I love my beard. I love twirling it between my fingers, I love how it makes me look, and I love it because I don't have to shave.  But there's a downside to having a beard while in a relationship. My girlfriend, who already has sensitive skin, loves the way my beard makes me look (think the Brawny Man), but she hates what it does to her skin. Specifically, kissing irritates and reddens her upper lip. But I've kept my beard off and on for several years because we both enjoy the aesthetic, even at her expense.

Recently, I had to shave for a job as a hotel bellman. Thanks to my work at TIA over the last year, I’ve become much more savvy about grooming, and after a quick look through the TIA archives I came upon a review by Pascal highlighting the Real Shaving Co as a brand that sat at the high end of the low end, something other than a light weight foam that was cheap, which I could find at Rite Aid down the street, and that would give me a smooth shave. For several months, each morning I warmed a towel, lathered the cream, carefully shaved my face and splashed with cold water. I looked good too, at least according to Marta and Pascal who both preferred me clean-shaven, and my managers at the hotel. I'd also have to wager the boyish, jolly look of my shaved face garnered me better tips than a rugged bearded look would have as well.

I worked at a very expensive hotel in a very trendy lower Manhattan neighborhood, which is owned by a particular A-lister. Because its facade is extremely low-key, yet within it hides an incredible spa and incredibly well appointed rooms, this hotel is frequented by celebrities. It wasn’t uncommon, when a black SUV rolled up into our loading zone, for the door to be encircled by twenty paparazzi and countless curious onlookers . When the star they were looking for came out and either darted to the car behind their body guard or turned and posed for the camera on the sidewalk, I was quite often snapped in the background of photos in my green sweater vest holding the door with a stoic look on my boyish, bald face. What struck me about these pictures when I saw them later in tabloids, however,  was not that I was in the background of a picture with a star, but that I didn’t look like me.

Eventually, I tired of the bellman position, and within a few weeks after I stopped, after I endured the awkward early stages of blond and reddish stubble and transcended the patchy early weeks, my beard came in, full as before and again I was myself. But in those months as a bellman, my girlfriend had come to love the way my beardless face felt and the irritation in her upper lip had subsided. She was again, sadly, torn about my beard.

And then I wondered, is there a way to keep my beard but make it softer? So I started looking and as it turns out there are products that claim to soften beards. Most products marketed for beards or mustaches are styling products based on beeswax and petroleum jelly used to twist facial hair into old timey styles. I wasn’t really interested in this approach because I wasn’t looking to shape my beard or give it sheen, only soften it. In message boards I found mentions of people using coconut oil, jojoba oil, and mixing milk and powdered orange peel to soften beards. I didn’t want an oily beard either, and I didn't want to deal with mixing a concoction. But then I read about using regular shampoo and conditioner. Well, I thought I’d give this a try since I already had some on hand. The shampoo cleaned my beard well and the conditioner did a good job of softening, but these products formulated for the scalp, left my face dry, itchy and irritated. I liked this idea, however, of just washing and conditioning my beard in the shower.

So after some digging  I came upon a company that claimed to produce a beard-specific shampoo and conditioner. I was drawn to Beardsley Shampoo and Conditioner for Beards immediately because of positive reviews, attractive packaging and their nicely designed, simple brand website.

The product has a refreshing, manly sort of lime scent, and as it goes on it invigorates the face. After rinsing, I could feel my beard was less oily, less curly, and straightened out. Using only the shampoo, I can only imagine what my beard would do to my poor girlfriend’s face. It would be like switching from a brillo pad, curly and rigid, to a wire brush, straight and rigid. But then I applied the conditioner, and my beard was pleasantly moisturized. My beard felt relaxed and straightened, so much so, actually, my mustache, which before curled and poked out above my lip, now fell down limply hanging over the edge of my lip, as you’ll see in my crude illustration below.

 

My girlfriend was quite pleased with how it felt, too. Whereas before the hairs above my lip jutted out like the angled spears of infantrymen trying to impale charging horses, they were now softer and the spears, as it were, had been laid upon the ground so the horses could march right on by unimpeded.

And I can’t say that it has irritated my face at all. It’s added an extra step to my showering routine, which I don’t particularly like, but it sure beats the hassle of shaving. As for ingredients, the shampoo features friendlies like cocamide dea, a natural oil pressed from coconut kernels used for cleansing and foaming, quillaia extract, a botanical bark extract known for it’s healing and oil reducing properties, and the astringent, birch leaf extract. The conditioner softens the bristles and goes easy on the face with panthenol (vitamin B5) which is said to help  stimulate cellular proliferation and aid in tissue repair, marigold flower extract, known for its antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties,  and humulus lupulus (hopps) extract, which manly, bearded beer drinking men should enjoy for more than just it’s astringent and soothing qualities.

That said, these products do contain a number of concerning ingredients including PEG 7, and a host of parabens. Overall, however, until I find something more all-natural, and in order to save face (and I mean my girlfriend's), this really does the trick.

Ingredients

Shampoo

Aloe Vera Gel, Alkyl Polyglycoside, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Wheat Bran Extract, Lauryl Polyglucose, Birch Leaf Extract, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Peg-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Cocamide Dea, Butylene Glyclo, Panthenol, Quillaia Extract, Dipotassium Glycyrrhicinate, Camomile Extract, Methyl Cellulose, Oleyl Betaine, Methtyl Paraben, Butly Paraben, Propyl Paraben.

Conditioner

Water (Aqua), Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Fragrance (Parfum), Cetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Polysorbate 60, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Dimethicone, DMDM Hydantoin, Methylparaben, Sodium Saccharin, Propylparaben, Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Quillaja Saponaria (Soap Bark) Extract, Prunus Serotina (Wild Cherry) Fruit Extract, Lawsonia Inermis (Henna) Extract, Hydrastis Canadensis (Golden Seal) Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Extract, Calendula Officinalis (Marigold) Flower Extract, Citric Acid.