Knowing how to brush a beard correctly is a pillar of modern grooming. Taming a beard is crucial to its long term success.
It’s amazing how a simple boar bristle beard brush can quickly transform an average beard into an exceptional one.
Although many do it incorrectly, brushing a beard really isn’t that difficult and doesn’t take very long. As with any grooming procedure, certain core principles need to be followed. If they are, the result is often a glorious, neat, full, thick beard that’ll leave witnesses in awe.
Its benefits are widely recognized, and include re-distributing oils, reducing itchiness and reducing split-ends. Brushing your beard will train it to grow in the right direction, and so over time, you’ll have to do it less.
Hopefully, by now, you’re sold. Without further ado, let’s get to work.
How to brush a beard in 7 steps
Following a step-by-step routine should ensure that you don’t leave it to chance. Strive for perfection each and every time, gentlemen.
1. Wash your beard like a pro
Washing a beard properly before brushing it can enhance the results pretty drastically. It softens the beard hair a little and also un-clumps it. This makes running a brush through it a lot more effective.
Using lukewarm water, run your fingers through the beard hair, being careful not to pull or tug too hard.
Whatever you do, don’t use water that’s too hot. This can damage the shafts.
Also using a gentle beard wash would be ideal. It will moisturize the beard hair as well as the skin underneath. Just squeeze out a quarter-sized amount, rub it into your palm to create a lather, and apply it to your beard.
Get in deep, and massage it in using your fingertips. Leave it for around 30 seconds before washing it out with lukewarm water. Finally, gently towel-dry it.
Many men choose to use head shampoo on their beards and often suffer the consequences. Don’t make this mistake.
Head shampoo is made for scalp hair, not beards. The chemicals used in head shampoo are too harsh for beard hair and facial skin.
A good beard wash, on the other hand, often contains soothing, natural ingredients that nourish and condition.
But regardless of what you use, don’t overdo it. Only wash your beard with beard wash two to three times a week. Doing it any more can rob the skin of natural sebum oil, which then makes a beard look coarse and dry.
You’re gearing up for a serious brushing session.
2. Apply some beard oil if you want to
This one is optional, but boy does it improve your results. Applying a small amount of beard oil before you brush your beard is great because the oil enhances the effects of the brushing, and vice versa. The two are an unstoppable duo.
If you already use beard oil, don’t make the mistake of applying it after you brush your beard. Always apply beard oil before you brush.
The bristles of a boar bristle beard brush are perfect for taking that oil, as well as your natural sebum, and distributing it. They distribute it across the entire beard, along the shafts, and to the tips.
The bristles also prevent the oil from causing the beard hairs to clump up, which would leave it looking patchy and weak.
Beard oil plus beard brush equals a healthy shine and thick appearance.
3. Brush your whole beard upwards initially
It’s time to start brushing. We’ll talk about why a bit later on, but I always, always recommend a high-quality boar bristle beard brush
. Using them has become the norm in serious beard brushing, and the days when synthetic nylon was considered acceptable are long gone.
It can be daunting when you finally get your hands a beard brush and don’t know where to start. A beard can range from heavy stubble to Van Dyke to Ducktail, but general brushing principles apply to all styles.
I used to struggle to think of a good starting point, but this changed everything.
Brush everything upwards first.
This may sound crazy, especially if you’ve done this before. The hair on the face generally grows downwards, and so yes, this will leave it looking messy. If your beard is long enough, possibly even like a lion.
But it’s very temporary. The reason it’s worth doing this at the beginning is that it gives you a great starting off point. Beard hairs are notorious for being un-cooperative.
They clump together, tangle, and face in different directions. I often find it’s worst when I first get out of bed. There are different methods of preventing beard hairs from sticking out.
Brushing upwards un-clumps and detangles the surface hairs at the very least. It also leaves most of the hairs facing in the same direction. From here, you can start brushing in the direction you want them in from a much more effective point. It’s like building a canvas before starting the painting.
4. Brush the fore beard and cheek beard
Let’s get the anatomy down first. The fore beard is the hair over the chin and usually forms the lowest part of the beard. It can get long, depending on the style you’re wearing.
The cheek beard is, as you’ve probably already guessed, the hair over your cheeks. Jumping the gun a little, the hair over your neck is your neck beard.
It’s usually best to brush your fore beard and cheek beard first as these are the most visible and prominent components. The neck beard lies behind the fore beard and gives it support. When styled correctly, the neck beard can make the fore beard look much fuller – but it’s usually best left until last.
In general, the hairs of the fore beard and cheek beard point downwards.
For the neatest results, brush these hairs with the grain, which means “in the direction of hair growth”. In other words, brush downwards.
But it isn’t as simple as that. I generally prefer to brush the cheek beard diagonally downwards towards the chin. Brushing towards the chin is a good general principle to follow. This usually produces slick results.
However, brushing vertically downwards may work better for you in certain areas of the cheek beard. It’s all about experimenting and seeing what you prefer.
The fore beard is simpler. Brushing vertically downwards is almost always best. It’s a great way to straighten hairs out and add a little length if this is what you want.
At this point, it’s important to say that you don’t need to use a lot of force when brushing. One of the beauties of a boar bristle beard brush
is that boar hair is very similar to human hair. It’s able to navigate through beard hair very effectively, which ultimately means that you have to do very little work.
Tugging or pulling too hard can cause breakages and beard hair loss – disastrous.
BEAST TIP: The cheek beard can make a face look rounder than you would like. This is usually because the hairs are sticking out more than lying flat and downwards. I’ve got 7 tips on how to stop beard hairs sticking out, and brushing is one of them.
But to take it a step further, try applying a little heat from a blow dryer while brushing. Although this technique is more effective when you use a comb, it should still help flatten and straighten things out.
5. Brush the mustache
A dedicated mustache bomb
would be ideal for this, but a brush usually does do the trick. The tool you use is less important than not forgetting the mustache completely.
A mustache should be considered the centre point, or the nucleus of the beard. Grooming it properly is incredibly important for the overall look.
Brush the mustache downwards, which will be with the grain. Do it gently, as the skin above the above lip is sensitive. Brushing has the added benefit of identifying any mustache hairs that creep over the upper lip, making them easier to trim.
A freshly brushed mustache is much easier to style the way you’d like, whether it’s simply using your fingers, or with some styling balm.
6. Try brushing the neck beard upwards
This step is the most important one to experiment with, as one neck beard differs from another.
As I said earlier, the neck beard is the hair over the neck. Serious beardsmen know that the neckline is an important border and needs to be trimmed and maintained regularly.
Not doing this can result in the neck hair creeping towards and eventually merging with the chest hair. This is awful and is actually what’s commonly thought of when the term “neck beard” is used.
But the hair on the neck, above the neckline, is actually useful. It supports the fore beard and adds volume to the lower beard.
The hair on the neck is notorious for growing in all sorts of directions. You can do your best to brush with the grain by first determining the direction of hair growth in the different areas.
But I prefer to gently brush the hairs of the upper neck upwards towards the chin. You may have realized by now that brushing towards the chin is usually a good way to go.
The reason I brush upwards here is that it adds volume to the lower beard and fullness to the fore beard in front of it. This may not be the case for everyone, as it’s quite style-dependent.
But it’s worth trying. If it doesn’t work for you, try brushing with the grain instead. This may look a little flat in some people, but pretty neat in others.
7. Step back and review
This is my favorite part. It’s time to step back and admire your work. It may seem as though this entire process takes hours, but it only takes a couple of minutes at most.
No matter how thoroughly you think you’ve brushed, there will always be those stray hairs that manage to escape.
You may find them at this point, in which case, brush them while you have the chance.
But often they become visible during the course of the day, which is why it’s wise to carry a beard comb
with you wherever you go. These are generally more portable and perfect for on-the-go styling.
How to clean your beard brush
You don’t need to clean your beard brush every time you use it. But try to clean it once a month to prevent hair, flakes and dead skin cells collecting. It’s a breeding ground for bacteria.
1. Use a cotton swab to clean the gaps
What you want to do is run a small cleaning brush or cotton swab up and down, in between the bristles. What this does is loosen up and dislodge collections of hair, sebum oil, dirt, etc.
Once it’s loosened up you can shake, blow or even use your fingers to remove this stuff as much as you can. Don’t go into too much effort though, as the next step (washing) should remove any residue.
An electric trimmer or clipper often comes with a little brush you can use to clean under the blades. This is perfect for reaching into the small gaps between the bristles of a beard brush. But if you don’t have one of these a cotton swab would be just fine.
2. Dip the bristles in soapy water
Semi-fill a small bowl or Tupperware container with lukewarm water. Then, mix in a small amount of soap, liquid detergent, or gentle baby shampoo. Mix it up with your fingers.
Dip just the bristles of your beard brush into the water, being careful not to get the wood wet. Dampening the wood can weaken it if done repeatedly over time.
3. Build up a lather
Swirl the bristles in the water to build up a lather in the small gaps.
Place the brush on a cloth and let the soap sit for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
4. Rinse and dry
Dip the bristles into a different small bowl filled with lukewarm water, but no soap. Swirl it around to rinse off the soap and any residual gunk.
Shake it to remove excess water, before placing it on a dry cloth. Place it with the bristles facing down to speed up the drying process.
Give it a day to dry – boar hair really does retain moisture very well.
You’ll be left with a beard brush that looks as good as new. Also, it’ll be more hygienic to use and far more effective at its job.
Frequently asked questions
What’s the best beard brush available?
I love this Seven Potions Boar Bristle Beard Brush
because it’s very comfortable to use. The pearwood body is lightweight, and its shape feels very comfortable against the palm.
The bristles also distribute beard oil remarkably evenly and are surprisingly tough despite feeling gentle against the skin. Men with sensitive skin should have no issues whatsoever.
The bristles are also very easy to clean, which is an important, yet often forgotten benefit.
When should I start brushing my beard?
Once a beard has had a solid 3 weeks of growth, it’s usually safe to assume it’s a beard as opposed to just stubble. At this point, it becomes vital to brush your beard.
There are several benefits to starting to brush at an early stage of growth, including training the beard and re-distributing oils. It can really help you get through the awkward phases of beard growth.
Men who neglect brushing until they have a medium to long beard miss out on these benefits.
They also miss out on seeing their beard at its best, which leads many to become disillusioned, frustrated, and subsequently give up on it.
Brushing is very often the answer.
How long should I brush my beard for?
One to two minutes maximum. It’s important not to overdo it. This principle holds for most aspects of beard grooming. Brushing for too long increases the risk of causing breakages, split-ends, and unnecessary hair loss.
Washing your beard and applying beard oil beforehand makes the hairs easier and quicker to brush.
Can I brush my beard in the shower?
Brushing your beard when it’s soaking wet usually isn’t a good idea. Hairs are easier to pull out when they’re wet, and you’ll end up with unnecessary patchiness. Read a full article on why shower brushing isn’t a good idea.
Washing your beard beforehand and then towel-drying it until it’s just a little bit damp is fine. In fact, it should actually help.
The dampness will help distribute any beard oil you apply, as well as soften the hairs and make them easier to brush. But slightly damp is very different to soaking wet.
How often should I brush my beard?
Two to three times a week. Brushing your beard too often has the same disadvantages as brushing for too long. It can cause unnecessary loss, as well as breakages, itchiness, and flakiness.
If you’re looking to touch-up your beard throughout the day, using a beard comb
would be best. Doing this now and again to settle any stray hairs and neaten things up is much wiser than brushing when you may not need to.
Will brushing my beard stimulate growth?
Many men believe that brushing a beard speeds up growth, but the evidence here is lacking. Ways in which it might do it include removing dead skin cells stopping hairs from sprouting properly and also stimulating oil production.
Having said this, if you’re looking for a reason to start brushing, growth acceleration shouldn’t be one of them.
Although some swear by it, more research is necessary before any firm claims are made.
Why does it hurt when I brush my beard?
There are several reasons why this may be. Brushing too often can make the skin underneath your beard irritated – the simplest solution is to let it rest a little.
Other reasons include clumped up, tangled beard hair causing resistance. Washing your beard and applying beard oil beforehand should help with this.
Also, cleaning your beard brush regularly (once a month) should also reduce resistance by removing debris and hair. It’s safe to say that as is the case with trimming, the less resistance there is, the more pleasant and comfortable an experience it will be.
If your beard is longer, tangling is more likely to be an issue. The longer teeth of a beard comb
are better suited to de-tangling, so try using this instead. You can always run a brush over it afterward. This leads me to the next question.
Do you need to brush my beard if I already comb it?
It depends on the length. A beard comb should be added to your grooming kit at around 3 months of growth. Before this point, a beard brush alone should be enough. But eventually, the bristles of a brush will be too short to tackle the tangles and clumps of the deeper beard hair.
Brushing and combing go hand in hand, and they’ve both become pillars of modern beard grooming.
Brushing is better at training beard growth direction and also re-distributing oils.
Combing is better for styling and de-tangling.
Use them together and the results will be so much better.
Hopefully, by now you’ve got a much more complete understanding of how to brush a beard. As with any beard grooming practice, having a straightforward, step-by-step routine is important.
Over time you’ll come to learn what works best for your particular beard. What you’ve just learned are core principles you can use when brushing your beard. However, the nuances of direction, force, and technique will come to you with time and practice.
These days, there really is no excuse for not brushing your beard. Anything that makes a beard look as well as feel better should be taken seriously and practiced obsessively.
Do you have any tips regarding brushing your beard? If so, drop them in the comments below.