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Long or short, sparse or bushy — the length and thickness of your beard may not matter as much as you think, when it comes to maintenance. Beards of all shapes and sizes require some maintenance for optimal appearance and health.

That said, the amount of maintenance you’ll need to do to will depend on your #BEARDGOALS. Other important factors include the speed of your hair growth and texture, which varies from person to person thanks to genetics, age, and overall health.

Below, you’ll find 12 essential do’s and don’ts for maintaining some healthy and seriously swoon-worthy whiskers.

It might go without saying that nobody wants a dirty beard. Still, unless you expose your whiskers to a lot of dust or dirt, or you find them especially sticky or messy after a spill, you don’t need to wash your beard daily.

Washing your beard 2 or 3 times per week and maintaining other good grooming habits, like regular brushing, can keep your beard clean, according to Dr. Anna Chacon, a board certified dermatologist.

Chacon also recommends practicing good hand hygiene as part of keeping your beard clean and healthy. The cleaner your hands when you touch your beard, the less grime and germs you pass onto your face hair.

Gentle is the name of the game when it comes to washing your beard.

Go easy on your beard and skin by:

  • using a gentle beard wash or shampoo
  • avoiding washing your beard too frequently
  • avoiding overzealous scrubbing

Washing too much, or too roughly, can cause your beard and the skin under it to dry out, which can lead to itching and irritation.

Let your skin type guide you when it comes to maintaining your beard.

Here’s how to determine your skin type.

In other words, you might wash your beard and face more frequently if you have oily skin, but less frequently if your skin tends to be fairly dry.

It also helps to keep your skin type in mind when choosing products. For example, if you have sensitive skin, you might opt for fragrance-free products. If you’re prone to acne, you might avoid beard oil — and other oil-based skin products, for that matter.

Moisturizing is an important step in maintaining a healthy beard since it can help prevent irritation and dryness. A dry beard will feel prickly and rough against the skin. Plus, it might also have a dull appearance and become harder to manage.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends moisturizing even if you have oily skin or acne — your skin will thank you for it.

As for how to moisturize? You can opt for beard moisturizer, conditioner, or oil, depending on your skin type.

Let your skin type guide you

The AAD recommends:

  • using beard oil if you have normal to dry skin
  • using a beard conditioner if you have acne-prone skin
  • using a noncomedogenic, fragrance-free moisturizer if you have sensitive skin

These products can all help hydrate beard hair and the skin underneath it, leading to healthier skin and a softer beard.

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Even if the beard of your dreams is a long, bushy, Gandalf-esque beard, you’ll benefit from regular trimming.

Pruning helps you:

  • maintain your beard’s shape and length
  • stay on top of split ends to keep your beard healthy
  • keep your mustache in check

A lot of beard-having folks prefer to keep the ‘stache above the lip, which will require regular trimming.

Otherwise, how often you trim your beard and how much you take off depends on how fast your hair grows and where you are in the growing process. As a general rule of thumb, trim your beard roughly every 4 weeks if you’re trying to grow it out. If you want to maintain your length, aim to trim every 7 to 10 days.

If you need some guidance on shaping and trimming, consider getting a professional beard trim and then following the lines for your next trim at home.

Chances are, your facial hair grows past your neckline.

While it’s totally up to you where you define your neckline, most barbers say it lies roughly two fingers above the Adam’s apple, if you have one, or where your neck meets the underside of your face.

Shaving below the neckline helps keep your beard looking tidy and prevents a neckbeard, so it’s an important part of the process — even if you want to grow out your beard.

Pamper the sensitive skin in this area by applying shaving cream, gel, or oil and then shaving with the grain, not against it. Always use a sharp blade to minimize irritation and ingrown hairs.

If you plan to keep a beard for the long haul, you may want to consider investing in some quality tools.

That said, you don’t have to break the bank just to maintain your beard. There’s no need to purchase every beard tool and gadget on the market.

Stock your kit

You can maintain a kickass beard with a beard grooming kit that includes:

  • a good pair of clippers for trimming
  • sharp scissors for detailing
  • a beard comb for detangling, spreading product, and styling
  • a beard brush for styling a longer or fuller beard
  • a razor and replacement blades

Taking proper care of your grooming tools helps prevent the buildup of hair, dead skin cells, and bacteria and keeps them in good working order.

Following the care instructions included with your tools is typically the best way to go. You can also keep these general tips in mind:

  • Thoroughly rinse and dry razors before storing.
  • Change razor blades every 5 to 7 shaves or whenever the blade appears dull or damaged.
  • Brush excess hair off your clippers after use.
  • Rinse beard combs and brushes, shake off excess water, and allow to air dry completely before storing.
  • Discard damaged or rusty razors or clippers.
  • Store your tools in a clean, dry place.

Beards are big business, so when it comes to selecting products for growing and maintaining a healthy and luxurious beard, you have choices aplenty.

Here’s a rundown of the most commonly used beard products and how they can help:

  • Beard soap, beard shampoo, or beard wash. Designed specifically for beard washing and with facial skin in mind, these products are typically gentler than soaps, shampoos, and washes made for the body.
  • Beard oil. Beard oil helps moisturize and soften your beard, which can particularly benefit stubbly or short beards.
  • Beard balm. Growing a longer beard? You can swap out oil for a beard balm. The thicker, waxier texture of balm acts almost like a leave-in conditioner to shape and tame longer, bushier, or curly beards.
  • Mustache wax. If you want to have some fun with the shape of your ‘stache, mustache wax can help you achieve and hold it. It helps smooth down bushy stragglers, too.

When applying beard products, less is nearly always more.

Too much product can weigh your whiskers down and give them a greasy feel and appearance. What’s more, overusing any skin care product could potentially clog your pores and contribute to breakouts and irritation.

For the best results, it always helps to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the product label.

To lay the foundation for an epic beard, you’ll want to care for your body both inside and out.

These tips can help you keep your body and beard healthy:

Shaving and grooming can cause cuts and irritation that give bacteria a way into the bloodstream and increase your chances of infection. Chacon recommends checking the skin under your beard periodically for cuts and sores.

While you’re at it, it never hurts to pay attention to other skin concerns, like acne or irritation. Catching potential issues early on can help you tweak your grooming routine and products accordingly, before your symptoms get worse.

Committed to the beard life? Just remember, a little maintenance can go a long way toward helping you grow and keep a lush, healthy beard.

There’s no single correct approach to beard maintenance, so some experimentation can help you find a beard care routine that works for you.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.