Sporting facial hair in the office is commonplace. But now it’s more and more acceptable to have a long, unruly beard… within reason. Guys like Jason Momoa are living proof that even a scraggly beard can look sharp.
But how do you pull it off? What’s the difference between Momoa’s beard, and one that just looks lazy and untended to? Well, it’s the tending to that makes all the difference. The best-looking and healthiest long beards are nourished and trimmed along the way.
First Things First
First and foremost, says Shaffer, you’ve got to clean up the border of your beard. That’s the biggest secret to an intentionally scraggly beard: The perimeter is clean-cut, so it truly looks intentional.
“Attending to a few seemingly small details can mean the difference between a rugged, masculine appearance and a neglectful, lazy one,” he explains.
To do this, Shaffer says to keep the mustache trimmed above your lip, and to mind both the cheeks and neck. This will differ in how it manifests itself on each guy, depending on how high the hair grows on your cheeks, and how full it is on both the neck and face. However, the key is clean, defined lines. More guidance on trimming below.
Beard Care Regimen
With those clean lines drawn, here are the at-home steps you can take to ensure your scraggly beard draws favorable glances instead of quizzical stares. It mostly boils down to a healthy regimen.
1. Cleanse: Use a daily cleanser or beard wash to scrub your whiskers every day. Shaffer says to avoid products that use sulfates (like sodium laureate sulfate, SLS), since these can strip the natural hydration from your skin. The oil in your skin helps keep your beard soft and healthy, and sulfates will compromise that. Instead, the aim here is to wash away grime, debris, and excess oil. Pay particularly close attention to the area around your mouth, says Shaffer, since oil (and even food particles) can often collect in there.
2. Hydrate: Just like your skin and the hair on your head, a beard needs to stay hydrated in order to be healthy. The skin underneath your beard needs extra attention since it’s harder to reach with your standard moisturizer application.
“Your daily face moisturizer should be non-comedogenic,” says Shaffer. “This means it won’t clog your pores. And it should have broad-spectrum SPF (to shield from both types of harmful UV rays).”
Yes, you can apply your daily moisturizer right on top of your beard. This will protect it from the same damaging UV rays that harm your skin.
As an alternative, you can warm a few drops of beard oil in your palms and run them through your beard. The oil absorbs quickly, and gives the beard a healthy, nourishing luster. Shaffer particularly prescribes beard oil to guys who are just starting to grow their beard, since it’s especially helpful in preventing beard itch.
“Look for one with jojoba oil, which is technically not an oil, but a wax ester,” says Shaffer. “Jojoba structurally resembles sebum, the natural oil your body produces, which makes it a great candidate for moisturizing a beard.”
3. Comb: By combing your beard, you help distribute the natural oil (or any applied oils) throughout the entire beard, which will ensure the ends of your long, messy mane get as much nourishment as the shaft. If not, you’ll get lots of split ends, and notice it’s suddenly dry and brittle.
Combing your beard also exfoliates the skin under your whiskers, extracts loose hairs, coaches everything into its prime style position, and even stimulates natural oil production, which keeps everything soft and nourished. Do this nightly before bed (even if it seems silly to comb your beard when nobody is going to see it), or immediately after applying beard oil.
5. Style: Just as tousled “surfer hair” is a hairstyle on guys, a scraggly finish is also a beard style. That means you need to apply some product to hold it in place—even if “in place” means “all over the place”. Sometimes beard oil will do the trick, but it’s likely you’ll want some beard balm at the ready, too. For a large beard, just warm up a dime size amount in your hands, then massage it down from your cheeks and throughout your beard. You can then sculpt the beard as you like, bunching it as you please.
4. Trim: In order to clean up your neck and cheeks, you’ll need the following, says Shaffer: a mirror, good lighting, grooming scissors, a fine-tooth comb, an electric trimmer, and a knack for geometry. Here’s what to do.
How to Trim a Scraggly Beard
Line up your mustache: Place a fine-tooth comb diagonally just above your upper lip, keeping it parallel to the line of your mouth.
“With a pair of grooming scissors, cut the hairs that are poking out of the bottom of the comb,”Shaffer says.
Clean up your cheek line: Next, place the comb on the diagonal of your cheek, using anchor points to get your preferred angle. Again, this might look different on every guy.
“I like to use the point where my ear attaches to my head as point ‘A’, and the corner of my mouth as point ‘B’,” says Shaffer. “Using the trimmer, cut the hair above the comb, and don’t go too low here, since we’re looking for a subtle cleanup, not a full-on manicure.”
Clean up your neck line: Imagine a ‘U’ shape from the back of both ears that meets in the middle at a point above your Adam’s apple—roughly one inch above it. You want to shave everything below this line. Or, as Shaffer wisely lays out, you can also have your barber define the line for you, then shave below it every 2-3 days so you never lose track of your neckline.
Snip the strays: Use the beard scissors to snip at anything that gets more scraggly than you like. For your style, you can stand an errant hair or two, but you may need to trim the hedges along the way. The best way to manage this might be to sculpt the beard into a neat shape, as if you wanted it to be cleaned up. Snip any strays that stand out of line here. Then you can tousle and scraggle it up as much as you like from here.