Like many folks, I grew my first beard during a 2020 lockdown. What can I say, since no one was going to see my mug for a few months, I couldn’t resist the temptation—and I honestly I just wanted to see if I could do it. Turns out, I totally can! It also turns out that, like most guys, I had absolutely no idea how to trim or create a clean beard line. Lucky for you, it’s my job to figure it out and teach you how.
First off, let’s talk a little about shaving. Most folks who start growing a beard do so because they aren’t that into shaving, and they’d be happy to never do it again. The reality is that even with a beard, you still need to shave your neck and cheeks, otherwise it ends up looking like a badly-built bird’s nest. A Clean beard line define it and make it stand out, like a frame on a picture. That goes doubly so if your beard is patchy and/or blondish, like mine.
The reason many of us hate shaving is because the multi-blade razors and canned foam forced on us by mainstream shaving companies destroys our skin. The solution? A single blade and natural products. Both will treat your skin the way it deserves. Plus, using a single blade has the added benefit of being much more precise than a drugstore razor. A safety razor,straight razor or shavette will all work well, but we’ll start out easy today. Safety razors are inexpensive, easy to use, and accurate enough to do a good job of lining up your beard. Here’s how to use one.
Shaving, beard care, or otherwise: Using the right products makes all the difference.
Dry, cold hair is uncomfortable to shave, and trying to will lead to even more discomfort afterward. Treat your skin to a nice hot shower or a hot towel to get everything soft and hydrated. Use a shaving soap or cream that contains natural ingredients, and use a brush if you have one. The brush will exfoliate your skin and lift the hairs, so you get a comfortable shave free of in-growns. A brushless cream or preshave gel will work great as well.
Finding your lines
Straight edges accentuate your beard. On your cheeks, identify the natural edges of your growth. Draw an imaginary line where the thicker growth starts, and shave away the stragglers above the line. This will define your cheek lines.
To set a beard neckline, look straight into the mirror. Place your index finger above your Adam's apple, so it appears to be 1-2cm under your chin. Stick your chin up high, and draw an imaginary horizontal line across your neck to the corners of your jaw. Shave below the line. The goal is a straight line that doesn’t draw attention to your neck. As your beard grows longer, you can sneak this line a little further down your neck.
A common mistake is to draw the line in a semi-circle, from ear to ear. While this is technically fine, it draws a lot of attention to your neck and can visually add some unwanted pounds, creating a double chin effect. Be cautious when first setting your line. You can always take more beard off, but you can’t put it back on.
Regardless of what type of razor you use, don’t expect perfect smoothness on your first pass. If you just shave it down to a short stubble at first, it’s much easier to clean up on a second pass, and you’ll get a better shave. Just remove most of the hair from the areas that shouldn’t have hair at first. Worry about smoothness and perfect lines later.
Make your first pass with the razor in the direction of the hair growth. It’ll be much more comfortable than shaving against the grain, and once again, this helps prevent ingrown hairs.
Kent of Inglewood Preshave Gel allows for smooth glide and great visibility when trimming.
Now you get to make it perfect, or close to. (No pressure!) It’s much easier to get a clean shave with precise lines when most of the fuzz is gone. For this step, I like to use Kent of Inglewood Preshave Gel. It offers the same glide and protection as a cream, but it’s clear so I can see what I’m doing.
Shave perpendicular to or against the grain. Be careful while shaving against the grain if you have sensitive skin, it can be more irritating. Focus on getting a smooth shave, and lining up your edges. Take your time, doing short strokes and checking your line regularly. If it’s not perfect, don’t worry, it’s unlikely anyone will notice. Practice makes perfect.
Take care of your skin
Shaving is hard on your skin, even if you do everything right. Use an aftershave balm to soothe any irritation, and use an alum block if you’ve nicked yourself.
A famed cocktologist and axe man, Nathan opened the first Kent of Inglewood store in Calgary, and now spends his days writing most of what you are reading here and teaching straight razor shaving classes. Ask him about his world-famous Three Cherry Manhattan. In his spare time Nathan can be found sharpening his axe, making fermented foods, or practicing his amateur butchering hobby. He doesn't slur his words, he speaks in cursive.