Preventing beard burn really boils down to two action items: Keep both your skin and the person’s beard well-moisturized.
Moisture is crucial for optimal barrier function, one of your skin’s most important duties—without a strong barrier, your skin isn't as protected from external aggressors, like pollution and bacteria. And, well, stubble. There are myriad ways to hydrate your skin, but if you know you’re going to come into contact with a spiky beard, make sure to load on a combination of humectants, emollients, and occlusives to help fortify that barrier.
Emollient creams are particularly important here, as these help soothe the skin and fill in microcracks in the epidermis with lipids, thus helping to restore skin barrier function. Seek ingredients like ceramides ("ceramides are fatty molecules that make up the natural skin barrier and help to retain moisture," notes Marisa Garshick, M.D., FAAD), squalane ("squalane is a natural oil produced by the sebaceous glands in your skin. It plays a role in skin hydration and barrier protection," notes board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D.), and certain botanical extracts like colloidal oat. Essentially, you want to lubricate your skin so that it easily slides against those stubbly hairs, rather than creating friction.
On that note, make sure your partner implements a skin- and beard-softening routine, too. “For your partner's beard, if they keep it well hydrated, it can help soften the beard and reduce the burn,” explains Fenton. A high-quality beard oil can help soften the strands, and you only need a few nourishing carrier oils to make your own at home. "My recommendations are jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, and argan oil," barber Mitsuru Aota of THE BARBER once shared with mbg.