Repair and maintenance of facial furze.
May 13, 2009 9:44 AM   Subscribe

How should I look after my beard, and, when it's under control, what can I train it to do?

I've had a beard for, well, forever but I've never found any 'products' I like using on it. It gets well washed every day with hot water and seems to be in grand condition; it's sleek and glossy and certainly doesnt smell or appear dirty but I don't use any soap or shampoo. Any time I've used shampoo or soap it gets dry, brittle and rough, and it distinctly loses its condition.

However, my partner has started to question me about this. She is of the opinion that I should be washing it a bit more thoroughly. I can't argue with this; surely my beard is one place I really should be washing the day's detritus out of? I wash everywhere else with soap/shampoo without ill effects, why is my beard different?

I'd also like to take control of my beard/tache a little more. Regular combing has helped make it a little tidier, but how would I train my facial ornamentation into something a bit more impressive?
posted by BadMiker to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well an important follow-up questions for your question about control and what to do with it is:

What's the general texture? Sure you can tease and cajole hair to do a lot of things, but if you have straight flat facial hair, you don't want people to advise a style that'd require you to be teasing and blowdrying it out or anything like that.

How does your facial hair grow? Are there areas where it's more sparse? Where the texture differs? You'll be limited on your style choice by that as well. Whether you have too little to grow it a certain way, or if you're like full on beardo Grizzly Adams who grows a beard within a day that requires additional hedgetrimming and machete whackings and doesn't take kindly to more delicate styles.
posted by kkokkodalk at 9:59 AM on May 13, 2009

I'd take her questions seriously. It may very well have an odor that you can't smell because, well, it's right under your nose and you're thoroughly used to it. This is also how people end up wearing too much perfume -- after a while you can't smell yourself at all, while other people's eyes are watering.
posted by hermitosis at 10:00 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Your partner can start telling you how to care for your beard when she grows one.

The same thing happens to my beard if I'm not careful. Washing it too much dries out both the beard and the skin underneath, and having a dry beard on dry skin is an ugly, itchy nightmare. I tried one of those deep moisturizing "hot" oil kits for hair on it. It make it shinier but my face broke out. Again, no fun. I give it a shampoo once a week or after certain activities and we get along just fine.

Keep up with the combing. If you want a ticket to the Amazing Mustache Club you need to invest in mustache wax, some tiny scissors, a tiny comb, and a lot of time every day. However if your beard is curly you might be limited in what kind of facial topiary you can do.
posted by Ookseer at 10:01 AM on May 13, 2009

You should figure out if your partner's objections are based on things that she has experienced with your beard -- i.e. smells or tastes or mess -- or just an "everyone should use soap" opinion. Not that you shouldn't take her opinion into account in either case, but your approach should be different probably. My folks used to have inordinate fights about this sort of thing because my Dad didn't believe he needed to use soap for some things and my stepmom wouldn't hear of it. I thought they were both being weird, but that's me.

Have you tried using conditioner if you also use shampoo and/or soap on your beard? I've seen some people have good results with a very small amount of beard oil or hair groom after they've washed their beard. My SO had a really full beard and I'd always found that the hot water rinse was fine for him but I'm not super picky in such things.
posted by jessamyn at 10:15 AM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: I thoroughly wash my stache with hot water and comb daily and shampoo/condition with Beardsley about twice a week. I'm not sure if there's much of a difference between Beardsley and regular shampoos except that Beardsley tastes better when you accidentally get some in your mouth, so your mileage may very if regular shampoo dries you out.

I've tried nearly a dozen waxes, and styling is left to Clubman which is by far the best moustache wax out there. A little bit will give you a bushier look, more will let you tighten it up. No other wax I've tried is so versatile. Plus, it's easily available at Walgreens, CVS, Sally's Beauty Supply, and lots of online places.
posted by ThePants at 10:16 AM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

I just shampoo and condition my whole head at once, figuring all the hair can stand the same treatment. I really don't think a simple hot water treatment is enough to clean off whatever food and junk probably gets all in there during normal (and abnormal) use.
posted by orme at 10:51 AM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: Many people don't wash the hair on top of their heads with soap, either, and they don't stink or have dirty/oily-looking hair. The technique is called "No Poo."
posted by zsazsa at 10:55 AM on May 13, 2009

We seem to have different beards (mine is pretty short, usually) but I can help you with the washing issues you have.

My beard, the chin area in particular, develops dandruff periodically. I have termed this "beardruff" (someone please alert William Safire to this coinage), and after much trial and error have determined that regular shampooing and moisturizing with regular old moisturizer is the best solution. For a while, I was using some hardcore dandruff shampoos on it, but I didn't care for the drying effect that you have also experienced. Regular moisturizer application solved that part of the problem, and might have solved the beardruff, too, because I switched back to regular shampoos and kept moisturizing and I have stayed largely flake-free.

Haven't tried that beard-specific shampoo ThePants mentions above, but I'm definitely curious.
posted by CRM114 at 11:39 AM on May 13, 2009

Nthing the shampoo + conditioner suggestions. Shampoo disrupts the cuticle of the hair shaft, which is then generally laid back down and made smooth again by the conditioner. It shouldn't take much at all to do your beard -- when I had long hair I could often conditioner the hair on top of my head, sort of wring the excess from it and use that to do my beard, which I tend to wear sort of medium length. (Not clipper short, not bushy & long.) It's important to let conditioner sit in place for a slow count of 60 or so to really let it work its magic.

You can also try the good ol' V05 oil treatments, some of which are hot and some not. You'd only need a fraction of one for your beard unless you're Dan Haggarty.

As far as facial hair training... Well, when I was young and pretentious, I grew my entire mustache out quite long and would wax it out, a la old west style. Mustache wax is readily available and with a little practice can really get your face fur to do exactly what you want. (It isn't just for mustaches, you know.) Outside of that, the important thing is to get a boars-hair brush and redistribute the natural oils every day WHILE training it to do what you want. It's all this odd system: the oils, the hair, your skin... and it can be trained, but never tamed.
posted by hippybear at 11:52 AM on May 13, 2009

No, I don't have a beard, but I live with a bearded one. He washes it every day in the shower when he washes his hair, but he has oily skin so can get away with that. If you don't know what to do with it, I'd recommend getting a bearded barber to help you style it as everyone's hair grows out differently. A man I used to work with had a beard that looked like each hair had been set in place individually. DH's cousin's beard grows out like those cough drop brothers: long, curly, black and untamed. DH's beard is cut short enough that it doesn't curl as he has wavy hair, but it will never look perfect because of how his hair is. I do like mustache wax as long as the mustache points aren't out to your ears and sharp.

As for hygene, if you can drip soup off your mustache, it's too long. If you drop things in it when eating, comb it. Beards look scruffy when the cheeks aren't shaved and the neck not trimmed.
posted by x46 at 5:23 PM on May 13, 2009

I read the question as:

How should I look after my bear, and, when it's under control, what can I train it to do?

... but anyway, now that I'm here, I agree that if you think it needs washing, just use conditioner on it. My partner never washes his beard, though, so if it doesn't smell bad, don't bother.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:06 PM on May 13, 2009

I guess I should say "never washes with soap".
posted by oneirodynia at 10:32 PM on May 13, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for some great answers.

I suppose that, like so many other things, it's a personal thing. Not a choice, but determined by your own special bear(d). I'm lucky enough to have a beard which has responed really well to my inadvertant 'no-poo'treatment. The only drawback is that it has unleashed my bear's true self; untamed and untidy.

re. soup in taches; unfortunately my tache naturally gows like this (if only the bit behind it was the same too). So it inevitably wants to filter my food. Maybe this is just the normal way for taches to grow? Do any taches grow sideways?!

I'll try wax, thanks for the pointer TP. Maybe this will then mean I'll then have to start shampoo & conditioning. One reason I have a beard is that it is much lower maintenance than daily shaving so the new regime will have to be either rewarding or undemanding.

Finding a barber is a good suggestion; there must be people/cultures with a wealth of accumulated experience. How do Sikhs care for their beards? I'm sure I've seen tache 'sleep nets'?
posted by BadMiker at 1:48 AM on May 14, 2009

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