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How to Trim a Beard for Professional Results
Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)
Updated on April 29, 2024

Since 54% of British men are now wearing facial hair [1], the barbershop industry has flourished. But what if you could learn how to trim a beard like a professional? While it can seem difficult if you’ve never done it before, if you can grow a beard, you can also trim it (and even if you are struggling to grow one, you can always get a beard transplant to help you). All you need are some simple tips and tricks that can get you on the right path to amazing facial hair.

While most beard styles are nowhere near as complex to manage as certain hairdos, the secret to a great look is to find the right one for you. Well-trimmed and shaped facial hair can help you mask a patchy beard and highlight your best facial features. And since your beard says a lot about you, keeping it well-kempt and neat can help project the image you desire. This article will tell you everything you need to know about:

  • The best and most effective ways to trim your facial hair
  • The tools you need for properly trimming your beard
  • How often you should trim your beard
  • Trimming mistakes that can lead to a bad beard
Table of Contents

How should you prepare for trimming your beard?

While you can shave your beard anytime, trimming requires some level of preparation. It needs to be done at the right time, with the right instruments. Here is what you need to do before you start this process:

  • Grow out your beard sufficiently – it can take quite a long time to grow a beard that is ready for trimming. Depending on whether you are growing it out, it can take between 1 and 2 months before it is ready for its first trim.
  • Make sure your beard is clean and dry – washing your beard will soften it, making it easier to handle. And, since wet hair seems longer [2], as it is encumbered by water, it is best to let it air dry. Once your beard is clean and dry, you can get an accurate image of what it looks like and the areas that need trimming.
  • Untangle all the knots – a tangled, knotty beard can be difficult to comb through for trimming. So be sure to first work out all the knots patiently, with a fine-toothed comb. Just make sure you don’t pull on them too hard to avoid hair breakage.
  • Prepare your space adequately – make sure you have access to a mirror that does not need to be hand-held and that the tools you are planning to use are clean, sterilised (if shared), and within arm’s reach. If you are using photos for inspiration, it is best to print them out and tape them to a wall where you can easily see them while trimming.  

What tools do you need to trim your beard?

Different men prefer to use a variety of tools to trim their beard. However, experts recommend that you carry the following indispensable items in your beard-trimming kit [3]:

A pair of long, thin barber’s shears
  • A pair of long, thin barber’s shears – used for great control and easy reach in places with poor visibility. You can use this to trim rebel tufts and shape your beard. 
A pair of short, rounded scissors
  • A pair of short, rounded scissors – this can be used for trimming the hair in and around sensitive areas, such as your ears and nose, without injuring yourself in the process.
A long, thin, flat comb
  • A long, thin, flat comb – its density makes it easy to detangle your beard and its thinness and flatness help you access hard-to-reach areas efficiently.
An electric home trimmer
  • An electric home trimmer can be very useful for cutting your beard down to an even size and adjusting your sideburns. For extra mobility, it is best to choose a cordless, chargeable model.
A razor
  • A razor – this tool remains very useful for removing excess facial hair in places that you prefer to remain neat, such as higher on your cheeks or below your beard neckline.

What is the proper way to trim a beard?

There are two main ways you can go about trimming your beard: the traditional style – with a comb and a pair of barber’s shears, and the modern style – with an electric trimmer. The choice depends on preference and on the effect you would like to get (the trimmer will make your beard more even, while the shears can give it a more detailed, textured look).

You can even mix the two, using trimmers on your sideburns and cheeks and the shears on the beard’s length. Regardless, here are the steps you need to follow to get the beard you desire [2][3]:

Man preparing to clip his unruly beard tufts with scissors

1. Start by clipping out the unruly tufts 

Using your shears is the easiest way to achieve this – simply cut away any clumps or flyaway strands obviously sticking out of your beard. This will make it easier to get a rough contour of your facial hair and give you a better idea of what you have to work with.

Pro tip: Be sure to hold the scissors parallel to the rest of your facial hair when cutting rebel tufts. Holding it at an angle can cut too deep and get some of the good hair alongside them. This could create an unsightly hole in your beard, especially if it’s not very long.   

Man cutting his beard to the right length

2. Cut your beard to the right length 

If your beard hangs lower than you want it to, use your shears to cut it down to size. Don’t be afraid if it looks rough at this point; you will shape it later. Using scissors may make it easier to shorten grown-out facial hair than using trimmers.

Pro tip: Always cut at least a few millimetres less than your desired length on the first try, then evaluate your look in the mirror and decide if it needs to be shorter. You can always trim your facial hair further, but you can’t make it grow back instantly.

Man trimming his beard

3. Trim your beard progressively

If you are using shears to trim your facial hair, use your comb to draw out the length of hair that needs cutting, then slice it away, making sure to always measure the same amount. Start from the top of one side of your face and work your way down, then do the same with the other side, stopping from time to time to check for symmetry. 

If using an electric trimmer, connect the attachment that matches your desired beard length and hold it at a 45-degree angle. If you aren’t sure about the length you want, start with the longest attachment, change it to a shorter one and keep going until you are satisfied. Simply move the machine slowly and gently top-down on your beard, first on one side of your face and then on the other, until you obtain a uniform result.

Pro tip: You will get a more natural appearance if you trim your beard slightly shorter around your sideburns and upper cheeks, leaving it progressively longer as it reaches your chin. The difference is easily obtained by using two trimmer attachments only 1-2 mm apart.

Man shaping his neckline

4. Shape your cheek line and neckline 

Where your beard begins and where it ends plays an important role in its style and overall appearance. Fuller facial hair can start as high as your sideburns, but if you want to fix a patchy beard around the cheeks naturally, you may want to lower your cheek line and shave the balding area clean. 

As for your neck hair, while a longer beard may allow you to let it grow lower, it will always look neat and classy if properly trimmed to a crisp line.

Pro tip: Place one finger horizontally right above your Adam’s apple and shave off everything below it. That should give you an elegant, well-groomed neckline. 

Man trimming his moustache

5. Show your moustache some love as well

Your moustache is an important part of your facial hair, and many beard styles include it. So, it is always a good idea to trim it down as well when clipping your beard. All you have to do is use the comb to isolate the desired length of hair that needs shortening and cut it straight with your shears. 

If you are using a trimmer, keep the same attachment you used for your beard and simply move it gently downwards along the growth direction of your moustache.

Pro tip: Using your trimmer against the grain can cut your ‘stache too short. It is best to just use a pair of scissors to give it a nice, uniform finish if you can still feel some hairs falling onto your upper lip after machine-trimming.

Man applying beard oil on his facial hair

6. Give your facial hair its final form

After obtaining their desired facial hair shape and style, many men consider the process complete. However, the devil is in the details and a healthy, well-groomed beard will maintain its shape for longer. Using beard oils to moisturise and soften your hair can make it easier to style your newly trimmed beard, making it look silkier and shinier and helping it remain neatly in place. At the same time, it prevents frizzy, dry, brittle hair that can make it look unruly shortly after trimming. 

Pro tip: While no studies show whether essential oils for hair growth have the same follicle-stimulating effects on your beard as on your scalp, they may still be helpful. That is because they contain natural antioxidants and hair vitamins for men that your beard needs to remain healthy.

Black seed oil or peppermint oil can be very good options. Just try to avoid rosemary oil for hair growth, as some of its components are natural DHT blockers, which help male pattern baldness but may hinder beard growth. 

How do you edge a beard?

If you’d like to give your beard crisp, clean edges, you will need a soft pencil (an eyeliner would be ideal) and a razor (or the thin precision blade on the back of your trimmer). The first thing you want to do is to draw the desired contour onto the skin of your beard area. You can use a ruler for extra-straight edges (however, a softer, more natural look may serve you better). Then, starting about a millimetre from the line, work the blade outwards, away from your beard. Use short, patient motions to avoid accidents that could ruin your contour. 

Common mistakes to avoid when trimming your beard

  • Cutting too deep into your beard from the beginning carries the risk of it ending up shorter than you’ve been planning for it. In a worst-case scenario, you may even need to fix beard bald spots from over-zealous trimming.
  • Failing to properly clean your trimming equipment after each use can lead to bacterial infections, such as beard folliculitis (which is just as unpleasant as scalp folliculitis).
  • Ignoring the overgrown hair in your nose, ears, or eyebrows can ruin your look, even with a perfectly trimmed beard. 
  • Trimming a damp beard can make you clip it too short, as wet hair appears longer than dry strands.   
  • When edging your facial hair, moving your razor or precision trimmer towards your cheek line instead of away from it can result in over-shaving and an uneven contour.
  • Holding your trimmer too vertically can make it clip your beard too short, while holding it too horizontally may leave it too long. Try to aim for a 45-degree angle.
Man pondering how often to trim his beard

How often should I trim my beard?

For a well-groomed appearance, you should trim your facial hair about once a month if you’re growing it out and about once a week if you are simply maintaining its shape. However, this depends on your beard growth rate, its natural shape and texture and the style you are trying to obtain.

While trimming too often can chip away at your beard length, under-trimming can give it an unkempt, messy appearance. So, it is best to bring out your clippers only when you notice your facial hair is starting to fall out of shape.

Man showing his ideal beard length

What is the ideal beard length?

There is no such thing as an all-around optimal beard length. Each man chooses to grow out his facial hair for as long as it takes to suit his face and create the style he envisions for himself. While some men flaunt a sexy, rebel stubble, others revel in a perfectly trimmed medium-length goatee or rock a full, extra-long Viking beard. What matters most is that you are happy and comfortable with the length you have chosen and are able to care for it accordingly.  

However, if you struggle with a sparse or patchy beard, your first instinct may be to keep it short. But experts say that the opposite may serve you better. Letting your facial hair grow out longer can often help cover the thinning spots through the sheer volume and texture of your beard hair. So, even if you may have to go through some awkward beard phases, don’t hesitate to give growing your facial hair a try.

Do you need more beard grooming advice?

If you are looking for further beard care advice or are concerned about conditions that cause beard hair loss (e.g. alopecia barbae), don’t hesitate to book a consultation with a trichologist (a beard and hair specialist). They can also help you understand the mechanisms that make your facial hair grow thick and full and recommend evidence-based beard growth treatments as needed.

Furthermore, they can help you develop personalised, healthy facial hair care routines tailored to your specific texture. And, should you be faced with persistent inability to grow a full beard, the trichologist can determine whether you would make a good candidate for a beard transplant.

How to Trim a Beard for Professional Results, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)Updated on April 29, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

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