My roommate's boyfriend has been obsessed with his beard lately. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to intimately know his grooming habits through the communal bathroom, and I've noticed that the generic shaving cream is gone and has been replaced with high-end, specialized products. And he's not the only one ditching his dollar razor — men are stocking up on trimmers, brushes, balms, shampoos, combs, creams, oils, and gels to shape their whiskers into works of art.
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Call it the "Brad Pitt effect." No longer reserved for hipsters and lumberjacks, the beard has gone mainstream. For men who can't copy Pitt's luscious facial locks due to patchiness and slow growth, some are taking extreme measures to mold their mustaches into masterpieces. Beard transplants (the surgery takes donor hairs from the head and plants into thinning areas) are on the rise. The Farjo Hair Institute performed 4,500 hair transplants last year, up 13 percent compared to the previous 12 months. Products like beard sprays and color fillers have also hit the market.
Eric Bandholz, founder of Beardbrand, says, "I think it’s a little ridiculous. Your beard is your beard. I don't endorse it." Instead, he suggests taking the au naturel route to boost your beard to maximum levels.
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- Stay healthy. "Beards don't like it when you are overweight, out of shape, and eating a poor diet," says Bandholz. While beard growth is usually connected to genes and testosterone levels, which are things out of one’s control, there are some steps to take to stimulate facial hair growth progress like keeping stress levels down, quitting smoking, and taking up weightlifting, which has been shown to increase testosterone levels.
- Take supplements. Biotin, also known as Vitamin H, promotes cell regeneration, helps to strengthen brittle nails and and improve hair health. Multivitamins are good for general health, and fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) nourishes hair follicles. There are also specially formulated facial hair supplements like VitaBeard. Increasing protein intake also boosts hair growth.
- Keep up with maintenance. Bandholz suggests not washing your face too much because you don’t want to strip your skin's natural oils. Exfoliating, the process of removing dead skin cells, is recommended once a week to unclog pores and expose the beard's hair follicles.
- Use products. Bandholz has a big, fluffy, ginger beard. He uses Woodsman Beard Oil to keep his long locks "silky smooth and shiney." Other products like leave-in conditioner Bluebeards Beard Saver and Brooklyn Grooming Beard balm, can help as well.