With several important beard habits to attend to, it can be difficult to know what order to do them in. A common question; should you wash your beard before trimming?
Yes, you should. Whether you choose to wash it in the sink or the shower, with beard shampoo or just water, it almost always makes more sense to wash it before trimming. The reasons for this mainly revolve around the need to make the trim itself as efficient and frictionless as possible. A clean, warm, slightly damp beard is ideal. It’s also the most practical and seamless way of integrating washing into your grooming routine.
What I wanted to do in this article is delve into this a little deeper, and give you some concrete reasons as to why you should.
I’ll also give you a brief rundown of what you should focus on doing after you trim.
Reasons Why You Should Wash Your Beard Before Trimming
Listing out the reasons in more detail seems more logical to me than trying to convince you with a single paragraph.
These are the main ones but aren’t the only ones. Hopefully, they should be enough to guide you.
Right from the outset, I’d like to make it clear that trimming a wet beard can be difficult. What I like to do is wash with lukewarm water (with or without shampoo) and then towel dry it until it’s just a little damp. Then I start to trim.
1. It de-mattifies and untangles the beard
This is a fancy way of saying it unclogs the beard hair. As you may have realized, beard hair tends to become greasy and filthy if left untouched.
Dirt, grime, product, natural sebum, dead skin cells, etc. It all accumulates at the bases of the hair shafts and produces that greasy, oily look.
An unwashed beard looks unkempt and patchy for that very reason.
Trying to trim a beard in this state is problematic. As the blade tries to work against this layer of filth it produces friction. This leads to an uneven, ineffective trim, and also irritation of the follicles and the surrounding skin.
Washing the beard beforehand removes this layer as best as it can. Using beard shampoo is more effective in doing so, but simply rinsing with water is often good enough.
Exfoliating is the secret sauce to amplifying your results here. A mild physical scrub to remove this gunk before your trim will reduce itch and irritation, and also produce a mighty even trim.
An unwashed beard is often clumped up in tangles. This is what produces a patchy appearance in an otherwise healthy beard. Trying to trim against the tangles produces more friction and discomfort.
Washing the beard, even with just water, detangles it to a certain extent. Running a beard comb through it when it’s damp does an even better job of this.
Moral of the story: trimming a clean, untangled, unclogged beard produces the best and most comfortable results.
2. It opens the pores and warms the follicles
This is why I usually recommend washing with lukewarm water as opposed to hot or cold. Hot water is usually damaging to the integrity of the hair shafts and dries out the skin too much as well.
Cold water is alright but can be pretty uncomfortable to use.
Lukewarm water feels great on the skin and also does a decent job of opening the pores. It maximizes the chances of a proper clean, with or without beard shampoo.
The warmth also softens the hair shafts and makes them easier to trim. These little differences may not be immediately noticeable at first, but you’d be surprised by how bad habits can build up over time.
You’ll start to notice how your trimmer starts to glide through your beard a little bit easier, and how your skin just doesn’t itch as much as it used to.
Open pores and softer hair shafts lead to a more effective clean and more comfortable trim.
3. A clean beard is easier to shape
Let me explain. An oily, greasy, unwashed beard doesn’t look the way it should. Consider it a “mutated” version that’s been tainted by grime and filth.
I apologize for what may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s important to ride this point home.
Oily, greasy beards look patchy and weak. Washed and clean beards look healthy and full.
This isn’t an article attempting to convince you to wash your beard regularly. I’m guessing that isn’t necessary.
But another reason why you should wash your beard before trimming is that you’ll be able to see the beard at it’s best before you shape it.
Trying to shape it when it’s clumped up, tangled, and patchy isn’t a true reflection of what it really looks like.
Washing the beard, towel-drying it, and then starting to trim allows you to confidently shape it knowing that your beard looks the way it will when washed and clean.
4. It’s practical
Many men prefer to trim after they shower. Not all men. But a significant proportion of them.
It makes sense to massage some beard shampoo in while you’re in the shower, instead of climbing out, drying yourself, trimming your beard, and then washing your beard.
Having a seamless routine that flows is crucial when trying to sustain it over a lifetime.
If you prefer to shower after you trim your beard, it may not be as seamless a process, but it could still work well. Wash your beard after brushing your teeth and washing your face, then trim the beard, and then shower.
This is fine too, but it’s not my favorite.
5. Freshly trimmed skin is more sensitive
No matter how clean a beard is, trimming it will cause some irritation. It’s caused by the tugging and pulling of hair shafts, together with the friction produced by the blade as it glides across the skin.
It’s important to try and minimize the amount of product you use on freshly trimmed skin.
Beard shampoo is designed to be gentler than head shampoo, usually composed of natural and botanical ingredients. But applying it to freshly trimmed, sensitive skin can still cause some unwanted added irritation.
It can also make the skin drier than it otherwise would be. If you don’t use beard shampoo and simply rinse with water only, this reason isn’t as relevant.
But if you do use beard shampoo, using it before you trim is kinder on your skin.
What You Should Do After Trimming Your Beard
So I’ve spent some time talking about what you should do before trimming your beard. Here are a few things you can do after trimming your beard.
It’s by no means an exhaustive list, considering the sheer number of available grooming products you could potentially be using.
But a quick outline of what you could do would be as follows:
1. Rinse it out
This is with some water only. Not beard shampoo. Some of you may be screaming into your screens right now feeling like you’ve been conned. Didn’t I just say wash before you trim?
Sure. But this isn’t so much of a wash as it is a mild rinse. After you trim, there are likely going to be some loose hairs that need to come out.
If you don’t rinse it out now, it’ll be spilling out at the most inconvenient of times during the day.
2. Moisturize the skin
Freshly trimmed skin is usually irritated, as I’ve explained. The best way to combat dry and angry skin is to provide some moisture.
Yes, the best way of doing this would be to apply some moisturizer.
Healthy underlying skin is an essential yet often forgotten aspect of beard grooming.
3. Apply some beard oil
This is a great time to apply some beard oil (Amazon Link). Beard oil is typically gentler and less drying than beard wash. It’s designed to stay on the beard, which is why you don’t want to wash it out.
It’s often infused with nourishing oils like argan oil and jojoba oil. Applying it to a clean, freshly trimmed beard will give it a nice, healthy shine.
It will also further moisturize the underlying. There really are no downsides with beard oil.
4. Brush it
I always recommend starting to brush a beard early. After a few weeks of growth, there’s enough there to start training that beard to grow the way you want it to.
Brushing the beard keeps it neat, flat, and straight. It’s also great at re-distributing oils. This could be natural sebum oil or the beard oil you’ve just applied.
Yes, this is why I always recommend brushing a beard after applying beard oil. It stops the oil from just accumulating at the bases and ensures it coats the hair shafts uniformly and from root to tip.
This will maximize and amplify that nice, healthy shine we’re aiming for.
5. Apply some styling product
This may not be necessary, but if you were going to apply some styling product, save it until the very end. At the risk of stating the obvious, once you style that beard it’s important to disturb it as little as possible.
So leave it until the very end. After you wash, trim, and brush.
So there you have it. Always wash your beard before trimming it. It makes sense for many different reasons.
To me, it also seems like the easiest and most practical way of doing it, which is a bonus.
Beard hygiene is an essential part of it all. It can ease discomfort and enhance appearances.
It may not be the most fun part of growing a beard, but it’s crucial. Hopefully, this article has given you some practical advice you can start to act upon.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.