Zak Ibrahimi knows beards. He's had one of his own for the better part of eight years, and he's also the trusted hand for the many bearded gents who frequent Rudy's Barbershop in Seattle for regular touch-ups.
Knowing you may not be able to see a beard guru for an in-person trim, Ibrahimi offers tips and tools for stress-free at-home grooming.
When attempting some DIY maintenance at home, you'll need to know whether to use clippers or shears. "If you want something that's a little softer and less severe, there's a lot more you can do with shears than clippers," explains Ibrahimi. "If you need something really groomed, structured, with clean edges, you're going to want to [go] freehand with clippers."
Choosing the Clipper Route
"Always make sure there's a comb between the clippers and the hair that you're cutting," stresses Ibrahimi. Professionals can get away with trimming without a comb, but grooming novices shouldn't run the risk of taking their trim too far. "If you're putting a comb under wherever you're clipping, you won't shave yourself down to skin."
While Ibrahim says any set of clippers with a blade head measuring one and a half to two inches wide can get the job done, the beard expert does have a trusted preference. "One tool that I love is called the Peanut," he says. "It's a neck and beard trimmer that includes a few guards." Its small size makes it easy to handle and maneuver.
"What I like to tell people to do at home is to take a comb and line it up with the top of their ear—flat to their face—having the comb run up and down over their cheekbones on the sideburn area, and then tilt [it] out 30 degrees," says Ibrahimi. "You can clip off everything on top of there, and it will blend your haircut into your beard."
Barber Tip: "Understanding how your hair is growing, and what direction your hair is growing in, is something you're going to want to pay close attention to."
When to Use Scissors
Using only scissors to fully trim your entire beard is better left to the pros—but scissors do play an important role in cleaning up any stray hairs after a clipper trimming. They also help with more of what Ibrahimi calls "precision work." If you catch a glimpse of an irregular hair on your way out the door, always go for scissors over clippers.
Barber Tip: Only cut your beard when it's bone-dry—that's how you guarantee you're going to get the final shape you want. Water will provide elasticity you don't naturally have. "When your hair dries and shrinks back up, you're not going to have the same shape that you initially had."
The Beard Grooming Tool Kit
Combing your beard thoroughly before grooming eliminates any potential tangles, which makes for easier trimming.
The natural fibers that make up a boar bristle brush are much denser and heavier than your average comb or brush. "Those natural fibers are going to grab the sebum oil from the surface of your skin, helping to evenly distribute it down to the ends of each hair follicle," says Ibrahimi. This is a great way to use your body's own moisturizing oils to your advantage.
A beard balm isn't a must, but certain unruly beards can benefit from a more styled structure. "I love balm for adding sheen, a nice smell, and for holding things together—this is especially helpful if you have a really long beard that gets tangled," says Ibrahimi. "Not for people with shorter beards or stubble."
For more on Rudy's Barbershop, see rudysbarbershop.com.