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I haven’t seen my face in 10 years.
It’s not because I don’t own a mirror – in fact, I own a highly adjustable mirror (more on that later). I haven’t seen my face because it’s been wearing a beard for the last decade.
I started growing one in college. My first efforts were scraggly but like most good things in life, persistence and commitment nurtured those patchy whiskers into a beard I’m proud to wear.
I thought that all I needed to do was achieve a full, filled-in beard and I’d be over the moon. How naive. When you go from plain skin on your face to hair there’s a ton of questions – and new products – that arise: What shape? What's beard oil? Where do I start the line? How often do I trim it? What’s the right tool for the job? How much should I spend on my furry buddy?
Like a caveman reinventing the wheel, I had to learn the answers to these questions through trial and error, and with the occasional help of friends, barbers, and tutorials.
So I’d like to share the story of my beard, from grooming routine to kit recommendations, and why I think a well-cultivated set of whiskers has the power to totally transform your style.
For guys who already have beards, you’ll recognize some serious beard maintenance minutiae. Guys who are satisfied with their five o’clock shadow should pay attention, too.
After ten years working on my crumb duster, I have some thoughts on the matter that might just save you time – and some coin.
The Financial Reality of Owning a Beard
Having a beard is a bit like planning a wedding. You dive in and all manner of products and marketing come out of the woodwork, screaming: You have to have this or the whole project will be a disaster!
Or maybe it’s like a dog. You get it, thinking “it’ll just need kibble and a ball, right?!” Shots, fixing, food, and a half dozen chew toys later and you’ve changed your tune.
I’m here to say that maintaining a beard properly can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
In the beginning, I didn’t give much thought to beard maintenance. I was, after all, in college. I felt strongly that I looked better with a beard as opposed to being baby-faced, but “proper beard maintenance” wasn’t yet a phrase in my consciousness.
Over time, that’s changed.
I’ve tried a range of products over the years but after a decade settled on what I believe to be a straight-forward, essentials-only approach:
- Comb: as needed to keep the hairs all headed in the right direction
- Cleanse: often and thoroughly to avoid irritation, itch, and evict any woodland creatures. I cleanse in the shower because it’s the easiest to really get in underneath it
- Trimmer: to shape and tidy up; I trim my beard about every 10 days
- Beard balm: handy for longer styles; acts as pomade
- Beard oil: used rarely; moisturizes skin and softens hair
Of all those items the only thing that will set you back more than fifteen bucks is the trimmer.
And believe me, I’m a trimmer guy.
I’ve owned ten trimmers in the course of my beard-growing life. I have experience with cheap models, expensive models, trimmers with built-in vacuums, and lower quality clippers.
One cheap-o model liked to change settings unexpectedly while I was using it. Didn’t last long.
Normal wear-and-tear means I replace trimmers every 7 to 12 months, on average. It adds up, and each new trimmer means adjusting my routine.
In my freshman beard days, I would walk into Target and pick out the trimmer with the best packaging. This time, I wanted something with solid build quality, good internals, and a sharp blade. My pick: the Brio Beardscape.
On the surface, the Beardscape presents itself as a sturdy beard trimmer with some better-than-usual features.
On a spiritual level, the Beardscape’s purpose is to reduce the trimmer turnover in my life.
The Beardscape is weighty and feels heavier than previous cheap, plasticky trimmers I’ve owned. For the price, it’s actually incredibly nice.
Internally, it sports a ceramic blade which Brio tells me is four times harder than stainless steel and creates less heat and sound than metal blades. I can attest to this – the Beardscape is quiet. The titanium rake is precision-ground to match the blade, which makes it a very accurate grooming tool.
It’s also a well-designed piece of kit. As in, it’s not too hard on the eyes. Aesthetics are important because this item will be out on the sink area every day.
I’m currently pairing the Beardscape with Tree Ranger styling balm and a Kent’s handmade comb. These tools are honestly everything I need to achieve the look I want.
Finding Your Line
Once I had a beard I was confronted with a stark question: what manner of beard do I want? It’s a surprisingly complex question that extends beyond “what makes my face look best,” to deeper existential questions like, “what beard expresses me?”
Over time, the answer to these weighty ponderings has led me to different styles of beard but in the last few years I’ve settled on a look I feel really confident in. I feel it both enhances my face, my style, and reflects who I am.
So what is it? As you’ve probably noticed from the photos I prefer a clean fade and no hard line at the neck, blended up and shorter at the sides for a squared look.
Figuring out my line – the point at which my beard ends and my neck resumes – took a minute. I’ve discovered a simple test: Place your finger on your Adam’s apple. One fingertip length above that is where you should start your beard line.
Using the fingertip rule, I start with a 1 mm blade setting on the Brio Bearscape below the beard line to clean up the skin. I then switch to half the guard number I use on the full beard to blend the line upwards. Finally, I’ll remove the guard and freehand it to get the line to my liking. Pro tip: a flexible countertop mirror is a huge assist for this below-the-chin work!
The Beardscape comes with eight guards, making this kind of multi-step trim very quick and easy. It also offers five trimming speeds and a digital interface for easy, rapid tweaks.
For the body of my beard, I use the Brio’s broad trimmer. It’s got more surface area than previous trimmers I use (almost twice as wide as some), speeding things up and making it so I don’t need a surgeon-steady hand.
I’ve tossed previous trimmers because the battery declined quickly. The Beardscape has a four-hour charge time and a Lithium-ion battery, which removes that concern. I never worry about losing a charge mid-trim like before, and the charging base has the same great minimalist design as the trimmer.
How The Right Beard Can Revolutionize Your Style
I’ve really come to think of my beard as an accessory. It’s a key part of your overall look and style, and like a great watch or quality pair of boots, you can shape it to your advantage.
What does this mean in practice?
Take my face, for example: I’ve got a pretty pointy chin. At some point in my beard-growing career, I realized I can shape my whiskers to soften my chin line.
Using the Beardscape, I’ll trim the side areas a little shorter than the main body of my beard, giving it a more squared-off, tidy look that – I think – integrates my chin better with my overall facial structure:
It’s kind of amazing: you can use your beard to style your face. It’s also true that the time and experience spent learning how to maintain my beard has driven a more thoughtful approach to my overall style.
To my be-whiskered brethren, I hope you’ve found something to help streamline your beard-growing routine. For anyone out there on the fence, I say: just do it. Now that I’ve spent a decade growing and maintaining a beard, I can say with confidence I’m never going back.
To ape a classic phrase: grow ‘em if you got ‘em.
What is your beard routine? Share it in the comments below!
Special thanks to Brio for giving Primer readers an exclusive 35% discount on the Beardscape and for partnering on this post!