Just like learning how to fade your hair, learning how to fade your beard isn’t so easy. It’s one thing giving your facial hair a little shave or a little trim. But graduating it into your sideburns and hairline is a different beast altogether.

Luckily for you, unlike the hair on your head, facial hair grows a lot quicker. That means you’ve a much bigger window to practice. On top of that, big city barber TJ Hunt of Ruffians is here to impart some wisdom of what to do and what not to do when perfecting the DIY beard fade.

How to fade your beard

#1: Take it slow

Trimming your beard to one uniform length is pretty straightforward. However, attempting a faded beard? Give yourself as much time as possible. If you’re too heavy-handed, you might end up with a hatchet job. Or worse: no beard at all.

“The best way to do it, particularly until you build up a bit of confidence, is to start at the longest length and work your way down one step at a time,” says Hunt. “It’s the way most barbers learn how to fade a beard when they’re mastering their trade. If you’re using a trimmer that increases and decreases in millimetres then this is easy enough, but if you’re using a clipper with guards that attach, then be sure to move the blade lever up and down between them, as this halves the gap. For example, if you go from a three to a two guard, then there’s a four millimetre difference. But if you lift the lever, then this narrows to two millimetres, which will make it so much easier to achieve a seamless blend.”

#2: Start from the bottom

With almost all faded beard styles, the longest (and toughest) hair is at the chin. This helps to create and enhance a traditionally masculine jawline.

“Get the chin length on point and slowly decrease the length from here,” says Hunt. “Some barbers or stylists will start at the top of the sideburns, which is often where the shortest point is. However, there is a greater margin for error by doing this. If your transition from short to long is too severe, you’ll likely end up with less hair at the chin than you initially wanted.”

#3: The devil’s in the details

No matter how good your fade work is, it’s not gonna bang unless the edges are nice and clean.

“The easiest way is to remove all guards and protectors to expose the clipper blade,” says Hunt. “Don’t worry, these are unlikely to cut you as they’re not as sharp as a traditional razor. Holding your clippers in one hand, stretch your skin with the other to get the most surface area and best view, then lightly press the blade against your beard to create a clean line. Be sure to only nick the edges, as if you go too far in you could end up looking like Craig David from the early 2000s.”

#4: Invest in some decent kit

Sure, any set of clippers will do. But if you want to achieve the best fade possible, then you’ll need the best gear. Some professional-level clippers have something called “stagger-tooth blades.” These are designed to create a more even blend for fades and tapers.

“Don’t be tricked into thinking that these will entirely do the job for you though,” says Hunt. “They make life easier, but you’ll still need to know what you’re doing to avoid calamity. Cordless clippers are always much easier to move around your face and into the difficult areas like under your neck and by your ears. Those pesky wires can get everywhere you don’t want them to.”

#5: Do your research

It’s well worth researching online to find out what kind of beard you want. That way, you know what length you need to leave at the longest point and how short you’re looking to go at the shortest. Also, much like head hair, beard types vary immensely, so consider how different styles would look with the colour and texture of your beard.

“For example, sharp lines and faded beards that transition from very short to very long tend to work best on dark, coarse beards,” says Hunt. “If your own facial foliage is lighter or finer, the end result may not be so striking, and you may be better going for a softer look.”

#6: Finish with a flourish

Once you’ve learned how to fade your beard, then be sure to reach for a little beard oil or balm to finish your look. Not only will these elixirs highlight your fine work by shaping and conditioning your strands, it’ll also help to keep your beard in tip-top condition, which will make the trimming job easier going forward.

“Beard oil is basically like a concentrated moisturiser for your chin coverage, preventing both the hairs and skin underneath from drying out,” says Hunt. “Balm does still offer hydration, but not to the same degree as oil. However, it does more in terms of shaping and styling which is ideal for longer appendages. Whichever one you choose to go for, be sure to choose a concoction that you like the smell of. There’s nothing worse than inhaling a scent you’re not keen on all day and night, particularly when its applied so close to your nostrils.”