If you’re one of many men who grew a pandemic beard because it seemed like less effort than shaving, it’s time to rethink that. Unless the look you’re going for is unkempt mountain man – and, okay, anything goes these days – beard care takes time and effort.
After all, most newly reopened barber shops can no longer offer beard trims (or hot towel shaves) because of the requirement that customers wear masks.
So what’s a beard newbie to do? You could just shave it all off. But if you want to keep yours – and make it presentable – here’s how.
First, let’s answer the mask question
Beards can prevent the N95 mask from sealing correctly, but “having a beard is unlikely to make a big difference” in the protection offered by cloth masks and other face coverings, says Dr John Swartzberg, an infectious disease specialist and a clinical professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health. Cloth masks, he says, are also worn more to protect other people than you. Nor is Dr Swartzberg aware of any greater risk of coronavirus transmission with a beard. “I’m really reaching to find a theoretical risk,” he says.
As for what mask to choose, barber chain manager Alex Brenard, who has both a beard and a job that requires him to wear a mask all day, has found that one with ear loops is more comfortable than one that ties in the back. “I think because it rests on the beard instead of squishing it down aggressively,” he says.
Should it stay or go?
If you’re still on the fence about keeping the beard, consider: Dermatologists actually encourage growing them for men with curly hair (including Black men and those of Middle Eastern descent), because they tend to solve the problem of pseudofolliculitis barbae, aka the ingrown hairs that often come from shaving.
Take care of your skin
The first step in beard care is actually skin care, something dermatologists and barbers say too many men skip. Under the beard can be like the forgotten land. Lax skin care can make a beard look unkempt – and it also means you can end up needing to repair half your face if you decide to shave.
Exfoliating – something that shaving would normally take care of – is key, because it both helps the hair grow and rids the skin of the dander, dirt and oil that beards can collect. Scott McMahan, a hairstylist and groomer whose clients include Josh Brolin, likes to exfoliate by washing his beard two to three times per week with dandruff shampoo, which has salicylic acid, a common face peel ingredient. (McMahan has worn a beard for more than 30 years.)
After you apply a grooming product, use a comb or brush to style the beard. “You can kind of train the hair to move the way you want it to move, and it will look well kept,” said Jeremy Heiser, a training and education executive for the skin care brand Kiehl’s who has worn a beard for years. “You don’t have to have this crazy Santa Claus beard.”
You’ll need tools of the trade
To trim your beard, invest in some hair clippers – preferably ones with an adjustable lever and clip guards – and a pair of hair-cutting scissors, which have a pointed tip for precise cuts. (These don’t need to be expensive) Clippers are best for cutting a lot of hair uniformly; the scissors are for fine-tuning (such as flyaways and coarse gray hairs). A dull blade can pull or catch on hair; in a pinch, you can sharpen yours by cutting through heavy-duty aluminium foil.
When cutting, err on the side of longer – you can cut more, but you can’t put hair back on. Curly hair may require some playing around with guards, because it isn’t uniform length and probably curls differently on one side than the other.
The big tell of a rookie beard groom, experts agreed, is the neckline. If it’s too high, your face and jaw will look too full, your head will look big, and your neck will look too long – you can look “like a werewolf”. Ideally, the beard should end about one finger above your Adam’s apple.
If all of this sounds tricky, take heart. If you make a mistake, you can always shave it off. – New York Times