With the recent re-popularization of beards in the last year or so, comes men who are not really sure how to properly take care of their new facial growth. To add to their confusion, everybody and their brother is there to offer advice and that “one weird trick”. Now, while the basics of beard care are fairly universal, the specifics get a bit more in depth. In this article, I will give you the basics along with the variables that you will use to determine the best routine to keep your beard in tip-top shape.
Let’s begin with how to keep it clean. Men like convenience. Men use logic. So the logical, convenient way to keep it clean is to just use the same shampoo that you use on your head. It’s all hair, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Your facial skin and your scalp are very different. Even the hair on your head and face are different. That shampoo you are using is formulated for your scalp and head hair. The ingredients in it (you know, the ones you can’t pronounce) will strip the natural moisture away from your face and beard, leaving it dry, and sometimes, itchy.
“So, what can I use?” you ask. Let’s go back to that convenience factor. Having a bar of soap that you can use on your face, beard, and body is pretty damned convenient, if you ask me. There are plenty of bar soaps that are made with all naturally derived ingredients – none of that crap you can’t pronounce. These soaps are full of moisturizing, nourishing, rich goodness. You can find these soaps in the healthy/natural section of most stores, and online.
Now you know what to use, but how often do you use it? This is one of those variables that I mentioned earlier. A few factors come into play here. Do you work outside, or in a dirty environment? Do you have an extremely oily face? If so, you need to wash every other day or so. If not, washing your beard once a week is sufficient. I know that sounds kind of weird and unsanitary, but it really isn’t. Even with the good soap, you wash away your body’s natural oils. So you want to keep the washing to a minimum. On the days that you don’t wash it, just rinse it out with cool to luke-warm water (hot water is another thing that isn’t so good for your skin).
Okay. So we’ve discussed how to keep it clean… now what? Well, you want to make sure that your beard looks and smells great, right? That’s where products come in. Beard Oil (and Balms) are a necessity. Okay, maybe not a necessity. But, they sure are the best thing to come along since the invention of the napkin when it comes to your beard. They replenish the moisture to your beard and face, and they can make it smell amazing.
Let’s get scientific for a second. The beard hairs “wick” the oil away from your skin, causing your face to dry out. So in turn, your skin starts to over-produce it’s natural oil (sebum) to compensate. This over compensation will cause you to have a very oily face at best, and can cause acne at worst. How does beard oil help? Well, beard oils and balms (especially those that contain Jojoba) condition the beard hair, and moisturize the skin underneath. This keeps your face from over-producing sebum. It makes your beard soft and more manageable. It really is a magic serum. As an added benefit, some balms contain wax that helps your keep your beard from looking too wild as well.
Applying beard oil (and/or balm) is another variable. How much do you use? Well, you have to determine that. The general rule of thumb is pretty simple: If you appear really oily after using it, you’re using too much. On the flip side, if your beard dries out during the day, you aren’t using enough. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use more in one application. You may need to apply twice a day instead. This is something you’ll figure out rather quickly. It isn’t rocket science, after all.
If you decide to use beard oil and balm together, that’s fine too. Just decrease the amount of oil you would normally use. Apply your oil first, and then the balm.
You also want to think about brushing and combing. For brushing, most will recommend a good boar bristle brush. Why boar bristle? The structure of the boar bristle is able to carry your sebum (and beard oil) from the skin to the end of your beard hairs. This evenly distributes the oils, giving you the best application possible. Use this right after you apply your oil and/or balm. For combing, don’t use that .99 cent comb you bought at the local drug store. You want to get a well-made comb that won’t pull or yank on your beard. This causes split ends and hair loss. Medium tooth is best here, as finer teeth tend to tangle in your beard. Ouch.
I hope this article has answered your questions about how to properly take care of your pride and joy. Keep the World Beardiful!
Nate T – Smoky Mountain Beard Co.