Want the beard
Above all else, you have to want the beard. Don't just grow one because it's the thing to do, or because your mate has one. You need to really want it to get through the frustration of the itchiness and the awkward growth phases, not to mention the opinions of others that may come your way.
If you truly want it, none of the challenges will matter.
Oil your beard
The beard oil is key. It will help stop the split ends, will help you through the itchy phase, and should minimise, if not completely eliminate, beard flakes.
Good beard oil helps make the journey of the beard an easier one. I only started using beard oil regularly a few months ago, and it's a very different experience growing a big beard with the help of oil, as opposed to without.
Shape your beard
Beard balm and a good quality beard comb are brilliant for shaping the beard during those phases where it suddenly takes on a life of its own and starts kinking and curling all over the place.
Using these products allow you to shape without trimming, so you don't start hacking into your beard and losing all those hard weeks or months of growth. And on that note....
Resist the urge to trim
You'll never see the full and proper shape of your beard if you start trimming too soon. I know this because I've trimmed for the past 15 years whenever I got frustrated at the "unmanageable" stages. So, even though I've grown beards for a long time, and had some sizeable ones, I have never seen the true potential of what is actually there.
Hence right now I'm about 6 months into my yeard i.e. a full year of growth with no trimming at all. The best advice I've seen on Youtube is do not trim your beard until it's at the length you want it to be. Once it's at that length, then trim according to the shape you want and use good quality scissors.
Try not to chew your beard!
Resist the urge to chew on your beard and moustache hairs and try not to play with your beard too much. This is far easier said than done, and can be a very difficult urge to stop, but you're simply not going to grow your beard to its full potential if you keep chewing it or playing with it (stroking it thoughtfully is another matter however - this is sometimes crucial!).
Causing split ends, accidentally pulling out hairs, and just generally sabotaging your own beard growing efforts are not the way forward!
At the end of the day do what feels right to you but don't be afraid to ask for advice and look around at what others are doing and how they're doing it.
I've learnt heaps from watching YouTube and I particularly like Beardbrand and The Beard Baron's videos. You'll find your way too, there is plenty of help out there, and I'm more than happy to answer any questions you've got.
Rock what you got
Trust the uniqueness of your own beard. Every beard is different and it doesn't help to judge your beard against other men. Find your own unique beard and rock it.
Dwayne and his wife Suse own BEARDED - an online store selling premium products for passionate kiwi beards. He is a long time beardsman, and recent beard grooming convert. Check out bearded.co.nz for the full range of epic beard grooming products, including oils, balms, combs and trimming scissors.