Beard Maintenance Tips From Someone Who Isn't A Hipster

From no beard, to full hobo beard and back again, I have done it all. I'm no rugged lumberjack or style-conscious hipster, but this is my bearded experience.

These days every second website has a guide to growing, maintaining and styling a beard, generally with pictures of tattooed hipsters in some sort of combination of flannel and skinny jeans. They would have you believe that keeping a maintaining is a part-time job that needs a vast array of products.

I disagree.

My beard came about on a whim - I just stopped shaving one day and gave it a few years to see what would happen. There are many different types of beards; I generally prefer the slightly homeless and definitely sketchy beard look, but there is a style for everyone. Fortunately my partner liked my beard, so I was free to let it grow wild.

Despite the occasional hipster accusation, I don't own skinny jeans, flannel or shoes that should be worn without socks. I do own an axe, but I balance out any hard labouring lumberjack claims with my pale skin and soft writers' hands.

So how can you get the most out of having a beard, without going to extremes?

Beard Products

From oils to butters, balms and waxes, I used exactly nothing. Of course I tried some different products early on, but was never convinced. Beard oil sounds fantastically manly (and beard butter fantastically delicious), but just left me feeling like I needed to wash. The less I do to my beard, the better it feels.

Beard Hair Is Different To Head Hair

After a bit of experimentation, I settled down in a fairly predictable beard routine. I give it a comb (when long enough) in the shower, while wet. I only shampoo and condition once a week -- any more often and it tends to get a little unruly. Bed beard is a thing - after a hard nights sleeping, my beard generally ends up perpendicular to my face. A bit of plain water and a light brush sorts it out.

Styling and Trimming

I get beard trimmer's regret whenever I make major changes, but an occasional trim is needed. Key areas include the lower neck, around the base of the jaw and most importantly -- around the mouth. A quick shave of the scraggly bits on the cheekbones gives an instantly neater feel. My go-to beard taming product (for important events) is the same as my hair -- a dose of normal mousse. One styling tip -- don't let anyone use a hair straightener on your beard, unless you want to look like a garden gnome. A short beard often looks neater and can be maintained pretty easily.

Alternatively, go indoor skydiving -- it gave me a total beard re-styling.

Beard Tech

Forget about the old school straight razor, the badger bristle brush or exotic shaving cream. A bit of dependable technology is all you need to keep your beard in check. As Angus noted, for those maintaining a shorter beard, a trimmer with a built-in vacuum really cuts down on the mess. Otherwise any decent electric clippers is the easiest way to keep things trim, while a standard cartridge razor handles the rest.

A Beard's Worst Enemy

I love a juicy burger that bursts with runny egg when you bite into it. It’s almost impossible to eat without making a mess though, and it will stick in the beard. Weirdly, the smell of melted cheese gets into my beard easily enough that my partner coined the term "Cheese Beard". Be prepared to eat more often with a knife and fork as your beard gets longer and bushier, though really it will stay very clean.

Salt water is also not a friend to the beard and tends to make it angry and vengeful.

Beardly Life Impact

I had an overwhelming positive experience growing a beard, and didn't get any particularly insulting or racist comments. It probably helps that I am 200 cm tall (6' 7"), with a beard that tended a little red, but still. I found a beard got a huge number of compliments from strangers. Almost exclusively from men, but it was the girls who wanted to touch it. A group of backpackers (guys) gave me a standing beard ovation in a bakery in Banff, Canada. It was a little weird, but I was too busy being flattered.

Flying High

Through my overly large and bushy beard phase, I flew in and out of Australia a good 10 times. I never got stopped or searched at all and one US border guard even complimented me on the beard. Interestingly, flying back into Australia the ePassport facial recognition system worked perfectly every time, despite my photo being totally beardless.

The Travel Beard

I bought an amazing "beard brush" from eBay that I actually suspect is a dog grooming comb. It went missing one time overseas, so I resorted to the crappy hotel brushes. Fewer teeth are better, so just snap out every second one for an instant beard brush. As long as you wash out any physical dirt and food, I tend to think that neglect only makes a beard stronger.

The Itch Factor

Unlike Angus, I never had any problems with itchy growth early on. The trick it seems is perseverance -- an established beard is never itchy and actually feels quite soft. My partner is a teacher, so when head lice made an appearance at her school I was worried that they might invade my face, but I was spared.

Shaving It Off

There eventually comes a time for a change, and the beard has to go. Expect regret. But relish in the feeling of a cool breeze caressing your cheek. And prepare to grow another beard. Shortly after my last big shave, I got sent an article about how shaving off a beard is the latest hipster trend. I cut that person from my life.

I am currently seeing how short a beard can be before it's actually just stubble, but will probably end up going the full Ned Kelly again one day.

And yes, I have heard of the Aussie band The Beards, yes they are amazing, and yes you should go see them live.

Do you have any beard stories or tips? Tell us in the comments.

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Comments

    It probably helps that I am 6″ 7′
    Phwoah!
    6 inches, 7 foot!

    I had an overwhelming positive experience growing a beard, and didn’t get any particularly insulting or racist comments. Why would growing a beard get you racist comments?

      I've had a few off the cuff comments about the place of being a muslim since I had a beard. Nothing serious (for me) but I assume that is what he's referring to.

        Angus also experienced some interesting comments when he grew a beard.

        http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2012/09/what-i-learned-from-growing-a-beard/

        That strikes me as so bizarre. Beard or not, this guy is still obviously a western, white guy (I know that western white guys can also be Muslims, but this subtlety is usually lost on those who would make anti-Muslim comments anyway). And there are so many men with beards now that I'm surprised the "bearded=Muslim" stereotype still even exists. SMH.

        I have also had a few comments, been stopped in the street and told to shave, by a sweet, precious little old Lady, lol, and have had people cross the street or lock their car doors as I walk by, lol! Only a couple of full bearded guys in my part of Austria, but with all the tent cities popping up around here, more and more beards are showing up from the refugees, and 99.9% if them are Islamic, so I expect things to get worse around here for us few bearded Christians.

      Islam isn't a race.

        Yes, we get it, Islam isn't a race, so you're free to be as bigoted as possible because it's technically not racism. You're all very clever.

      For some reason I get called a terrorist, Muslim, curry muncher etc etc. I have black hair and beard but nothing screams Hollywood terrorist, and put it to xenophobic small town 'humour'.

      On a better note, I've found a regular wash and trim helps, use an electric 'beard trimmer' to keep my mo neat and let the beard grow as long as it can!

        Lol, that is what I call my 19 year old grandson, who can only grow on the sides, a little on the chin, and no mustache! I keep threatening to shave him till it comes in full, lol! He wants one like his grandpa, but that will take a while!

    I don't shave in between april and December. People say I look like a man with a beard and a little baby faced boy without one. My beard is three colors nowadays. Black and grey with a touch of red below my chin for some reason..........in short when I have one, I love my beard and my beard loves me.

    Missed an important tip - don't just grow it. You need to shape it as well. If you find your sidies are sticking out or bunching up, you need to comb and then trim them. Too many guys I know just let their beards grow down and out and up and around like that's all they have to do, and wind up with these sideburns that are sticking out, lumpy circular beard lumps under the ear, and neck beard that's longer than chin beard.

    I was getting pretty constant Ned Kelly references, then I dyed it blue for autism awareness month and it became smurf references...I agree with the article though I do use beard balm, goes too wild if I don't, but we're all different, been thinking of the feared shave....haven't had the balls to go through with it just yet.

    Been growing mine since September 2013 and have trimmed a few handfuls off of it during that time, otherwise, it would be longer. Mine gets pretty unruly if I don't blow dry it, and I usually use a couple of drops of Garnier Fructis Wonder Oil to run in it after drying it. Wash it a couple of times a week and use conditioner, that's about it. I am Okie born and raised, but moved overseas, to Austria, back in 1990 and have been here since, my wife is from here. I just registered for the World Beard Championship, in Leogang, Austria, for the 3rd of October. My first contest! My oldest grandson, 19 years, is going with me. His beard only grows from the side, lol, and no mustache and I do not like that look, and tell him to shave so that it will grow out thicker, but so far, no good! I hear the American Team will be there, so finally get to run elbows with my fellow American citizens, which will be nice! Should be a lot of fun and laughs.

    So many lols, cheese beard is real, great article.
    Cheers

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