How To Shape A Beard Perfectly Every Time
Good-looking beards aren’t just grown – they’re made and maintained. Shaping a beard is what keeps it from looking like a tangled, ratty, wild, out-of-control mess.
Whether you’re sporting stubble or a long beard, you need to do a little work on it to make sure that it looks its best. Read this article and take the time to learn how to shape your beard and give it the right appearance.
Finding the Right Beard Shape for Your Face
A lot of men who want to grow a beard start by deciding on the kind of beard they want and then try to grow it. If you do that, you’re skipping an important step. The first thing you should do, instead, is looking at the shape of your face and figure out just what kind of beard would look best on it.
The beard you decide on should be one that accentuates your best features and hides the ones that are a little less flattering. When it comes to the shape of your face, the best approach is usually to aim for the type of beard that will help your face look a little more oval. If you have a round face, for instance, you can achieve that by letting your beard grow a bit long at the bottom but keeping it closely trimmed at the sides. If, however, you have a thinner, rectangular face, you’ll want to keep the beard shorter but let it grow a bit more widely to add dimension to your face and even it out.
And if you have an oval-shaped face, you’ve hit the jackpot. You can sport just about any kind of beard and it will work well with your shape.
Of course, if you’re dead set on growing a goatee or a van dike no matter what shape your face has, there’s nobody stopping you. But remember that the shape of your beard will affect the shape of your face, so it’s always a good idea to pick the one that frames it right.
Shaping Techniques Can Depend on Beard Length
Once you’ve figured out the kind of beard you want, the next question to ask is how do you achieve that look?
The answer will depend on how long you want to grow out the beard. Maintaining stubble, trimming a short beard, and keeping the shape of a longer one all require different methods.
One of the biggest misconceptions about stubble is that all you need to do is manage the length: so long as you keep it short enough, you’ll get that great five o’clock shadow without having to wait until the end of the day for it to sprout. But there’s a noticeable difference between stubble that’s just been left to grow wild and stubble that has been carefully and deliberately shaped.
Now, that being said, if you’re sporting stubble, the point is to make it look natural, even if you’ve put some work into it. So, let’s go over what you need to do to keep your stubble well shaped without making it seem like it’s been fussed over too much.
Above the Jawline
The most important thing you can do with stubble is to keep it from creeping up too high on your face with a good beard line up strategy. If it looks like your stubble is trying to invade your entire face when it starts coming in, shave anything that grows on your cheekbones. If you do that, your stubble will run across your jawline and accentuate it, instead of hiding it under a mossy mess.
On the Throat
It’s okay to let some stubble grow on your throat (this is not quite the same thing as having a neckbeard, which we’ll get to later). As long as it doesn’t look patchy or too thick, you can leave it more or less alone.
A little contrast between the chin and neck is always nice, however. The best-looking stubble tends to come in thick on the chin but look lighter on the throat. If you don’t get that look naturally, there are two ways to achieve it.
First, you can use a beard trimmer with a very short guard. By running it across your neck (but not your chin), you can buzz off just the tips of the stubble and make it slightly shorter than the rest of your facial hair.
Another way to keep the stubble on your neck a bit shorter than the stubble on your chin is to shave strategically. If you give your neck a shave just as the stubble is coming in (again, leaving the hair on your chin alone), the hair on your face will grow in a bit thicker than the hair below your jawline.
Whatever method you use, the key is to not overdo it. You don’t want to create too big of a contrast between the hairs on your neck and face. But the great thing with stubble is that if you get it wrong, you can shave it off and start fresh before the week is over.
Shaping Shorter Beards
When it comes to shaping a shorter beard, you have to decide which tools you’re going to use.
Lots of barbers can give you great results just with a comb and scissors, but it’s something that you shouldn’t use on yourself unless you’re a seasoned pro. Even the barbers who use scissors on their clients don’t necessarily use them on themselves. Trimming your own beard with scissors doesn’t allow you a direct line of sight to your hands and limits the positions you can be in while holding your equipment, so it takes a lot of practice and some very steady hands to get it right.
I recommend starting off with an electric beard trimmer. Select one that comes with several guards of different lengths or get one with a built-in adjustable guard. Using an electric trimmer with guards will give you an (almost) fool-proof way of getting the beard length and shape you want.
Tapering Short Beards
Depending on the style you’re going for, you can adjust your trimmer or replace the guards when working on different parts of your face. Many men, for instance, will go for a tapered look by trimming the hair on their chins at a longer length and then using a slightly shorter guard for the sides. This is a great and simple way to get a beard that looks nice and full but doesn’t stick out on the sides.
Razors and Scissors
While a trimmer is a very useful and versatile beard shaping tool, you should still keep a razor and scissors on hand.
Razors come in handy for maintaining your cheek and neckline. A trimmer can’t give you a close shave, and it isn’t always as precise as you’d like it to be for careful details like managing the stubble on your cheeks (the last thing you want is to accidentally trim part of your beard when all you mean to do is clean up your cheeks).
Scissors are also handy for touch-ups and stray hairs. Trimmers are usually overkilled for these kinds of things and you risk cutting off a lot more than you mean to.
Shaping Longer Beards
When your beard reaches a certain length, it’s time to retire the trimmer. Unless you use it to tame your sideburns, it just won’t be all that useful. Even a large trimmer guard will result in shaving off too much of your beard, and it’s easy to accidentally make your beard uneven when using a trimmer without a guard.
For your long beard, you’ll be much better off using a comb and scissors.
Before trimming your beard, start by washing and drying it. You can trim a wet beard, but when it dries and bounces back, you might realize that you got the length wrong.
Once your beard is dry, brush it out with a fine-toothed comb. This will eliminate any tangles and keep the hairs nice and even before you start trimming.
The comb you use isn’t just to neaten up your beard; it’s also an important shaping tool itself. Use your comb as a guide. Run it through your beard and hold it right where you want to trim the hairs. Then, grab the scissors and snip along the edge of the comb, cutting off all the hair that sticks through the teeth of the comb. Repeat this until you’ve trimmed off everything that needed trimming.
A Quick Note on Equipment
A fine-toothed comb is ideal for this, preferably with a handle so you can hold it comfortably in place while trimming.
As for the scissors, don’t just grab whatever pair you have in the junk drawer. Get yourself a pair of barber’s scissors. Make sure the scissors are sharp, thin, and easy to hold at the right angle so you can cut with precision.
Beyond Trimming: Using Product to Add Shape
No matter how carefully you trim it, long beards can get a little unruly. If you want it to keep a certain shape, consider using products like beard balms. Some of these balms will also nourish your beard and keep it hydrated and looking its best, so make sure you read the ingredient list and buy a high-quality product.
If you’re going for an elaborate shape, you’ll need to use something stronger like a wax-based product.
Shaping a Mustache
As you can imagine, shaping your mustache is about as important as shaping your beard. After all, sporting a great beard won’t do you much good if your unkempt mustache distracts everyone from even noticing it.
Mustache Shaping Tools
While you can use a beard trimmer to go at your mustache, this tends to be a little too imprecise to do a great job. You want to avoid accidentally shaving off some of your beard when trimming the sides of your mustache and a mustache that’s been shaved too short can look ridiculous.
I recommend using a pair of barber’s scissors to shape your mustache. If you’re new to trimming your mustache, try a pair with rounded tips so you don’t risk cutting your lip.
It’s also a good idea to use a comb when trimming your mustache. By running the comb through the mustache and stopping it right where the hairs need to be cut off, you can ensure a precise trim every time. Be sure to use a fine-toothed comb, preferably a mustache comb that’s small enough to use comfortably and has a handle to make it easier to hold in place while your scissors do their work.
Trimming Your Mustache
How you shape and trim your mustache will depend on the style you’re going for. Some hipsters (and really, really old-fashioned men) like to go for Victorian-inspired looks, like walrus mustaches that hang over the mouth and jut out to the sides. Others might do some fancy stuff with mustache wax.
If you’re not going for any of those advanced looks, there are two simple things to keep in mind when trimming your mustache:
- Trim any hairs that grow over your upper lip.Unless you’re going for an elaborate or eccentric look, you want to keep your mouth is completely uncovered.
- Trim anything that grows out too far to the sides.A good rule of thumb here is that you should use your pupils as a guide: anything that grows further to the left or right of the area parallel to your pupils should be snipped off to ensure a neat look.
It won’t be long before your mustache starts to hang over your upper lip again, so you might need to trim it more often than you do your beard. It’s a good idea to make checking and trimming your mustache a quick part of your daily grooming routine.
Shaping the Sideburns
Let’s talk about face shapes again. Your sideburns can have a big effect on the way your face looks. If you have a round face, thin sideburns can help give you a slimmer look. If you want to make your face look a little bigger, you can let the sideburns go a bit thick and bushy.
What’s important, however, is to have sideburns that match your beard style. Long, thick sideburns don’t make sense with a goatee, and thin sideburns will look strange when paired with a large, bushy beard.
Ideally, the beard and sideburns will blend into each other seamlessly. The best way to achieve that is by creating a beard fade. As the name implies, that means the beard gets shorter as you move up the side of your face, gradually fading into the same length as the sideburns.
A simple fade is fairly easy to achieve, but it requires a little bit of patience. Use the trimmer to shave down the sides of your beard to whatever length you desire. Then, move up about an inch from the edge of the jawline and adjust the trimmer (or replace the guard) so that it trims slightly shorter. Then move up another inch and shorter it again. Repeat the process until you’ve reached the top and your beard will fade into your sideburns and look like they’re a single unit instead of two separate parts of your hair that have been pieced together.
Shaping the Neckline
Here’s a word you never want to hear when someone describes your appearance: “neckbeard.” A neckbeard is what you get when you grow out your facial hair and never bother trimming anything below your jawline.
A good beard accentuates your face, but a neckbeard hides its features.
But shaving too much of your neck isn’t a good idea, either. Shaving right across the bottom of your jawline is a mistake many novices will make, and it results in a beard style called the chinstrap, which almost nobody can pull off. For most guys, it just makes it look like the beard’s been stuck on a bit too high. If you give yourself a high neckline, you’ll also learn the hard way that it makes you look like you’ve got a double chin (or makes an existing double chin more prominent).
So, what’s the sweet spot when it comes to maintaining your neckline? Eventually, you’ll probably have an intuitive sense of where it should be, but for now you can use your Adam’s apple as a guide. Place one finger above your Adam’s apple and this will indicate how low your beard should go. But it shouldn’t be a straight line across your throat. Make sure that the rest of your neckline follows and matches the curvature of your jaw.