Cool, so you’ve decided that you want a beard. Good for you! But, as you may already know, that Herculean scruff doesn’t just come out of thin air. In fact, while it might sound a little basic, you should probably to learn how to trim a beard properly first.

According to a 2017 study by YouGov, almost half of all British dudes have some sort of facial hair. And one of the biggest reasons that the other half don’t is because they just don’t know how to correctly maintain it, or grow it. You see, the act of getting a big, bushy beard may sound simple and straightforward in your dreams, but you need to get through that really awkward stage in the middle first: growing it out.

It can get very unkempt and very itchy very fast. And before you shave it all off out of frustration, London barber TJ Hunt of Ruffians is here to impart some of his knowledge on what to do and what not to do when trimming and shaping your beard.

How to trim a beard while growing it out

#1: Get the right kit

While using the right equipment might sound pretty obvious, you’d be surprised by how many people use things like kitchen scissors and wax strips to trim their beard (spoiler: it’s a lot, and another spoiler: don’t do that). While we’re not suggesting that you should go and blow all of your hard-earned cash on barber-level gear, you should at least get yourself a solid trimmer with a decent blade. It’s the least that you can do.

“In the shop we don’t tend to use specific beard trimmers as, in our experience, they’re often a little underpowered and overpriced,” says Hunt. “We use the same type of clippers that we use to shave hair. Half-decent ones can often be picked up for considerably less than the price of some domestic beard trimmers. With these sorts of clippers, the guards tend to be more easily removable, which means that you can use the bare blade for neat lines and edges. Once you’ve invested in decent clippers, then you need to make sure that you maintain it regularly. After each use, brush out the hair so it doesn’t get blocked and blast it with a disinfectant spray. This will stop the blades from getting jammed and rusty, whilst lubricating them at the same time.”

#2: Taper the length

The temptation when trimming your beard is to choose one length and use this all over to give a uniform finish. On paper, this sounds about right. However, the issue is, much like head hair, the beard will grow out in a very uniform shape, which can have a tendency to look round, unflattering, and actually a bit weird.

“Instead, opt for a slightly shorter length through the sideburns and get progressively longer at the chin, it’s likely to grow out nicer and give the face a better silhouette,” says Hunt. “It doesn’t have to be too drastic. If, for example, you usually go for 6mm all over, try starting at 4mm from the sideburns to the bottom of the ears, 5mm through the cheeks, and finally, 6mm at the chin. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you can pick it up, and while the change is quite subtle, it will make all the difference as it grows out.”

When you’re learning how to trim a beard, one thing that you might overlook is your moustache. It can be quite difficult to treat the same as a beard. It gets in the way, for some more than others.

“Your best way around this is to take the guard off the clippers so that it’s just the bare blade, use a comb to pull the hairs away from the lip, and then use this as a replacement for the guard,” says Hunt. “Of course, there’s always a chance of calamity in this situation, so start cautiously. Remember, you can always take more off but you can’t put it back on. If you have a longer moustache, you can trim it with scissors instead if it’s easier for you. While your guard is off, take the time to trim the ends that overhang the top lip. Start in the middle and work outwards in either direction to get the best results.”

#4: Follow the jawline

We all want a stronger jawline. Some of us do all kinds of facial exercises, while others spend their money on lumps of plastic to chew on that, apparently, get you that chiseled Robert Pattinson look. But one of the easiest ways to do this is to give the illusion of one, and you can do this by understanding how to trim a beard the right way.

“When creating the line underneath, it’s best to use your jawline as the guide,” says Hunt. “This will give your beard the most complimentary shape and give your face a mucher tighter appearance. Looking forwards, lift your head up towards the ceiling as much as possible so that you can still see clearly into the mirror. Start in the centre beneath your chin and then work outwards, keeping the same distance from your jawline but following the shape. This takes a bit of mastering, but you should end up with something resembling the top part of a circle. When you put your head back down, you’ll end up with a great profile.”

#5: Go with the grain

The most common way to use clippers is to push against the direction of hair growth. However, they can be used to go with the grain too. Doing this takes off less length but much more weight, resulting in a softer finish.

“This probably isn’t the best idea if you have a fine, soft, or a patchy beard, but it’s a great way to neaten up bulky beards, particularly from the sideburns down to the jaw,” says Hunt. “It stops the beard from looking too wispy and uneven without risking going too short. Once again, it’s best to start with a higher length and work down until you find your preferred look.”

#6: Consult the pros

Let’s face it: your barber will probably do a better job than you will. Not only are they actually qualified to trim your beard, they also have a better vantage point. They can also drop you back and move you around just to get the angles right, so if you’re struggs, hit them up ASAP.

“Once the shape is put in place professionally, it’s much easier for you to maintain it and follow the lines that are already there on your own,” says Hunt. “Be sure to keep on top of it though, as if you allow it to grow out too much, the edges will be blurred and you’ll be on your way back to the barbershop in no time.”