HOW TO TRIM & GROOM YOUR MUSTACHE & BEARD DURING ALL STAGES OF GROWTH
Soliciting the service of a professional is always better than going at it alone, especially when you are not sure of what you are doing. A swift-handed professional will most likely be better at properly trimming, clipping, grooming and styling your man fuzz, but for those of us on a budget, it is always helpful to have some invaluable tips and advice on how to achieve salon quality looks. Professional mustache styles.
That is why we have included some photographs of an actual beard trim in this post so you can see the steps barbers take in clipping a beard to perfection. We have also included a few styling techniques so you can better try your hand at some home-barbering.
If you are going to trim your own facial hair and want to avoid making a HUGE mistake, this post may help relieve some anxiety so you can make your first cut with confidence.
A bad cut can take your beard growth back a month or cause you to take a razor to your face and neck. Thus, to help you keep your beard growing, we address the following grooming and maintenance issues related to bearding:
DETERMINING YOUR STYLING GOAL
Aside from determining the best mustache and/or beard style for your face shape, you should be prepared to start your trimming adventure armed with a specific plan.
Here is an outline of some questions you should have already answered before tackling the next sections:
Are you looking to simply clean up your facial hair, or are you looking for a more drastic change?
Do you need to even out the length of your mustache and/or beard?
Will you be removing a little or a lot of length?
Do you need to do some shaping to maintain the style you currently sport?
Are you going for a completely new style than the one you have currently been wearing?
These are the kinds of questions a professional stylist would ask their client. It is a way both parties can open a dialogue regarding expectations so that each can walk away happy. They are also questions you should ponder for yourself.
Answering these questions before you begin will not only give you a clear picture of what you want to achieve but it could also help you pinpoint those areas of the face that are of specific importance to you (e.g., a cowlick or areas of patchy growth).
Finally, if there is someone brave enough to assist you, they should also appreciate hearing your answers to these questions as it would make them aware of your expectations. It will also give your friend, partner, guy you met on the street an opportunity to bail if they do not think they are up for the challenge!
THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB
When trimming facial hair there are only a few tools that you need. However, choosing the RIGHT tools for the job is as important as using the right techniques. So you may need to invest in better equipment than what you currently own.
For example, using the same thin plastic comb you used in middle school would probably be a poor choice. In fact, synthetic materials can sometimes create static friction in hair, especially fine hair, making them stick up and out.
These cheaper combs can also cause damage to the hair cuticle, resulting in breakage, split-ends and frizz.
Beards and mustaches should be trimmed often to keep them from taking over a fine-looking mug. This is true whether your facial hair is long or short and whether you are bearded with no stache, stached with no beard, or have both growing on your face. That is why investing in high-quality, longer-lasting equipment will be worth it in the end, especially if, within a year’s time, you plan to do more at-home maintenance than visits to a professional.
So, to get started, gather together the following items:
A BEARD/MUSTACHE COMB that does not have any snags or broken pieces. Preferably one made of natural materials (like wood) and that has an end of fine teeth (for your mustache) and another end with wide teeth (for your beard).
A MIRROR or MIRRORS. Cutting the hair in front of a wall-mounted mirror in a well-lit room will allow you to keep your hands free to do all the trimming/cutting, grooming and styling. A smaller handheld mirror or a lighted vanity mirror can also be useful doing detailed trimming or if you need a close-up view for better control.
A CUTTING TOOL. You can use all three of the listed tools or you can just use one or two. The choice is yours, but each has its benefits.
When choosing your cutting preference, you should also consider the particular style you are trying to achieve and the best way to cut for that particular look.
A pair of sharp shears —professional hair-cutting scissors. There are scissors marketed specifically as “mustache & beard scissors”, but any professional-style haircutting scissors should be good enough.
Many stores carry grooming scissors in their personal care aisles, just make sure that what you purchase(d) is sharp enough to where a snip of your hair is easy and does not bend the hair before it falls.
A trimmer with a complete set of guards, but mainly those guards you will need for your particular style.
There are scissors marketed specifically as “mustache & beard scissors”, but any professional-style haircutting scissors should be good enough. There are also beard grooming kits sold online and in stores, which typically include a pair of shears in addition to an electric trimmer with guards.
Many stores carry grooming scissors in their personal care aisles, just make sure that what you purchase(d) is sharp enough to where a snip of your hair is effortless and the hair does not bend under the blade before it falls.
There are a variety of beard trimmers to pick from and even more online reviews of each.
Reviews can help you locate a good, reliable trimmer within your price range and are often better than just reading the product specifications.
Movember style guide
Aside from reviews, we suggest looking at a few key product specs when considering one for purchase:
ease in changing cutting lengths on the trimmer & how many length settings are included
charging power & length of time it will hold its charge
clean-up requirements, such as whether it includes a vaccuum for less mess
what facial hair can be trimmed with the included features (e.g., beard hair, mustaches, ear hair, nose hair)
Not everyone is comfortable using scissors to trim their beard hair and would prefer to use the quicker option of an electric trimmer. It is really up to you to decide which method will be your preference going forward, and that is why we suggest trying shears before committing to only using an electric trimmer. You may surprise yourself with your haircutting skills.
Although not necessary (since you can trim the entire beard with just shears), a trimmer can be helpful when needing to work quickly, or if you have unsteady hands or bad eyesight.
That being said, we do recommend that EVERY TIME you decide to trim your beard and stache you make certain you will have PLENTY OF TIME to do it in. It could be the difference between a stellar look and one that looks like a five-year-old got hold of a pair of scissors while you were sleeping.
Most men use disposable razors (a/k/a “cartridge razors”) as they are cheap and easy to use. However, many men are turning to the old school straight edge razors and safety razors for wet shaving. In our future post, “Raving About Shaving” we will address the differences, but any one will work for cleaning up the neck and/or cheeks (if you prefer this method of hair removal).
Finally, it is always good to check your tools to ensure all blades are sharp and free of rust and built-up gunk. Dull blades on any cutting tools could do more damage than good.
Now that you have a plan and tools, let us move on to some actual trimming…
TRIMMING & STYLING MUSTACHES
Trimming a mustache is a little easier than going for the whole shebang. It can be tricky, though; and if you do not use the proper tools or techniques you may wind up seriously regretting your choices.
Facial hair grows, on average, one-half inch each month.
With hair growing at this rate above your food hole, you will want to keep this area well-groomed and trim often. Thus, the stache (if you have one) will be our first stop.
HOW TO TRIM A MUSTACHE
To begin, you should start by washing your beard with a good beard wash and warm water. The heat from the water will open up your pores and relax the hair follicles, and the hair will be softer and easier to work with.
If you do not have the time to take a shower or bath beforehand, you can simply wrap a warm towel around your face for a minute or two. Another option is to use a portable beard wash to give your hair a good clean rinse.
After washing, you should pat the hair and face dry with an absorbent towel. Wet hair is heavier than dry, so trimming a mustache to a specific length while wet may end up being shorter after the hair dries.
We recommend that you not have any product in the hair when cutting. Some people prefer trimming with product applied, saying it it is the best way to follow the line of your style’s shape.
However, we believe that trimming in its natural state will have a better overall look since you are sometimes without product (like when you swim) and also because you would not want to miss any hairs or have an uneven line.
The only time we DO recommend having product in while trimming is if you want to grow or keep a handlebar mustache ¹. Sculpting your hairs with a wax prior to trimming can help keep you from cutting hairs too short since length is vital to achieving this style.
Now, in front of a mirror and using a FINE-TOOTH COMB, brush the dry mustache hair downward over the lip. Then, starting with just a little hair at a time, start trimming from one corner of the mouth toward the middle of the lip.
The best way to maintain a clean line and keep control of the cut is to use your mustache comb as a guide.
Combing downward, stop the comb at the place where you want your mustache to fall when dry. Then, using either your shears or your trimmer (without a guard and with the guide all the way back), trim hair against the comb’s blades. If using scissors, hold them parallel to the comb.
Repeat this same step for the other side, starting from the corner.
The key to not cutting a blunt line in your mustache is to do some POINT CUTTING. To do this, angle the scissors vertically with the tip of the scissors pointing down toward your bottom lip. Then, little by little, snip the mustache hair just below the lip line.
The next step in trimming your mustache is to decide whether you want to take some WEIGHT out of your mustache. To determine whether you want to do this, you should consider the following questions:
Does the style you want require a thinner or fuller mustache ?
For example, if you have a standalone stache, taking some weight out can help keep your mustache from appearing too heavy on the face.
If you have a full beard or have thicker, fuller growth on the cheeks and chin, leaving weight in the mustache will keep things proportioned.
If you decide you DO want to take off some weight, then start by combing your mustache hair up. Then, by running the scissors or trimmer against the teeth of the comb, snip the hairs that poke through, working one side at a time, moving toward the center.
After you have completed both sides, do another downward comb. Then, using your handheld or vanity mirror, check your profile from each side. If there are any hairs sticking up or out, carefully trim away. Follow up with another downward comb.
Finally, if you wish to define your PHILTRUM, cut an upside-down V-shape (or triangle tip) into the mustache at the spot where the top lip arches, just below the nostrils.
When cutting the philtrum, the point cut is a good way to avoid blunt lines and can also help with control so as to avoid making any big mistakes or overcutting.
Cutting the philtrum looks best on disconnected, thin and standalone mustaches. If you have a full beard, connected stache or are wanting the Chevron Beard ², leave out the philtrum cut.
HOW TO STYLE A MUSTACHE
An unkempt mustache can make a man look like a shaggy dog. Keeping hairs swept away from and off the upper lip is the best way to avoid looking like Harry and Lloyd’s pup-mobile in the ’90s classic, “Dumb & Dumber”.
Mustache wax is a great product to have on hand when wanting to control this hair. Think of mustache or sculpting wax as hairspray or mousse for your stache. It will give you hair a bit of stiffness, but if it is a quality product it will hold the hair in place without creating hardened clumps or leave a greasy residue.
Many beard balms can also give you the holding power you are looking for if you are just looking to push the stache off your lip.
A beard balm is a good place to start since waxes are stiffer and can be harder to work with. However, if you find that a balm is just not working for the style you want, go for the heavier hold of a wax.
At times of the year when the weather warms up, especially in areas where it is hot and humid, you might find that reapplication is necessary to carry your stache style to the end of the day. If this is the case, you might want to find a wax that can be carried with you at all times, like this one that can be easily stashed in a pocket.
HOW TO TRIM A BEARD SECTION BY SECTION
We addressed most of the mustache trimming issues above, but there is one question to consider when trimming and grooming a mustache alongside a beard:
Do you want the stache to connect to the beard (at the corners of your mouth); or
If you want to disconnect, then you will need to make sure the length does not extend beyond the corners of the mouth.
For a connected stache, you will keep the corners longer and trim only along the lip line.
MANAGING THE SIDEBURNS
Sideburns can make or break your look. When sideburns grow too long and are in need of a good trim, they curl out and often have fly-aways, creating a wild appearance.
So, to avoid looking like a Neanderthal that has yet to hear about the art of shaving and the beauty of beard grooming, take care of those sideburns.
There are two sides to the sideburn: the side that runs alongside your cheek, and the side closest to your ear and that meets the neckline underneath your beard.
The goal is to have a clean line that extends in front of the ear and slopes down toward the mustache. The backside should also have a clean line alongside the ear and without any straggling or wild hairs.
If using shears, the bulk of your trimming work will be here, but do not get burned out. You can work quickly, combing the hairs out and cutting along the teeth of the comb. Comb and repeat from the top of the ear down to to the middle of the ear.
If using a beard trimmer, you will want to use a guide comb attached to the head of the trimmer. We suggest starting with the #3 guide at first and moving down if needed. Starting at the bottom of the ear, press the trimmer with guide against the face and move up to the top of the ear.
To finish, you will detach the guide comb from the trimmer and, using gentle strokes, clean up the edges of the sideburn. Use extra care here to not shave off too much hair.
Repeat for the other sideburn.
CLEANING UP THE NECK
The neck is an area where use of a straight or safety razor is a good way to keep lines clean and straight. Most guys do not have these razors in their grooming arsenal, so a disposable razor is okay too.
For a less close shave or more rugged look, an electric trimmer will also do the job. The difference between these options is simply the closeness of the shave.
A straight razor’s edge is able to get closer to the skin than an electric trimmer. This means that hair will be cut even with the skin. This can also mean more irritation for some men.
When cleaning up the neck, you do not want to be hasty. It is the area most susceptible to razor burn, rash and irritation. Proper grooming techniques or also crucial here.
If using a razor, use of a moisturizing shaving soap or shaving cream can help it glide easier across the skin and will help the blades grab hairs without pulling or snagging them.
Exfoliation prior to shaving is beneficial whether using a straight or electric razor. A face scrub made with sugar or salt will help remove dead skin cells, preventing them from collecting on the blade. It will also help loosen the hair at the follicle which makes it easier for the blade to lift the hair, giving you a closer shave.
Using a beard trimmer takes away some of the concern for bumps and irritation, but these may still occur if proper technique is not applied. The best way to avoid irritation is to shave with the grain of your hair. This keeps ingrown hairs from occurring also.
How to trim pencil mustache
No matter the length you wish to maintain, you have only two issues to address when cutting the portion of facial hair that falls from your chin down:
Whether you want your length to be squared off.
The goal when trimming length is to maintain the beard’s shape and simply shave or trim off the flyaways and straggling hairs that lie outside the weight line.
At the base of the beard, where you want the length to stop, you will trim a straight line parallel to the chin, pushing the beard forward.
Then, depending on the style you want to achieve, you will want to GRADUATE the hair on the sides of the beard toward your jawline.
The best way to achieve this is by using an electric beard trimmer. Without any attachments, use the trimmer to carefully swipe away the flyaways and stragglers using a downward motion.
CLEANING UP THE CHEEKS
The cheeks are another area where use of a straight razor is a good way to keep lines clean and straight. Otherwise, an electric trimmer or other device will work just as well if used properly.
If your style requires clean cheeks or you prefer a full beard that is not a full-on woodsman look, cleaning up the cheeks should be quick and easy.
The first step is to create a nice rounded or angled shape by removing hairs from the area between your mustache and sideburns. Then check for any random hairs on cheeks that need removal.
HOW TO GROOM YOUR BEARD
Grooming is the part of one’s daily routine that involves cleansing, conditioning, brushing and maintaining a beard.
The best products to use when cleansing facial hair is, surprisingly to some, NOT the same kind of wash used on the scalp.
HOW TO SHAPE SPECIFIC BEARD & MUSTACHE STYLES FOR:
In our previous post, “What Beard Style is Right for You?”, we showed you how to determine your face shape and suggested several beard styles appropriate for each of the different face types.
Based on the shape of your face you should be able to decide on a particular style. On the e you have determined the look you want, you will need to groom your facial hair in accordance with that beard style’s shape, length and thickness.
Below are links to grooming and styling tips by Gillette®² and Balding Beards³ for many popular styles based on the shape of the face:
OVAL FACE TYPES
SQUARE FACE TYPES
HEART-SHAPED FACE TYPES
RECTANGULAR-SHAPED FACE TYPES
OBLONG-SHAPED FACE TYPES
ROUND FACE TYPES
TRIANGULAR FACE TYPES
MAPPING BEARD HAIR GROWTH PATTERNS
On average, facial hair grows one-half of an inch every month. This means that the best time to start recording beard growth is after three to four weeks.
At our Mapping Beard Hair Growth Patterns page you can use our template to record the pattern in which your beard hairs grow. There you will also find instructions on how to photograph your beard in its early stages of growth to best record your hair grain.
Mapping is helpful to beard growers since it can help deterime your best style. The direction a hair grows is an important aspect to manageability, and manageability is something to consider when going for a particular style.
KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE
Finally, independent of any specific beard issues we addressed above, visits to a barber are always recommended if you are inexperienced at beard grooming or if you are unsure of how to manage your hair issues. The knowledge and expertise of a barber could even help get you to a place of comfort in trimming or grooming your beard on your own.
A FULL LIST OF POSTS TO BE PUBLISHED AS A PART OF THIS TEN-PART SERIES:
How to Trim & Groom Your Mustache & Beard During All Stages of Growth (this post)
A Breakdown of Beard Products & How to Select the Right Ones for You (post date: pending)
Understanding the Ingredients in Beard & Mustache Products(post date: pending)
A Grooming Routine for the Day-to-Day & Specific Events in Your Life(post date: pending)
Living the Healthy Beard Lifestyle (post date: pending)
¹ Bespoke Unit: A Guide to the Dapper Life. Last viewed on August 13, 2018.
³ Balding Beards. 68 Best Facial Hair Styles for Men You Should Try At Least Once .
This article and the blog where it is published are for entertainment and informational purposes only. The views and opinions in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Tubb Starr or its affiliates. The facts included, referenced and cited in this article are true to the best of our knowledge; however, there may be omissions, mistakes and/or errors. Any inclusion in this article of advice, whether it be from a physician, medical practicioner or professional, licensed or not, is intended for informational purposes only and to induce conversation. It is not intended, nor shall it be used or relied upon, as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reliance upon views, opinions, facts and/or advice given in this article is done so at the risk of the reader.