It seems at just about every competition I get asked about beard care/comp prep. I thought that with the fall competition season coming up that I would share with everyone my strategy for getting ready. Now mind you, this is just how I prepare for a comp and not necessarily the best or only way. I have, however, been fortunate enough to have had a good amount of success.
It is 2 full days away from the comp but some work needs to be done. The “Imperial Goat” requires a bit more shaving than a normal beard. If you have to shave at all (Whaler Nation), it is a good idea to do a shave on Thursday. This gives your skin a chance to recover and heal any bumps or cuts you get. If you are like me, you may not have shaved that area since the last comp so be careful and use a good razor. I also usually run the clippers through my hair this day, but that’s not as important.
This is usually my travel day if the comp is a few hours away and I want to get to the meet and greet. The key for this day is letting your beard be natural. As your beard gets longer, you may find that most days you keep it banded up or in a braid. I keep mine in at least 1 band almost every day for work. While this keeps your beard out of the way, it also creates kinks in your beard (especially braiding). You can spend a lot of time trying to brush these out or you can let your beard hang for the day and this will get rid of most of it. Take a shower, wash and condition (with MV products) and lightly oil, no balm. I like my beard to have a break from any product. It can be a little annoying having your beard all over the place while driving but just watch the seat belt. I always take my seat belt off before backing up since turning your head often results in hairs getting caught.
Saturday (comp day):
This is the day. Everyone is showing up, hanging out and you want to start drinking. My prep time for a competition varies but usually I give myself about 90 minutes. Showering early in the day or right before prep is a personal preference. Usually I go out visiting breweries and have lunch before getting ready so I shower right before incase I had BBQ for lunch. I start by doing a quick shave and getting rid of any stubble that grew since Thursday. After showering is where the prep work really starts. I am a believer in not brushing/combing your beard while it is wet unless you need to. If you think about shaving, most people shave when they get out of the shower. This is because the hair is softened by the water and the pores in your skin open up making it easier to get hairs out. In my opinion, this means that you will lose more hairs brushing while it is wet. The only hair I comb while wet is areas I think have to be. My chops and my mustache. You need to comb your stache right out of the shower in order to have it lay right. I prefer air drying to using a hair dryer. However, this adds time to your prep. Once your hair is dry, it is time to oil. Put a healthy dose on because you are going to be really combing it out and you want that comb to glide through. Apply the oil and then let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Give your hair time to soak that in before you start combing it out. I have 2 different combs that I use for a comp. I start with a wide tooth, pick style comb in order to get some of the tangles out. Start at the bottom of your beard and work up. Use one hand to hold the beard higher up to reduce pulling when you are getting the tangles out. Also, try to jiggle the comb through a tangle. DO NOT YANK. Once the big tangles are out I move to a wet brush that has a lot more bristles but has a soft back. This adds some extra fullness to your beard as it separates more hairs. The last step, if it is allowed at that comp, is to add a little balm to the outside to protect all the work you just did.
With all that done it is time to go enjoy yourself and hang out with some of the best people around. Have fun, be respectful and remember that it is all for charity and friendship in the end. I hope that this little guide helps people out. But like I said, this is just my way, not necessarily the best way.
Luke “Imperial Goat” Sumpter is a world beard champion and member of the Mad Viking Beard Team.