Dudes like me are used to eyeballing some guy with a tight beard walking down the street and wondering how on earth they shaped it like that. Whether it’s well-defined edges or just a sweet, sweet fade, everybody’s style starts at the beard trimmer.
However there’s a lot of articles on beard trimming out there. Some are for long beards. Others are for short beards. That’s why we thought we’d create the Ultimate Guide to using a beard trimmer – for any beard.
Before we start, here’s the lowdown:
We’ll start off by discussing why learn to use a beard trimmer. After this I’ll be looking at some pre-trimmer prep – tips before you dive right in and make a mess. Then we’ll go through how to approach trimming a short beard and long beard respectively (so you can skip to the bit which is more relevant to you). Finally, I’ll give you some tips on touching up your beard at the end.
So if you want to learn how to use a beard trimmer then holdddd your horses cowboy. I know it’s exciting but we’ve got a few important things to discuss before you jump straight in with the hair clipper. There’s a lot at stake here! Jeez…
Why Learn How to Use a Beard Trimmer?
My mum used to try and insist that I shave my beard off before going to interviews and stuff. Did I do it? Nah. And look at me now! A freelance writer, in my pants at midday! But the point is this: Having a high quality, finely-groomed beard looks smart and respectable – you don’t need to go clean shaven anymore. You just need to get nifty with a beard trimmer.
Unless you’re going for a kind of rugged, unkempt Game of Thrones look. In which case, become a writer.
Learning to use a beard trimmer comes with plenty of advantages. For one, trimming your beard is cheaper than getting it done at the barbers all the time – and you can invest the money you shave (sorry, save) into buying essential beard products instead.
It also makes growing a beard more fun. There’s a vast amount of styles you can choose from to ultimately make yourself more handsome – using a beard trimmer gives you the freedom to maintain shorter styles or keep your full-on wizard beard in check.
First step: Get a beard trimmer. Obviously. However, we recommend investing in something which has got great reviews online (such as the Philips Norelco) so that you can avoid the disappointment of spending your hard-earned cash on something which breaks straight away.
Okay – sweet, that’s out the way. Now, let’s check out a few crucial steps that you’ll need to consider before you use it.
Let it Grow, Let it Grow
Before you even think about trimming, you need to decide which of the many gorgeous beard styles you want to go for. A decent beard trimmer can help you maintain pretty much any look, from a five o clock shadow to a full-on lumberjack.
It can be tempting to try and shape up your beard in the hope that it’ll grow into the style you want, but usually this isn’t the best tactic. We’d recommend letting your beard get to at least the desired length before you think about trimming the hair!
This is because for a lot of guys, hair from different parts of your face grows at different speeds. Trying to take this into consideration when shaping a future beard is likely to either leave you frustrated or shatter your mind into millions of pieces.
Brush It Out
Okay – so you’ve got your trimmer. You’ve got a nice bushy collection of facial hair. You’re ready to style that baby up –
Brush out your beard. You want to comb your hairs in the direction that they grow, so that they’re all pointing roughly the same way – this way you can ensure that any trimming will be uniform length.
Will a proper beard comb help at this stage? You bet your sweet little chin it will! Cheap, plastic combs have teeny tiny little rough edges because they’re mass-produced somewhere in China – the best way to make them is on a large press, and that doesn’t create a great quality comb. The jagged edges will tear away at your follicles and do way more harm than good.
The Short Beard
Using a beard trimmer on your short beard is all about maintaining a style, making sure any rogue hairs are in line and keeping it shipshape. You’ll want to do this fairly routinely, and with a bit of practice you’ll be bossing it on a regular basis. Let’s get down…
The bits of plastic you clip on the end of your beard trimmer are called trimmer guards (or sometimes referred to as trimmer heads). Ready for what is probably the most important piece of advice when selecting a trimmer head? Start off with a long one, then switch to a lower guard if you need to. This is much quicker than shaving off too much hair and then having to wait for it to grow back!
To Shape or Not to Shape?
For general pruning, ensure your beard is dry before turning the trimmer so that its back is closest to your face and neck.Start by trimming underneath your chin, then work upwards; aim to follow the line of your jaw and the contours of your face. As a general rule, you short-haired beardo’s should aim to adjust the length of your beards before manicuring the neckline (or any other pernickety bits).
If you’re looking to keep it simple, an even length all around is A-OK. However, even with a relatively short beard it’s possible to shape up – be adventurous! If you’re choosing a style where your facial hair is still shorter than about an inch long (as a general rule of thumb), you can use different length settings to shape it, simply by changing up your trimmer guards.
A good starting point is to step down a length on the trimmer guard for your cheeks and sideburns, so that you keep a bit of length on the chin. You’ll notice that this will change the shape of your face, placing more emphasis on the chin and lower jaw – It’s up to you to decide what style will suit you! Naturally though, the most sensible way to approach this is to trim all of your hair to the longer length before working on the short stuff.
When it comes to shaping your neckline (particularly with short beards) you need to take extra care. Removing the trimmer guard, point your chin towards the sky and try to imagine where you want your neckline to be. We’d suggest that two-fingers-width above your Adam’s apple is a good place to start as a rule of thumb.
Personally, when my beard is short I prefer to have no ‘neck-beard’ below that point – or any other bodily hair between my neckline and my chest hair. If you’re aiming to be a truly manscaped gentleman, you can’t leave two stray hairs poking out an inch below your neckline – get your tweezers out!
Anyway – now that you’ve conceived of the imaginary line, you’ll want to hold your trimmers so that the blades are facing towards you. This means that you’ll be starting off where your neckline is and shaving downwards towards your Adam’s apple. It’s the optimum way to make sure your neckline isn’t all uneven.
Like selecting a trimming guard, you should play it safe with your neckline – start off cautiously by trimming it to a little lower down your neck than you’d like it. You can always take off more hair, but generally you should ensure that your short beard still wraps around your jawline and a little way down your neck. Trust us on this one – don’t jump in guns blazing and shave up too high!
The Longer Beard
Okay, José – you’ve got a longer beard. As I said, if your hairs are under an inch or so you can use the trimmer guards to get a nice, even finish. However, once you outgrow your guards, shaping up your beard requires freehanding – which is a different box of frogs. At this stage a lot of guys will go with scissors, but can you stick to the trimmer when you’re growing it out?
Step one – remove the trimmer guard. Deep breaths…
Unleash your Inner Barber…
With a longer beard, the importance of combing out your beard before you start is crucial. This is because you’ll be evening it up yourself, instead of relying on the guard. To start off with, comb your hairs out, so they’re sticking out at a higher angle from your face than usual. If you notice any unevenness when you comb it out then you’re off to a good start – this is what you’ll be taking off with the trimmer.
Trimming your longer beard is all about creating symmetry, even length and tidiness – especially if you’re continuing to grow that baby out. Even if you’re going for a longer, rugged look, you’ll want hair of the same length either side of your face.
However you might be looking to shape it up; the easiest way to get an idea of how this works is to find a picture to inspire you. Are you going for a rounded beard, or looking to trim in straight lines and sharp angles? For a super-square shape you’ll need to comb your hair out before using your comb as a guide. As a barber would on your head-hair, trim along the horizontal edge of it to even out the length of your beard.
Like I said – the long beard is a different box of frogs. You’ll notice that fellow bros who are packing a bit of length in their beards sometimes don’t go in for a well-defined neckline – it can risk looking too much like a ‘chop-stop.’
However, the alternative (a bunch of ragged neck-hair) can still look out of place on a long beard. Instead of shaving a clean neckline, you might want to consider tapering out the fuzz towards your Adam’s apple. To recap – start by looking skywards (not into direct sunlight though) and place two fingers just above your voice-box.
Chop-Stop or Not?
Two fingers above your Adam’s Apple is the point where your short-bearded amigos carve out a neckline – and if you’re going for long-yet-smart styled beard don’t be dissuaded from trying it yourself. Just follow the same instructions as in the Short Beard Neckline section.
If you decide to taper your neckline instead (i.e. leave shorter hair towards your Adam’s apple, to kind of fade it out) you can consider carefully reaching for a trimmer guard and tidying up the area under your chin. Remember – start off with the longest length guard and work down if necessary! You should also cautiously trim in an upward motion, continually pausing to make sure you aren’t heading too far towards your jawline.
Top it Off
As you can see, a beard trimmer is super useful, but in order to look your best you’re going to have to use it in conjunction with all its friends – your other grooming tools. I’m talking about scissors, combs, maybe even a straight razor. Let’s take a look at what beard trimmers are less good for!
For starters, depending on how you wear that moustache of yours it’s probably best to use a pair of scissors to trim it. To trim it, comb all the hairs down over your upper lip and go in with clippers, cutting it just above your upper lip. I can tell you from experience that this can make a surprising amount of difference to how you look – as well as making kissing much better.
Secondly – it’s up to you whether you want to use your beard trimmer for the shaved parts of your style. For a ‘hard stop’ on your neckline, you might consider shaping it with a normal shaving razor or a straight razor – however if you prefer a fade out, stick to the trimmer.
Now… Enjoy Your Mission
Ultimately, the sky’s the limit in these matters – getting to grips with a beard trimmer requires quite a bit of experimentation but once you can use it you can style your beard however you please. It’s arguably the most fun bit of having a beard in the first place – aside from looking absolutely great anyway.
Got any tips that we’ve missed? Or perhaps you want to share your beard trimming disasters? Either way, let us know in the comments and hit subscribe to hear more!