Growing and taming a beard

Carlton Boyce / 04 June 2016 ( 10 September 2018 )

Growing a beard is easy, but there is a bit more to it than simply letting nature take its course, as Carlton Boyce explains…

Growing a beard is easy: All you have to do is to stop shaving and sit back and watch that bad boy sprout. But there isn’t much of an article in that, and anyway, there is a bit more to it unless you want to look like you should be panhandling loose change in a shop doorway.

So, for what it’s worth, here is my hard-earned advice based on six months of being shaving-rash free. But be warned, it’s a slippery slope. I've even started using beard oil, which isn't a sentence I ever thought I'd ever write…

Decide on your beard-look

Beards range from the barely-there soul patch sported by rock nobility like Bruce Springsteen through to the full-hipster beard that could hide a small child within its luxuriant locks.

While the stubble-and-soul-patch is really just laziness masquerading as fashion, the care and devotion a full beard needs might surprise you. But heh, you only live once, so why not try the ZZ Top look? After all, you can always shave it off when your wife threatens divorce. 

If you enjoy Carlton's inimitable style of writing, you'll love his book How to Become a Motoring Journalist - available on the Saga Bookshop.

Yes, about that divorce

My wife hates beards, a loathing that wasn’t eased any when she found a spider in mine the other day. (In my defence, I do think he was only visiting rather than taking up residence, but that wasn’t a distinction that she thought was worth drawing.)

However, even Mrs Boyce likes the feel of a properly conditioned beard lubricated with her favourite beard oil, so we’ve reached a compromise; while she understandably draws the line at a full Cantona (to be fair, it does make him look a bit like Saddam Hussein at the point he came out of hiding) she is happy for me to move significantly beyond a George Michael as long as I keep it well groomed.

So keep it neat, clean and well oiled because a happy wife is a happy life.

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Trim the edges

Growing a beard will make you look scruffy initially, but I’ve found that trimming the stranglers away from the top and bottom edges with a razor blade helps neaten the overall look, allowing you a bit more leeway that might otherwise be possible if your job/family/neighbours insist on a more-than-cursory level of sartorial elegance.

Besides, who wants a beard that joins their eyebrows?

Men hair problems fixed

Shaping your beard

Hipsters won’t worry too much about shaping their beard, but the rest of us need to decide on what we’re trying to achieve. The Musketeer is hard work but probably worth it to feed to your inner dandy, while the goatee is just too much effort, especially for something that barely qualifies as a beard in the first place.

Here’s a handy guide to the different styles of beard you can grow.

I use a beard trimmer to thin mine out when it reaches the despot-in-hiding stage and a pair of decent scissors for shaping it. I’ve got steady hands, so I do it myself but I can’t help thinking that my barber might make a better job of it.

Waxing your moustache

I’m told that a decent moustache wax and a fine comb make waxing your moustache a doddle. Captain Fawcett, my first choice for all things beard, sell a lovely folding comb and wax combo.

I lack the confidence to wax my moustache, but if you do then I salute you. (I’ll get there one day, just not yet.)

Beard oil

I condition my beard in the shower every day and follow that up with a liberal application of beard oil to keep it silky soft and to help stop it itching. Some comb their beard too, but that’s another step too far for me - for now.

 I’m sure that any old oil would do – Castrol R might work especially well in certain circles – but Captain Fawcett’s Booze and Baccy works like catnip on my other half…

How to make beard oil


Youngsters just about get away with putting their hair up in a topknot or a bun to accessorize their beards. You and I probably wouldn’t, which is one more reason to be grateful that you aren’t twenty any more.

Do you have any tips on growing and taming a beard? Or, if your other half has one, do you love it or hate it? We’d love to hear your thoughts - email us on!

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