How do you soften stubble? 9 EXPERT techniques

When I first started growing a beard I was amazed at how rough and sharp stubble could be. In the early stages of beard growth stubble is not as rough or spiky. But, as your beard mature laws and you enter the later stages of your beard potential it becomes very sharp. This is primarily noticed by any partners which may be rubbing up against your face. In this article, we are going to go over all of the ways that you can soften your stubble and the expert tips and techniques for leaving your stubble irresistibly soft and smooth.

Soft and irresistible stubble can be achieved by using products such as Shea butter, coconut oil, vitamin E oil as well as stubble softening pads such as the soft goat stubble softener. If none of these work, growing out your stubble or shaving it off completely is your last option.

As the 5 o’clock shadow and the stubble beard get more and more popular – because of their quick growth and easy maintenance – more people are looking for ways to make stubble softer.

Before we launch into the nine insider secrets for making your stubble irresistibly soft we should have a look to see what actually makes stubble feel rough and sharp in the first place.

Why does stubble feel rough and sharp?

Beard hairs grow out from their follicle after being cut or trimmed. At the end of the Beard hair growth cycle the hair can fall out and be replaced by a softer hair – these are not the sorts of hairs that feel rough and sharp. It is the freshly shaved hairs which feel the roughest and the sharpest.

Here are the reasons why your stubble feels rough and sharp:

  • beard hairs are fat – beard hairs are much thicker than any other type of hair on your body and that is because of the size of the hair papilla – the space where the hair grows in your skin. The fatness means that they are more rigid and structurally robust and makes them less likely to bend out of the way when short resulting in a sharp spiky sensation.
  • Trimming causes spiky ends – if you’re trimming or shaving your beard regularly you may notice that your beard becomes particularly spiky after trimming. As beard hair grows it naturally tapers to a point. If you trim a hair the natural taper gets cut and angle and is replaced with a needle-like point.
  • It is dry – dryness causes your beard to look dull and if you have not taken good care of your beard it makes it less flexible and more brittle which can result in a more spiky feeling for your beard.
  • Split ends – dry and poorly maintained beards can end up with a significant number of split ends. The more split ends you have it can increase the perceived spikiness and make the beard much more unruly.

You can see, from the above list, that dealing with the beard hairs nourishment and trimming up any split or dry ends can seriously improve a beards softness.

When you have such a short beard hair – as in the case of stubble – you need to focus a lot more on making the hair soft through products or by removing the sharp edges created by your last trim or shave.

Now that you know the underlying causes of how your stubble becomes sharp and rough here are the nine tricks for making your stubble irresistibly soft.

How to make your stubble irresistibly soft

Making your stubble beard irresistibly soft comes down to making a choice about your beard. If you want to change the issue permanently you can choose to grow it out. Alternatively, there are ways to temporarily soften your beard using products such as Shea butter and coconut oil – but as soon as you trim up your beard it is likely to become spiky again.

Making sure that your daily routine includes some form of softening product is going to be one of the best ways to ensure that your stubble remains soft throughout the day. A little bit of effort every morning is going to be the key in achieving permanently soft stubble no matter how often you trim or shave your beard.

1. Grow it out

For a permanent solution to your spiky stubble problems you can grow it out to a slightly longer length.

When I was growing out my beard I notice that even just a few millimetres extra length allowed the hair to flex and bend just a little bit more causing it to be less spiky and much softer to the touch.

Beard hair grows at 0.38 mm (0.015 inch) per day. A stubble beard is likely to be somewhere between 0.5 mm (0.02 inch) and 5 mm (0.20 inch) in length. The table below shows you how long your stubble gets if you let it grow for two weeks, 14 days.

DayLength (mm)
10.38
20.76
31.14
41.52
51.9
62.28
72.66
83.04
93.42
103.8
114.18
124.56
134.94
145.32

This means that you can leave up to a two weeks worth of growth and still have a stubble length beard. Trimming up once a week is quite common for busy professionals which gives you a nice aero bar to trial different lengths of stubble.

Not all stubble beards are created equally and therefore trialling different lengths between one and two weeks worth of growth will allow you to find the optimum point of softness and style for your stubble beard.

2. Trim problem areas

If you have recently grown your stubble from a clean shave it is likely that the hair will have been cut at an angle which is going to increase the sharpness of the beard hair.

At shorter lengths – like a stubble beard – the spikiness caused by sharp ends on beard hair is more apparent than in longer beards.

If you notice that your stubble is particularly sharp on one area of your face you can use a good quality set of trimmers to remove the tips of the hairs to soften them up. This removes the sharp ends of your stubble and can help flatten it so it doesn’t feel as spiky to the touch.

Beard hairs grow at different rates on different parts of your face and you can use trimmers to even up the length as well as snapping off the sharp ends.

As you pass the trimmers over your beard you should listen for tiny clipping noises to indicate that you are actually trimming the stubble. If you are not hearing the small trimming clipping noises you need to reduce the length of your guard so that you hear this sound.

3. Use shea butter

Shea butter is a fantastic product that is amazing for each and every part of your beard growing journey. I have been using Shea butter for as long as I have been grown beard – even when I had stubble – and I always keep a fresh batch on hand for when I want to give my skin and beard that extra boost.

Here is a picture of me and my favourite brand of Shea butter:

Shea butter is extracted from the nuts of the Shea tree and in its raw form it has an off-white colour that is a solid at room temperature. All you have to do is heat up the solid in your hands until it is pliable enough to rub over the length of your beard.

Shea butter has an amazing array of properties that are completely backed up by science:

  • It can help you beat beardruff – In 2018 a study found that when used in combination with other products it helps reduce flakes.
  • It may help hair get stronger – Similar plant-based butter has been shown to make hair much more resistant to breakages
  • It is antibacterial and antifungal – if your beard is smelling or you have some issues with a dirty beard. Shea butter will help fight off the bacteria that are in your beard. Want more about beard bacteria? Check out this article all about beard bacteria.
  • Can add slight sun protection to your beard hair – If you live in a sunny and hot environment shea butter ats an extra layer of sun protection that has been estimated to provide a 3 – 4 SPF protection.

If I had to choose just one product to try and soften up my stubble it would be Shea butter. Get yourself some right now – you won’t regret it!

4. Coconut oil

Coconut oil is another fantastic product for hair because it has been well documented to seep into the hairs cuticle. You can use a little bit of heat to make the absorption of the coconut oil into the hair more efficient.

A study published in 2012 called Quantitative measurement of the penetration of coconut oil into human hair using radiolabeled coconut oil looked at the science behind the penetration of coconut oil into hair.

Applying coconut oil to hair has been used for centuries particularly in Asian and African countries and it is the fact that the oil stops water penetrating into the hair to cause swelling and breakages which results in the main protection mechanism.

The scientists looked at the absorption of the coconut oil into the human hair by using a small radioactive component (tritium) in the coconut oil. 10 cm long strands of Indian hair was soaked in 1.5 mL of the coconut oil which had been radiolabelled.

The method was able to distinguish between surface deposited oil and oil that had been absorbed directly into the hair fibre. It was found that the oil was deposited mainly on the surface of the hair but also was able to penetrate the hair fibre.

To use coconut oil effectively you have to make sure that you give enough time to penetrate into the core of the hair and you do that by heating it up so that it becomes easy to apply to the hair and leave it for at least 20 minutes after application.

Washing with a mild shampoo afterwards is a fantastic way of softening your stubble.

5. Vitamin E oil

Vitamin E oil is a fat-soluble nutrient that you can either eat or apply to the surface of your stubble and skin.

Many proponents of vitamin E oil claimed that it has an antioxidant property which helps your stubble and beard in many ways:

  • Increase shine – There is limited scientific evidence that vitamin E restores shine but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from manufacturers of hair products and their customers. It probably won’t hurt to give it a go for your beard!
  • Prevent hair fall from beard – there is a very small study that looked at the ability of vitamin E to prevent hair loss. More research is needed but the results from the study showed a small improvement of hair growth over the placebo control.
  • Heathier skin – Vitamin E could help you maintain healthy skin underneath the beard due to its antioxidant effects. This property could help reduce the amount of oxidative stress that could cause the hair follicles to break down.

Because of its antioxidant properties you can add some to your beard oil to make it last much longer.

Apply vitamin E to your beard and allowed to sit against the hair for between 10 and 15 minutes. Alternatively, vitamin E can be found in foods such as leafy greens, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils and fortified cereals.

6. Try a range of products

When your beard is in the stubble stage you have the opportunity to try a lot of different types of beard products to find which one works best for softening up your stubble.

There are a range of different beard products such as beard oil, beard balm, beard butter, and more. Depending on your beard density and beard hair type some of these products may work better for you than others.

Which product softens uncomfortable stubble?

When I was first growing my beard I was very sceptical of anyone trying to force a sort of beard product on me. However, over time I realise that some beard products are fantastic for every type of beard – whether it is stubble or a super long beard. By trialling a range of different products you are able to work out what is best for you.

Beard oil

Beard oil is something that a lot of people use very early on because it is not just for the hair – is perfect for your skin as well. Beard oil can be used from the stubble stage and provide your beard hair and skin with a range of benefits and will allow you to lay the perfect foundation for growing or some stubble.

In the stubble stage just one or two drops evenly distributed across your face is all you need. Using a beard oil directly after a nice hot shower can lock in some of the moisture from the hair and cause it to be softer when dry.

Beard butter

Beard butter offer a much more hydrating and conditioning action than beard oil. Beard butters tend to contain Shea butter and cocoa butter which creates a softness to your stubble which is unparalleled by any other type of product.

The great thing about buying a beard butter is that it can contain not only incredible ingredients for softening your stubble but it can also contain a range of essential oils which will leave your stubble feeling and smelling great.

The best time to apply beard butter is directly after you have received a good shampoo and conditioning. After drying your beard with a towel you can apply some beard butter to lock in the moisture from the shower and protect your stubble for the rest of the day.

7. Stubble softening pads

Stubble can also be tamed by using a product to rub off the sharp ends of your hairs.

There is a product called The Soft Goat which is a hypoallergenic pad which, when rubbed on stubble, dulls sharp edges from trimming and shaving. It is the first stubble softener that doesn’t rely on absorption of a product into the stubble.

The concept is very simple – it is quickly and easily removing the sharp ends of your hair through mechanical action. It is a small and lightly textured pad that you gently rub in a circular motion over your daily growth for about a minute or two depending on your results.

Each pad lasts about two months and comes in a box of three – so that is six months of super soft stubble!

8. Brushing

Brushing your beard may also help break off the tips of the stubble which is causing it to be sharp and rough.

Simply using a natural bristle brush across your entire beard may help knock off and round off the sharp tips.

I recommend that you use your brush in the following way:

  • Take your brush and rub it in small circular motions over your entire stubble.
  • Focus on areas that are particularly scratchy such as any extreme changes in angles such as the jaw and the chin.
  • Do this for 5 to 10 minutes without applying huge amounts of pressure.
  • Finally, grab your brush and brush downwards (or in the direction of the hair growth) until you notice a significant improvement in stubble softness.

If you do not have great success with this you can use a harder bristle brush to increase the amount of pressure that is applied to the stubble. Do not push harder against the skin as this can cause significant irritation.

9. Home remedies

There are a number of home remedies that you can use to soften stubble stop the great thing about home remedies is that you are likely to have some of these in your cupboard right now.

If you want a full run down on the best home remedies to make your beard soft check out my other article where I have loads more recipes – click here to be taken to article. These are, however, my favourite ones and I have seen a significant improvement in the softness of my beard when using these two recipes!

Banana and honey

Perhaps your beard is looking dull, drive, and frizzy. This means that it may need extra help in retaining the moisture that is lost throughout the day. Creating a banana and honey beard mask will help look much softer and shinier.

Bananas are an ideal base for a home-made beard mask because they are packed full with all sorts of healthy oils and fats which can moisturise and strengthen your beard hair.

You can also mix your banners with other ingredients such as milk, olive oil, and avocado for a full range beard treatment. Bananas are easy to get hold of and are relatively inexpensive so are perfect for someone looking for an ideal beard soft in a home remedy.

Use as follows:

  • take two ripe bananas and mix with about half a cup of honey.
  • Place the banana and honey mix in a blender – alternatively you can’t mash it together with a fork until smooth.
  • Make sure that the honey is warm as it will not mix well if left cold.
  • Apply the mixture to your beard making sure that you work it into the roots all the way through to the tips. I recommend you do this over a sink or in the bathtub.
  • Cover your beard with a beard wrap and let the banana mask sit on your face for at least 20 minutes.
  • Then, wash and condition your hair as normal – with or without shampoo. You can repeat this as often as you want. If you find that you are having problem removing the honey increase the temperature of the water.

Avocado

Avocados are delicious and a wicked source of healthy fats. They contain a huge amount of vitamin E which, like vitamin A, helps combat oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the body. One study resulted in people with hair loss seeing 34.5% more hair growth after taking Vitamin E for eight months.

But not only is it good for eating – is perfect as a topical treatment as well. A 2015 study found that minerals in avocado oil – which was the potassium and magnesium – may help cuticle cells lay flat against the shaft of the hair.

This will help your beard hair remained smooth and shiny.

Use as follows:

  • use a fork to mash one full avocado into a smooth paste.
  • At this point add any other ingredients such as coconut oil, olive oil, lemon juice, eggs, aloe vera, bananas, and more.
  • Place the paste into your hair and make sure that it goes from root to tip.
  • Leave it in your hair for at least 30 minutes.
  • Rinse out the paste in the shower and shampoo and condition your hair as usual.

Because of the fatty nature of the avocados you should apply this to dry hair so that it does not have to penetrate past any water to sit at the surface of your hair and close to the cuticles. Because the facts and water repel each other this will ensure a deep treatment.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is an incredible plant that has very thick leaves with a gel -like substance inside of them. It’s found all over the world and many people can grow it in their own gardens. How about that for a self-sufficient home remedy is to keep your beard soft?

If you don’t have an aloe vera plant in your garden you can easily buy the gel at a supermarket and there is no harm in doing that.

To use it all you have to do is:

  • wet your beard hair
  • apply the aloe vera gel (or mashed up fresh aloe vera) to your beard hair
  • let it sit against your beard for at least 10 minutes
  • wash your beard with a mild soap and follow-up with your typical beard routine.

Aloe vera helps strengthen and repair hair strands as it contains vitamin A, C, and E. Which all help contribute to healthy cell growth and shiny hair.

Summary

In this article, we have looked at how you soften stubble. We have looked at all of the products including the mechanical action that you can use to snip off and break off the extreme ends of the hair which may be causing the large part of the spikiness.

You can use products which are purchased from stores but there are plenty of great stubble softening home remedies which also work incredibly well.

Keep trialling different approaches until you find something that works perfectly for your stubble.

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!