While some men may see a beard as the lower maintenance way to go, pushing the razor to the side doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook in the grooming department. Keeping a clean and well-maintained beard is a priority — as Jimmy Fallon and Will Forte can attest in a late-show skit that found several bacteria in the actor’s facial hair.
Board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf advisor Dr. Joel Schlessinger couldn’t agree more about the importance of proper facial hair hygiene and grooming to banish the funk. Consider him your fairy godfather of beard care with this list of four rules that every man with a beard should live by.
1. Keep it clean
Cleanliness is next to godliness — especially when it comes to facial hair, and “keepin it clean” is the unspoken cardinal rule for all you bearded gents. Bacteria can be found everywhere — yes, even on human skin and hair. And, if you’re not careful, that beard of yours can become a fly trap for all sorts of microscopic critters, even staph bacteria. Even if you don’t feel the effects, you certainly don’t want to spread any harm to your loved ones through beard-to-skin contact. That’s why proper hygiene is even more essential for the hirsute among you.
One of the best ways to keep bacteria at bay is washing your beard on a regular basis and using your fingers to make sure each section of facial hair is cleaned. Many men also frequently touch their beards, which is another way they’re transferring germs into their facial hair. Avoid stroking your beard whenever possible, and wash your hands often.
If you’re concerned about beard bacteria, Schlessinger recommends washing your beard with CLn Shampoo. Fragrance-free and paraben-free, the active ingredient in this shampoo is bleach, one of the few antibacterial agents that does not lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The formula also helps relieve itching, folliculitis, dermatitis, and dandruff.
2. Use proper soaping skills
A standard-issue bar soap or regular face wash isn’t exactly the best way to cope with cleaning your beard. As Schlessinger points out, all those harsh suds can strip your beard — and your face — of its natural oils, drying out the hair. A much better option is to use a mild cleanser that is designed for both your face and beard. Look for one that also contains mild conditioners to help soften your facial hair such as the Jack Black All-Over Wash for Face, Hair & Body. It’s a great one-stop shop, as the mild cleansers in this formula are gentle enough for the face, hair, and body, and it washes away dirt and oil without stripping the skin and hair of natural moisture.
While it may seem only logical that your long beard is an extension of your hair, traditional shampoo is not recommended for washing facial hair either. The ingredients in many shampoos aren’t designed for your face and could cause breakouts. You may also want to explore investing in the Clarisonic Alpha Fit Sonic Cleansing System for Men. Schlessinger points out that this is a great new tool to help men clean their face and beard. This sonic brush cleanses six times better than hands alone, working to remove impurities from pores.
Itchy and flaky skin can be even more bothersome when it’s under a beard. Washing the beard also strips it of its natural oils. So you need to restore that moisture and hydrate the skin by applying a beard oil to your facial hair, taking care to likewise massage it into the skin underneath. Try the Jack Black Beard Oil, an antioxidant-rich oil that conditions hair while relieving dry, flaky skin below.
Beard acne is another common concern, says Schlessinger. There’s no one culprit behind acne under beards, but for many it is related to facial hair. Often men try to grow a beard to cover their acne, but this ends up making the acne worse. Beards trap oil and bacteria closer to the skin, causing clear skin to break out or making existing acne worse. If you think your beard is making your acne worse, it’s a good idea to shave. If not treated properly, acne can lead to serious scarring. It’s better to address the acne alone before trying to grow a beard.
4. Mind the gaps
According to Schlessinger, hair loss that is limited to the beard area is called alopecia barbae. A form of alopecia areata, this condition is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks hair follicles in small, circular patches until they stop growing hair. It isn’t contagious or dangerous, but some people experience inflammation, itching, and burning in the affected area.
Hair transplants can help restore hair in this area. There are some topical treatments that might be helpful in the early stages of hair loss. Minoxidil is a common treatment for hair loss, but it can be very drying on the skin and is not currently FDA approved for use on the face, says Schlessinger. Before making a final decision, it’s important to discuss your treatment options with your doctor.