The amount of hair on your face is a function of your genes, with a respectful nod toward the amount of testosterone that’s generally in your system. Beardsmen regularly inquire about ways to make their beards thicker, and unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to make more hair grow on your face, or to physically thicken the hair. But there are grooming tricks that can be used to increase the tactile and visual volume of hair on a temporary basis (which is effectively permanent if you do it every day).
We wrote an article on beard trimming recently, in which we advocate the use of scissors rather than an electric trimmer. That’s because electric trimmers have a tendency to rip hair rather than cutting it cleanly. To be fair, we did get some comments about how quality electric trimmers do not tear hair like the bad ones do, but for those of us grooming on a budget, scissors offer superior trimming and control. Electric trimmers that rip hair and leave it split and uneven do more harm than good when it comes to improving the health and volume of your beard.
When you don’t trim your beard, you’re more likely to see split ends. When the ends split, they’ll continue to split from tip to root, like a lit fuse that slowly crawls its way up to the bomb. When it reaches the end, you’ve got a broken hair, dead hair that will fall out. Trimming prevents this, and so while it does not increase the volume of your beard hair, it prevents you from losing volume through hair loss.
With head hair, cutting 1/2″ every two to three months is advisable. You can do the same with your beard if you wish, or if 1/2″ is too much to stand, half the numbers (a quarter inch every four to six weeks).
Combing hair is a simple trick to increase its volume. Running a comb through your hair separates one hair from another, increasing the space between hairs, and thus the appearance of volume. If you need help visualizing, just hold your hand out flat with your fingers together; then spread your fingers apart. That’s what a comb does to your beard hair.
When you’re combing your beard, try combing it downward like your normally would, but then comb upward. This will lift your beard hair at the roots, making it stand up. If you then gently relax it with your hands, shaping it like a sculptor shapes clay, this will have a sort of “fluffing” effect on the hair, and further help to make your beard look bigger.
Use Beard Balm
Beard Balm is a product that has always played second fiddle to beard oil, but has recently been increasing in popularity. It may not have as intense a hydrating and conditioning effect as beard oil, but it does provide this benefit as well as several others. It’s a styling product as well. You may know that the presence of beeswax gives you control over the shape of your beard. But that’s not all it can do.
Adding balm to your hair actually thickens it a bit. Think about it; what’s thicker, a hair, or a hair covered in beeswax, shea butter, and several kinds of oil? Even if you apply only a small amount and thus a thin coat, a few molecules of balm encasing your beard hair will increase the size of the hair. Each individual hair may only has its diameter increased by a fraction of a millimeter, but all together, this makes a big difference.
You can use more balm to increase this effect, but don’t overdo it. Too much of any product can make your beard heavy or greasy. And you don’t want a saggy, Soul Glo beard.
Wash and Condition the Right Way
Keeping the natural oil in your hair is a challenge, especially with your beard. That’s why all these beard products exist in the first place, right? So when you wash your beard (and you should) you take a lot of that oil away. Beard plus oil has more volume that beard minus oil. So removing it is going to reduce your beard’s overall volume. This is partly why you use conditioner after you use shampoo when you’re washing the hair on your head. Traditional commercial shampoo creates a vicious cycle; strip your hair of its natural oils with harsh soap, then replenish it with chemical moisturizer. Rinse and repeat.
To keep your beard’s volume, you need to break free of that cycle. You need to wash your beard every few days (even daily, if you are prone to getting dirty – miners, lumberjacks, I’m looking at you, fellas). But you also need to protect your beard’s moisture. There are two good options:
- Use a mild castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s unscented), followed by a natural conditioner, i.e. beard oil.
- Use a beard wash with conditioning properties.
The first option mimics the traditional shampoo/conditioner cycle but without damaging your beard like commercial, chemical cleansers. The second is quicker and simpler, and will ultimately help more with conditioning and volume. A conditioning wash tends to be high in moisturizing natural oils, which will prevent your beard from drying out during washing. Adding beard oil after that (particularly when followed by balm) is the best combination for volume and hydration.
Drink Lots of Water
Your body is mostly water. Water is so important to your health that, when reading about healthy practices and natural remedies, it may get a little old how often you hear “drink water!” But you hear that because it’s true, and because in western society, we have a tendency to drink anything but water. Soda, juice, coffee, tea; things that do put water in our body, but often also add salts and sugars which negatively impact our health and do not hydrate our bodies like we need. And this dehydration impacts every aspect of our health, including hair and skin.
Dehydration dries out your skin, and thus the hair sprouting from it. This results in split ends, which as you read above, will break all the way to the follicle until they die and fall away. When you drink enough water, not only do you prevent this breakage, but you also replenish your skin’s natural oils (which are, like the rest of you, primarily water). Keeping the hair alive and healthy will keep it where it belongs, contributing to your volume by simply being there, and keep it hydrated, which of course adds volume.
Volume is a quality of a healthy beard that’s taken care of well. The right practices and products will make your beard as thick and full as it can be. Don’t expect miracles, and don’t trust any products that promise them. But know that the best can help. And you want the best weapons in your arsenal when the battle is for the integrity of your beard.