Nobody teaches you how to grow a beard. It just grows however it’s genetically designed to grow. And for many of us, nobody jumps in to give a beard grooming lesson, either. Sure, dad is there to teach you how to shave, but you’re likely out of the house and on your own by the time you need some beard trimming tips. Plus, since beards are generally a generational fixture of the past 10-20 years, dad might have never grown a beard for himself. So you’re on your own.

But you’re also not alone. At GQ, we’ve all given it a go, and over half of us wear a beard pretty much full time. That means we get to sample the best beard products, test the best beard trimmers, and try a few new beard styles along the way—and we get to call it research.

In all that “studying”, here are the most important beard grooming tips and tricks that we’ve learned, and that should help you maintain something neat and grandiose—whether it’s stellar 5 o’clock shadow or a 5-month stallion.

If you’re going to grow a beard, then you need to know how to trim a beard—whether you’re maintaining its length or just cleaning it up. First, though, you should learn which kind of beard style flatters your face shape.

See below for tips on how to fade your beard, how to trim the beard neckline, and how to keep the beard soft. Are you growing your beard out? You still need to trim it as it grows. This will help it grow into place, while avoiding awkward in-between stages.

Most of the above tips are applicable, with a bit of styling strategy. Read how to trim your beard (if you’re growing it out).

Yes, you can use your beard trimmer to get a perfect fade. Dzenad "Geno" Bicic of Geno’s Barberia, in NYC’s West Village, breaks it down:

More beard shaping tips: If you’re feeling fancy with your trimmer, consider sporting a new beard style.

Before you fade your beard, you need to define the neckline. This prevents you from having a neckbeard, and it also shows that you’re serious about this beard grooming thing. The neckline is pretty straightforward: Take two fingers and place them above your Adam’s apple. Imagine a U-shape that connects to the back of each ear, and meets in the middle at the base of the U. Shave everything below this line, with an actual razor or with the naked guard on your beard trimmer. Et voila!

In the market for a solid, no-mess trimmer? Get one with a built-in vacuum, which promises to collect up to 90% of stray hairs. It’ll save you 10 minutes on cleanup, instead of wiping down every surface in a five-foot radius.

New York dermatologist Dr. David Colbert sets us straight on three common beard misconceptions. Though, there’s still some room for convincing...

"No food or vitamin makes the beard grow faster. However, we do need amino acids or protein in our diet to grow hair. For instance, guys who are anemic often experience beard thinning." (Still, many dermatologists will tell you to take supplements like biotin to strengthen hair and beard growth, and some still believe it speeds up growth too. So, this one remains a myth.)2.

"Shaving absolutely does not make your hair grow at any different rate,” he says. “One reason it might seem that way? If you shave often, you’re feeling the prickly sensation of hair growing back more frequently."

"If anything, our follicles become smaller as we age. Gray beards are not much different than regular ones, structurally speaking. If a Santa-like beard seems coarse, it’s just because it hasn’t been conditioned properly or is full of split ends." Which leads us to…

You know the phrase “you are what you eat”? The same can be said for your beard. If you don’t feed it anything, it turns into a brittle skeleton, and starts scratching everything it touches. (This is how beard itch happens.) The best way to avoid this is to routinely apply beard oils, conditioning creams, and nourishing balms to the whiskers—of any length. They hydrate each whisker, softening them, and keeping them from frizzing and flying astray. These products also hydrate the skin beneath the beard, preventing beard dandruff and dry skin.

A beard brush is essential for numerous reasons. First, if you’ve got a long beard, it helps to distribute oils from the shaft throughout the rest of the beard—whether they’re the natural oils from your skin or the ones you’ve applied by hand. Secondly, a beard brush helps exfoliate the skin underneath your beard, so that you never need to worry about beard dandruff. (Just pair it with a good oil or conditioner, as mentioned above.) And third, it pulls debris from the beard that you may have otherwise missed, and much more effectively than a comb.

You are one device away from maintaining perfect stubble. First, you need to decide what length you want to have—5 o’clock looks different on us all—and then you need to choose how often you’re going to manage it. (Perhaps you’re content with anything from 5 o’clock to 48 hours past 5.)

If you want to wake up with stubble the next morning, or have actual 5 o’clock shadow at the end of the day:

Whether you’re shaving your neck or cheeks, or for the day you just need to make it all go away (sniffle), then keep these shaving essentials at the ready. They’re all targeted at sensitive skin, which you might need after going so long without a shave.

(By the way, to shave a beard, you need to trim it all the way down to stubble first. Believe it or not, some people never knew that.)

Barber Hair Clipper Trimmer

The Cream: Kyoku’s sake-infused shave cream lands on your face like little grassy clouds. Thick as it is, it won’t clog up your razor, either.

The Blade: The Xtreme3 gives a smooth glide, which is made possible by the aloe and vitamin-E coated cartridge strip.

The Aftershave: Aesop’s hydrating post-shave lotion is lighter than a cream but just thick enough that you still get a good tingle. It also happens to be some of the best-smelling stuff we’ve ever slapped on.

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