The 19th Century called; they want their manliness back.
Facial hair is indeed back, and with a vengeance. From Ambrose Burnside’s side burns to Jeremiah Johnson’s mountain man beard to Wyatt Earp’s mustache, facial hair is breaking the chains of modernism one whisker at a time. And it is oh so good. The styles of facial hair are wide-ranging and diverse, some devilishly good looking, others a bit regrettable. Despite the diversity, it is important to be aware of the essentials.
The Clean Shave
Technically just the absence of facial hair but still a distinct style. The perfect shave has and always will be sought.
First, warm the face and whiskers with a warm wash cloth, or shave directly after a shower; this opens the face’s pores and allows for less razor drag. Then, shave once downward with the grain; this reduces friction and skin irritation. Then shave again, this time upward and against the grain. Having shaved once, irritation will be minimal; this second time around will provide silky smoothness.
After the second shave, apply a cold washcloth to reclose pores and reduce friction burn. Finally, aftershave may be considered, but I much rather prefer applying scentless lotion. This avoids and reduces the burn while increasing smoothness. It may not be the perfect shave, but it’s pretty close.
Five o'clock shadow is the chiseled version of scruffy. Simple to maintain and hassle-free, the stubble look offers a gruff yet civilized tone. You’ll want a trimmer for this look (see below).
Not just in the dominion of hipsters, the mustache is a timeless look with plenty of variety.
Simply add whiskers on the chin to the mustache and you’re there. Keep it short to avoid being mistaken for George Armstrong Custer. A simple look full of class.
In the same family of the Spaniard, the goatee is the ultimate paternal look. It is also a good stepping-stone to the full beard while still within the bounds of the gentlemanly.
The Short Beard
The short beard is clean and sharp while still offering a natural feel. Keep all whiskers short and make sure to sculpt the shape.
The Full Beard
Attempt at your own risk—here there be dragons.
The Neck Beard and Chin Strap
Don’t. Just Don’t.
Now that the basic styles are laid out, let’s discuss proper facial hair growing and maintenance.
To begin: No, if you shave with fire you will not grow more facial hair. And no, shaving more often does not speed up the process. Just relax and give it time. It will come when the world is ready for it. When it does, there are some essential skills that you'll need if that facial hair is going to stay clean and classy. Behind every great beard is a set of tools and the skill to use them.
The first step to having a manicured face-lawn is to know your limits: do not attempt to grow what you cannot grow. The patchy cheeks and that lopsided mustache are not doing you any favors. If a mustache is what your mug is ready for, rock the mustache. If scruffy is the stage you’re in, consider maintaining the perpetual stubble look. When that mane does come in, make sure to make it work for you, and not the other way around.
The most basic and helpful beard-grooming tool is the electric trimmer. Within the shorter facial hair range, the trimmer guarantees an even length across the look. Set the trimmer to the shortest length to maintain the stubble look. The trimmer can also be used to maintain the sculpted shape of particular facial hair. Even if it's a beard, don’t leave it to chance: always shape the border to stay away from wolf-man territory.
The next essential to facial hair grooming may be the most difficult to use, but also the most rewarding of the tools. Necessary for beards too long for trimmers, but also helpful for the stray hair left behind by a trim, are scissors. Scissors are especially helpful for maintaining the shape of a beard, or giving shape, as it grows. Whiskers constantly grow at different speeds, so in order to maintain an even length use scissors to cut off the more ambitious growers. With scissors, it is basically “learn by doing.” The skill is similar to riding a bike—a little off balance and lopsided at first, but once you find your groove it is smooth sailing into handsomeness.
The last, but certainly not least, tool of beard maintenance is the common razor. No matter what style is desired, it is important to keep the areas around the facial hair smooth and whisker free. With a beard, use a razor to clean up the neck and cheek areas to make sure you’re not mistaken for Sasquatch. After a certain legendary beard length is reached, this no longer applies.
After the desired facial hairstyle is achieved, maintenance does not stop. Make sure to keep facial hair looking fresh by keeping it clean. Wash it as you would wash your hair; just because it's not atop your head doesn’t mean it’s not hair. Use shampoo and conditioner every three days or so. To stay away from drying out your skin and dealing with man-druff (beard dandruff), consider working lotion into your facial hair. Beard oil is also something to consider, as it reduces man-druff while offering an increase in sheen as well as a pleasant aroma. However, stay away from coconut oil—it may offer the same benefits as lotion or beard oil but the smell never leaves and can become nauseating.
Keep it clean, keep it classy, and timeless style will be yours to wield.