Like scalp hair, sometimes beard hair is unruly and needs grooming before it looks good enough for public consumption.
But when beard oils, beard conditioners, balms, and a comb just won’t do, the other option is to heat. Of course, we all know that heat can damage scalp hair, but what effects does it have on your beard?
Is it safe to use?
Three Different Ways to Add Heat to Your Beard
There are three main ways to apply heat to your beard while styling and all are relatively easy to do. You can add heat to your beard by:
- Blow drying: Using a hairdryer is one way to apply heat to your beard. The force of the hot air and the heat itself work together to shape and dry your facial hair. Blow drying, when done using a continuous motion and held 15 cm from the beard, can actually do less damage to your beard than air drying per this Korean study. However, excessive blow drying can lead to dry skin.
- Flat ironing: Flat irons are generally made for scalp hair and are designed in a way that makes them a little difficult to use for facial hair. But if needed, they do work the same on beard hair as they do elsewhere, but they’re more damaging than a blow dryer. Flat irons are good if you want a straight beard.
- Electric Beard Straighteners: These are designed for use on facial hair and as such are much simpler to use than a flat iron. They are designed with a heated brush front to comb the unruly hairs while also applying heat.
Related: How to Use a Beard Straightener
Regardless of the Device, Keep the Heat Low
When applying heat to your beard, regardless of which device you choose, it is crucial to keep the temperature low. Heat is useful in styling the hair, but it can also cause serious damage to the hair shaft by weakening the hydrogen bonds of the hair.
It is best to only use a heating device with adjustable heat settings rather than a cheaper product with a simple ‘on and ‘off’ switch. The latter will give you very little control over the heat application and may lead to your hair becoming permanently damaged.
Before Applying Heat, Dry Your Beard
When styling your facial hair, the first step should be to dry your beard. Be sure to pat your hair dry with a towel and blow dry it prior to getting your flat iron or beard straighteners out. Only ever apply heat to your beard once it has dried, as applying heat to a wet beard may cause damage to the outer cuticle of the hair while also trapping water inside of the hair (in the cortex). This water may then boil under excessive use of heat, which can cause damage to the hair follicle from the inside out.
Heat Protectants are a Must
When using heat on scalp hair, heat protectants are incredibly important for facial hair. Applying lightweight heat oils or sprays before styling your beard can help to protect the follicle and hair shaft from damage. This is even more important if you regularly use heat to style your beard.
Heat Expedites & Locks In Styling
While heat could cause damage to your facial hair, it can help you attain a certain stye and battle a beard cowlick. Some men even apply heat when trying to form and lock in a perfect handlebar mustache.
Condition Thoroughly Once Finished
Heat doesn’t just impact your facial hair, but it can also dry out your skin. So when you are done applying heat to your beard, apply a beard conditioner such as beard oil or beard balm. These will help to restore moisture to the skin and help to keep your facial hair healthy and soft.
Signs of Excessive Heat Exposure
Here are a few signs you may be applying too much heat to your beard:
If you begin to notice a lot of split ends in your beard, it may be a sign that you’re blow-drying your facial hair too often. This can be resolved by trimming the split ends off and reducing the amount of heat you apply.
Rough or Coarse Facial Hair
You may notice that your beard suddenly feels more rough or coarse than usual. This may be noticed by you, or by a partner who may be suffering from irritation or itchiness from close contact.
Using too much heat on your beard can cause the follicle to break, which impedes beard growth, resulting in a shorter beard.
Repeatedly applying heat to your beard and skin can cause dryness. This can develop into dry, flaking skin also known as beard dandruff. Make sure that you condition your beard regularly with a beard balm or beard oil while also using a beard shampoo to gently cleanse your facial hair.
How can you fix a heat-damaged beard?
The first step involves determining what it is that is causing the heat damage. This might be your grooming routine, or perhaps something completely unrelated such as heat exposure at work, an extremely dry climate, etc. Once you know what is causing the issue, you can work to reduce the use or protect your beard from the heat.
You will then need to trim off any irreversible damage, such as split ends. This may result in a very short beard, but it is the only way to grow your beard back damage-free. You may want to implement deep conditioning and moisturizing beard care products as part of your regular grooming routine.
Will straightening a beard cause long-term damage?
Done incorrectly, at too high a heat, straightening your beard can lead to long-term damage to your hair follicles. However, using an electric beard straightener at a relatively low heat setting with a protective spray can help prevent your hair follicles from damage while still allowing you to style your beard.
Should you apply a heat protectant to your beard?
Yes, you should apply a heat protectant spray or oil to your beard before blow-drying. It will help to protect the hair shaft and follicles from heat damage.
Can you heat train facial hair?
It’s nearly impossible to change how your facial hair grows. Even men who attempt heat training by repeatedly combing and applying heat to their beards won’t often see a significant difference in the growth direction. Instead, the weight of the hair follicle and a styling agent will have a larger impact on the direction your beard grows.