Beard Style Guide for African-American Men

Beards in the African-American community have always been popular. Of course we can all think back to iconic figures from the ’60s -- Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, Shaft -- who brought them into popular mainstream culture. However, I think the real reason for the enduring popularity of beards stems from the desire to hide (and avoid) the effects of shaving irritation. The end result of having to deal with these shaving challenges has been an amazing evolution of facial-hair styling. Today, we see many major figures sporting variations of these original styles. The goatee, the chin strap, the full beard and the scruffy beard have all experienced tweaks in order to make them relevant in 2012. These updated styles can definitely enhance your look, but be careful: They can have the opposite effect if worn incorrectly.


Beard scruff has become much more popular in recent years, perhaps even surpassing the goatee style. There are two reasons for this: easy maintenance and social acceptance of the look in professional settings. The biggest challenge is making sure that the beard scruff remains approximately 1/4 inch in length, which isn’t difficult if you have a pair of adjustable clippers. Keeping the hair close is key because it will prevent the appearance of an unkempt beard -- and the possibility of revealing areas that don’t grow in evenly.


This style can be worn by anyone who is capable of growing a full beard evenly. Although a full beard can sometimes be an intimidating look, it has its advantages. It can make the face appear slimmer, and it can also alter the face into a more desirable shape, like a square or oval. But keep in mind that the slimmer the face (i.e., triangular, oblong, diamond shapes), the less full the beard should be (one-and-a-half inches thick or less), simply because a full beard can quickly overpower a smaller, narrower face.


The Van Dyke
The two most common goatee styles among all men are the musketeer and the Van Dyke. In the African-American community, however, it is the Van Dyke and the full Van Dyke. Men who like to be the center of attention tend to gravitate toward these styles because the beards are concentrated on the mouth area, leading the eye’s focus to the goatee’d speaker.

The Full Van Dyke

This style adds length to all face shapes, so it should be avoided by men who have longer faces (i.e., oblong) and pointed chins (i.e., triangular and diamond face shapes). You don’t want to make your long face even longer or bring attention to an already pointed chin.


This is another style that requires confidence to wear, for one simple reason: It outlines the jawline. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with an outlined jaw unless there is a fuller face involved. A round face will always end up looking even rounder with this beard style. The same problem also occurs with rectangular, triangular and diamond face shapes. Oval and square faces work best with this style.

Photo by Alex Robinson on Unsplash

Don't Fear the Razor: Putting a Stop to Shaving Irritation

Shaving irritation is a very common malady, partially because there are so many causes for it. To name just a few:

  • Blade’s too sharp
  • Blade’s too dull
  • Too many passes/strokes
  • Too much pressure
  • Shaving too quickly
  • Lack of moisture
  • Shaving with cold water

Like I said, the list is long, and it could be even longer if we were to consider men with unique circumstances, like curly beards. And of course we all know what it looks and feels like: unsightly ingrown hairs, redness and the don’t-touch-my-face-right-now burning sensation.

Yet there is a solution. (There’s always a solution, right?) Below I’ve listed a few tried-and-true ways to avoid shaving irritation.

1. Start off clean.
One of the first steps to guarantee a close, comfortable and irritation-free shave is to make sure your face is clean. A quick rinse of the face with a face wash and/or exfoliator not only removes dirt and oils, but also aids in softening the beard. This allows for the razor blade to perform at its optimum level, and it frees your skin of extra dirt and oils that could wreak havoc on your open pores.

2. Keep it wet.
I always let my clients know there is absolutely nothing wrong with over-prepping their beards. So lather, re-lather, then lather again if you have to. Simply put, the wetter and softer you can get your beard, the less effort it will be to take it off. And who wouldn’t mind a bit more cushion between the face and the blade? The end result is fewer strokes, which means the blade is on your face for less time. If you want it a bit closer, then re-lather and shave again!

The best way to maximize moisture is to immediately apply the shaving cream after you’ve rinsed off your face wash. This way the cream can trap the moisture already on the skin and infuse more in the process.

3. Know your face.
For many men, shaving against the grain leads to skin sensitivity (i.e., razor burn) and, even worse, ingrown hairs. If you’re one of those men, knowing the direction(s) in which your hair grows can save you from days of frustration -- not to mention feeling like you can’t leave the house. Once you determine where you have multidirectional growth patterns, you can prep them more heavily. Also consider leaving this area for last, so you can really concentrate on the best direction to shave in order to minimize irritation.

4. Heal and moisturize.
A splash of cold water will bring your skin back in balance by closing the pores. Then, grab your favorite aftershave balm -- one that’s designed to heal and also moisturize the skin. Don’t minimize the importance of this step. Healing is key; your skin will be going through this process again very soon!

All-star Mascot Mustaches

Sports mascots have set ’stache-sporting records for decades. Yep, we’re talking about those psychotically smiling guys with heads big enough to require their own weather systems, who stalk the sidelines in support of your favorite teams. We asked Lana DeDoncker, senior stylist for New York City’s Downtown Magazine, to tell us which macho mustaches are worth emulating, and how to get the look if you’ve got the spirit.

Bernie Brewer (Milwaukee Brewers)

Here’s a guy who anybody would want to get behind … especially when he whips down a slide behind the outfield wall into a pool of Pabst Blue Ribbon whenever a Milwaukee Brewer bangs one into the bleachers. His blond handlebar brush suggests a blue-collar man’s man who puts his heart and soul into giving hard-working Americans an old-fashioned good time.

Says Lana …

“Obviously, this is an exaggerated characterization of the American ideal of a working man. The mustache is beyond cartoonish, but you can imagine it being modeled on that of a broad-shouldered brewer of the early 20th century. If you’re looking to emulate a look, that’s not a bad one to shoot for -- he looks like a young Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid. To achieve it, simply grow your mustache as thick and as far out beyond your lip line on either side of your mouth as possible. Make sure to groom around it; if the rest of your face is cleanly shaved, it’ll emphasize the impressive size of the ’stache itself. Then use a little mustache wax to brush the ends so they extend from your cheeks. Not too much, though. This is supposed to look mean and natural.”

Mr. Redlegs (Cincinnati Reds)

The reigning Mustache Monarch in all of sports, this guy has a baseball head the size of a medicine ball and a mustache to match. A popular ESPN commercial spot about a network mustache contest pits the Big Red Machine mascot against Cincinnati’s reigning National League MVP Joey Votto and broadcaster John Ravetch. When Ravetch and Mr. Redlegs go nose-to-nose in an uncomfortable men’s room confrontation (is there any other kind?), Ravetch’s threat -- “You’re going down!" -- sounds as empty as the brains of the cast of “Jersey Shore.”

Says Lana …

“The only way to measure this mustache is to compare it to the wingspan on a stealth bomber. But the look, of course, is an outsized version of a very cool style favored by ballplayers in both the 19th and 20th centuries. To approximate it, you’ll need to dampen your ’stache and comb it flat with a small mustache brush. Your strokes should start out in the middle and fan out to the ends. After rinsing your brush, apply mustache wax to it and stroke your mustache with the same motion, ensuring that the wax permeates all the bristles. When you’re done, squeeze a little wax onto your fingertips and twist the ends up in an upward and outward motion so that they point to the sky and give you that Wyatt Earp look that kept Kevin Costner up to his chaps in chicks in the mid-’90s.”

Pistol Pete (Oklahoma State University Cowboys)

The gun-slinging sidekick of the OSU Cowboys has a waxed-out ’stache with thin turned-up ends, allowing for evil finger-twisting opportunities not seen since Snidely Whiplash was lashing Dudley Do-Right’s dame to the train tracks every Saturday morning. Sadly, Pete had his pants pulled down -- or, more accurately, his mustache yanked off -- by a rival mascot at a game between OSU and Utah State a couple of years back. We were treated to one of the best mascot brawls on the books, but when Pete’s brush was revealed to be fake, it effectively shot his reputation to hell.

Says Lana …

“Pete put up a noble fight to preserve his school’s honor, but after he was stripped of his ’stache, he became a cowboy exposed as being full of bull. If you want to replicate this cheesy look anyway, just head to any costume store with $1.99 for a brush that wraps around your mug with a rubber band. Not where you want to be, boys.”

Viktor the Viking (Minnesota Vikings)

If you’re seeking that special Lord of Asgard look, this is your man, er, god. Modeled after a Norse warrior, this dude sweats more testosterone than an MMA pay-per-view event. He also offers an axe and shield as key talking points to anybody who might want to publicly doubt his total dudeness.

Says Lana (a little weak-kneed) …
“This guy is more macho than the entire Marine Corps. If you can grow a ’stache this … virile … here’s how to keep it in shape. First, you’ll want to trim it down to a controllable level with a pair of grooming scissors: To do so, dampen the hairs with water and comb down. Working from the middle out and continuing to comb the strays down before each clip, use a small pair of mustache scissors to snip across the bottom of the mustache for a smooth, even line. Then do the same to the outer edges of the top down to the outer edges on the chin for distinct parameters. Now that you have your outline, you can trim the bulk of the inner mustache. Don’t cut too much at first! This will allow you to judge how short you want to go. You can always cut more, but you can’t put anything back. Now comb through it once more to root out any hairs you might have missed and snip them off. You’re done, Olaf! It’s time to growl into the mirror, grab your axe and head out for a glamorous evening sacking the town!”

All Photo Credits: Getty Images

How Girls Really Feel About Manscaping

You’re sitting across the table from a girl who’s so hot even you can’t believe she agreed to go out with you. Things are going well ... that is, until you slip your hand beneath the table to graze her leg and find your fingers tangled in the forest of her straggly, overgrown leg hair.

Horrified? Fair enough. But have you ever considered how she might respond to your unkempt underbrush? In the interest of fairness, we asked our no-holds-barred Men’s Life Today Girl Panel™ to share their real feelings about your head-to-toe topiary. We think you’ll find the results enlightening.

Samantha, 21 Danielle, 23 Veronica, 24 Stacey, 24 Stella, 24 Natalia, 25

Chest Fur

“Unless you’re a professional swimmer and must rid yourself of all body hair, there is no excuse for taking it off. I like a hairy chest. Nothing too insane, though. I’m trying to date within my species.” -- Veronica

“Very curly chest hair is not attractive.” -- Samantha

“Trimming to make it less ‘mountain man’ is OK -- but straight razor-shaving is not.-- Stacey

Untamed Tummy
“No garden, please. I like to find the bellybutton. Keep hair the same length as the chest so it looks uniform.” -- Stacey

“If hair consumes the stomach to the point that we don’t know what he’s hiding under there, I say it’s time to trim, boys! Put the clippers to work. Show me what you’re working with. Let me see those abs!” -- Danielle

“A ‘happy trail’ never fails.” -- Stella

Plush Pits
“No girl wants to see a ’fro magically appear every time you lift your arms, so keep it short.” -- Stella

“You Tarzan, me Jane. All men should have armpit hair, but I can’t imagine it ever being a deal-breaker if someone doesn’t.” -- Danielle

 “Just shower.” -- Stacey

Fuzzy Forearms
“You should always have hair here -- unless people are mistaking you for Teen Wolf, in which case I would recommend you make some changes.” -- Danielle

“Do not shave your arms. Ever. In the words of Liz Lemon of “30 Rock,” ‘That’s a deal-breaker, ladies.’ As long as I can still see some actual arm, it’s not a problem.” -- Veronica

Back Blanket
“Ew. Do whatever it takes to make it all disappear!” -- Danielle

“Back hair is gross and unattractive.” -- Samantha

“Back hair is never -- I repeat, never -- sexy. If it looks like a bear rug is peeking out from behind your collar, please take it off. All of it.” -- Stella

“A hairy back beats bacne, I guess.” -- Natalia

Below-the-belt Brush
“If you expect me to maintain, don’t think you can slack off. Clean it up a little, but be wary of stubble if your lady friend keeps it bare below the belt. It could cause some uncomfortable stubble burn.” -- Veronica

“If you cut an inch, you can ‘grow’ an inch ... if you know what I mean.” -- Stacey

“If it’s a jungle down there, let’s just be friends.” -- Danielle

Long-haired Legs
“Hair? Yes, please. Let it be.” -- Stacey

“If you’re a woolly mammoth everywhere else, the legs are the last thing you have to worry about.” -- Natalia

“I’m the only one that’s supposed to be smooth!” -- Danielle

“They better be hairy, or I’ll wake up and think I’m spooning my best friend.” -- Veronica

Bottom Line:
“Be comfortable in your own hairy/hairless skin. Some ladies like a hairy man, some like it less so. But trust me; we aren’t climbing in bed with you because your armpit hair is perfectly groomed or because we can see our reflection in your waxed chest. If you ever end up dating a girl that makes specific body-grooming requests, she isn’t worth your time.” --Veronica

“Try to strike a balance between rugged and delicate: Give me some neat, well-groomed body hair that tastefully shows off your masculinity, and surprise me with some baby-smooth skin I can run my hands across.” -- Stella

“Hair on a guy represents his manly side (in my opinion) but too much hair makes the guy look like a Neanderthal.” -- Samantha

“Just keep a clean face and you’re golden.” -- Natalia


Summer’s Here: Keep Your Skin Clear

Ah, summer, at last: surfboards and swizzle sticks, swimmies and softball mitts … and skin that’s so burned, dry or broken out, you can forget about shaving. To avoid the latter -- yep, it’s avoidable -- we sought advice from two pros who’ve seen more than their fair share of damaged dermis. And if you, like us, insist on doing everything bad for you anyway, we’ve got recovery strategies so you can soon return to your favorite summertime activities -- and regular shaving regimen -- without having added years to your face.

Prevention, Prevention, Prevention
As the owner of the Alma G. Salon in Manhattan -- a favorite of celebs, including Ashton Kutcher and freshman “American Idol” judge Steven Tyler -- Alma G. is a firm believer in preventive measures to keep your skin in tip-top shape. Wearing sunblock is foremost among her precautions. “I recommend SPF 30 for your face and 15 or higher for everywhere else,” she says. “Apply it 15 to 20 minutes before you go outside to let it fully soak in. If you’re engaging in activities where you’re sweating a lot, reapply a couple of times during the day.”

Daniela Pranjic, spa manager of the Paradisus Punta Cana and the Paradisus Palma Real resorts in the Dominican Republic, encounters many guests who -- having been pent up all winter in North America -- zip off to the Caribbean for a quick dose of sun and sand only to come back looking like a roast. “You need to take it easy, especially in those first few days,” says Pranjic. Before you jeer at those clueless vacationers, note that the same applies to the early days of summer, wherever you live. To prepare for your first big spate of outdoor activities, Pranjic recommends drinking lots of water and juices. Clothing-wise, a hat and sunglasses are a must, and she also suggests UV-protective shirts.

Can’t wait to hit the pool? Go for it, but note that chlorine can deliver a one-two punch: stripping away your sunscreen and drying out your skin. To deal with the latter, just remember to re-lube after getting out of the water. You won’t need sunblock for a nighttime dip, but you might consider rubbing on some baby oil, which will repel the chlorine from your skin and thus keep it from drying out. And though chlorine kills germs in the water -- a good thing -- it’s not so good for your face. “It will make you more prone to blackheads and whiteheads,” says Alma G., “so it’s important to exfoliate after you’ve been in the pool.”

If chlorine is killing your complexion no matter what precautions you take, try going for a dip in the ocean instead. Although it’s still important to wear sunscreen, saltwater can work wonders for the skin. “It acts like a scrub and dries out irritations,” says Alma G. Surprisingly, blowing sand can also have benefits, acting as an exfoliant. But if you’re going to spend an extended period of time exposed to this ocean-side loofa, make sure to slather on a good moisturizer before and after, lest your skin become raw.

… and Recovery
OK, so you got carried away frolicking in the ocean with your summer crush and forgot to reapply your sunblock. And now you’ve turned a disturbing shade of fuchsia. Not to worry: Alma G. has a host of home remedies in her arsenal to soothe and rehydrate burning skin. Capsules of vitamin E, split open and gently spread over the affected areas, will expedite the healing process, as will aloe vera or olive oil. A slightly more time-consuming treatment Alma G. swears by is mixing whole milk and sweet apples in a blender to create a masque for the burned areas. Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to yank off the peeling skin that will inevitably appear a few days after your ill-fated rendezvous with the sun -- the new skin underneath will be extremely vulnerable, especially on your face. We know that’s a tall order, but find some bubble wrap to pop instead and leave your poor skin alone.