Recently the proud wearer of a big, bushy beard contacted me looking for a barber referral. He wanted me to send him, vulnerable and needy, into the clutches of a third party professional to whom I believed he could entrust the trimming of his hitherto untinkered-with month-long growth.
It was a lot to ask.
I am perfectly confident and comfortable making suggestions to the readers of this blog based on my experiences, research and wisdom culled from years of grooming trial, error, triumph and tragedy. I have no doubt to the truth or validity of the grooming tips I offer, because they are mine. Moreover, my suggestions for better grooming are generally those one would perform on himself. So if he messes up the line of his beard or accidentally buzzes a hole right into the side of his beard on the slow-to-fill-in cheek section, he has still made the mistake himself.
The benefit here is twofold:
1) HE LEARNS. The mistake is one which he will remember to avoid the next time, as he gradually gets accustomed to the processes on his way toward becoming his very own grooming expert, thoroughly comfortable, confident and in control of his own appearance.
2) HE CAN’T BLAME ME. I’m not the one that lopsided his beard. Sure he may have followed my advice and guidelines, but it was by his own hand that he was temporarily disfigured.
The problem with sending my readers to another person who provides services I don’t use is the disconnect from my personal experience. If a reader like Bobby (whose delightfully histrionic letter is printed below) were to get a bad trim because I sent him to a hack barber, I would be more devastated than Bobby himself. (And from the letter you can tell Bobby is capable of dramatic emotional range.)
Hi Sloan, I've just joined the fray in the fight for reclaiming the glory of the beard and have allowed my facial forest to thicken for roughly a month now. As a hirsute Jew, I've been blessed with the follicles of Samson himself and will soon be due for a trimming, that being said, I am in a desperate search for a worthy barber and would greatly appreciate a recommendation for a good one in Manhattan from someone with a such a stately suburb of the chin like yourself (okay fine, I stole that mustache moniker from Melville). All the best, Bobby
Well I asked around. And around. And around. And around. And though I’d never been there, I trusted the opinions I gathered enough to send Bobby’s virgin beard to a place called Man Made Barbershop. And thank GOD! Bobby was pleased. It was with such relief that I read the reaction letter he sent after his very satisfactory beard trim, I knew I had to give Man Made a shout out here on the blog
Hey Sloan,,Made Man is an impeccable shop with a group of guys that possess prodigious talent. The place is spotless (quite a feat for a barber shop) and has an old-timey charm that harkens you back to a time when the term "barber shop" wasn't a slogan. I've already recommended it to numerous friends and they all come back with equally raving reviews. Thank you for the recommendation and keep up the good work. Best, Bobby
So now not only has Bobby found a new place full of barbers to whom he can entrust the manicuring of his precious new toddling beardlet, so have several of his friends. Maybe you will too!
The Man Made Barbershop is located on the northwest corner of 7th Avenue on West 23rd St in Chelsea
170 west 23rd street
New York, NY 10011
Tell'em Sloan sent ya!
The problem Sam was having was that his hair product didn't seem to last as long as he needed it to. Halfway through the day, or even into the early part of the evening, his coarse, wiry hair would break out into chaos from the order his pomade had kept it in.
Was the product simply evaporating? Is his hair just too wild to be tamed? Who's to say?
The solution Mckenzie came up with is Pilgrim's Classic Hair Tonic which, by the way, is named for Mr. Chase, whose middle name happens to be Pilgrim.
The tonic adds a barrier layer between your hair and your product, giving the product something to cling to, extending its life throughout the day and night. With a few drops of Pilgrim's combed through your manly mane, you'll never have to worry about your product soaking in, building up, caking on or giving out.
Essentially, our tonic conditions your hair. Often after shampooing, our hair becomes too clean, rinsed free of its natural oils and layers of natural conditioning. Whether you've experienced the same problem as Sam, we're sure you will benefit from a little extra all-natural moisture giving your hair body, movement, shine and even the appearance of enhanced thickness.
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Last fall I started swimming a few times a week for fitness. It has done wonders for my physique and for my respiratory well-being. But I gotta tell you, it is murder on the skin and hair. As soon as Mckenzie gave me an early prototype of Pilgrim's to start trying out, I knew immediately how I was going to try the stuff out.
Before Pilgrim's, the instant I'd get out of the pool, I would rush to the shower to try rinsing the chlorine from my hair, dragging my fingers through my dried-out, pissed-off locks, hoping to salvage a little bit of my hair's natural softness. It would always be a sad occasion, as my hair would appear more and more lifeless as the weeks wore on.
But then when I started combing through 8-10 drops of Pilgrims before getting into the pool, that post-swim shower went from dreaded necessity to a reward for working out.
Since I started swimming, my hair has never been better!
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Try Pilgrim's Classic Hair Tonic for yourself. An all-natural way to healthier hair...
When's the last time you heard that?
I've been using one of your oils a few times and I have a weird issue with it.
I've bought the Williamsburg oil and at the first sign I was absolutely satisfied. My beard got really soft - that's what the oil should do ;)
I'm applying it before work in the morning, and in my home everything's fine. But after I get out of my house my beard and especially my hands start to smell really weird. I can say it really stinks.
At first I thought this is a general beard oil issue, so I tried other brands like 'Apothecary 87' which works really fine and smells good all day.Have you heard about it before? Is this a common issue? Do you have other oil products where this issue doesn't show up?
Daniel from Cologne, Germany
I'm sorry the fragrance in our Williamsburg Beard Oil hasn't met your expectations. At first I thought the oil had gone rancid, perhaps from a long shipping period of being exposed to poor conditions. Over time, or when exposed to inordinate heat, fragrant essential oils can certainly "turn," a process that changes their inherent aromas.
But since you've noted that it smells fine at the time of application, that can't be the issue. Let's talk about how fragrances work.
Take a bottle of cologne, for instance. (By the way, the irony of your writing from Cologne, Germany, has not been lost on me.) When you spritz a fragrance onto a paper strip in a store to test the smell, what you immediately smell are its top notes. A few minutes later the smell evolves into a more distinct middle note. Finally, the scent will "settle" into its base note which is the scent that remains the longest before fading away completely.
The same process happens when fragrance is applied to the skin and hair. The difference, however, is that unlike the blank paper strip, your body's own chemical composition (acidity, pH balance, hormone levels, sweat, pheromones, etc.) begins interacting with the chemicals within the fragrance. Often the result is a new fragrance altogether.
Have you ever noticed that a fragrance or cologne can smell totally different depending on who's wearing it?
The Apothecary 87 beard oil works for you probably because it is more complementary (and complimentary) to your own individual enzymatic structure. Their oil has musky, balsamic top notes which fade to an earthy, wooden base note of patchouli.
Williamsburg happens to work in a totally different way: it has wooden top notes of cedar which then relax into a mildly floral ylang ylang base note.
My advice is to gift the Williamsburg to ein bärtiger Freund whose body chemistry will allow him to appreciate it fully. (Or try it again in a few months: our bodies are always changing.)
And since you loved the softness that our oil gave you, try our Commando Beard Oil: there's no fragrance at all!
Thank you for your question.
Modern times call for modern measures, yes?
At a certain point in a man's aging process, there may come a day when he realizes he looks a little more agèd than he'd like to, or that his appearance no longer seems in keeping with his youthful inner proclivities.
Well, my friends, in this, our youth-obsessed, beauty-boner culture, we have many options -- from acne remedies to prevention potions to wrinkle rehabs. You can even go to the extreme like this guy.
But before you go overboard, let's talk about facial treatments.
These days most facial treatments center around the gentle removal of the dead outer layer of your epidermis to (a) freshen up the appearance and (b) stimulate your face to produce new collagen and elastin, the building blocks of new skin.
If you're thinking about a facial, here's what you can expect:
1. EXFOLIATION. In order to prep your face, an esthetician will probably slather on some sort of moisturizers or enzyme treatment to relax the face and loosen the cellular bonds of the dead skin. As you lie there vulnerably hopeful, a soft and steady plume of steam will issue forth from a mechanical arm positioned over your head. The steam will open your pores and hypnotize your skin into temporarily relaxing its barrier duties thereby submitting to the will of the knowledgeable spa lady. Come to think of it, steam is kind of like a face roofie. From there it's probably either an enzyme peel or the now commonplace microdermabrasion, which uses a little wand to buff away the skin cells that are overstaying their welcome to the detriment of your youth.
2. EXTRACTIONS. Once your face is in their hands, a good esthetician knows how to manipulate your skin's behavior in such a way that minimal damage will be done while maximum results will result. They're like snake charmers but for your face. And one way they charm out the dead cells, glopped up sebum and other pore-clogging particulate is a good old fashioned, zit-popping squeeze. Now, you know from your time spent in mirrors that blackheads and their channel-obstructing cousins can tear the skin when you squeeze, leading to bleeding and scabs and other facial accessories we'd rather do without. So leave this to the professionals. When they do it, they'll make the proper preparations that will result in cleared pores with hardly any pressure applied at all.
3. MASSAGE. Along with the process of ripping off your dead skin and digging out your pore pollutants (so far it sounds pretty gross, right? No wonder it's expensive), you can expect the relaxing and restoring primal art of massage to get you into the zone. The way I see it, this could have ended up totally different: dermatologists could have been the ones tasked with administering facials in one of those cold, clinical environments where doctors offer prognoses and diagnoses and dole out medical treatments. But thank the cosmetologods that isn't how it played out. Instead, day spas are often comfortable treatment facilities that resemble doctors' offices, except there are usually decorative flourishes to remind you this is supposed to be cozy. A fish tank. A feng shui fountain. Silk flowers. Ambient music. Bunny rabbits. Just go with it. And enjoy the rub-down.
4. LED and Microcurrent Technology. Light-Emitting Diodes (not unlike ones that twinkle atop the new and improved Empire State Building) are employed to create ATP within the skin. The non-thermal (heatless) light is converted to energy that powers the metabolic processes of regeneration, growth and balance restoration. It's almost the same thing as photosynthesis, the way plants use the sun's light as energy. LEDs come in different colors and strengths to target specific issues that the esthetician should be able to diagnose after just a few minutes alone with your ugly mug. Microcurrent is the use of actual electric pulses to "exercise" your facial muscles, encouraging taut skin and youthful firmness. It's actually a cosmetic taser job. But I'm told it doesn't hurt. And anyway, you're a man, right? You can take it.
Here are a few places I recommend you check out if you're thinking about having a facial:
1. Noy Spa, an upper-east-side hollistic skincare and wellness studio
315 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10017
2. Skin by Mamie, this Korea-town gem boasts clients like Angela Bassett, Nene Leakes and pro footballers
315 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10016
3. Kiehl's Spa 1851, the men-only facial treatment facility by the apothecary super-brand (if you need a butch environment)
157 E. 64th St
New York, NY 10065
Tell'em Sloan sent ya!
How do I deal with beard dandruff? My beard is so thick that the Brooklyn Grooming Co Beard Oils don't seem to help much to moisturize the skin that now hides underneath, and [my beard is] starting to develop it's own ecosystem! Shall I use some other products? I need your help before I turn into a giant snow globe that's going to be declared a world biodiversity reserve???? Help!
Naked Without My Beard
Though my advice might bring relief and aid to those in despair (and my bedside manner is the stuff of legend), I, Sir, am no doctor. On the plus side, however, I won't require a co-pay.
Neither am I a stranger to thick beards and the troublesome beardruff that can accompany them when proper care and maintenance are either unknown or left unchecked. So, my friend, you've come to the right party.
Actual head-and-shoulders dandruff can be caused by a number of things, including the scalp's reaction to a fungus that feeds on our natural sebum. ***Beardruff is NOT that.*** So there's no need to use chemical and paraben-laced dandruff shampoos on your beard!
Usually, Beardruff, or BRDP as I like to call it, is caused by the overuse of facial cleansers and under-use of the right moisturizers. BRDP can also be a simple, temporary reaction signalling the skin's adjustment to carrying a new beard.
I'm pleased that you've been using our beard oils. Thank you for being one of our treasured customers. It's wonderful that you mention a giant snow globe. That metaphor is so relevant at this moment as I sit typing. Currently, according to The Weather Channel, it "feels like" -1°F in New York, and the snow has been whipping the way it does in a snow globe for at least twelve hours. For readers who have never experienced snow like this, the word snowfall does not apply. Because it doesn't just fall: it whips and darts and shoots and whirls and it blows every which way in all directions.
And I've seen beardruff do the same thing. The idea that of any of our readers, clients or followers could be going through the turmoil of beard-related dermal precipitation (BRDP) makes me shutter. Especially as I gaze out the window and see snow falling all around me.
The skin of the jaw, cheeks and chin can be totally obstructed by the hair of long-term beards, which continue to grow denser and woollier over time. In many cases the skin adapts easily to its furry coat, maintaining a supple, baby-smooth texture while legions of men who shave everyday scrape their faces to a hardened, calloused stone. When I shaved my beard two weeks ago after nearly a decade of beardedness, I was surprised to find soft, virgin skin underneath that had been spared the years of weathering and aging that the rest of my haggard (moisturized, sunscreened) face wears today with weary pride.
But not all faces adapt so easily to being shrouded in fur for so long. There was a time when I, too, had a minor case of BRDP. I'm fully convinced that my skin was spared the fate of yours, NWB, because I've been using Brooklyn Grooming's Beard Balm in combination with the Beard Oils for so long.
I'm disappointed to hear that your beard blizzard continues to be a problem. Since your beard is so thick, I wonder if in your daily regimen you've been getting the product all the way down to the roots, or if the oil is sitting on top of the hair unable to penetrate. Also, make sure you're using enough product. Don't skimp. And you must use it everyday. Especially in colder winter months.
Before we get into your daily routine, we must first attack the beardruff decisively. You have to get rid of all those flakes of dead skin and expose the living skin that is suffocating beneath it. Here's a few options.
1. Manually exfoliate the flakes. Go in with a bristly brush (e.g. boar's hair) and flake away ALL that dead skin hiding under your beard. Brush until no more flakes fall. And speaking of brushing, because of its fullness and length, you should be brushing your beard regularly to evenly distribute the skin's natural sebum as well as Brooklyn Grooming's little organic helpers.
2. Give your beard a yogurt bath. Wash the face and beard thoroughly with a gentle cleanser in hot water. After toweling the beard dry, slather in a bunch of yogurt and comb it thoroughly down to the skin. Give it 15-20 minutes, then rinse again. Try that a few times over the course of a week.
3. Massage with essential oil of cypress. Cypress oil's gentle astringent qualities make it the perfect candidate to shake loose the relentless flakiness of a stubborn case of beardruff. After a cleansing, massage your beard skin slowly and deliberately until the cypress oil has been able to penetrate, or until you stroke yourself to sleep. Whichever comes first. After a few massages you should be free of your current problem.
4. Use a gentle, NATURAL dandruff shampoo with salicylic acid, if you must. "Acid" can sound scary, but don't worry: it's made from white willow or evergreen leaves. Still, this shampoo is a last resort, as dandruff shampoos are designed for scalps, not faces. Try the other three options first. I'm just giving you ideas since every case of beardruff is different.
Now you can begin a brand new regimen of care and maintenance to prevent this from happening again.
The best time to apply the beard oil is right after a hot shower. That way, both hair and skin are relaxed and receptive to our organic, gentle treatments. It also helps if you allow the beard to hold onto a little moisture from the shower. The extra water in the beard, for me, seemed to help the oil to penetrate better.
It helps to comb the oil through as well. There are places deep with in your fur-mask that your fingers simply cannot reach, that the teeth of combs can glide through with ease. Moreover, the comb won't absorb the oil like your fingers will, so more product reaches the desperately thirsty skin of your face. And the comb can help to remove the skin flakes that remain trapped in there.
I think if you more thoroughly and more liberally (and more regularly) apply the beard oil to your beard, you will begin to see a difference.
You may also want to try our Beard Balms which are especially formulated for thicker, coarser, denser beards. They feature the same formula as our beard oils augmented with unrefined beeswax and organic shea butter to provide a more substantial consistency and more durable bond. That way the moisture remains within your beard all day.
We also have a money-saving combo with both an oil and a balm so that you can play with the amounts and proportions that you find your beard best responds to. Balm in the morning/oil at night? Balm and oil mixed together twice a day? Balm in the morning/oil at lunch/balm at night?
Discover what works for your beard! And keep us posted on your progress.
PS I know how it feels to be naked without your beard. Don't shave it!
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Do YOU have something to #AskSloan? Email him at SLOAN@BROOKLYNGROOMING.COM or tweet him at @GawkyHeartthrob.
And don't forget to tweet us at @BKGrooming !
Another new year has begun, and along with it comes the promise of renewed hope and better fortune than the year before. In that universal push to make this year the best one yet, lots of us are re-evaluating our daily routine, diet, exercise regimen, productivity quotient, etc.
So while you're taking stock and making resolutions (and sticking to them!), we wanted to highlight a few Basic Grooming Practices that you can incorporate into your new & improved routine on a weekly basis. These won't be earth-shattering, new, or even surprising to a lot of you, but since a solid foundation is key to success, we're ringing in 2014 by going Back to Basics:
1. Get Your Facial Hair in Check. The reason many of us grow beards in the first place is to save time by not shaving (i.e. we're lazy). That does not mean you don't have to maintain it and keep it presentable. The tricky part about beards is they can get out of control before you even notice, so take a few minutes every week to line it up, and scissor out those rogue extra-long hairs that compromise the stately integrity of your beard's shape. Even if you're "growing it out," it helps to trim to a uniform length to encourage a consistent growth rate.
Beyond beards, remember that your face has other hair that, as you begin to age, must be taken care of. I hate to break it to you, Twenty-somethings, at some point in your life the hair in your nose and ears will probably begin to grow dark and long and your nose and ears will no longer be able to contain them. They literally overflow with hair. It's gross. And it will definitely distract from your face's finer features. You need a little pair of grooming shears or an electronic trimmer. Either way, stay on top of it.
2. Take Care of Your Hands. The neatness of a man's hands, laborer and executive alike, can be a subtle demonstration of the care he takes in his overall appearance or even the way he lives his life. So, Gentlemen, clip your nails! Regularly!
I'll admit, for years I would clip my nails only after noticing they'd become overgrown talons. Now however I feel a sense of empowerment in actively maintaining both the length of my nails and the condition of my cuticles, rather than passively pruning them at the last possible moment. There's power to be gained from disciplined self-government. Now that I'm a grown-up, I delight in that truth.
3. Shampoo Your Hair. Regular readers of the blog will remember my confounded approach to the culture of (over)shampooing. Are you one of the millions of people who shampoos his hair daily? Many of us do it not because it's dirty, but simply because we've always done it. What are you doing in life that renders your delicate, beautiful locks in need of aggressive detergents and chemical foaming agents every twenty-four hours?
Once I saw the light and stopped scrubbing away my hair's natural oils, I discovered a head of hair that had body and shine on its own. Now, I only shampoo about once a month, opting instead to rinse my hair with water. When I tell people this I usually detect a hint of repulsed disapproval. So I won't tell you to only shampoo twelve times a year: that would be too radical. But it works for me and my hair. You too should play with your shampooing habits, and discover what works for you and yours.
4. Exfoliate Your Face. If you use daily moisturizing creams, topical anti-aging potions, facial serums or sunscreens, well good on you! I'm pleased with your active approach to your skin's health. But are you exfoliating regularly? If not, then all those wonderful products you're slathering on your face probably aren't doing much good. Exfoliating removes the top layer of dead skin that your face tries to hold onto in order to protect itself. Remember, the skin is a barrier.
You shouldn't exfoliate more than weekly, so be careful of buying an expensive cleansing scrub and using it too often. The goal is skin that is fresh-looking, healthy and receptive of the products you apply to it: not rubbed raw. There are exfoliating masks, scrubs and face-washes available at every price-point. Or you could concoct your own using oil, water or honey to carry a scrubbing agent like salt, sugar or ground coffee.