Eat Your Way to a More Beautiful Beard

There’s not too much you can do about a receding hairline, other than curse your gene pool. But facial hair is a different story. “The condition of your facial hair directly corresponds to the health of your body,” says Jim White, registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesman. Specifically, he continues, “The same nutrients that have a positive effect on our heart and other major organs also benefit our skin and hair.”

In other words, you can literally eat yourself to a shinier, smoother, more healthy-looking beard. We asked White to tell us which vitamins are an essential part of a healthy facial hair diet, what they do, and how to get them into our diet. Results of our conversation below.

VITAMIN A AND BETA CAROTENE
How they better your beard
: “Vitamin A maintains and repairs skin tissue,” says White. “And keeping your skin healthy allows for better hair growth.” Beta carotene is a nutrient that your body converts to vitamin A. Since it’s found in foods that are lower in saturated fats than those that are rich in vitamin A, you’re better off eating foods that are high in beta carotene.

Where to find them: Vitamin A is present in milk, cheese, butter and egg yolks. Beta carotene is found in yellow and orange produce (e.g., carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and papayas) and leafy green veggies (e.g., spinach and kale).

VITAMINS C AND E

How they better your beard: Vitamins C and E promote the production of sebum, a natural oil that is produced by our bodies and lubricates and moisturizes hair, making it look thicker and more lush. Additionally, vitamin C assists in the growth of bodily tissues, including those that comprise our skin and hair follicles.

Where to find them: Citrus fruits, green peppers and broccoli are good sources of vitamin C. Wheat germ oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, safflower oil, peanut butter, corn oil, spinach, broccoli, mangoes and spinach all contain high amounts of vitamin E.

PROTEIN

How it betters your beard: Our skin and hair are composed primarily of keratin, a structural protein made up of amino acids. We don’t produce amino acids on our own; instead, we need to eat protein, which the body then converts to amino acids.

Where to find it: Fill up on fish, lean meats, poultry, eggs, rice, beans and milk.

VITAMINS B6, B12 AND BIOTIN
How they better your beard:
B vitamins help your body synthesize the protein you eat so it can be used to build new skin cells and hair. Getting enough B vitamins, says White, also helps reduce stress and prevent hair loss.

Where to find them: Fish, poultry, leans meats, eggs, nuts, and whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal are chock-full of B vitamins. Foods that are rich in B12 include beef, milk, cheese and wheat germ.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
How they better your beard:
Essential fatty acids are just that: essential to normal growth, including that of facial hair. They also protect cell membranes, helping to prevent your whiskers from getting dry and brittle.

Where to find them: Make sure flax seed oil, walnuts and fatty fish (e.g., salmon) find their way into your diet.

Want to make your beard even more beautiful? Of course you do! Supplementing the above foods with a multivitamin, or with any of the individual nutrients listed above, might do the trick. Just don’t overdo it: Your body will excrete any extra water-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin C or B12), but it’ll hold on to extra fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., vitamin A). Excessive doses of vitamin A could actually lead to hair loss. Ask your doctor to recommend a proper dosage, and you’ll soon be on your way to winning whiskers.

Get a Barbershop Shave at Home -- for Less

Master barbers tend to use the word “process” to describe shaving, and there’s a reason. Take the typical 30-minute shave at Manhattan barbershop BBRAXTON: Executive director, general manager and master barber Gary Clark reclines clients to a 90-degree angle, smoothes on pre-shave oil, allows it time to soak in, massages in shaving cream, lays down a hot towel (fresh from the hot towel kiln, no less), shaves the client, lays down another hot towel and tops it off with shave balm for the finishing touch. The actual shave almost gets lost amid all the other steps.

Although this might be the best way to treat your face -- resulting in a super-clean shave and protected skin, not to mention stress release -- we’re going to assume you don’t have the luxury to hire someone to do this every time you want a bare face, or have the time or money to do it yourself. But, Clark reveals, it is possible to cut the 30-minute process in half, do it at home with inexpensive products and get incredibly similar results. Here’s how.

1. Raid your kitchen cabinet.
According to Clark, olive oil or grape-seed oil are perfectly acceptable pre-shave oils. “All-natural products are great,” he says. “Shaving is pretty harsh on the skin, but they keep the moisture locked in.”

2. Shave in the shower.
“Make sure it’s a steamy hot shower,” says Adam Ramos, a master barber and owner of Virile Barber & Shop in New Jersey. “One of the key components to a quality, comfortable shave is heat and moisture.”

For men with curly hair -- in other words, those prone to razor bumps -- Clark recommends applying moist hot towels for one-and-a-half to two minutes before and after shaving, even if you’re already in a steamy shower. “The vapor brings up any impurities and toxins and softens the hair follicle tremendously for a smoother, cleaner shave.” Install a fogless mirror in the shower and you’ll be sure not to miss a spot.

3. Forget the expensive badger hair brush; your hands will do just fine.
Says Ramos: “The purpose of the brush is to lift the hairs on your face and make sure the shaving cream really gets underneath and keeps those hairs propped up. Then the blade can get under them and shave as close to the skin as possible.”

Traditionally, barbers will heat up a disk of glycerin soap, place it on a scuttle or inside a shaving mug, run the brush under warm water and mix it with the soap (or with fancy concentrated shaving cream) to concoct the lather they desire. That translates to an extra 10-15 minutes of time before you can actually shave, plus the price of all the supplies.

Luckily, says Ramos, “Your fingers are just as good, so long as you’re really massaging it in.” Rub the shaving cream in vigorously, using circular motions to make sure you get in under the hairs.

4. Apply an inexpensive aftershave balm.
According to Clark, inexpensive aftershave balms can be as effective as their pricier brethren. In a pinch, even a splash of cold water will do the trick.

Follow these four simple steps and you’ll walk out the door looking like you just left the shaving salon.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/avdeev007

Coarse, Curly Facial Hair? These Beards Are For You

You know a beard can add flare to your overall look. But growing one is not without obstacles, like figuring out the right style to fit your face shape and maintaining your beard to look as fresh as it did the day you left the barbershop. If you have coarse, curly hair, you can multiply these challenges by a factor of 10.

Compared to your less curly counterparts, you’ll need a lot more skill when holding the immers. Most importantly, you’ll need to master the curl of your beard because, depending on how short it’s worn, the tightness of the curls can give the beard the appearance of looking patchy. In the beginning stages of beard-growing, patchiness can be prevented by using immers (or a beard comb or brush, when ansitioning from a short to long beard length) to smooth out your facial hair every two to three days.

Best Beard Styles for Coarse, Curly Hair

Take your cues from the stars: These beard styles are the best bets for guys with coarse, curly hair:

  • Beard scruff, which works on all face shapes:
Lenny Kravitz
  • Goatees like the Vandyke and the full goatee (where the mustache is connected to the chin hair):

Diddy (Vandyke) Will Smith (full goatee)
  • Chin strap:
Dwayne Wade

  • Light beard:
Flo Rida

Keep Your Beard Looking Fresh

The key to making these styles look good day in and day out is maintaining a desirable length. How long is too long? When the sharp lines that helped create the style become less noticeable due to the curl of the beard. And, of course, as mentioned earlier: If the beard grows to a length at which the hairs begin to create holes or patches in the beard, it’s grown too long.

The best way to keep these styles looking neat, especially for the super-curly beard crowd, is a detailed finish with a razor (keeping in mind, of course, that many men with this beard type are more prone to shaving irritation). The focus of the blade should be on the perimeter of the beard in order to accent the style; the surrounding area can be immed rather than shaved.

So what about the full beard? You’ll need patience -- and preferably a long vacation on a secluded island -- while you brush and comb your beard through the patchy period and into its full glory.

  • Full beard:
Rick Ross

 All Images: Getty Images

Universally Flattering Facial Hair: Is It a Myth?

A custom-made suit will always fit better than anything off the rack. The same applies to your facial hair: You look better when your whiskers are groomed to fit your face shape. But, like a well-made ready-to-wear suit that looks pretty decent on most men, is there one facial hairstyle that brings out the best in almost every guy who wears it? To find out, we asked barbers across the country. Perhaps proving that there isn’t one universally flattering facial hair style, their responses were as diverse as their hometowns.

NORTHEAST: The Groomed Five O’clock Shadow
“Each man has his own style, and facial hair is a way to express that. Men grow facial hair differently too -- some is coarser than others, some is finer. Some faces are more pronounced than others, creating shadows and spots that may not look great with a beard. But if I had to choose, I’d say the groomed five o’clock shadow is the safest bet. The style is professional enough for work. Plus, you can have a clean-shaven face in the morning and a shadow by night, creating a different look. As for a beard, goatee or mustache, you might not have enough facial hair growth or the right dimensions to pull it off.”

-- Manuel Vazquez of American Shave Classic Barber in Union, N.J.

MIDWEST: The Full Beard
“The one style that works for most men is a full beard, whether it be scruff or the ‘I just got done hiking the Alps’ look. It looks classy when your beard is groomed, rugged when unkempt. It can really make a man look distinguished and it can sometimes age a baby face. Guys that have patchy beards should keep them short and tidy to give a fuller appearance.”

-- Shawna Carter of State Street Barbers in Chicago, Ill.

WEST: The Style That Squares

“It’s always best to choose a beard style that best fits your face shape. A square face shape is the most ideal and desired shape. For men with square faces, the choices are endless. For those who don’t have a square face, the goal is to choose a beard style that helps to square the face so it gives the illusion that they do. This will be different for every face shape.”

-- Craig the Barber of Gornik & Drucker barbershop in Beverly Hills, Calif.

SOUTHWEST: A Mustache

“After surveying our team of barbers, the vote came back unanimously for the mustache. We all agreed that the mustache (well-groomed, of course) represents a sense of style, confidence, security, strength and distinction. Just consider Clark Gable, Billy Dee Williams, Tom Selleck, Salvador Dali, Burt Reynolds, Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin.”

-- Christopher Dickerson, president of Christopher’s Vintage Shave in Sugar Land, Texas

… Or a Goatee
“A well-trimmed, well-managed goatee looks good on every man -- as long as you choose a goatee style that’s a good fit for your face. Some goatees may be fuller, thicker or longer than others, but the key is how it’s kept up. I find that most men take better care of a goatee than a full beard or just a mustache. You can’t grow it and ignore it.”

-- Adrian Armendariz of V’s Barbershop in Houston, Texas


SOUTHEAST: No One Style Works for All

“There’s not one facial hairstyle that looks good on every man, because every man’s facial hair differs. Some hair is coarse and stiff, some is curly, some grows in spotty.

The style that’s the most flattering on an individual is the one that’s contoured to the man’s face; is neat and linear; and compliments the natural flow of the man’s cheekbone, jawline or lip structure.”

-- James B. Kynes Jr., Kings of Atlanta Grooming Lounge & Spa in Atlanta, Ga.

Celebrity Winners of the Best Facial Hair Awards

While the celebrities strut their stuff on various red carpets this month, we thought we’d hand out a few awards of our own. Welcome to the very first Best Facial Hair Awards. The envelope, please!

The Mountain Man Beard Award: Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal’s mountain man beard might be long and bushy, but he keeps it combed, expertly trimmed and healthy-looking. When dealing with facial hair at this length, maintenance is key to avoiding an overgrown and unkempt nest full of woodland creatures.

Best Eyebrows on an Agent Award: Saif Ali Khan


There’s nothing worse than a man with barely-there eyebrows. But most Bollywood stars suffer from the opposite problem – overly large or bushy eyebrows. Saif Ali Khan's Agent Vinod looks right - an Indian James Bond, impeccably dressed and styled.

Best Funny Man Mustache Award: Eddie Murphy

While Tower Heist won’t win the Oscar for Best Picture, Murphy’s finely trimmed chevron mustache deserves an award for the way its angular shape balances out his oval face.

 

Best Hair Ball Award: Questlove

If you’re going to sport a voluminous afro) lead and grow a full beard to help balance out the look and avoid looking like you’re wearing a hair helmet. His beard emphasizes his strong jawline, anchoring his incredible hairstyle and bringing the entire look together.

 

Best Eyebrows on a Solo Artist Award: Drake

There’s nothing worse than a man with over-plucked, barely-there eyebrows. Drake’s thick but tidy brows properly frame his eyes, without looking overdone or overgrown. Gentlemen, don’t forget: There should be two.

 

Best Mustache on a Muppet Award: Swedish Chef

You might not understand what the Swedish Chef has to say, but his mustache is perfectly clear. The Chef’s ’stache strikes a delicate balance between his bulbous nose, gaping mouth and wild eyebrows. If you have large features, dainty facial hair will only serve to make things look larger.

 

Best Breakup Beard: Russell Brand

Breaking up is hard to do, but funnyman Russell Brand does it in style. His recent split from pop star Katy Perry has left him with a dastardly, pirate-worthy beard that gives him a brooding look -- an appropriate style for a recent divorcé, if you ask us.

 

Best Performance by a Goatee and Mustache Duo: Kanye West

Kanye West keeps his mustache short, expertly trimmed and narrow to avoid adding weight between his nose and lip. Instead, he turns the focus to his goatee, which emphasizes his strong chin and jawline.

 

Best Rock ’n’ Roll Beard Award: Lenny Kravitz

When you’re a rock ’n’ roll icon).

 

Best Smooth(ish) Stubble Award: John Legend

When you’re a smooth soul singer, you need facial hair that will complement your gentlemanly style while upping your game. John Legend’s perfect short stubble adds a dash of roughness to his boyish face -- but not enough to scare off the ladies.

 
And our awards for most dubious facial hair styles go to …
 

The Trying-too-hard Stubble Award: Adam Levine

Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine has perfected the art of the stubble -- and that’s the problem. It’s almost too perfect. Stubble is meant to look accidental, to sport an air of, “I woke up looking this good.” Levine’s stubble is so evenly trimmed and shaped that it appears overworked. He could use a lesson from Lenny Kravitz.

 

Most Awkward-looking Beard Award: Robert Pattinson

When teenage girls proclaim their undying (undead?) love for you at every turn, sometimes you need to don a disguise just to get a little peace. Nothing can change your look quicker than a beard. Unfortunately, Edward’s -- I mean, Robert’s -- beard looks awkward on his boyish face and drains away his usual good looks. A perfect disguise, indeed!

All Images: Getty Images