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A dermatologist's top tips for a healthy beard

How to care for facial hair

Healthy-looking facial hair starts with healthy skin. With the right skin care, it’s possible to prevent problems like dandruff, ingrown hair, acne, and itch.

To keep your facial hair healthy, follow these tips from board-certified dermatologists.

If you want a healthy-looking beard, you need to take care of the skin beneath it. The right skin care can prevent problems like acne, beard dandruff, and itch.

To keep this skin care simple, we asked board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon Anthony Rossi, MD, FAAD, for advice. Here’s the simple three-step plan he recommends for people with beards.

The beard necessities

You’ll need a:

  • Gentle cleanser made for your skin type

  • Clean towel

  • Gentle exfoliating scrub (if you’re prone to developing ingrown hairs)

  • Moisturizer with at least SPF 30 (until your stubble turns into a beard)

  • Beard conditioner (for acne-prone skin), beard oil (for normal or dry skin types), or gentle moisturizer (sensitive skin)

  • Beard comb and beard brush

Dr. Rossi’s three-step skin care plan for a healthy-looking beard

  1. Wash your face and beard every day. Washing removes the dirt, oils, germs, pollution, and dead skin cells that build up on your beard and skin every day. When you don’t wash them away, they can clog your pores and irritate your skin. That can quickly turn into a skin problem.

    Man splashing water on his face
    Wash your face and beard every day.
    To get the best results, Dr. Rossi recommends washing with a gentle cleanser made for your skin type. You want to use a gentle cleanser rather than soap. Cleanser can remove dirt and debris without drying your skin, which helps prevent the all-too-common dry skin beneath your beard.

    Here’s how to find the right cleanser for your skin type:

    • Oily skin or acne: Use a gel cleanser that contains salicylic acid or glycolic acid and says “non-comedogenic” (won’t clog pores) on the label.
    • Normal skin: Choose a non-comedogenic cleanser.
    • Dry skin: Find a hydrating, fragrance-free cleanser.
    • Skin that often burns when you use a skin care product: Use a creamy facial cleanser that’s made for sensitive skin and includes the words “soap-free” and “fragrance-free” on its label.

    For best results, Dr. Rossi recommends that you:

    • Gently massage the cleanser into your beard and skin, using circular motions.
    • Rinse really well with lukewarm water.
    • Use a clean towel to gently pat your face dry, leaving skin a little damp.

    Damp skin will make your next step more effective.

  2. Moisturize. If you have acne or oily skin, you may be tempted to skip this step. Don’t. Moisturizing can help soften the skin and beard hairs.

    Happy man applying moisturizer to his face
    Moisturizing can help soften the skin and beard hairs.
    Without moisturizer, the skin beneath your beard can become dry, flaky, and itchy. When that happens, your beard can feel dry and prickly.

    Your skin type and the length of your beard determine what moisturizer works best for you. Here’s what dermatologists recommend:

    Stubble phase: If you are prone to getting ingrown hairs (medical name folliculitis), the stubble phase can be hard. To help prevent ingrown hairs during this phase, Dr. Rossi recommends using a gentle exfoliating scrub 1-2 times per week. Moisturize immediately afterward.

    In the stubble phase, use a moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher, using one made for your skin type (oily or acne-prone, normal, dry, combination, or sensitive).

    The SPF protects your skin from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. Once the beard covers your skin, you can switch to a beard conditioner or other moisturizer.

    Beard has grown in: Once you have a beard, Dr. Rossi recommends using the following moisturizer:

    • Acne-prone skin: Beard conditioner
    • Normal to dry skin: Beard oil
    • Sensitive (often feels irritated) skin: Fragrance-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer

    To get the best results from your moisturizer, Dr. Rossi says:

    • Apply your moisturizer immediately after washing (or exfoliating), making sure you apply it to your skin and beard.
    • Massage the moisturizer through your beard.
    • Use beard conditioner or beard oil sparingly to prevent a greasy look; you can always add more.

    Moisturizing hydrates and protects your hair and the skin beneath. Well-hydrated skin and hair feel softer, itch less, and look healthier.

    Moisturizing can also make your next — and final — step easier.

  3. Beard kit with scissors, comb, and brush on wooden background.
    Use a beard comb to detangle, style, and comb out the hairs when trimming your beard with scissors.
    Groom. You grew a beard to achieve a certain look, and this step helps you get there. Once you’re past the stubble phase, apply your beard conditioner, beard oil, or moisturizer. Then use a beard comb to spread the product evenly through your facial hair.

    As you comb through your beard, you can also use a beard comb to:

    • Detangle your beard, which is easier when wet.
    • Style your beard.
    • Comb out the hairs when trimming your beard with scissors.

    That’s all you need to do for daily care. When trimming your beard, Dr. Rossi recommends the following.

Dr. Rossi’s top tips for trimming your beard

How you trim your beard can also affect the health of your skin beneath. To decrease the risk of developing a skin problem beneath your beard, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

When trimming your beard: To help prevent irritated skin, apply a shaving oil, cream, or gel before trimming your beard and use an electric razor to trim it. If you have longer facial hair, you can also use scissors to trim.

Shaving your neck or other area: To reduce irritated skin and other problems, dermatologists recommend that you:

  • Change your razor blade every 5 to 7 shaves.

  • Shave at the end of your shower, or immediately after getting out of the shower. The heat softens your hair.

  • Shave in the direction that your hair grows. Shaving against the grain can cause ingrown hairs in some people.

  • Rinse your razor after each swipe.

  • Prevent bacteria from building up in your razor by washing the guards of your razor and storing in a dry area.

  • Apply your moisturizer, beard conditioner, or beard oil immediately after you shave.

Dr. Rossi’s final tip

For skin care to pay off, you need to remember one last piece of advice. Stop touching and stroking your beard.

When you touch your beard, you spread germs and dirt from your hands to your face. This can cause skin problems beneath your beard.

Getty Images

Last updated: 12/14/21