How to change the direction your beard grows – 8 ways

You may be wanting to change the direction of your beard because you have got cowlicks or other undesirable growth patterns.

Changing the direction that your beard grows permanently is impossible without follicle transplants. You can temporarily change the direction of your beard using heat, wax-based products and chemical straightening.

The direction that your beard sits in depends on the direction that the hair follicles are pointing. Any undesirable beard growth directions are set in stone from your birth. The angle at which your hair follicles sits relative to the surface of your skin is pretty much determined by your genetics and can result in different hair morphologies.

If your beard hair sits perfectly perpendicular to your skin, your beard will likely be straighter than average. Hair follicles that grow at an acute angle relative to the skin’s surface will have a higher chance of being incredibly curly.

You will start to notice the direction your hair follicles sit-in in the early stages of growing a beard. Mapping out the direction of your beard growth early on can help you decide which beard styles are best for you.

Shorter beards suffer more than longer beards when hair growth is not in a desirable direction. Beard hair takes a while to grow and get long enough to bend and flex and be held in a certain position.

Short beards are rigid and straight and hard to style.

This article will look at the permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary solutions for getting your beard to sit in the direction that you want it to sit in.

Permanent solutions

Unfortunately, there are no permanent solutions other than removing the hair follicle, relocating it, and changing the angle. This surgical approach is risky, and the transplanted follicles may not take in their new location – leaving you with bald spots and localised scarring.

Follicle transplant

By using a process called follicular unit grafting, the cosmetic surgeon can remove and change the direction of the hair growth. Although, there is no guarantee that the hair will retake in its new position.

Surgery should be your last option as it can go wrong and cause more damage than the issue you were going in there for. This risk does not mean that people do not want it, and a study from 2013 shows that facial hair can be transplanted using a procedure called follicular unit grafting. The study looked at eyebrows, goatees, moustache, and beard transplants. The key points from the study are:

  • angulation is a critical point to achieving aesthetic results – the surgeon has to make sure that the recipient sites are as set a shallow angle as possible to the face to create the best results.
  • There is a certain danger zone in the beard where pumps can occasionally form. It is located in the vertical central column extended from the lower lip to the chin. Bumps can occasionally form from hairs transplanted in this area.

As long as you speak to a qualified and registered cosmetic surgeon who has done this procedure many times before, you shouldn’t have any issues beyond what is normal for cosmetic surgery.

Semi-permanent

You can change the direction that your beard hair grows semi-permanently by using chemical straightening techniques. Chemical straightening is performed with a beard relaxing cream.

Using a semi-permanent solution such as a chemical straightening is perfect for shorter beards where you cannot use heat tools as effectively, and the hairs are stiffer and not long enough to bend and flex into shape.

Using a beard relaxer and chemical straightener is surprisingly simple, and it is something that you can do at home. If you can shampoo and condition your beard, you can quite easily use a beard relaxer as well.

Your hair will stay straight for a relatively long time, and the new hair growth will be curlier than the treated part. Once the new growth makes up about 25 to 50% of your current beard length, you should repeat the application of the chemical straightener.

Chemical straightening

Using a chemical straightening cream typically follows these basic steps:

  • wet your hair in the shower like you would usually do when shampooing your hair
  • Apply the relaxing shampoo from the roots to the tip of the hair – divide your beard into smaller sections if you have to.
  • Use a fine-tooth comb to get the relaxing agent to distribute throughout your beard evenly
  • leave the beard relaxing shampoo in for about 30 minutes – go about your normal showering routine
  • after about 30 minutes, rinse your beard with water to remove the majority of the relaxing shampoo
  • once a note of the shower, blow dry your beard on a medium heat setting
  • use a straightening iron to straighten out any of your curls
  • apply the neutraliser to stop the relaxing cream from working and lock your straight beard hair in place
  • using the shampoo that came with the beard straightener cream, wash your beard three times.
  • Towel dry your beard and apply the sealer to seal in and lock the hair in a straight position.
  • Finish drying your beard how you would normally do, for example, with a hairdryer, and complete the process.

After you have used a chemical straightener, you will not have to use heat treatments or other hold products as much. Using heat tools less means that you can focus on moisturising and conditioning your beard rather than using potentially damaging high heat to force it into a particular direction during the day.

Temporary solutions

Once your beard is approximately 2 to 3 inches in length, you can hide the direction the beard hair grows in by manipulating the direction that the longer hair sits on your face.

For people with a particularly long beard, follicle direction plays less of a role in their Beard style.

Longer beards respond particularly well to these temporary solutions. Also, temporary solutions should be used daily to hold the beard style and shape.

Grow it longer

While I was growing my beard, I noticed some less than desirable growth direction in my beard. I was determined to overcome the issue, and by growing out the hair, I was able to cover up the issues of growth direction easily.

One of the jokes on my YouTube channel is that every beard issue can be solved by growing a longer beard.

As your beard grows, it gets heavier and more malleable.

The weight of the hair could eventually end up pulling it in a downward direction. If that doesn’t work out, the long beard hairs are much easier to bend and style. The cross-sectional area of beard hair is typically very wide and irregular, causing it to be very stiff when it is short.

Growing it out will allow you to bend it and for products to hold the shape much more effectively and allow you to hide the problems in the growth direction.

Heat treatments

Using a beard straightener or a hairdryer on high heat is a great way to straighten and hold a beard in place. I found that my beard was easily held in place by heat treatment as soon as it got longer than 1 inch.

Applying high heat to the beard breaks the bonds between the proteins of the beard hair and resets them in the direction that they cool in.

Using heat is only a temporary solution, and as soon as you get the hair wet, the bonding will return to its natural formation.

I prefer to use a blow dryer on high heat rather than a dedicated beard brush or heated beard tool. Trial different methods until you have come across a heat tool that works for you. You can use a heated comb or flat irons (such as those used for straightening hair) to apply heat to your beard.

Be careful with the high heat near your skin as you can easily cause burns.

For all of the considerations you should make when you are straightening your beard, check out my YouTube video below, where I go through all the dangers and tips.

Products

Products only work as well as the amount of hold they provide to your beard. They are the foundations of a fantastic looking beard. Turning a good beard into a great beard typically relies on knowing which products to use for which circumstances.

Once your beard is longer than a couple of inches, you can use less product. Using a high wax component product is important for holding shorter beard styles or particularly troublesome areas of your beard.

Beard wax and balm

Beard wax and balm is the best way to change the direction of your beard and provide hold throughout the day. I make my DIY beard balm with a very high wax component for holding my beard growth in a particular direction. My beard is wavy and very curly, which means I have to use my formulation. Commercial formulations of beard balm do not hold my beard as well as my recipe.

The YouTube video below shows how I make my DIY beard balm with coconut oil and Shea butter.

If you do not want to make your beard wax, you can purchase it from Honest Amish at a reasonable price. Look for a beard balm and wax made of only natural ingredients and have a high wax component. The more wax in it, the easier it will hold your hair’s in position.

Beard wrapping

Wrapping your moustache or beard while it is fresh out of the shower and first thing in the morning can help undo any beard growth direction issues you have introduced to your beard while sleeping.

Using a handkerchief

I regularly bump into people while walking my dog in the neighbourhood. I have become friends with an Indian man with a glorious beard.

He has a full moustache, and it is always perfectly swept to one side, keeping it out of his mouth.

I asked him what his secret was, and this was it.

He ties a piece of material (such as a handkerchief) around his moustache to keep it flat and swept to the sides. This simple intervention means that even though he has a full moustache, he can train it in the mornings to not fall into his mouth throughout the day.

This news was revolutionary to me as I would normally use heat and product.

He told me that he does it every morning for at least 15 minutes to control his moustache. I like this approach because it is free and available for every bearded and moustached person to use.

If you want to force your beard into a certain direction and minimise the amount of product you use, I recommend trying this before anything else. All you need is a piece of material.

Pinning

If you do not want to wrap your beard and want a more aggressive approach, you could try pinning your beard to ensure that it sits in the right direction.

You can use hairpins on your beard as it dries after a shower.

A top tip is to use non-crease clips from Amazon to pin your hair in the direction you want it to set during the day.

You can take the pins out after approximately 30 minutes. Some people like to leave the beard pinned all day which provides long-lasting physical hold and can help train the beard to grow in a certain direction.

Braiding

If you have a very long beard, you can braid your beard hairs so that they sit in the direction you want them to grow, and you can also create a beard ponytail by pulling the hair forward and creating a front-facing ponytail with your beard.

Why does my beard split in the middle - header

My beard took approximately one year to get long enough to pull completely forward and hold in a ponytail.

Here are two ways that you can use braids or a beard ponytail:

  1. When drying your hair in the morning, you could use a braid to hold the beard in place while it air dries – and then undo the braid before you head out into the world.
  2. Keep a small or large braid in your hair during the day to hold the beard together. It doesn’t have to be very large (and obvious) to do a good job and keeping the two sides of the fork together.

Either of these options is worth trying if you feel like your hair needs a little more control!

The final word

In this article, we have been through the permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary ways in which you can change the direction your beard grows.

Your hair follicle growth direction is determined by your genetics and is predetermined at birth. However, you can change the direction of the hair once it is long enough to sit in any direction. You can use a semi-permanent approach, such as a chemical straightener, or you can use temporary solutions to get the beard to sit in the appropriate direction.

My advice would be to trial a range of different approaches so that you can find the best combination of interventions for your beard. For someone with a particularly wiry beard, you may need to combine three or more of the above approaches to properly control your hair and get it to grow in the right direction.

The Author


Andy Stapleton

Andy is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He is an avid beard grower and after many years of growing and trialing different beard styles, he started this blog to share the tips, tricks, and science that he has learned along the way!