There is no singular way to grow a beard since we’re all dealing with different genetics and potential. (Not to mention, with a billion beards out there, the growth process is a different experience for every guy.) However, there is some universality to the growth process, no matter one’s limitations and aims. That’s because we all share the same overarching goal: We want to reach our own personal hirsute potential.
And here’s how you can help your beard reach its best potential, whether it’s your first attempt or 50th. It’s a roundup of our favorite advice, plus the best beard care and styling products to help you maximize what you’ve got. We even threw in a couple things that the more optimistic (and less skeptical) among us might like.
Read on, and grow on.
What to Know
You do have limitations, based on how dense your beard is (or isn’t). That shouldn’t discourage you from growing what you can. However, don’t compare yourself to anyone else, and work within your own bounds.
Speaking of "working within your own bounds," sometimes, the most creativity comes from working with a given set of parameters. Just because your beard is patchy doesn’t mean you can’t try a few more sparse styles — look at Robert Downey Jr. as someone who has done a lot with a little. You might not be able to grow a full, bushy beard, but there are infinite other styles you can sport.
If you’re young, you may have lots of unlocked bear potential that grows in over the course of time. And, if you’ve already got lots of whiskers and are finally growing something out for the first time — then give it time. That beard can transform practically overnight, but never on the first, second or third one. It will look drastically different from one week to the next (exactly like the hair up top of your head, go figure). So, be patient, and try to discover all of the styles on the way to your perceived destination. It will also help fuel creativity as you settle into the best beard style(s) for you.
What You Need
While you’ll see lots of beard products advertised (like beard conditioners, shampoos, soaps, moisturizers and so forth), some of them are pure excess. That’s because standard-fare cleansers and shampoos will wash the beard just as effectively, and since some more necessary beard products already cover the nourishing bases. Here are the products we think are truly essential for anyone serious about his beard. We encourage you to shop all the excess stuff if you like, but everything below is the real Tier 1.
Get a device that trims wet or dry, holds a long portable charge, and has enough attachment heads so that you can trim to whichever length(s) you desire. The more customizable your options, the more you’ll get out of the device over the years.
Many trimmers come with interchangeable heads that allow you to zap stray hairs, cut clean lines, and define the borders of your cheeks and necklines (see above). However, it never hurts to pick up an inexpensive detailing device for the tiny touch-ups that make a big difference between looking intentional and overgrown. Some trimmers also come with detailer attachments, so you can two kill birds with one stone.
These will come in especially handy for your long mustache hairs, but you might find that you use them to spot-check your beard strays, too.
Get a pure-oil blend to soften your beard hairs, make them more cooperative, less itchy, and add a pinch of healthy shine. It’ll also seep into the skin beneath to prevent dryness and beard dandruff.
Once your beard is long enough to style, beard balm with help you keep it locked into place (while preserving its soft, touchable qualities). Balm also nourishes the hairs, much like beard oil. We recommend using them both though—balm to style, oil as needed (particularly after showering, before bed).
A comb will help distribute applied oils throughout longer beards, and even tame styled beards into place.
A beard brush will help you distribute your skin’s own oils in the evening (or applied oils), and can help detangle long beards before you sleep. Think of a comb more as a styling/finishing tool for the daytime, and a brush as a bedtime tool that helps promote hair health and order.
If your beard is hyper curly, or long and scraggly, then you’ll need a long-tooth beard pick to safely detangle it. Don’t use a comb for that task; you’ll cause too much breakage or plucking.
How to Work with What You’ve Got
The best state of mind to have around your beard is: What works best with my face shape, my growth potential, my personality, and so forth. We always tell people to think of your beard the same way you do your hair up top: There are so many styles you can achieve, often by incorporating the tools above. But those styles are limited by your genetics, which is part of the fun. So, don’t go idolizing James Harden’s beard and imagining yourself with the same. Instead, find someone with your same growth patterns, and see how he has realized his own potential—patchiness, translucent hairs, and sparseness be damned.
Go the Extra Mile
Some beard products are believed to help increase facial hair growth (as in, sprouting new hairs), but they have as many skeptics as fans. Most importantly, remember this: You’re not going to grow hairs that will never exist in the first place. But the body does tend to sprout new hairs as we get older—in some of us, far more prolifically than others—so it is possible you’ve got some dormant or budding follicles that merely need a bit of extra coaching. If you’re optimistic, then consider these two things.
Some brands tout micro-needle beard rollers, and claim that they help coach shy hairs out of dormancy. The idea cites something about the skin’s boost in collagen production (from all of the microscopic wounds that the roller induces, which boost collagen response to the area and thus promote your skin’s firmness/elasticity). The belief is that it also encourages hairs to grow. It’s hard to say if this works, and would of course require months or years of dedication. While you’re at it, use it all around your face, too, and apply facial serums; you may as well help your skin look its firmest and brightest if you’re going to go to the trouble of rolling the needles over your beard area.
One of your best fixes for hair loss, minoxidil is rumored to help stimulate stubborn stubble, too. There aren’t enough studies done to confirm whether or not this works, but minoxidil has been cleared by the FDA for use on beards and eyebrows alike. The logic is there, too: If it can stimulate blood flow and nutrient delivery to dormant, dying follicles up top your head, then it should also help fuel those dormant ones on your cheeks, and expedite their growth.
It’s safe to assume your dermatologist will shut down the idea since it’s not anchored by much science. (Still, we’d encourage you to start out by conversing with your doc about the approach.) You can try a patch test of the OTC drug on your cheeks, to make sure you don’t experience any reactions. (You could even try a 2 percent formula if you’re extra cautious, which is the strength women use on their scalps, whereas balding men use 5 percent formulas on their heads.) However, you will need to stay dedicated to once- or twice-daily applications for 3-6 months before you see any potential results if any at all. We are not implying that you will see results. It’s merely an optimistic approach.