Careless whiskers – grooming tips for the bearded man

As many a man’s pride and joy continues to be his facial growth, we quiz the experts for their top grooming tips

Benny Castles (left) and Gene Powell

Benny Castles (left) and Gene Powell


Last year the The New York Times declared beards over, but they’ve only gotten bigger and bolder. With the rise of the ‘lumbersexual’ – ruggedly bearded men who are more likely to be involved in marketing than tree felling – the urban male continues to turn the other cheek to a clean-shaven look. To stay up with the play, New York men are reportedly paying around $8000 for facial hair transplants to shore up their patchy growth.

Gene Powell, marketing manager for denim brands Neuw and Rolla’s, has no need for any extra help. He has boasted his luxuriously thick beard for four years. “I got tired of shaving and it was cold living in London,” he explains. “I shaved it off once after about a year and have never shaved again since. It’s kind of become a part of who I am and I kind of like that.”

Benny Castles, World designer and buyer for World Beauty, has had a beard of varying lengths for around a decade. His maintenance includes washing with Aesop shampoo and conditioner and, in his role as buyer for World Beauty, he also lends his chops as ‘test beard’ for potential products. “My new favourite product that we’ll be stocking this summer is Penhalogin’s Bayolea Moustache Wax. With a simple twist of the fingers, it gives me the appearance of the Kaiser himself.” Benny also likes Pré de Provence 100% Argan Oil for conditioning.

The revival of barber culture and retro-style grooming rooms equipped with reclining chairs, reading material and a drinks trolley make weekly maintenance appointments all the more appealing. Matt Swan founded the popular Mens-works Grooming Lounge in Auckland in the 90s before establishing Swan Barbers in Wellington, which now has four outlets. He recently launched Barkers Groom Rooms – the men’s grooming lounges located within Barkers stores in Auckland and Wellington.

“Weekly maintenance is the best way to care for a beard,” explains Matt. “Keep it clean and trimmed to avoid split ends and the cave-man look. At least once or maybe twice a week should do it.” Matt likes US brand Baxter of California, and its Protein Shampoo and Moisturising Conditioner. He leaves the conditioner in for about a minute and advises rinsing it out thoroughly. “Otherwise you may get unsightly flaking from residue in your beard.”

Using warm, but not overly hot water will also prevent skin from dehydrating. Though a beard trim is one of the Groom Room’s popular services, home maintenance keeps things tidy between times. “Trimming is best done after a warm shower while the hair is soft and clean. Towel dry, then comb it in the opposite direction of the growth to lift all hairs away from the face. Trim wayward hairs with sharp scissors, then brush the beard in the direction of the growth and go over with beard trimmers at your desired length. Repeat the trimming process to ensure a neat job.”

Problematic ingrown hairs, says Matt, should be dealt to with care. “Never squeeze them,” he insists. “Like pimples, squeezing can cause infection. Instead, drape a hot flannel over your face, dab the spot with some alcohol then pull gently with a pair of tweezers. Pull from as close to the base of the hair as possible to limit the chance of snapping the hair.”

And what are the rules regarding where a beard should begin and end – should you shave your neck? Word is that a gentle fade to the top of the neckline is the ideal outcome. Avoid the razor-cut edge, which is way too stark, and never let your beard meet your chest hair.


Grooming products for the modern man

L-R: Baxter Daily Daily Protein Shampoo, $24.99, Baxter comb, $24.99, and Bayolea Moustache Wax (available soon at World).

Words: Megan Bedford