How to maintain that trendy facial hair
Men are going to greater lengths — even blow-drying and straightening — to groom their beards
Beards have become ubiquitous in the last few years — not just for hipsters, lumberjacks and those whose religion calls for it — two P.E.I. barbers estimate up to 70 per cent of men currently sport facial hair.
Whether you're a veteran of the look or are ditching your razor for the first time, here are some tips and tricks from a couple of P.E.I. barbers on keeping your whiskers looking sharp.
"Seems like it's kind of at a peak right now," says Zack Squires of the beard trend. He styles hair and beards at the Humble Barber in Charlottetown, and educates his clients about beard maintenance.
"Men are really enjoying having beards of different lengths, whether it's to enhance their facial features or just to give them an overall new look."
Mary Lou Mamye at Stratford's Own Barber Shop has been styling men's hair for more than 30 years, having learned her trade as a military barber in Petawawa, Ont.
"They're really popular," she says of beards. "And guys have really upped their grooming game. They like to soften it, condition it, shape it — they want it to look good! So it's good for us and them."
A medium-length beard "faded in from the hair and a clean lineup," is the most popular current look, Squires said, and Mamye agrees. That means the beard fades in from short hair to long hair down the face and is contoured to enhance the features of the chin and jawline. A cleaner look means hair straggling down from higher on cheeks is removed.
The right stuff
Modern beard grooming can be as expensive and time-consuming as shaving.
First, wash your beard every day when you're in the shower. You can use shampoo or special beard wash.
Massage in shampoo well to circulate blood to the hair follicles, Mamye said, then condition the beard with some oils or conditioner, rinse and pat dry.
You'll need the proper products to keep your beard healthy, Squires said. He uses Crown Shaving Company products from Ontario, while Mamye favours Reuzel brand.
Blow dryers and straighteners
Then, you may apply a beard balm — Crown's beard balm is "like a leave-in conditioner for your face, and it also works well as a moisturizer so you're not going to get itchy," said Squires.
If your beard is longer, Squires recommends a special beard comb. Some men will also straighten their beards using a blow dryer and a vent comb, or a mini hair straightener, he said.
Beards can also be shaped and styled with waxes and sculpting balms. Squires recommends men do not use hair products on their beards, warning they clog facial pores, but Mamye uses Reuzel on both hair and beards.
Sparser beards can use beard foam, while heavier beards may require heavier, thicker products like waxes and pomades for a firmer hold, Mamye advises.
The right shape
"The biggest thing, if a man is sporting a very short, stubble-like beard is taking the jawline too high is a common issue. It can actually make your face look less proportioned," said Squires. In other words, when trimming the beard on the neck, resist the urge to trim too close to the chin and jawline.
That being said, hair on the neck should be kept "tidy," Squires said.
"A neck beard, to me, is just not attractive and makes the face and chin look bigger," Mamye added. She likes to see beards trimmed to at least one finger above the Adam's apple.
While many men tell her they're wearing beards because they are tired of shaving, she tells them, "You don't want people to think you don't want to shave every day! Clean up the cheeks and the neck area." That way, it won't just look like you've been trapped out in the woods.
'Invest in a good trimmer'
Another mistake is working with improper tools, Squires said.
"Invest in a good trimmer," he advised. Squires suggests WAHL brand to his customers — a good consumer-grade one will cost about $60. "The tools last a very long time and they're very good quality."
Make sure you trim around the lips.— Mary Lou Mamye, barber
He also encourages and teaches customers to learn how to use a straight razor.
"It's kind of a forgotten art," Squires said. A straight razor will be your best friend in keeping cheek, neck, moustache and hairlines sharp, he said.
"Once you get the hang of it, it's going to be a lot easier," he said. You don't have to find an antique straight razor — there are disposable versions "that are much less risky," said Squires. Find them at the barbershop, online or a beauty supply store like Sally Beauty.
Both barbers suggest regular professional trims to keep things looking good, and for advice on what beard shape will look best for your face.
Mamye believes beards can nicely offset a bald head. "It seems to balance it out."
If you're growing your first beard, she advises, "be patient. Don't cut it too soon, let it grow and keep it well-groomed. And make sure you trim around the lips."
And don't compare your beard to the next guy, she said — all beards are different.
Don't have a beard, but want to know what you'd look like with one? I found this amusing beard simulator built by CBC —try it here.