As you are growing a beard you may notice that more and more hair is falling out or your hair is breaking. As your beard grows longer it gets harder and harder to maintain your hair. That is simply because the longhairs are the oldest on the end – where most of the damage can occur. I have been trialing a range of different approaches to stop beard breakage and, in this article, I can share with you the most important things for keeping your beard strong and shiny.
You can stop your beard from breaking by going easy on the heat, being particularly careful when combing wet beard hair, ensuring your beard comb is not damaging your beard hair, and replacing the natural oils which are easy to lose through shampooing using Beard oil, butter, or conditioner.
Firstly, let’s take a look at all of the reasons why your beard keeps breaking off.
Why does your beard keep breaking off?
Your beard may be easy to break off for a variety of care reasons. They primarily fall into two categories: breakage caused by mechanical stress and breakage caused by chemical stress. Mechanical stress is caused through heat and excessive combing or grooming whilst chemical stress is over shampooing your beard, using harsh beard dyes, or not eating the right variety of foods to keep your beard looking and feeling awesome.
The outside layer of the hair (the cuticle) looks like roof tiles that are laid on top of each other. In order to keep it looking shiny and healthy these tiles need to be laid flat against the hair. When they are not laying flat they can allow chemicals and pollution to damage the inner core which accelerates breakage.
Beards are incredibly wild and hard to tame. This causes a variety of people to consider using heat treatments such as beard straighteners and blow dryers on high heat. Of course, these tools can help to control the hair but can easily be overdone and cause damage which leads to breakages.
In the many years of growing my beard I have discovered that there is no reason you shouldn’t straighten your beard as it is a very useful tool. If you want to find out more about whether or not you should straighten your beard check out my other article – should you straighten your beard? The ultimate guide – click here.
Using a blow dryer to straighten out the wild beard hairs can be achieved at a much lower heat than you think. Even my thick and bushy beard can be tamed gently with a medium heat.
There are many chemicals in the environment that can damage our beard. These can come from pollution, smoking, the ocean, swimming pools and many other places. Our body is in a constant fight with nature and man-made pollution in order to keep our body and our beard is healthy.
Typically, a well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle can easily fight these external forces. However, sometimes we like to put chemicals on our beards in order to style them and change their colour.
Chemical straightening of beards involves the use of a strongly alkaline agent and results in at least 35% of the bombs being changed. Chemical hair straining can be very damaging to the hair and when it is performed correctly it still results in a loss of about 20% of the strength of the hair. It results in the chemical and physical damage to the hair shaft with the loss of proteins and moisture resulting in dry and brittle hair. Many beard owners who have used a chemical treatment experience hair fall and breakage above and beyond people who have not chemically straightened their hair.
Also, many people who are suffering from grey hair appearing in their beard opt to dye their beard. The excessive use of dyes can quickly cause your beard to become dry and make it much more prone to breakages.
If you want to dye your beard I strongly recommend that you opt for natural darkening products. If you want to know more about the best natural darkening products on the market you should read my other article – click here for the full rundown on natural beard darkening.
Garbage in, garbage out. This is the ultimate motto of someone who is trying to get healthy. If you do not provide your body with a balanced diet it is likely that your hair will become weak and brittle. For most people this isn’t too much of an issue because you can simply eat a varied balanced diet to make sure that you are getting everything that you require. However, some people are on a calorie restricted or food group restricted diet which may cut out some of the most important vitamins and minerals for growing a strong beard.
For more things that you can eat to make your beard also check out my YouTube video where I talk about the seven foods that will increase your beard growth:
Your beard is on the front of your face. Your face literally faces the world all of the time. Your beard undergoes the same environmental stresses as the rest of your face but, is much more prone to being dried out.
Also, you really can’t win…
In order to stop beard breakage you need to make sure that your beard is either protected from the elements – using a UV spray or beard bandanna – or you are able to replace the moisture which is lost throughout the day.
Cold air will cause the cuticles to lift which allows moisture to escape from the depths of the hair. Alternating between cold air and hot air will cause your beard to grow out much faster. This, combined with a windy environment but also dry your beard out more rapidly.
On the other end of the weather spectrum, a dry and arid environment will also drive your beard. Using a leave in conditioner at the end of the day and doing regular hydration treatments can allow you to replace the moisture that is lost throughout the day.
Now that you know all of the reasons for why your beard is brittle and why it is easy to break, here are the things that you can do to remedy it.
How do you stop my beard from breaking?
Stopping a beard from breaking primarily involves using the right tools, so you do not put your beard under too much mechanical stress, whilst also using the right products to replace any moisture or natural oils that are lost during the day.
I highly recommend that you develop a daily beard routine which helps your beard recover from your activities.
Play about with the different types of conditioning in order to find the perfect balance for your own situation and beard issues. It took me a few months to really work out what was the best combination of products and treatments for my beard but now I can treat my beard with kindness every day and give it exactly what it needs and wants.
Here are some of the things that may help you design your very own beard routine…
Go easy on the heat
despite warnings from other people I blowdry my beard every morning. It doesn’t matter if I have used shampoo or not. All that matters is that I want my beard to lay flat and blow drying at a medium heat seems to be the best way to accomplish that.
I have trialed a range of different heat products including a number of expensive and inexpensive beard straighteners. You can find out my opinion on these on my YouTube video, below:
Ultimately, you have to make sure that your beard is not exposed to very high heat. If your beard heat treatment is too hot you can also cause an issue called bubble hair. This is explained in more detail in a journal published in 1994 where the heating of damp air can cause bubbles to form inside the beard hair fibres. This in turn results in dry, weak, and brittle hair which is very easy to break.
Start on a low heat and carefully increase the temperature into you start seeing the results that you want. My blow dryer comes with three heat settings, cold, medium, and high heat. I always use the medium heat setting followed by the cold heat setting to remove the heat from my beard when I am finished.
Treat wet hair with care
In general hair is incredibly strong. On average a single strand of hair can carry up to 100 g of weight. You can even test this by doing your own experiment outlined in this scientific American article. Hair is strong because it has a three-layered structure. There are keratin fibres that make up the middle layer of the hair strand which is the same stuff that your fingernails are made of.
Although beard hair is incredibly strong there is an important exception to this rule – when you’re hair is wet. Wet hair is far weaker than dry hair, which makes it more susceptible to being broken than just about anything else you can do with it. Pulling on the hair strands are more likely to damage wet hair than dry hair.
Hair is comprised of protein created in the hair follicle. In the middle of the hair are proteins called keratin and they are covered in cuticles which is like a protective covering for the middle of the hair. When hair is wet it absorbs the water and swells. This interrupts the bonds in the hair making it easier to damage.
As the hair is stretched (during combing and brushing) the stretching deforms the outer protective layer causing the cuticle edges to lift up and break stop once its cuticle armour is damaged it can make the beard feel rough and wirier.
Use a beard comb
One of the easiest mistakes to make whilst styling and maintaining a beard is to use a beard comb which damages the hair. I did it for a long time – I used a cheap comb which was injection molded. The injection molded nature of the beard comb meant that the edges of the teeth had a very tiny seam which made it easy to scratch away at the hairs and we can the outer layer.
If you want to avoid this you need to look for a comb which has been manufactured by being machined out of a single piece of material either wood or plastic.
Kent beard combs are the best plastic cones since they have been manufactured in a way that keeps the beard protected. I’m amazed at the array of different combs available online – click here to choose your favourite comb.
Replace the natural oils
As we talked about, above, there are loads of different ways that your beard loses moisture and dries out throughout the day. Your face produces natural oils, known as sebum, which evolved to provide a natural protection and hydration to the hairs on the face.
However, in our modern world, these natural oils are not sufficient to overcome environmental conditions such as pollution and quickly changing from hot to cold environments.
Also, if you have a particularly long beard it can be very hard for the oils which are produced at the base of the hair to make it all the way through the beard to the tips of the beard hair.
Here are my favorite ways of replacing the natural oils. Essentially, you need them to sit against your beard for as long as possible to provide maximum benefit.
Beard oil is an absolute staple of the bearded gentleman’s beard tools. I highly recommend trialing a range of different beard oils in order to find the one that you like the most.
In general, beard oils are very similar to one another but the main difference is the main carrier oil (which is the main component of the oil). The majority component of the beard oil needs to match the stage of growth your beard is in. For example, a shorter beard should focus on a beard oil with jojoba oil which is fantastic for the skin. Jojoba oil is not readily absorbed by beard hair so when your beard gets a little bit longer you should look for a beard oil that contains Argan oil or another oil which is easily absorbed by the hair. Coconut oil is an example of a carrier oil which easily absorbed into the shaft of the hair.
Beard butter is an incredible product that contains natural butters. This includes Shea butter, cocoa butter and others. It can hydrate, condition, and repair your beard hair. It adds a softness to even the most wiry of beards.
A beard butter is very much like a beard balm but it does not contain the wax component. This means that it is able to completely absorb into the hair without leaving a waxy residue.
It can be confusing with beard oils, butters, balms and waxes. Why would you need a product that specifically conditions the beard. Unlike other products that also provide a styling and hold component – beard conditioners are formulated for maximum nourishment for your beard.
Here are some of the best reasons that you should consider using a dedicated beard conditioner:
- It nourishes and moisturizes the beard – one of the biggest benefits to your beard – it makes it lovely and soft and will make your wirey hair much easier to manage.
- It helps softens the stubble on the face – If you are not one for growing a long beard but prefer to keep it close to the skin the it’ll help soften the ends of the hairs and make it way less spikey!
- Imparts a healthy shine – A well-conditioned beard is one with a nice healthy shine to it. If you want to find out more tips and tricks to making your beard shine – check out my other article.
- It makes combing and styling easier – having hair that doesn’t grip the comb and sits well after it is brushed into place is an achievable outcome if you use a beard conditioner regularly.
- It reduces irritation and dry skin – the skin under a beard is not easy to look after. However, the regular use of a conditioner will leave the skin nourished and irritation-free. If you are worried about bacteria and a smelly beard you can also use a beard conditioner with essential oil that has antibacterial properties.
- They leave a nice fragrance The last and maybe one of the strongest effects noticed by others is that a good beard conditioner will leave your beard smelling lovely! Choose a beard conditioner that has a smell that you like and, if you have a significant other, make sure that they also like the smell! There is nothing quite like a lovely smelling product!
Trim split ends.
Split ends creator pathway for damage to spread throughout the hair from the tip. The splayed ends of the hair can also wick moisture from the core and expose it to the elements accelerating damage and breakage. One of the simplest and easiest ways to fix split ends is to trim them every six weeks.
Because hair grows from the route you will be sure to always be cutting off the oldest part of the hair which is most likely to be damaged and splitting.
Simply take off the absolute tips and ends of the beard so that you are not removing too much. Typically, in my experience, split ends account for only the very last fraction of the hair. Removing them will stop the damage progressing further.
We have gone through all of the ways that you can stop beard breakage. We have looked at all of the reasons why beards tend to be dry and easy to damage and then looked at the simple ways that you can repair your beard.
Remember that the two modes of damage include mechanical and chemical stress so be on the lookout for those stressors throughout your day and keep trying approaches to remedy them in your daily maintenance routine until you find a recipe of treatment and products that work.