Lots of guys are convinced that the second they lose the hair on the top of their head, they won’t be able to grow it anywhere else. The mere mention of a full beard often makes anyone dealing with male pattern hair loss daydream about all the “what ifs.”

But one of the biggest misconceptions of hair growth is that what’s happening on the top of your head affects what happens on your face. Dr. Antonella Tosti, hair loss expert and Keeps medical advisor, says the opposite is the case.

“Male pattern hair loss does not affect your beard,” she tells us. “In fact, DHT (the hormone that causes baldness) stimulates the growth of the beard.” With that myth out of the way, let’s take a minute to talk about maintaining your beard. A well-groomed beard can make a huge difference in your appearance, while an unruly one can make you look sloppy and unprofessional. (Looking for tips on growing rather than grooming a beard? Check out our guide to how to grow a beard.)

So, to help you get started in your quest for an incredible beard, we built this guide to explain everything you might want to take care of your beard—and more importantly, how to use it.

Step 1: Keep your beard clean with a beard wash

Before you even think about any other men’s grooming tools for your beard, it’s essential to back up and talk about cleaning your facial hair. Beard wash is exactly what its name implies: It’s the type of shampoo that’s for your beard.

Dr. Tosti told us that beard wash is particularly important for men who are growing their very first beard. “It’s crucial to shampoo the beard very frequently,” she told us. “Studies show that the beard retains microorganisms and toxins and can increase the risk of transmitting infections.”

It might be tempting to use just any old shampoo when you’re a beard care newbie. After all, shampoo is shampoo, right? Well, take a glance at the most common active ingredients in shampoos. Most of them are difficult even to pronounce, let alone apply to your face.

While beard shampoos aren’t always natural shampoos, they do contain ingredients that are sensitive on the skin while being strong enough to get the grime out of your beard. These are also explicitly formulated for beard hair, which Dr. Tosti says is essential for two reasons.

Beard hair is not only lighter than scalp hair, but it grows faster and has a shorter life cycle. “It’s normal to lose an average of 20 to 30 beard hairs per day,” she adds.

Step 2: Grab a beard oil to moisturize those locks

Guys that take beard maintenance seriously tend to agree that beard oil is the next thing you should buy after beard wash. These oil products are made with a combination of essential oils that help you keep your beard hair soft and shiny. Even though these cosmetic benefits are enough for most men, beard oils are also great for maintaining the skin underneath your beard.

Typically, beard oils include essential oils such as jojoba, argan, and coconut. Numerous studies have proven that these oils can lead to improvements for patients dealing with conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis.

A 2017 study found that 68% of the psoriasis patients the researchers treated with jojoba oil had their PASI scores reduced dramatically. In another example, the mean SCORAD (SCORing of Atopic Dermatitis) score for a pool of 117 patients decreased by a whopping 68% after applying coconut oil.

(Struggling with psoriasis? Facet can offer relief with clinically-proven treatments.)

With these benefits abundantly clear, how often should you use beard oil?

The moisturizing qualities of these oils are usually the most effective when applied immediately after a shower. While this might seem counterintuitive, common bath soaps and face washes contain ingredients that dry out your skin. A small amount of beard oil can help you avoid things such as beard itch and cracked skin.

Step 3: Keep it stylish with beard balm

Beard balms are another option for men looking for ways to soften their beards. These products often contain ingredients such as beeswax, shea butter, and cocoa butter. Many beard balms also contain oils that you’ll find in the most popular beard oils.

But wait, if beard balms and beard oils are both designed to soften your hair and contain some of the same ingredients, do you need both?

The answer for some guys is a resounding no. But if you’re looking to style your facial hair, these beard balms are a great compliment to your beard oil. Shea butter and beeswax, in particular, are common ingredients of high-hold hair styling products.

Similarly to beard oils, beard balms have aren’t just for cosmetic purposes. Studies have shown that shea butter has natural anti-inflammatory qualities, which the American Academy of Dermatology says has a direct relationship with hair growth. While this is an excellent time to reinforce that male pattern hair loss doesn’t affect facial hair, a good beard balm might facilitate further hair growth for your beard.

Choosing a beard balm does require a bit of trial and error. While plenty of guys sing the praises of shea butter, others might experience something resembling an allergic reaction when using products that include it.

Additionally, the frequency with which you use beard balm might vary. You might discover that more applications are necessary during colder months when your skin is more prone to cracking.

Step 4: Condition your beard hair with beard softener

Again, we’re talking about a product that sounds, well, very similar to the previous two. Before we get too deep into this, let’s review:

  • When it comes to beard oil, think of it as the equivalent of a daily moisturizer or lotion for your beard and the skin underneath.
  • Beard balms also have moisturizing qualities but are primarily known for being a stylizing product for your beard.

Now, enter the beard softener, which most closely resembles the conditioner you might use after shampooing your hair. These softeners are intended to be applied and rinsed out at the end of a shower. Some of the ingredients we’ve discussed here (namely argan oil) are also found in beard conditioners, but many options also include things such as vitamin B5 and manuka honey.

Guys tend to use beard softener daily. This helps ensure that your skin stays soft, and is often the best remedy for treating (and avoiding) beard itch.

Step 5: Maintain your beard with a beard brush

Sorry, guys. We still have a few beard products to discuss. And spoiler: The beard brush can be just as important as all of the other products we’ve covered—even if you have no intention of styling your facial hair.

Of course, if you’re going for a particular style such as a handlebar or goatee, a beard brush is an essential part of your beard grooming kit. It’s virtually impossible to train your hair without brushing your beard on a regular (and in many cases, daily) basis.

But why would you need a brush if your goal is just to, uh, have a beard? The ingredients in beard balms and oils are really tough to distribute evenly by hand. To maximize the effects of those products, brushing your beard after applying those products can ensure that they reach each corner of your beard.

Choosing a beard brush is all about personal preference. If you have coarse or thick hair, you’ll probably want a brush that has stiffer bristles that can fight through the most annoying knots. Additionally, some bristles are made with synthetic materials, while others include natural bristles sourced from animal hair.

Step 6: Style your beard on the go with a beard comb

We probably don’t need to explain what a beard comb is because most of them look like any other hair comb you’ve seen. They’re also used for many of the same reasons that you’d use a beard brush. Combs make it easier to distribute things such as beard oil and balm throughout your beard, and if you’re going for a specific type of mustache, regularly combing your facial hair can help train it to do what you want it to do.

So, why do you need a beard comb? The truth is that if you already have a beard brush, you’re probably set for a while.

The major benefit of a beard comb is its portability. While we wouldn’t judge you if you traveled with a beard brush, a beard comb is much easier to store in one of your pockets. Because beard maintenance doesn’t have to end once you leave the house, and if you need to get your facial hair back into shape quickly, having a comb at your disposal can be a huge lifesaver.

Step 7: Keep it neat with a beard trimmer

Stylish beards don’t just need to be combed or brushed regularly. And unless you have an unlimited budget for trims at a barber shop, an electric beard trimmer is an essential part of your toolkit.

Although we’ve talked about how beard hair grows and behaves differently, it’s still hair. And your hair grows at different speeds. Most, if not all guys can remember a time when one patch of hair just suddenly appeared. When that happens with your growing beard, a set of trimmers is the best way to keep the shape you’re after, especially along your beard neckline.

Choosing a beard trimmer is a little more straightforward than some of the other products we’ve outlined. Read online customer reviews and look for trimmers that don’t pull at your hair or cause irritation. Additionally, give yourself some options along the way with a kit that includes a few different blade extensions.

That was a lot of information about beard grooming products. And while you’d benefit from all of them, the good news is that you don’t need every single thing on our list to maintain your beard.

Our suggestion? To get started, make sure you have something to wash, moisturize, and comb your beard hair. From there, take note of what’s working for you—and where you need additional help. You might find that just a couple of these products are plenty, but if not, refer back to this guide to figure out what to add to your beard maintenance kit.