Why African or “ethnic” beards are so special
During the 20th century, African men rarely wore beards. Even with beards making a comeback today, most black men prefer the clean-shaven look. Still, black beards are on the rise, and there are some truly remarkable African beards out there. Check out the following selection of awesome beards worn by these players of the 2014/2015 Seattle Seahawks (my hometown team–go Hawks!). If you ever doubted that black beards were “cool”, I hope this selection will ease your mind.
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African beards are rare and awesome, but they present black men with challenges other bearded men don’t have to deal with, due to the unique character of black facial hair. Black beards tend to grow patchy, are super-curly, tend to be wiry and dry, grow more slowly, and are harder to manage.
Why African Beards are Patchy
While many black men are able to grow truly epic beards, many others have a hard time growing in full beards. African beards tend to grow in patchy, based on genetics. This is an inherited trait, which I explored in my article, “Why Men Grow Beards“. Men of all ethnicities can grow patchy beards, or facial hair on the chin or cheeks only, but this trait occurs more often in African men than in anglo men.
This isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing at all. Many prominent African men sport wonderful beards that are patchy. Take a look at Will-I-Am from The Black-Eyed Peas. He sports a noticeably patchy beard without shame.
If you’re a black man whose beard grows in patchy, and you want a full beard, then read my article “How to Fix a Patchy Beard“. In short, you can force your dormant follicles to grow by using a minoxidil substance like Lipogaine, which is my recommended beard growth serum. This cream works by dilating your facial capillaries, increasing blood flow to your follicles, giving them the nutrients they need to sprout. While this will work, it takes a few months before you see progress, and you’ll have to use it forever.
Black Beard Growth
As I covered in my article on beard growth speed, beards grow at about the same rate (half an inch a month), but to greatly different lengths. The same is true for African beards, although they grow a bit more slowly. Non-African beards grow about 400 micrometers per day, while African beards grow about 250 micrometers. Thus, non-African beards grow one inch every 2 months (64 days), while African beards grow one inch every 3.3 months (99 days).
The terminal length of an African beard has the same variation as non-African beards. Some men’s beards keep growing for as long as 6 years, while other men’s beards reach their maximum length after 2 or 3 months. However, due to the texture of African beards, they will often appear shorter than they really are.
Black Beard Texture
African beards grow in coils and zig-zags. Imagine stretching out a coil. The strand will be longer than it was when it was in coil form. Similarly, African beards grow in small, tight coils, or in tightly packed zig-zags, that reduce the overall length of the beard.
There are three main types of African beards textures:
The Pure Coil
The pure coil is a tightly-packed spiral. Pure coil beard hairs tend to grow together. This leaves an African beard looking like it has long, thick springs hanging down. Since the springs grow together, these beards are easier to comb and shape. They also have more motion in them when you walk (if they are long), leaving your beard to sway. For shorter beards, it looks like a woven fabric. The pure coil is the more soft of the three African beard hair types, and will be stronger.
Instead of growing in a spiral, these beard hairs grow in zig-zags. The zig-zags are so uniform, that they often grow together, making your beard look like long wavy appendages hang from your chin. Shorter beards look like woven fabric with a zig-zag in them. The zig-zag beard hair feels wooly and dry, and makes a long beard look very short.
The Fuzz Ball
Fuzz ball African beard hairs grow in every which way and direction. One hair will grow one way, then start growing another. This produces a beard that looks like piece of wool fluff. It rarely clumps into patterns like the pure coil or zig-zag. Instead, it looks like a solid mass of fuzz.
How to Manage an African Beard
All bearded men need to use conditioners and basic beard grooming to keep their beards in shape. This is true for black beards in particular. African men tend to grow wiry, tough, coiled beards that need extra conditioning to make smooth and comfortable to wear. A daily grooming ritual is essential to make sure you walk out the door with an attractive, manageable black beard.
Beard oil is popular and comes in hundreds of different scents. Check out my beard oil page for a collection of my favorites. I recommend getting the Grave Before Shave 4-beard oil pack. They produce an excellent oil, and the four different scents give you daily options.
Beard balm comes as a buttery consistency. Just scrape off a little beard balm from the tin, melt it in your hands by rubbing them together, and then apply liberally to your beard. You can use both beard oil and beard balm together for maximum conditioning, or you can choose just one and stick with it. My favorite beard balm is Honest Amish, which I personally use every day.
The secret to owning a beard that keeps its shape during the day is beard wax. African beards are tough and have minds of their own. You can tame wild strands by using beard wax to keep them in place. Like beard balm, scrape off a little of the soft wax with your thumbnail, and then melt it between your hands. Spread it on the wild parts of your beard–usually the sides of the beard–and then mold it to shape. For black men, I suggest using the Honest Amish Extra Grit beard wax, which is the only black beard wax I know of. It also works well on brown beards, which is why I use it every day.
Some men have beards that are so curly or fuzzy that they are hard to manage. For them, I suggest using hair irons and hair straightening systems to straighten your beards, to make them more manageable. This has the added benefit of making your beard longer, since straightening a beard uncoils them. Read my complete guide on how to straighten a beard for more information.
Because black beard hairs are so curly, African men suffer from razor bumps, or ingrown beard hairs, more often than other men. Razor bumps happen when a shorn hair grows into the side of the follicle, instead of growing out of it. As the hair continues to grow, a bump on the skin appears, and irritation makes it red and painful. If the hair is not removed, the bump can become impacted with sebum and even pus.
Clean-shaven black men suffer from razor bumps more often than the bearded, but bearded men can still get them as beard hairs naturally shed and regrow. Thankfully, Tend Skin is a substance that helps cure razor bumps.
Use Tend Skin twice a day if you already have red, painful bumps. Once they are cured, use it once a day in your beard to prevent future ingrown beard hairs.
I hope this article has encouraged you to grow the epic black beard that is locked within your genes. If you have any other questions about African beard care, please leave them in the comments below. I’ll leave you with this epic image of Alexander Kelly. He was an African American Union soldier during the civil war, and won the Medal of Honor. And of course such a classy chap had an amazing black beard.