Achieving a softer beard is one of the biggest mysteries in grooming lore. According to a 2023 study by YouGov, over a third of all British dudes have some kind of facial hair, and plenty of them want their beard to be as silky and sumptuous as physically possible. Why? Well, because it just feels nice.

Because, ultimately, it’s all well and good growing a big, bushy one. But if it feels all pointy and spiky and yuck, you (and your significant other) are in for a bad, bad time. Getting a softer beard is going to take a lot more than just a splash of oil and a dash of luck. So, we sat down with London barber TJ Hunt of Ruffians to chat about what you should do, and what you really shouldn’t.

How to get a softer beard

#1: Think skin deep

If you want healthier hair, you need to start with a healthier scalp, and this principle applies to your beard as well. The skin underneath is too often forgotten as it becomes less and less visible. This can result in weak, dry follicles and split ends. To remedy this, you need to be reaching for the cleanser regularly. Sure, you can just use your usual face wash, but if you want your facial hair to be in tip-top condition, then go in with shampoo a couple of times a week.

“There are plenty of beard-specific options available these days and they tend to be formulated to be milder and more moisturising than ones made for your swede,” says Hunt. “This is because scalp skin tends to be oilier than that of your face. Be sure to get a little rough too, use your fingertips to really work away and dislodge any debris and dry skin, clearing the way for healthy hairs to come through. If you suffer with the dreaded beardruff, then exfoliate the area regularly.”

#2: Softer water, softer beard

While we’re on the subject of washing, one of the biggest reasons why you can’t get a softer beard is probably because of the water in your bathroom. If you live in an area where the water is hard, you’ll know the kinds of issues that can come up. Backed up washing machines, crusty kettles, and leaky pipes are just the start. But just think about what it’s doing to your face.

“My girlfriend’s family are from rural Cornwall, and it took me about half a dozen visits to realise that my hair and beard weren’t feeling better as a result of a different formulation of Tresemme in the South West, but of the far softer water I was used to in South London,” says Hunt. “Obvious, really. This isn’t always an issue that is easily remedied for your appliances, but you can get water softening heads and filters for your shower, which is definitely worth looking into.”

#3: Condition in all conditions

Now that your beard is feeling fresh and clean, it’s time for the conditioner. For head hair, this part is most commonly carried out as a follow-up to shampoo in the shower, and this can be the case if you want a softer beard too. Many grooming companies have produced beard conditioners designed to be applied and rinsed out. However, some of the best options are those you add post-shower when your beard has had a chance to dry out.

“Beard oil intensely moisturises and softens both the beard hairs and the skin beneath when applied properly,” says Hunt. “Put a few drops in the palm of your hand, rub them together to warm it, and then work through the strands well, being sure to go up and down and side-to-side thoroughly to get even coverage. It’s a similar story with balm too, which does a similar job but can be a little less intense and sheen-y than oil. With either, be sure to choose one that you like the smell of as it’s in and around your nose all day, so you’ll be surprised how quickly you can tire of inhaling the scent of a raging bonfire.”

#4: Comb sweet comb

One of the most underused and underrated pieces of kit is a beard comb. Because beard hair has a tendency to be wiry, it tangles easily, and once you have knots and matting, bad things happen.

“Once you have applied your chosen oil or balm, gently comb through from top to bottom to stop any tangles forming,” says Hunt. “The same thing goes for a brush too if preferred, but be sure to choose one that is made for beards so it isn’t too coarse.”

#5: Let it grow

When growing a beard, one of the main reasons why so many dudes quit halfway through is because of those sharp, spiky, whiskers that appear when growing out stubble. They’re annoying, they don’t look great, and sometimes, they can be mad itchy. But if you want a softer beard, you need to exercise some patience.

“When a hair follicle first forces its way through the skin, it needs a sharp and strong end to do so,” says Hunt. “As it gets longer and older, it will soften and feel less harsh. We’re not saying you should just leave your beard entirely and go full caveman mode. If you leave the hairs for too long without trimming, then you will get split ends which spells dry, brittle strands. Use scissors or a trimmer to rid yourself of these pesky blighters. So basically, be patient initially, then trim regularly. Simple, right?”

#6: Go with the grain

If you’re fortunate enough to have a coarse, thick beard, there’s a trick that barbers use all the time behind the chair. Trimmers and clippers appear to be designed to be used against the grain, and this is the quickest and most straightforward way of cutting length.

“That being said, if you turn the clippers around so that the blade is going with the direction of growth, then less length will be cut but a lot of bulk and density will disappear,” says Hunt. “This will result in a lighter and softer beard. The same technique can be used on edges to achieve a softer, faded finish with less sharp edges. The added bonus is that you may well be able to leave it a little longer between trims if you adopt this look too. This technique is not recommended for those with finer beard hair or uneven coverage though.”