even after a shower and after using an in-shower conditioner, you may find that you’ve got some tangles and knots. In fact, it’s likely that you’ve got some tangles and knots.
So grab a wide-tooth comb. That’s important—you want to start with a wide-tooth comb before moving on to a more densely-toothed comb, because if you start with a densely-toothed comb, it’s:
1) going to get stuck in your knots, and
2) hurt like a bee sting.
Can you guess what comes next? Yep:
Grab a Smaller-Tooth Comb and Run It Through
Get out the last of those knots and make that beard silky smooth.
Grab a Bristle Brush
This is an extra step, but one that a lot of bearded gentlemen like to do: get a bristle brush—one that’s VERY densely bristled—and give it a few downward strokes on the beard. It takes an extra minute, but it ensures that every whisker strand is loose and free.
Plus, it makes it easier to…
The next two items—mustache wax and beard wax—may be unnecessary, but a quality beard oil every once in a while can really fortify your whiskers. They’re usually contain jojoba oil, hempseed oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil, and they act as a moisturizer for the hair follicle, but also as a hydrator for the skin below it. They can be a great match for itchy, sensitive skin, and…
A lot of them smell incredible. The last decade or two has seem an explosion of beard care products, and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scent options. You’ve got:
- Sweet beard oil scents, like vanilla and rose;
- Citrus scents, like orange and lemon and lime;
- Spicy scents, like bay rum and clove;
- Cool scents, like menthol and mint;
- Floral scents, like jasmine and lavender; and
- Traditional scents, like sandalwood, which is one of our favorites.
Some guys use
Apply Mustache Wax, Even Though…
It’s probably safe to say that the majority of bearded men don’t use mustache wax—but it can be a great if:
1) You’ve got a very voluminous mustache, and it travels every which way during the day, and you need something to keep it in line, or
2) You’ve missed a couple of days of grooming, you’ve got lip over-hang issues, and you want to keep your whiskers away from your lips.
Mustache wax goes a long way, a dab the size of a grain of rice can be enough for some guys. Under-do it at first, if you’re new to mustache wax.
Apply Beard Wax If You’ve Got a Truly Bushy Beard
Most guys with shorter beards don’t need any beard wax, but for those guys with longer locks, it can be a great styling tool.
Very long beard hair can do some crazy things during the day—it can curl up underneath your chin, split at the ends and fork, or even clump together—and a binding agent works well for a lot of guys.
If you find that you start your day looking smooth and end your day looking like a crazy person, beard wax may be a good option.
Rinse, Repeat, and Eventually…
You’ll have all this down, and you won’t need a checklist—you’ll be able to get yourself dapper in a matter of minutes, with very little thought required.
Until then, refer to the checklist, and you’re all set!
Michael Morris is the head writer here at Rough and Tumble Gentleman. He's got a ducktail beard and loves Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's married to the woman of his dreams and lives in Brooklyn, NY.