What better way to change-up your look than by growing a beard? It’s cheap. Inordinately so next to a tattoo or new suit. Plus if it goes horribly wrong you can always just cut it off. Expensive laser removal aside, it’s impossible to do that with botched ink. You can’t cut off a tattoo. That’s grooming 101.

Beards are zero-risk investments, then. But they require regular maintenance if you want to be looking your best. It may sound pretty easy, but with so many razors, trimmers, creams, foams, oils and all the rest of it, getting your mug rug into shape can be a confusing affair.

And that’s before we even get into the different lengths of facial fuzz. With a spectrum spanning from ‘hairless’ to ‘Hagrid’, there’s a lot of space for things to go awry if you’re not suitably clued up on your trimming dos and don’ts.

Get it right and you’ll perfectly frame your face, accentuating (or creating the illusion of) a strong jaw or slimmer neck; get it wrong and you’ll look like Craig David. To that end, here’s our beard selecta.

Stubble

Are you hungover? Of course not; you’re just sexy. With stubble you walk that fine line between rugged Diet Coke guy and recently divorced dad. Certain pitfalls can drop you into the latter category, but get it right and you can transform your face with minimal effort.

The operative word there is ‘minimal’, because despite its reputation as the most breezy and nonchalant of all the beard types, a bit of bristle still needs tending to on a regular basis. That’s if you don’t want to wind up with a chin that looks like a chewed-up toothbrush after a few days, anyway.

Yes, stubble requires maintenance too. But that’s not the only surprising stubble-related fact you’re going to learn today. Not by a long shot. Because it’s also worth noting that facial hair doesn’t just have the power to change the shape of your face, but actually affects its colouring when viewed by others as well.

So, if you’re pallid and prone to dark circles, it’s actually best to avoid stubble-length beards altogether. Unless you want people to think you’ve been sleeping in the office like Elon Musk.

The Long And Short Of It

Like all ostensible just-got-out-of-bed looks, stubble is in reality a science that demands planning and precision. “The key to turning stubble from negligence into a ‘look’ is trimming and shaping,” says Jake Murphy, barber at Ruffians, Covent Garden. “Leave it grow for two-to-three days for the length to even out – hair tends to grow unevenly – then trim.”

You’ll need a good trimmer if you’re going to pull it off properly. Opt for something with an adjustable guard that can be removed when it’s time to neaten things up around the edges. You could also employ a razor to clear up anything above the cheek line and below the Adam’s apple. Then all that’s left is to cut your fuzz to the desired length.

It’s not a case of one size fits all parts of your face, mind you. “The density of hair varies,” says Murphy. “It can be a lot thicker around the chin and moustache, for instance. Experiment with different lengths to get the colour balance right.” Even is the aim of the game.

Stubble

The Technique

Wearing a chinstrap in public is immoral – this isn’t the 1990s and you’re not about to drop a seminal R&B album. “A rule of thumb is to always set the line on your neck just above the Adam’s apple,” says Murphy. “Do not follow along the jaw, ever.”

But why? Well, while you may think shaving along the jawline is a surefire way to miraculously grant yourself the bone structure of a Greek god, you’d be wrong. In reality, all you’re going to be doing is drawing attention to the problem area.

Once you’ve got that in check, you can then trim to accent your facial features. “Keep the cheeks in line with the corners of your moustache or mouth. There are plenty of options: rounding, fading, lower lines, higher lines. Experiment to see what suits you,” says Murphy.

“If you have a soft jaw, higher cheek lines and fuller corners will accentuate it and make it look stronger.”

Hey presto. A jaw that looks like it could cut glass and all without an expensive trip to a cosmetic surgeon. Result.

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Mid-Length Beards

Moving up into the middleweight category is as appearance-changing for a beardsman as it is a boxer. This beard style literally adds inches to your face, creating a sense of length and width. With the right trimming techniques, this’ll add some instant handsome points to your scorecard.

But for a total knockout look, you might want to ring in some even bigger changes. Keeping the ‘tache longer for a beardstache or maintaining weight around the goatee will plonk a statement piece right on your face for all to see.

However, approach this beard category with caution and only venture into its hairy depths if your prepared to show a little commitment. Letting a mid-length beard grow freely is a good way to wind up looking less gentleman and more abominable snowman.

The Long And Short Of It

Fools rush in. “Continue the steps from the stubble stage, letting it grow a bit longer over a few weeks,” says Murphy. “The secret every good barber knows is that it’s all about gradual steps. You want to nurture the beard to your desired length with regular trims.”

This is favourable over simply growing it out then going at it like you’re cutting back a hedge. “If you have to shape the beard from scratch, you’re going to need a few mirrors and a steady hand.” Take your time and you’ll arrive at a result that’s more George Clooney, less George Michael.

Even so, you’re still going to have to battle your way through the dreaded itchy/scruffy phase before you arrive at a workable length, but maintaining a neckline and cheek lines will make it clear that the look is intentional and you haven’t just forgotten to shave for several weeks.

Medium Beard

The Technique

The precise attention you give to each area will depend on your face shape and desired outcome, but one rule holds true for all. “The sideburns can puff out, so get those bad boys under control,” says Murphy. You’ll notice every scissorsmith worth his salt will take these in tight when you go for a professional trim. “You can follow this at the top of the cheek line for a face-squaring fade.”

For the ultimate square beard – and therefore a squarer jaw – work the neck like a pro. “The weight under the chin can become quite bulbous. Comb this area out and trim it with as flat a line as possible – this will enhance the chin,” says Murphy.

“Random growth patterns are where things get tricky. Some areas grow into others causing them to jut out.” A barber’s trick here is to use a comb with a naked trimmer rather than using a guard. “You’re essentially combing to expose stray hairs then trimming. Finish with a beard balm to keep the hairs in line.”

Last but not least, beards of this length are a playground for dandruff and while shaping your crumb catcher is all well and good, looking after the skin underneath is just as important. Keep it nourished by using a few drops of beard oil and making sure you massage it right down to the root of the hairs. That should help to keep the flakes at bay.

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Long Beards

Waddup, Gandalf? Your full beard is so much more than a nifty face warmer. Thanks to hirsute heartthrobs like Joaquin Phoenix and Tom Hardy, what was once considered a homeless man’s calling card is now the fashion statement du jour.

A long bushy beard has been a marker of strength, wisdom and downright unabashed manliness for as long as history can remember. If you were hoping to add a touch of badass to your appearance, but don’t fancy splurging on a Harley or a leather jacket, growing a massive beard is the best way to go.

But be warned, it’s an easy one to misjudge. Carve it right and it’ll create the illusion of abundant virility even if you have literally none. (A recent study by Australian scientists found that women subconsciously associate long beards with good baby-making potential, FYI.) Carve it wrong and you’ll look like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.

The Long And Short Of It

You’re obviously going to need to relax the rules on how often you trim back your beard. But it will need irregular attention during the initial growing phase. Think on the previous tips for a mid-length beard and cut back on the number of trims per week. “Also allow the sideburns a little more length now.”

Don’t neglect key areas, though. “Trim a line across the cheeks so you don’t just look like you’ve given up,” says Murphy. “But you can start to let your moustache grow over your lip. A trim ‘tache doesn’t really work with a longer beard.”

Growing a ZZ Top-level beard may seem pretty easy, and it is. Getting your facial hair to this sort of length is just a natural progression from the mid-length beard stage. However, there are still a few things you’re going to have to do differently.

You’re obviously going to need to relax the rules on how often you trim back your beard. But it will need irregular attention during the growth phase. Think on the previous tips for a mid-length beard and cut back on the number of trims per week. “Also allow the sideburns a little more length now.”

Don’t neglect key areas, though. “Trim a line across the cheeks so you don’t just look like you’ve given up,” says Murphy. “But you can start to let your moustache grow over your lip. A trim ‘tache doesn’t really work with a longer beard.”

There’s a reason they call them flavour savers, you know.

Long Beard

The Technique

Steady hands, boys, steady hands. “Free handing with your beard trimmer is about to become more commonplace, so get some practice in,” says Murphy. “As the beard grows past the neck, you can maintain the neckline using the Adam’s apple rule, but let the hair growing from the jaw pass that line to create a fuller beard.”

Keep your ‘tache looking reasonable using the comb and trim method: “Comb it outwards from the middle and cut any stubborn hairs that are too long. Once it’s got length, blow dry it for the best look. Dampen it, comb, blow dry and apply a little wax,” says Murphy.

“When you’ve got the length, use the blowdry technique on the rest of your beard to encourage your hair to fall in line there too. You can fade your cheek hair so it’s much lighter toward the eyes.” This allows you to increase the overall length of your beard without going full Captain Caveman.

And a parting tip. “Beard oil can help with skin irritation and improve the health of your beard. But remember this: less is more.” A slimy beard is never a good look.

Key Products

The best grooming products for long beards

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