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How to grow a beard (and keep it looking good)

How to grow a beard (and keep it looking good)

Facial hair is a commitment. Which is why so many men get it wrong. It’s easy to just stop shaving and claim what comes out of your chin as a style choice. But that’s missing a trick – like a great haircut, the right beard can give your face definition or become a style signature that you never take off.

Getting it right comes in three parts: choosing the right kind, growing it in, and keeping it in good nick. To help you master all three, we tapped beard expert Jake Murphy, from award-winning barber Ruffians, to steer you towards facial hair nirvana.


What is it: As basic as facial hair gets, it’s the grey area between shaving and not.

Who it suits: Anyone, but especially guys with sensitive skin. “You can either cut down the frequency of shaves, or just grow out your hair and trim it every few days to avoid shaving altogether,” says Murphy.

How to get it: Do nothing and let nature provide. “Simply wait a few days and, hey presto!” says Murphy. “Experiment with your clipper settings to find a length that suits.”

How to keep it: “Go over it regularly to keep it looking even and in good shape.” For a pro move, taper the neck by shaving from your Adam’s apple up, using progressively shorter grades. “It’s a softer, more natural-looking alternative to a hard edge.”


What is it: A moustache, but with shorter hair, or even stubble, on the cheeks.

Who it suits: It’s a very masculine look – Tom Hardy’s a fan – and works particularly well with square faces. “The moustache should reach just below your mouth, creating a slightly rounded-off look,” says Murphy.

How to get it: “Follow the steps above for the stubbly part.” That’s the easy bit. “Let the moustache grow for four to six weeks before you trim it into shape. Use scissors to keep the top lip clear of errant hairs as you wait for the bottom to catch up with the top.”

How to keep it: “Brush it into shape and snip any rogue hairs.” It needs regular washing – shampoo along with your head hair. “Exfoliate and moisturise your skin and use a beard oil to keep it in great condition.”

Full beard

What is it: Hair of (roughly) even length all over your face and jaw.

Who it suits: “It suits everyone, but only if it’s cut and styled to the individual face shape,” says Murphy. If yours is round, some length or squareness can be particularly flattering. If you’ve got a jaw like an Easter Island head, curves will soften everything up a bit.

How to get it: First, wait. “It’s a commitment and takes a while to achieve.” Regular tidy-ups keep it neat, otherwise you’ll get frustrated and want to shave it all off. Key areas are the cheeks – trim a straight line below your cheekbone, to create definition – and the chin. “A popular look is tapering the beard, leaving the chin longer.”

How to keep it: “If you’re using clippers, go with the grain when cutting, starting at the cheekbones and working towards the chin.”

Long beard

What is it: Facial hair that creeps into wizarding territory.

Who it suits: Gandalf. But also anyone embracing an outdoorsy aesthetic. In terms of face shape, most of your head will be hair, so it doesn’t really matter where you start from.

How to get it: Expect at least six months of growth. While you wait, you can either shape it or leave it be. “Leaving it to see what happens can make you look like you’ve been mountaineering – or like you were shipwrecked,” says Murphy. “That’s exactly the look many want, but consider your lifestyle.” If you’ve got a job with a dress code, a beard with more shape than bushiness is probably a better bet.

How to keep it: Long beards need looking after – wash, condition and treat with beard oil, to keep the hair soft and the skin underneath supple (it gets dry under there and you’ll soon discover the horrors of ‘beard dandruff’). If you are shaping it, get a barber to do it the first time, then try to trim to their lines at home. Generally that means cleaning up your cheeks (“it opens up the face”) and below your Adam’s apple.

Words: Tom Banham
Illustration: Joe Prytherch