When you think about grooming and beauty habits, you may not automatically think about men (sorry, fellas). A lot of the beauty industry, including products, videos, and overall content, tends to skew toward women, often leaving men, nonbinary people, and countless other groups off the table. However, companies and brands that dismiss men are leaving a LOT of money on the table: The men’s beauty market is only growing, with projected sales of $67 billion in 2020 alone.
So, what are men to do?
Brandon Patton and Evan Alexander wanted to have not only a safe space where Black men could discuss grooming and challenging cultural norms, but a community that could educate others on how to properly care for facial hair. "Being a Black man in America, I have to worry about what image my beard creates, so growing a beard takes a lot of self-confidence,” Patton told BuzzFeed. The two began the Facebook group Black Men’s Beard VIP in 2015, a men's “online grooming salon” that allows its 4,000-plus active members to share tips, discover self-care for Black masculinity and identity, and rebel against Black facial hair stereotypes.
Read on to learn more about how the two started this cool community and what they hope this adds to the larger beauty conversation.
In your own words, can you tell us a bit about Black Men's Beard VIP and why you started the FB group?
BP: "I didn't see anyone on social media who spoke our language, catered to our needs, and who could relate to us about growing a healthy beard. There wasn't space for men to be vulnerable and learn about self-love. So I decided to create a place of solace for men to feel comfortable being themselves and embrace it."
Grooming has been seen as a "woman" thing, even though men do care about their skincare (and their beards!). How does the FB group destigmatize beauty standards across genders, but also age, race, socioeconomic background, etc.?
"We focus on being our greatest selves. The people in our group see grooming as part of their process and journey to become their best self and people want to be great regardless of age, race, and socioeconomic backgrounds."
Black hair, in particular, is seen through a very narrow and oftentimes problematic lens in society. Facial hair is no exception. As a Black man, can you discuss the importance of having a platform like this to discuss what's happening on a larger scale, but also how acts of discrimination and prejudices affect the individual?
"Our Black Men’s Beard Facebook group serves as a safe place for men of color growing or beginning their beard journey. It provides a network of support, with understanding and empathy for men. This safe space is important because it allows members to seek advice, have unfiltered conversations, and connect without the worry of meeting Eurocentric beliefs."
What are some of the stereotypes that have been placed on you or others because of your facial hair? How do you work to break those down? Are those situations where race is the only factor, and is your FB group exclusive to Black men?
"The prejudgments or prejudice associated with being a bearded man of color are vast. For some, the prejudgments are instilled in them in the home — having heard the groans of older generations perpetuating Eurocentric beliefs by asking the younger generation to assimilate with mainstream society by shaving or cutting their beard, with the hopes that this act of adaptation will provide a more respectable and accepted image. However, people are flawed with unconscious biases.
For example, the presence of a beard could cause someone to be intimidated or think that someone is unapproachable, causing them to prematurely draw conclusions such as 'He doesn’t fit the company culture' or 'He seemed aggressive.' These assumptions or unconscious biases are damaging and hurtful. It can inhibit one’s corporate ascension or delay opportunities. It could also lead some to believe that they are not worthy or good enough as they are.
Our Facebook group is open to anyone who requests to join the group. However, the majority of our members are men of color.
Understand everyone’s story is unique, so embrace yourself and your beard!"
Alright, so let's talk about some of the good content we can find on the page!
"On our page, you can find a plethora of beard care tips. You will also find our fitness videos that men do at home; seven-day fruit fast challenges to encourage healthier beards, skin, and hair; and different smoothie recipes men can create at home."
What are your favorite beard tips? We need to know how to grow and keep a flourishing and healthy beard!
"I recommend these simple core tips. 1) Use beard care tools to grow a healthier beard. 2) Do a beard scrub 1–2 times per week. 3) Hydrate your beard with a beard hydrator. 4) Detox your beard once a week, once per month, or once every three months to improve the skin underneath your beard. 5) Eat as healthy as possible to nourish your beard."
You also mention that the page isn't JUST about beards, but also taps into conversations like Black manhood and masculinity, etc. Can you discuss how the two worlds are created and how you're using grooming as a way to have some of these bigger conversations within and outside of the Black community?
"Yes, our group isn't just about beards. It's about being responsible for yourself, family, and your community. This level of mentality requires accountability, consistent action, and personal growth. We practice these values through self-care and self-love when we groom ourselves.
We often take for granted the process of grooming and how much of an impact it can have on people's lives in our communities. If you can take consistent action with taking care of yourself, you can transfer that behavior to your family and throughout your community."