Sure, the unkempt mountain-man look was easy to rationalise under stringent lockdown rules, but now it’s time to get a trim!

If you’re one of many men who grew a pandemic beard because it seemed like less effort than shaving, it’s time to change that. Unless the look you’re going for is unkempt mountain man look. That is acceptable, if you don’t have to go to work or you have been grooming your beard hair on purpose. 

Beard care takes time and effort. So, what’s a beard newbie to do? You could just shave it all off but if you want to keep yours, you can make it presentable. Below are 4 ways to make that happen.

First, let’s answer the mask question.

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Beard Gang and Masking

Beards can prevent the N95 mask from sealing your mouth correctly, but “having a beard is unlikely to make a big difference, in the protection offered by cloth masks and other face coverings” – Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease specialist and a clinical professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health, wrote in an email. (Cloth masks, he said, are also worn more to protect other people than you).

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Dr. Swartzberg is also unaware of any greater risk of coronavirus transmission with a beard. “I’m really reaching to find a theoretical risk,” he wrote. Yes, its ok to groom your beard even in the pandemic and No it doesn’t put you at risk of contracting the virus, provided all preventive precautions are taken if your barber is involved in the grooming

Should it stay or go?

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If you’re still on the fence about keeping the beard, consider: Dermatologists actually encourage growing of beards for men with curly hair (including Black men and those of Middle Eastern descent), because they tend to solve the problem of pseudo folliculitis barbae, a.k.a. the ingrown hairs that often come from shaving. “Go on men growing pandemic beards!” said Dr. Mona Gohara, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. “I bet all those ingrown hairs are gone.” (If they are not, she recommends Bump Clear from Frederick Benjamin.)

You’ll need the tools of the Groom trade 

To trim your beard, invest in some hair clippers — preferably ones with an adjustable lever and clip guards and a pair of hair-cutting scissors, which have a pointed tip for precise cuts. Clippers are best for cutting a lot of hair uniformly; the scissors are for fine-tuning (such as coarse gray hairs). A dull blade can pull or catch on hair; in a pinch, you can sharpen yours by cutting through heavy-duty aluminum foil.

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Grooming tools

When cutting, on the side of longer hair, you can cut more but you can’t put hair back on. Curly hair may require some playing around with guards, because it isn’t uniform length and probably curls differently on one side than the other. To get an even line, you can get good results with what barbers call “The cut buddy” – it’s a kind of ruler for beards. It can give a gentleman pretty close to barber-level sharpness in appearance.

Take care of your skin.

The first step in beard care is actually skin care, something dermatologists and barbers say too many men skip. “Under the beard is like the forgotten land,” Dr. Gohara said. Lax skin care can make a beard look unkempt — and it also means you can end up needing to repair half your face if you decide to shave.

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Exfoliating is King — something that shaving would normally take care of — is key, because it both helps the hair grow and rids the skin of the dander, dirt and oil that beards can collect. Scott McMahan, a hairstylist and groomer, likes to exfoliate by washing his beard two to three times per week with dandruff shampoo, which has salicylic acid, a common face peel ingredient. (Mr. McMahan has worn a beard for more than 30 years.)

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The big tell of a rookie beard groom, experts agreed, is the neckline. If it’s too high, “there’s no other way to describe it — your face and jaw look too full, your head looks big, and your neck looks too long. Too low and you can look “like a werewolf,”. Ideally, the beard should end about one finger above your Adam’s apple, he said.

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