It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a large beard, must be in want of a comb. And honestly? That's not a bad starting point. But the problem with many novices' approach to beard care is that they only consider the beard itself – and forget about the skin it grows from. In fact, the first step towards ensuring a fine and flowing beard (or a short and well-kempt one, for that matter) is to establish a decent skincare routine, tailored for facial hair.
Luckily, this isn't as complicated as it may seem. Let's break it down.
Faces need to be washed daily. Beards, however, although they are a part of the face, are a bit more variable. The length of your beard, oiliness of your skin, and your general lifestyle will all determine how often you need to wash your beard. A few times a week is a good starting point – but experimentation will be required. If your beard feels dry and itchy, you probably need to wash less. If it feels oily or smells bad, you need to wash more. So while regular washing is not optional, your exact rhythm will be unique to your circumstances.
What we can universally recommend, however, is that you use a good cleanser. You can use a dedicated beard shampoo if you like, but most gentle, ph-balanced facial cleansers can be enlisted for this purpose and work just as well. Just remember, when washing your beard, to lather well and get down to the skin beneath it – otherwise all will be for nought.
After the beard is clean, use your fingers or a wide-toothed comb to detangle it. Always be careful with wet hair – beard or otherwise – as it will be more fragile when wet. If you brush too hard, you might end up snapping strands.2. Exfoliate
No one, and I mean no one, likes a face full of dead skin flakes. Beards, unfortunately, have a tendency to collect them. And while preventing this is the most immediate beard-related reason to exfoliate regularly, it's worth noting that exfoliation is associated with all sorts of perks: better overall skin tone and texture; reduction in acne; etc.
The most efficient way to exfoliate is to use a toner or serum with either alpha or beta hydroxy acids on the non-bearded parts of your face. The former, which include glycolic and lactic acid, are best suited to dry to normal skin types. Look for one with around 5% AHA listed on the label. The latter, better known as salicylic acid, is best for oily and acne-prone skin, and usually comes in 2% strength.
Ironically, when you first begin chemically exfoliating, you may end up with flakier skin than usual – if this doesn't subside in a couple weeks, or your skin shows signs of irritation, than you should try exfoliating less often. Depending on your skin, anywhere from everyday to just a couple times a week will suffice. Once you have your routine, stick to it to keep your face smooth, and your beard flake-free.3. Moisturize
If you're still of the mind that only women and people with severely dry skin need to moisturize, then boy, do we have news for you. Moisturization is key to healthy skin barrier function for everyone. When your skin is dehydrated, it will also be more prone to inflammatory disorders of all kinds, including eczema and, yes, even acne.
Beards too need moisture to look their best. A good beard oil, made of non-comedogenic ingredients, can provide the beard and the skin it grows from with much-needed lipids, that will keep both moist and happy. For the non-bearded part of your face, a traditional moisturizer, in lotion or cream form, will probably be best for all but the driest skin types, as oil alone can leave a noticeable sheen on (beardless) skin.
4. And one more thing about moisturizers...
For daytime, make sure that you look for something with an SPF of at least 30, and broad spectrum protection. Why? Because skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US – and worldwide. 'Nuff said.
For that matter, consider skipping the moisturizer altogether, and applying straight sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens – those which do not contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – are aesthetically more pleasing when used over a short beard, because they don't leave a white cast behind that can gunk up the beard. Longer beards provide enough sun protection on their own that you probably don't need to apply any sunscreen over the top of them; however, remember to apply over the rest of your face.
The bottom line here is that there's no point in growing a majestic beard if the rest of your face isn't going to keep pace. But putting together a skincare routine that also suits, and nourishes, your beard, isn't difficult. These tips are a great place to start.