The Manual’s Guide on How to Shape a Beard

Beard-Trimming

Like the man who wears it, a beard is prone to wildness.

It’s fun to dance with the comely coquette called chaos every once in a while, but sometimes a man needs to take stock of his life and rein it in. In terms of your facial, you should really learn how to shape your beard. For tips, we turned to Karen Lynn Accattato, who has helped many high-profile men look their best, including the cast of Empire, numerous professional athletes, and a former community organizer named Barack Obama.

Learning how to shape a beard is an art that requires discipline and plenty of experimentation. No one knows your beard better than you, so we recommend sampling products and techniques that work best for you. Don’t be afraid to go nuts. Remember: beards grow back.

Finding Your Beard Shape

Since every beard is special, there are no one set of rules that applies to everyone. For year-round care, we’ve compiled her thoughts on shaping shorter, cooler beards and managing longer beards over time, too.

“When I look at a face, I look at it as a landscape,” says Karen. “I’m looking at structure. I love to see the top of the cheekbones, and I like everything to be in proportion. I think if you have a very narrow face, a big heavy beard is kind of overpowering, but if you have a wider face, you can do a wider beard. Just keep it in proportion with your bone structure.”

beard trimming shaving cheek
RoBeDeRo/Getty Images
RoBeDeRo/Getty Images

If you’re going to rock a beard, you could consider longer locks. While a close-cropped beard looks just fine with short hair, a longer beard with short hair might not be the best fit for your look. “[Your beard] has to be in proportion to the hair on your head,” says Karen. “I’m one who likes harmony and symmetry. So as long as there’s a balance, I think it works. It’s hard if you have thinning hair and you’re wearing a big heavy beard; I think it’s out of proportion.”

Trimming

Kick things off by bringing the hairs off your face by using a wide tooth comb to brush through the beard. If you’re happy with the length, here’s where you can take a pair of grooming scissors (blunted on the ends) to snip off the stragglers.

If you don’t have one already, it’s worth investing in a beard trimmer with several guard sizes. “Using a clipper with a guard is very easy,” she says, “to take off the bulk of the beard so it doesn’t get too heavy looking.” Start with the longest option, then work your way down until you find the right length for you.

You might try the scissors-over-comb technique for precision cutting. You can also combine the two methods by using a comb and your beard trimmer on the lowest setting. Don’t forget to clean up the stray hairs on your cheek with your trimmer’s shaping tool or, if you’re feeling brutish, a dry cartridge (no cream needed).

beard trimmer comb
YakobchukOlena/Getty Images
YakobchukOlena/Getty Images

Shaping the Sideburns

If you’re growing a full beard, you’ll need to figure out where the hair on your head ends and your beard begins — we’re talking about sideburns. Too many bearded men dismiss this area as a No Man’s Land, allowing the hair around the ears to grow too long.

“If you’re adept with clippers, or with a comb, you can do what a barber does; you can create a nice taper. It’s the best way to blend, and I think it’s easy to do with a clipper.” Begin with taking just a little hair at the bridge between your hairline and your beard until you find a length that is acceptable. Over time, tapering your ‘burns will become second nature.

Defining the Neckline

Men grow beards for many different reasons. For some men, the idea is to go for a more natural look. However, there’s nothing good about a caveman “neckbeard.” Drawing the neckline too high can also be problematic, making you look unnatural and overgroomed.

shaving

Generally speaking, a good neckline should be a natural extension down from the curve of your ear. The hair should pass about 1 to 1.5 inches above the Adam’s apple, in the territory between neck and head.

Dealing with the Lips

The bushy mustache may work for legendary cowboy Sam Eliott, but it doesn’t look so great on the rest of us. The “goatee area” around your mouth deserves special attention when you’re shaping your beard.

“Make sure your mustache isn’t going over the upper lip,” says Karen. “You can use rounded scissors to trim that — the same rounded scissors that you use to trim your nosehairs are good to also trim that upper lip area.”

As for the area around your soul patch, shape it carefully using your clipper’s narrow head attachment.

When you want to get grooming, we’ve got a playlist of the best music for a man to get ready to: