Beyond its surface level lodgings, a man’s facial hair is loaded with meaning. From a teenager’s first triumphant chin hairs, beard ownership comes with an unspoken acknowledgement of manliness. Historically, Arab men have used their facial hair styling to indicate their political or economic status, while as pop culture’s shorthand for masculinity, every beard spells out a message. Tamer Hosny’s slightly rugged yet cheekbone-framing beard, Amir El-Masry’s sharp edges and a cosmopolitan crop. In a region known for statement-making facial hair, it’s no surprise that men have taken the recent work-from-home situation to also up their beard game. Left unchecked by office norms, this has resulted in growths that can range from full and lush to more untamed facial hair.
“There are definitely more people growing out their beards in the post-lockdown period,” agrees Oliver Zaitouni, head barber and co-founder of Bô Barbershop. From his Dubai-based barber’s chair, Zaitouni says that facial hair has become a way for men to distinguish themselves. While women have more styling options, men can be restricted in self-expression, says the barber. With less to work with but more to lose with a snip of errant scissors, his clients are very particular in how they combine personal taste with trends. Ashley Clarke, grooming expert for luxury men’s e-tailer Mr Porter, also notes that more men are experimenting with growing out their facial hair, with “beard” leading as the most searched-for grooming term on Mr Porter since the start of the pandemic.
However, while facial hair may come naturally, its upkeep and maintenance can need more of a helping hand, with updated cleansing and styling rituals now at the modern man’s disposal, from pre-shave oils and beard shampoos, to pomade and extra-hold balms. The first port of call for beard care is a dedicated facial hair shampoo that cleanses without stripping the skin. Mark Wasif, co-founder of grooming brand Babel Alchemy, recommends using a dedicated beard wash three to four times a week, using fingertips to massage through the hair and to the skin below, to encourage better blood circulation and nurture the hair follicles. After drying, a next-gen beard oil is perfect for nourishing both skin and hair. “All men can use a lightweight oil, but some would need a little more hold for longer beards, especially if they have curly or coarse hair,” explains Wasif. For longer beards that require extra styling, a beard balm shapes and styles. A monthly maintenance appointment makes the difference, like Bô Barbershop’s Ultimate Shave Treatment. The procedure, which is nearly 200 years old, incorporates pre-shave oiling, massage, a series of circulation-boosting hot and cold towels, and an old-school cutthroat blade – a throw-back to that persuasive masculinity.
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Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Vogue Man Arabia