How to grow a healthy beard.
Treat your beard like a tree… huh?
We always get asked what the best way to maintain a good and healthy beard is. The Gentleman is often one that may have a beard, but has never thought about grooming. Outside of wondering why does a growing beard itches, or scratching the beard makes a snowfall of dead skin. Well. It should not be that hard to look after.
Most gentlemen have an idea about what’s needed for growing a mighty oak, so let’s talk on those terms. But before we start with the solution, let’s discuss the science of how a beard actually grows.
How does beard hair grow?
Beard hair grows from a root in the individual follicles on your face, and is made up of cells of protein. Each hair is nourished with blood from blood vessels, then moves through an oil gland, before pushing its way through the skin on your chin. As soon as the hair pops its way through the skin, it is usually dead. Don’t stress, just because your hair is dead, doesn’t mean we can’t make it look and feel great.
Start with your skin
Healthy skin will help your facial hair grow. The skin is where the nutrients start to grow, and that means we should start there. Just like the Australian sandalwood trees (Santalum spicatum) that scent our Oxford pomade, beard balm, and beard oil, growing a beard requires starting before you plant the tree.
The challenge for some lads is inevitably whether or not their facial hair is preventing exposure to the skin. Whatever product used, it should be thin enough in nature and able to dig beneath the luscious locks of a beard. When thinking about beard skin care, there are three important considerations.
Preventing beard infection
The first is infection. As the outer most layer of your body, skin offers a front line defense from bacteria. Look at your skin as the scrum, protecting your quarterback. Using a natural beard product, like a natural beard oil, offers a response to this. However, not all beard products are the same. The ingredients that will help especially well with beard infection are those that have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
An antioxidant is a substance which slows down the damage that can be caused to other substances by the effects of oxygen. Foods which contain antioxidants are thought to be very good for you.
Carrier oils that are high in antioxidants include clove oil, Vitamin E, oregano, nutmeg, and myrrh. All the Fifth Estate Co. products have a natural Vitamin E added called tocopherol. Tocopherol, due to its high natural antioxidant properties, has links to anti-cancer properties.
An antimicrobial is something that is capable of destroying or inhibiting the growth of disease-causing microbes.
Oils that are high in antimicrobial properties include bay, lavender, cinnamon, thyme, and nutmeg. We care about your skin’s ability to respond to microbes, so all Overland products have bay rum oil included. All Oxford products have lavender essential oil.
An anti-inflammatory is a substance that reduces inflammation (redness, swelling, and pain) in the body. Anti-inflammatory agents block certain substances in the body that cause inflammation. They are used to treat many different conditions. Some anti-inflammatory agents are being studied in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
Oils with anti-inflammatory properties include lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, bergamot, ginger, and lemongrass. Our Oxford products have lavender, our Bicerin has peppermint, and our Overland products have bergamot.
When we make products, we really care about what they do, as much as how they smell. Preventing microbes, oxidants, and inflammation is part of that. We wear our own beard products, so we don’t want bad products on our face either.
Preventing an itchy beard
When growing a beard, itchiness can be pretty intense to the point lots of guys give up and shave it off. Beard hair is dead keratin, it is wiry and dry. Add some dry skin, and the recipe for an itchy disaster begins.
To prevent an itchy beard, think about looking after the skin with a deep moisturiser, just like a beard oil is designed to do. Again though, not all beard oils are made the same. Look for beard oils with high moisturising oils included on the recipe list, and avoid beard oils with products that dry the skin.
Moisturising oils include argan oil, jojoba oil, lavender oil, olive oil, rosehip seed oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and flaxseed oil. Our beard oils contain most of these oils, in slight variations across the products, but we use higher quantities of argan and jojoba for their moisturising properties, and here’s why:
Argania spinosa is endemic to Morocco, and is commonly used as a dip for bread at breakfast, or drizzled over pasta and couscous. It is easily absorbed in skin and is non-greasy.
And if its good on pasta, it must be good for us, right?
Simmondsia chinensis is native to Southwest North America. It was first used by eighteenth century Native Americans grounded the nut of the jojoba tree into a salve and applied it heal skin and hair.
Preventing beard dandruff ‘beardruff’
Let’s teach you a new word beardruff, it’s not in the Oxford dictionary yet, so we’ll give you our version.
Beardruff. Noun. The white or grey flaking of dead skin cells from beneath a beard.
We lose dead skin cells every day, and beards create a catchment centre for those dry snowflakes. A regular beard wash will offer a response to this part, and the easiest way to do is to include it into a daily shower routine.
So how do we prevent beardruff, given skin cells will always be dying. Start by avoiding using a standard dandruff hair product, like lots of guys try. Use a combo-deal, depending on what works best for your skin and your lifestyle. Beard oil in combination would be best to start you off, along with a beard-specific conditioner and beard exfoliate in the shower.
If you experience bad beardruff, there may need to be a combination of all of them to begin with, and then make a decision around which to retain based on how your skin responds. Some guys need them on a daily basis, some can get away with daily beard oil, along with an occasional beard conditioning and exfoliation once a week or so.
Follow through with the hair
So the dirt is watered, and your skin is in good shape. The hair coming through will start of in a good place. It has been nourished and conditioned, but what about that wiry hair? Your beard oil, conditioner, and shampoo would have had a positive impact on the hair, but what about making sure that hair is soft.
Beard hair like copper wire
Beard hair is rough hair. Ask your girlfriend, partner, spouse, or that one night stand from your trip to New York. They’ll all say the same thing. Beards look great, that’s not in contention.
I don’t like myself without a beard - Jamie Dornan.
It’s how they feel when someone else is all up in your grill. So, aside from wanting that beard to look as healthy as the hair atop your head (if you have it), keep the beard hairs soft, conditioned, and ready for whatever (or whoever) life throws your way.
So, why is it coarse? Let’s start with the two reasons science offers. First, the dermal papilla in a man’s beard follicles is around four times the size of the dermal papilla of scalp hair follicles. Where follicles are bigger, there tends to be thicker hairs.
A dermal papilla is the space where the root of your hair shaft sits in.
The second reason is that we have two types of hair: un-pigmented and short Vellus hairs, as well as thick long pigmented Terminal hairs. Hair follicles can convert from Vellus hairs to Terminal hairs with the right level of exposure to androgens (i.e. testosterone).
Your scalp hairs grow as Terminal hairs at an early age, before significant testosterone is present. Your beard hair undergoes a transformation, usually around puberty when testosterone levels increase in the body.
How do I soften beard hair?
Regular beard oil, exfoliating, and other treatments will tend to have a positive impact on the coarseness of your beard, but most guys will need something that is specifically designed for softening those Terminal hairs.
That’s where an regular beard balm comes into play. Our solution is a carefully formulated and tested beard balm that is specifically crafted as a leave in formula.
The purpose of a beard balm is to nourish and condition your beard, with a leave in treatment. Focus on finding a leave-in beard product that uses rich butters like cocoa butter and shea butter, along with high quality nut and seed oils like argan and jojoba. You’ll find all of those in our beard products, because it goes on our beards too.
We’ve given you some thinking to do.
Don’t stress though, a regularly beard routine should not take much of your life. Given how long we spend shaving our face on a daily basis (well, mainly daily, right?), growing a beard will likely save you time. Even with the added process of maintenance.
Rise to the challenge. Style it your way.