When it comes to cultivating a shiny and healthy beard, you can expect a fair amount of experimentation. A meander down the men’s grooming aisle and you’d have to agree. Just look at all of the balms, washes, creams, oils, moisturizers, pomades, and so much more. Yet, why is it that our beards are still lacking in moisture, hydration, and strength? Why are our beards still dry and brittle, even when there’s no real estate left in our medicine cabinets?
Brandon Patton, co-founder of Evan Alexander Grooming and creator of Black Men’s Beard online community, dealt with this frustration firsthand at the start of his own beard journey. He recalls, “It was always dry. I was always overcompensating by dumping a half a bottle of beard oil onto my beard. It was like juices and berries gone bad...when you’re throwing on a whole bunch of oil onto an already dry beard, you’re just making it that much drier.”
The remedy? Getting back to the basics. To his surprise, Brandon found that improper washing—as basic as that sounds—was actually responsible for his beard’s not-so-ideal state. With some trial and error, he uncovered five common beard washing mistakes and how to fix them. Do your beard a favor and get ahead of the learning curve by mastering the art of the wash.
Mistake #1 Overwashing Your Beard
While living in Los Angeles, Brandon had been cleansing his beard on a daily basis. “It’s Pollution City, so I was adamant about making sure that my beard was always clean.” The result? A beard that was overly stripped of its natural moisture.
Since then, Brandon has cut down to 1-2 times a week. He’s even tested this strategy out in Atlanta, where the climate is much more humid than that of LA. And still, the 1-2x rule holds true.
Mistake #2 Using Shampoo Instead of Beard Wash
Brandon recalls picking up Shea Moisture shampoo — formulated for hair on your head — when he was first putting together a beard care regimen. “I’m like okay, hair on my face, hair on my head. It’s the same thing, it’s a no-brainer.”
What he found was that his skin and his beard just didn’t agree with the shampoo. His skin became extremely dry. His beard, stiff and brittle. He didn’t like how it felt or how it looked.
“Now, we have to understand that the shampoo that’s being designed is not for our face, the skin underneath our beard. It’s for our scalp. And there are reasons for that.” The first reason being that the skin on our scalps is much thicker, consists of more follicles (we’re talking 90,000+ follicles), and produces much more sebum oil—meaning that our scalps require a more aggressive cleanser.
The environment on our faces is entirely different. For the area under your beard, you need something much more gentle. This is where beard wash comes in. Ideally, you’ll be using a beard wash formulated with organic naturally-derived ingredients, without sulfates, parabens, or any of the other nasty chemicals that can irritate your skin and beard.
Mistake #3 Not Double-Lathering
Have you ever went in with some beard product on a supposedly “clean” beard, only to realize that your beard was—dare we say it—a little crusty? Don’t worry, guys. It’s normal. Especially if you’re particularly fond of your oils, balms, and other styling concoctions.
Enter: the double-lathering technique to remove residue on your beard. Lather, rinse, repeat. Think of the first round as removing that outer layer of grime, which is composed of beard product, pollution, dirt, excess oils, etc. Then with that first layer of build-up out of the way, you can go in with a second lather and get into the beard strands themselves.
However, Brandon cautions against double-lathering every time you wash your beard. Rule of thumb: if your beard looks or feels like there’s build-up in it, go ahead and lather twice.
Mistake #4 Using Hot Water
Gentlemen, are you using hot water to wash your beard? It’s true—the higher the temperature, the easier it is to remove dirt, grime, and excess oils. Kinda like washing your dishes after they’ve been chilling longer than you’d like to admit.
The caveat is that hot water doesn’t know the difference between excess oil and oil that’s essential for the nourishment of your beard. Brandon noticed that high heat, while dissolving dirt easily, also stripped his beard of its natural oils, leading to excessive dryness and weakened strands. So what can you do? “Split it down the middle. Use lukewarm water to wash your beard. And then, when you rinse the wash off, use cold water because cold water’s going to help with retaining the moisture.”
Mistake #5 Not Using a Moisturizing Wash
According to Brandon, every step of your beard care routine has to deliver some degree of moisture and hydration. Especially as it pertains to Black men, whose hair texture tends to experience more dryness, breakage, and brittleness. “You don’t want to use a wash that’s not there to add value to your beard in terms of keeping your beard fortified, strong, and looking and feeling fresh”, he says. “So be mindful of that when you’re using a non-moisturizing beard wash.”
Stepping up your beard game doesn’t mean you have to jump through hoops or have an overly complicated grooming routine. Simply step back and take a look at the basics, starting with how you wash your beard. As with life, when you get your fundamentals right, the rest has a way of taking care of itself.
At Evan Alexander, we use grooming as a medium for broadening the ongoing conversations about self-care and masculinity for men of color. And we believe these conversations are made richer by you.
So let us know—what’s one seemingly insignificant change to your grooming routine that’s made a noticeable difference in your beard?
Leave a comment below and join the community.