Sporting well-behaved beards, from left, Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Jude Law, Jon Hamm, James Franco, Shia LaBeouf and Ryan Gosling. Credit From left, Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Victoria Will/Invision, via Associated Press; Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images; Andrew Cowie/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images; Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images; Matt Sayles/Associated Press; Evan Agostini/AGOEV, via Associated Press.; Jason Merritt/Getty Images Brad pitt moustache styles.
As a Los Angeles-based brand manager for high-profile musicians, Nicholas Adler likes staying abreast of men’s fashion, sporting Rag & Bone jeans with slim-fit shirts and Ben Sherman sweaters. As a final touch he’s grown a beard, which once resembled the one worn by Mandy Patinkin’s character on the television show “Homeland,” but now is a more closely cropped length. “It’s a style thing,” said Mr. Adler, 36, who divulged that he spends up to 45 minutes, one to two times a week, grooming his beard.
Previously a hallmark of certain kinds of lifestyles — say, lumberjack, biker or hipster — beards have moved past their countercultural roots and into the mainstream, showing up on Hollywood red carpets (Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling have all been photographed with them) and, now, in cubicles across the country.
Nicholas Adler uses a variety of products to maintain his beard, some of them, inset, are shown in his West Hollywood, Calif., bathroom. Credit Stephanie Diani for The New York Times
And perhaps inevitably, there are now dozens of products to tame them.
Among these are Jao’s Beard Scent, $28, a shea-butter-based balm that smells of citrus fruits and evergreens and is sold in something akin to a shoe-polish tin, and Brooklyn Grooming ’s Classic Beard Oil, $29, which comes in four scents and uses jojoba, argan and hempseed oil, among other ingredients, to tame whiskers. Hudson Made, an online merchant of American-made artisanal products, introduced earlier this month its own Beard & Shave Soap, $14.50, a mild cleanser that aims to keep facial hair soft and skin moisturized. Bluebeards Original, based in Exton, Pa., offers Beard Saver ($24), which the company describes as a “leave-in conditioner for your beard or scruff.”
“We’ve started to bulk up on products that help with beards,” said Michael Gilman, the founder and chief executive of the Grooming Lounge, a retailer of men’s personal care products that also offers an array of salon and spa services, including beard trimming ($30), in its two locations, in Washington and in Tysons Corner, Va. Sales of the Grooming Lounge’s customizable beard kits — which can include beard trimmers, combs and shampoos, and cost as much as $105 — tripled in the second half of last year, Mr. Gilman said. Meanwhile, Jao, which makes Beard Scent, plans to double production of the product in 2013. “It’s definitely striking a chord,” said Gale Mayron, the founder of the company.
Eric Bandholz, 31, a graphic artist in Spokane, Wash., who writes about beards on his blog ( beardbrand.com ) uses Woodsman mustache wax and beard oil, and American Crew shampoo and conditioner, to maintain his distinctive red beard. Mr. Bandholz, a former financial adviser, said he coined the term “urban beardsman” for himself and his brethren of bearded renaissance men. “We are into music, design, culture, and into being unique,” he said.
Shown here in Md. Adler's bathroom. Credit Stephanie Diani for The New York Times
Yet even more conservative industries have become “more permissive” of facial hair, said Howard Telford, a research analyst who tracks sales of men’s grooming products in the United States — up 3 percent from the previous year to $5.4 billion in 2011 — for Euromonitor International, a market research firm.
Moira Kaniewski, a co-founder of Bluebeards Original, said, “Normally, men would grow a beard on vacation and have to shave it off when they got back to the office environment.” She attributes the change in part to “men taking better care of their beards.” (That is, George Clooney versus ZZ Top.)
But to groom a beard, first you must grow one — a feat not easily accomplished by everyone. “How quickly facial hair grows and how long it will grow often depends on genes,” said Dr. Howard Sobel, an attending dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
Grooming products, like Jao’s Beard Scent, left, and Bluebeards Original Beard Saver, below have been proliferating.
Stimulated by the male hormone dihydrotestosterone, the same hormone linked to male pattern baldness, facial hair grows at the same rate as scalp hair, generally half an inch a month, said Dr. Sobel, who counsels patients who want to grow a thicker beard to take a multivitamin with high levels of vitamin B complex (which may help speed hair growth) and to possibly try using Minoxidil (5 percent), which is prescribed for hair loss on the scalp.
“But beware of possible hair growth on other areas of the face,” said Dr. Sobel, who is also the founder of DDF Skincare.
Itchiness, a common complaint among men growing out their beards, can be allayed with a leave-in conditioner to soften hair follicles. Bluebeard’s Beard Saver, for example, uses aloe vera to soothe skin and lime essential oil to break down trapped dirt, which can lead to pimples and further discomfort. Men prone to forming acne should also steer clear of products with jojoba oil, which can clog pores, Dr. Sobel cautioned, and consider using a cleanser with salicylic acid.
Brooklyn Grooming’s Classic Beard Oil.
Sandy Poirier, the long-bearded owner of Shag, a hair salon in South Boston, said he washes his beard with shampoo, conditions it, and then braids it to keep it looking “contained.” On special occasions he has someone at his salon flat-iron it, a process that takes up to 15 minutes “to do it right.”
In terms of finding the right shape or length of beard to suit your face and aesthetics, Mr. Gilman of the Grooming Lounge said he favors a more natural-looking beard — not too long and not overly manicured — and warns against shaving the neckline too close to the chin. “It can make you look fat or like you’re in a gang,” he said. Meanwhile, Chris Lospalluto, a hair stylist at Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, suggested first-time beard growers bring a photo of a beard they like to their barber or stylist if they aren’t sure what will look best.
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And yet, for some men, tearing out photos from magazines and keeping a lineup of products on the bathroom shelf may defeat the purpose of growing a beard in the first place. “If I had to go through another regimen for my beard, I don’t think I would have one,” said Daniel Langer, the chief marketing officer for Oribe Hair Care. Mr. Langer has his one-inch full beard trimmed by his hairstylist or a barber every four weeks, but otherwise does very little maintenance.
Christopher Brown, a lawyer in Manhattan, manages to do even less. “I take an electric razor on setting No. 3 and trim the entire beard,” said Mr. Brown, 40. “No shampoo, just soap in the shower.”
“That’s how a real man does it.”