A patchy beard — where some parts of our facial hair seem to grow like gangbusters, while others remain smooth as a baby’s bottom — can feel like a challenge to one’s masculinity. On one hand, it may feel like your face is still caught in some stage of adolescence that the rest of your body left behind long ago. On the other, we may worry that we’ve already begun to show signs of aging, with male pattern baldness showing up, front and center. For most of us, though, a patchy beard is a problem that, like many of life’s woes, can be solved with a little product, a little patience, and a little help from our friends.
We asked men’s grooming expert Chris Bossio, for some help in the matter. Bossio is not only a successful barber in his own right; helming Headlines, a chain of shops in the Tampa, Fla., area. He is also the barber’s barber, offering tips on cuts, grooming, and running a barbering business on his educational and informative YouTube channel (currently clocking more than 359K subscribers). Ever the entrepreneur, Bossio also has a line of shaving products called Tomb45, which includes beard and lineup enhancement products,
“We like to call them ‘struggle beards’ in the shop, says Bossio, speaking of his customers who ask for help with patchy beards. “Growing a full beard is not easy, or natural for a lot of guys.”
Bossio, who sports a beard of varying sizes, didn’t even attempt to grow his own until he was 31 years old, an inspiration to his clients and followers. He’s got several tools in his arsenal to defeat the patch beard problem.
Do a quick scroll through beard grooming product websites, and you’ll find the latest grooming gadget; something called a derma roller. The tool looks a little bit like a cross between those facial rollers that were all the rage a few years ago and a medieval torture device (or maybe even a lawnmower). The idea is that the tiny needles on the roller actually puncture your skin and that minor injury is supposed to “trigger nutrient-rich blood and collagen-rich tissue to stimulate new facial hair growth, activate dormant hair follicles and improve skin texture while stimulating collagen” (according to the description on one site).
“The derma roller can work, but it can also be painful,” says Bossio. “It takes a while to build up a tolerance to it, but even then you have to be careful: the roller can actually tear the skin.”
Bossio points out that his clients have had better results with microneedling, which is, in effect, the same thing; but is a more controlled procedure done by a dermatologist.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association reports on its website that in one study, men with mild hereditary hair loss on their scalps who were treated with minoxidil in combination with microneedling saw better results than those who were treated with minoxidil alone, so there does seem to be some validity to the procedure.
Bossio shares this video on his YouTube channel that echoes those findings, and which also dismisses the derma roller. Also be sure to check out this one; which takes down Floyd Mayweather’s beard transplant, which seemed an extreme response to a patchy beard problem.
If puncturing your face has you worried that you’ll end up looking like you’ve been binge-watching the Hellraiser movie series, then adding a little color may be an easier solution. We’re totally okay with guys using makeup to get a competitive edge, and a beard filler can go a long way towards making a patchy beard look finished.
“I’ve had several clients refuse to wear ‘makeup,’” says Bossio, “but once we started describing it as ‘color enhancement,’ that made using it okay.”
Bossio advises not to paint your face with the product, because that can look fake. Just use it to fill in spots. His Tomb45 Beard and Line up Color Enhancement product comes in two shades — onyx and brown/black — and is water- and sweat-proof. You’ll need to wash to remove it, but you’ll want to do that before you go to bed anyway, for the sake of both your skin’s and your pillowcase’s health.
Bossio also cautions against using hair dye on your face. “It can have a bad effect on face skin since the product is made for the scalp. It can produce a rough reaction. I’ve even heard of people going to the emergency room from using it inappropriately.”
Read more: Best Beard Dyes
The great news is that Bossio’s best recommendation for fixing a patchy beard is all about straightforward skincare and beard maintenance.
“First, remember, it’s not the hair we have to care about, it’s the follicles. Beard balms can help, but it’s really about the skin below the hair.”
Start by making sure that the beard and skin are clean and moisturized. Don’t use the same shampoo as you do for your scalp: It’s too harsh for your face’s skin. After washing, moisturize, being sure that both beard and skin are getting coverage. Massage product into the beard and work from the roots out. By caring for the skin underneath, you’ll keep follicles healthy, setting them up for long-term growth.
Read more: Best Beard Products
“The biggest problem I see from some of my clients who want to grow
Allow time for those patchy areas to grow in on their own time before you start cutting anything away or giving up entirely. As the beard grows, brush it regularly to distribute natural oils. Stick with that cleansing and moisturizing routine to avoid dryness which can result in a new-beard itch. Once you’ve got a full face forest going, start by
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