How to Shape & Shave a Beard Neckline
What is the neckline?
The neckline is found under your chin towards your throat, and is the point where your neck meets the underside of your face. It’s also the point where, for the majority of beards, the facial hair should stop and give way to a shaven throat and neck. It can be completely clean shaven or gradually stubbled to fade away according to the style of your beard, and only rarely looks good left unattended or just mildly trimmed. With this in mind we give you the Real Bearded Men’s guide on how to find, shape and shave your neckline.
Why make a neckline?
Almost all beard shapes and styles include close trimming or shaving the hair growing up your neck towards the area under your chin. The only exception might be the full, thick and very long mane where, from whatever angle it is viewed, is simply that: full, thick and very long! Even then you might not want hair sprouting down your neck too far, doing its best to join up with your chest hair, so knowing how to find and trim your neckline is essential information for all pogonophiles.
Defining the neckline with a clear cut edge neatens your beard, keeps the lines clean for dapper designs and gives a well maintained appearance. A well defined neckline is also an excellent way to give your beard a thicker appearance from the side – something you won’t be looking at, but others will! For a slightly less snazzy style there’s also the choice of having a line fading out without a distinctive cut, gradually becoming shorter away from the beard until it becomes nonexistent. In addition to the overall look of your best facial feature, trimming the neck avoids uncomfortable itchiness and the all-too-easy scenario of an out of control, grimy, unhealthy area on an otherwise perfect beard.
How do you find the correct line?
Having decided that making a neckline can benefit your appearance, you’ll need to work out where it should be. It should be noted that certain styles require specific lines, such as the chinstrap which usually has a higher line, or the full, bushy beard which can almost do away with the line altogether. In general terms short beards suit higher necklines than longer ones; however, cutting low is better than carving too high. Low lines give you the chance to gradually work upwards to an optimum point, whereas cutting excessively high looks like you’ve had an accident with the razor! Whatever you decide, avoid the line intruding into the beard itself, whether on the chin or along the jaw, as this balloons the face out of proportion to the hair it’s supporting.
If you are unsure of where to start to find this oh-so-important neckline, there are several methods to define the basic line that divides the neck from the beard:
- Place two fingers above your Adam’s apple. The top of this is the approximate dividing line.
- Alternatively, look down so that a crease forms and use a finger to mark the place before raising your head again. This natural crease marks the dividing line.
Once you have found it, imagine a line running from slightly below one earlobe downwards, curving gently to that point. Make the line symmetrical on the other side of your face, and voila! The exact shape of the line from ear to throat can be decided by three main elements: the style of your beard, the length of it, and the shape of your face. However, everything below this imaginary line is surplus to your beardy requirements and can be shaved off.
Tools of the trade
To make a good job of delineating this area of your beard, there are a few tools you should consider investing in, if you haven’t already.
- WOODEN COMB AND BRUSH: To untangle and lay the hair.
- RAZOR & SHAVING CREAM: Creates a clean shave for those with a steady hand.
- BEARD TRIMMER: With sharp cutting blades and several guards for a variety of hair lengths.
- SCISSORS: Great for trimming back by hand rather than being clean shaven.
- BEARD BIB: Catch those naughty surplus hairs before they try to escape into the wash basin or over the tiles!
- MIRROR: Preferably multi angled so that you can see exactly what you are doing.
How to trim a neckline
Before you pick up the razor or trimmer, take the time to use the brush and comb to settle the hairs down into their natural growing direction, ridding them of any tangles or knots and allowing you to see and feel exactly what is – and isn’t – wanted.
Use the mirror, looking at it with your head straight (not tilted sideways nor overly up or down). From here locate the site of the neckline as described above. Also view how others will see you. From this direct look, basically anything you can see extending down your throat needs to be consigned to the beard bib!
A trimmer makes the job easier but you will most likely still need a razor once the main trimming is completed to finish up, unless you are looking for a stubbled look or fading line.
1) Fix the length guard at least two settings shorter than the length of the hairs in your beard.
2) Look upwards and locate the center point of the neckline – remember, it should be no more than two fingers up from your Adam’s apple.
3) With your free hand stretch the skin away from the site. The skin on your neck is looser than on your face and needs to be taut to make a good base for the cutting action of the trimmer.
4) Place trimmer at this central point and work downwards, and then continue out under your jaw. As you move further to one side the action should become more slanted towards your shoulder, but don’t be tempted to make the line too rounded – a gentle curve is all that is needed. And don’t intrude up too far upward; keep the trim under the jaw line. Remember, a little long is better than too short!
5) Once one side is done return to the middle and trim the other side, keeping the imagined line symmetrical.
6) Think about how you want the angle to look where the vertical line comes from below your ear lobe to the more horizontal line under your jaw. The sharpest of designs will require a neat, angled corner, whereas less structured styles may look better with a more rounded appearance.
7) Once you’re satisfied that you have the whole neckline in the right place – and more importantly, absolutely symmetrical - it’s time to switch over to the razor and shave your throat and neck properly, leaving a smart and hairless area that shows off your beard to its very best.
SCISSORS & RAZORS
You could substitute the trimmers for scissors, but be sure to have a steady hand! Once you have experience and are confident about where your neckline should be, this may become your preferred option though.
If you’d sooner go straight to the razor option, a single blade is best to obtain the precise line you are trying to achieve. It’s really important to keep the skin taut, use a good quality shaving cream and go steady! However, the result of such a close shave can be very rewarding for the really smart, snazzy look.
THE FADING NECKLINE
If your beard style is not suited to a clear, crisp line under the jaw, you could opt for a gradual petering out, with the hairs ranging from the main beard length immediately above the perceived line to nothing at some point further down your neck.
1) Once again fix the trimmer guard at least two settings shorter than the length of the hairs in your beard, and proceed to trim everything below the neckline at this length.
2) Reduce the guard setting by one or two grades and start the trim again, but this time beginning further down, just below the Adam’s apple.
3) Again reduce the setting and work on the lowest area.
4) Decide where you want the fade to end and shave everything below it so that those neck hairs don’t look like they’re heading towards your chest.
The shorter your beard style, the more attention you will have to give to the fading neckline to keep it neat and under control. A long beard tends to hide much of the area allowing you to be a little lazier in its upkeep!
The most likely miscalculation you can make before you become experienced with the neckline trim is carving into the beard area on your chin or jaw. Setting the line too high or an accidental slip of the razor can result in an unnatural, awkward intrusion and can even make you look as though you have acquired a double chin!
Fear not, all is not lost! Ok, it’s going to take a little while to grow out but don’t feel you need to shave off your beard and start again. Patience is the key, and you can put it down to the whole beard-growing learning experience!
If you are new to beards, don’t try to create a neckline too soon. Best to allow some decent growth before considering making a discerning point between beard and neck!
To repair neckline mistakes, allow all your beard hair to grow unchecked for a week or two. Then come back to defining the new, reviewed line once again, letting the previous experience guide to make a choice lower down. You will need to trim your beard to the desired length and style and redefine the neckline. Easy with just a little patience!
Alternatively you could allow all growth for two or three days (rather than for several weeks) and then carve a new neckline below the previous one. Eventually the hairs you want to retain will even out with your beard and blend in the way you want them too.
OTHER TIPS FOR NECKLINE TRIMMING
- When shaving the neck, shave in the same direction that the hairs grow rather than against them. This will prevent unnecessary irritation and ingrown hairs from forming.
- Always use a good quality shaving cream that allows the razor to both cut and glide easily.
- Keep the neck skin taut to prevent snags, scrapes and cuts, both when using the trimmer and the razor.
- Trim right after taking a warm shower or damping with a warm towel, opening the pores and creating a more effective shaving surface. Once finished, close the pores again with cold water or an alcohol-free aftershave.
So now you know all necklines, how to judge them and what to do, go ahead and test out what you’ve learnt to create the perfect throat area to match the shape and style of your beard! You’ll look smarter, sharper and as though this beard is meant to be, rather than an accident of nature that’s not quite sure what to do with itself!