Welcome back to the Gentleman’s Gazette! Today we are here with the founder of Beardbrand, Erick Bandholz.
Eric Bandholz: Hey, what’s going on, man?
Sven Raphael Schneider: Welcome Eric!
EB: How are you doing?
EB: Well, there you go. I got a little bit of the beard and mustache.
SRS: Eric started originally on Wall Street in investment banking then he went away from that. He then decided to start his company that’s all about beard care, grooming, and hair. He always has these awesome hairs and his kind of hipster looks.
SRS: So, tell us more about how you got into beards?
EB: Yeah like you said, I used to be a financial advisor. I had a closet full of suits and ties. I had the all-American look, you know the shaved face and all that and really, I felt like it was a disguise, it wasn’t who I really was. I wasn’t content in that job, so I quit that job to start my own thing and grew my beard out. It was during that time that I realized I would get a lot of stereotype comments about my beard like, “Oh you’re a lumberjack or a homeless guy or a biker or Grizzly Adams.” They are all cool dudes and what not but it’s not me. I am a business person, I’m a designer, I’m an urban type of guy. It was after attending an event that I realized there were other guys out there like me with beards who are just kind of like ordinary dudes. That’s when we came up with the term Urban Beardsman to describe who I was and describe other guys like me and then try to give them the tools they needed to feel confident about growing their beard out. Scenarios like on Wall Street, typically the guys are not growing their beards out and give those types of guys who want to grow their beard out the confidence they need to be able to rock it.
SRS: How would you provide this confidence specifically?
EB: You know for me, I think a lot of confidence is rooted in education. So giving them the tools they need to feel like they are taking care of their beard the right way or their expectations are realistic with how a beard is going to come in, how it’s going to grow, how fast it’s going to grow, how curly it’s going to be. So, education is really like a root and no one really talks about this because our Dads, I don’t know about your Dad, but my Dad’s a baby boomer and they always shave, like that is what you did. It’s like you didn’t have an option if you’re a baby boomer, so he didn’t teach me how to grow a beard. I had to learn on my own.
SRS: He thought you how to shave right?
SRS: You’re talking about tools, what tools do you think of specifically?
EB: Yeah, I mean there’s tons of tools out there from anything to wash your beard, like a beard wash to condition your beard, a beard softener…
SRS: Why can’t you use shampoo?
EB: Shampoo if you think about it, your head has a 100 thousand follicles on the head. Your beard has 30 thousand. Your scalp is the thickest skin of anywhere in your body. Whereas your face can be in some cases very thin, so you want a product that’s been formulated to take care of your skin beneath the beard as well as the type of hairs that come out of your beard, out of your face, which is the the flatter, coarser, curlier hair. Although you have pretty coarse thick hair as well, you might be able to get away with something that works on both. But for a lot of guys, like you have a finer, rounder hair on your scalp and then the flatter, coarser hair on the face, so you’re going to take that into consideration.
SRS: How often should you wash your beard?
EB: Personally, if you’re like me or an office guy and you’re int he office like every day and you’re not working out, you only need to do it once a week, once every couple times a week. But, if you’re going to the gym everyday, you’re getting sweaty, you’re working outdoors, then yeah, you wash it everyday. Now when I say wash it, I rinse it thoroughly every single day.
SRS: With water?
EB: Yeah. So it’s not like when I say you only was it once a week, you don’t touch your face with water but it’s actually using the soap that can strip your natural oils away from your skin that will cause your beard to get dry and have breakage and stuff like that.
SRS: I mean sometimes, you know I get dry skin on my face in certain areas and I know other people do too. Now when you have a beard, it’s a little more difficult to kind of use a scrub or something like that because it all sticks in there. How do you handle that?
EB: There’s a product called an Alpha Fit which is made by Clarisonic. It’s a tool you can use in the shower and it will help exfoliate and get down below the beard if you wanted a tool to do that. And then of course, Clarisonic uses the little micro vibration.
SRS: We’ll put that on the website so people can check it out.
SRS: Cool. So, why would you then on top of the shampoo add something like a beard oil?
EB: Yeah. So what we talked about is like the washing process removes those natural oils from your face. So, when you hop out of the shower you want to replace those oils and bring your natural chemistry back in balance. That’s essentially what beard oil is doing. It’s getting your beard back to where it would be originally if you are doing these unnatural things like washing. Because if you think about in nature, washing is not a very natural thing, it is something that we’ve added.
SRS: That’s interesting. I noticed that there are lots of beard oils out there.
SRS: We got approached by lots of companies and they are like you know, mom and pop shops to like larger companies, it’s a huge range out there. Some people out there just do it themselves – DIY. Why would I pay more for a beard oil if I can just get all of them or something from the store?
EB: We recognize that too. You’ve got to do what’s in your budget. You got to do what you think is right. For the DIY guys, you are not going to have a consistent product, you may formulate it wrong. It’ll probably end up costing you more money. Yeah, you’re going to have a lot more of it but then the product goes bad after a certain period of time.
SRS: Oh, what’s the average lifespan of oils?
EB: Yeah, so like a natural product without any preservatives in them, it’s probably going to be about like 9 months I would say, 9 months to a year.
EB: A little 1-ounce bottle is going to last you three months.
SRS: 30ml, 15ml.
EB: 30 ml. Yep! If you have like 250ml or 8 ounces, you’re not going to use that like maybe 5 years to go through that. So you’ve wasted all this money. And then the mom and pop shops, a lot of times they don’t know like the effects of essential oils and the harm that they can do to people’s skin. You know, a lot of them will use like citrus essential oils which smells lovely. It smells great but citrus can cause sensitivity with your skin in the sun. So it’s the last ingredient you want to out on your face in higher than recommended dosages. So. there’s things like that where the mom and pop shops don’t know. And then the big players, like the mass produced players, they tend to take shortcuts and it’s all about the profitability and how do we maximize every little penny out of it. So they will instead of using natural ingredients, they start using silicones and other items that are more affordable that give you the effects of a natural product without the real benefits of it, so it’s kind of disguising what is going on.
SRS: Interesting. So what exactly changes in the oil when it turns bad?
EB: Well for one, the fragrance will just generally lose its potency over time. Fragrance is very volatile.
SRS: It’s alcohol based usually, right?
EB: You can do oil base, alcohol base. You could do a solid base as well. There’s a lot of mediums to do it and they have different advantages. But a fragrance is a, you know it’s like when you cut an orange right? Right when you cut it, it’s open, it’s in the air and then that orange is going to smell great forever, those kind of dissipate over time. So fragrance by default is like a volatile ingredient so you kind of lose that. And then you do have the issues of like microbials entering into the product and growing in there, that’s where with oil based product versus a water based product and that’s really like the biggest risk would be. And then there are bacteria versus mold and fungus and all that stuff.
SRS: All that stuff. Alright.
EB: The fun science stuff of cosmetics.
SRS: Great! So for a quality beard oil, what would you say are the key ingredients?
EB: You know we’ve talked about this a lot at our time here in the house. It’s so much more than the product, right? It’s the company behind it and the brand behind it and how they stand behind it. You know what we recognize, that what you put on your face right under your nose, you’ve got to have that connection to the fragrance. If you don’t have that connection to the fragrance, you’re not going to like it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the “best beard oil on the face of the planet” if you don’t like the way it smells. We’ve got 9 different fragrances to really help people connect with that.
As a company, we do “Swaps are always free.” There’s no risk on the buyer to get into the product. They don’t have the hassle to do returns. If they don’t like this fragrance, we give them a new one, no big deal. If there are not happy with a product down the road or they have allergies to certain ingredients, we take care of them. And I think, as much as people want to think that the money they are paying for is just the liquid inside the bottle, it’s more than that. It’s the education that the company provides.
SRS: Which is huge and that’s how you in fact you started. You’re on the Youtube channel first and then you added a product. So it’s very similar to us where we had education first, articles because we loved it and wanted to do it. Then people asked, “Hey, where can I find this?” And then you’re like, “Hey, I can’t find it, so let’s make it!” That’s the same concept and I think it’s just a different mindset if you start it that way than if you have a product then just try “How can I market it better?”
EB: Education takes resources from the company. It takes a lot of time, energy to produce these videos, to produce the blog articles. A cheaper company, they are riding off on someone else’s education. They are not the ones who are educating the customers. They’re like, “Oh, you already know about beard oil because of Beardbrand. Hey, just come over here, and I didn’t have to spend any of that money on here.”
SRS: Buy it on Amazon.
EB: Right. So a little of bit of that is the education, the return policy, the packaging too to give a nice experience and just the feel of the brand and that connection to the brand. It’s kind of like the entrepreneur on me. It’s more than just the juice. The juice is great, don’t get me wrong, but there’s so much more than that when you decide to work with a company.
SRS: What are the challenges with using quality ingredients in beard oils, would you say?
EB: There’s always going to be like sourcing issues and seasonal issues. It’s like fragrance is really a lot like wine. You do have, depending on the weather, right?
SRS: Conditions. If there is a good turnout on the fields, you get really good scents. Then maybe the next year it’s really bad because there was a flood and all is gone.
EB: And you’ll have the ebbs and flows of the pricing because of that. It’s really interesting you know, we try to maintain a consistent product of course, but if we have to supply like a different clove from a different area, it’s going to affect the product. We do have a little bit of seasonality with our products which is kind of cool when some customers notice that, they’re like, “Hey, this smells slightly different from the last time I had it.”
SRS: It’s a quality of a handmade product in a way. We know that whenever you have hand work involved there are slight variations.
SRS: With some peccary glove and it’s just a wild animal. So every hide is going to be different and they have slight imperfections, but it’s part of the beauty and that’s what you have to accept. Like a handmade suit is not a factory-made suit and it’s the same thing if you have an artificial ingredient versus a natural ingredient.
SRS: There will be some fluctuations.
EB: It’s like we could process the bejesus out of certain ingredients until it’s all exactly the same.
SRS: Like a Big Mac.
EB: And then you get a Big Mac quality. It is those imperfections that really make it beautiful and lovely, and in my opinion, a higher quality but everyone has their own preferences for what they want.
SRS: What are the tools would you say should a man have?
EB: Yes, like a beard oil, a utility balm is a great product as well if you’re balding up top. You can use it to condition your dome. You can use it to condition your tattoos or your skin, if you do that, of course your beard and your mustache. It’s a real versatile product but we’ve grown beyond the beard with items like combs and brushes which can also be used in the head hair. Beardbrands have really grown a lot over the years and we recognize like kind of my journey into finding my style has been through my beard. I think a lot of our audience members, they’re like, “Oh, if I can take care of my beard then I can take care of my style, I can take care of my wardrobe, I can take care of my hair.” And the beard is like the starting point for that.
SRS: Sometimes I have seen these men with really impressive beards but then they go bald on top. Is there a connection between?
EB: Oh yeah. In a sick twisted fate, the thing that causes guys to grow great beards is also the thing that may cause them to lose their hair. It’s called DiHydrogen Testosterone (DHT). It’s not technically like certain DHT levels will cause effects, but it’s your genetic response to those DHT levels. So let’s say your head hair will stay in place yup to like 10,000 DHT and mine will stay in place up yo 8,000 so if I go to 9,000 you’re still going to have your hair but I’m going to go bald. It’s all those levels and how we respond to it so there are no absolutes out there like if I just lower my DHT or raise my DHT then I can prevent it. But here are tools out there to help you either boost your natural testosterone to grow a better beard or black those DHTs to kind of keep your hair.
SRS: In terms of beard styling, you used to have this gigantic beard basically and now you switched it up. Looking back to the 1890s or so men had much more unusual appearance than they do today. What do you think are good beards for certain people and how do you find a style that works for you?
EB: For me, I like to have a beard style that’s not very common. So right now that’s why I have the big mustache because a lot people aren’t rocking it. When I grew my beard out, I grew it pretty long and at that time no one had big long beards. And then there was phase when everyone had big beards and then I kind of went shorter with it.
SRS: You want to be ahead of the curve.
EB: I like being ahead of the curve. I kind of like being different and being the drummer to my own beat or whatever that is.
SRS: Or just create your unique style. I mean for you obviously, your beard is a hallmark.
SRS: And yesterday, you showed me on your phone on your Instagram account there are a lot of people actually because of that create artwork.
EB: I got some fans.
SRS: So I’m sure, you also look taller, you’re like like what 6’4”?
SRS: So when you walk around with a beard, I mean you stand out.
EB: Yeah I don’t blend in and I prefer it that way. But the thing is there are so many details with the beard like do you do a hard line here? Do you do a hard line on your neck? Do you have a natural line? Do you blend the mustache into the beard or do you have the mustache separate from the beard? Do you shave off like the sides and go with a goatee? Do you have a big goatee and go with shorter sides? There’s just like so many style options where like 5 years ago to 10 years ago it’s like I grow a beard. It’s a full beard, it’s like the one option but now it’s like with your head hairstyle, do you want to do a fade? Do you want to do an undercut? Do you want to disconnect? How do you want to style? There’s so many options with beard styles that a lot of guys don’t even know are options. And really, you want to play into your strengths. I’ve got a great mustache. My sides are a little bit thinner than my mustache area, so that’s why I highlight my mustache.
SRS: So some people you know, they go to beard growing competitions where you use like beard wax and stuff, what’s your take on that?
EB: Yeah that’s a cool little community. I’ve judged plenty of beard competitions. Yeah, it’s an interesting community and it’s really how guys do beauty pageants. They have a lot of fun, they drink beer and they’re a little rowdy. They do these, absolutely crazy like it sounds. What they’re using is actually a high hold hairspray so like a no. 5 hairspray to get all those in place. A beard wax just isn’t strong enough for that.
SRS: Do you ever use it for your beard?
EB: Yeah, I mean we sell a mustache wax where you could use to get it all in place. I avoid the hairsprays. I go for a more natural look. Yeah, it’s kind of my…
SRS: It’s more your style.
EB: It’s more of my MO, my hair and my stuff. I don’t like the handlebars. For my own personal style. I think some other guys pull it off great but it just doesn’t work for me.
SRS: Yeah, interesting. Cause I find that there are lots of companies that play on insecurities and they often times look quite shady. It’s not something where I’m like “wow, this looks like a trustworthy product.” Is there anything where you say, Hey, there have been medical studies and tests that actually work and it’s not just bogus where you spent a lot of money, not actually seeing something. You know all these before and after pictures and you’re like, yeah right.
EB: Yeah we share the same outlook on things. We’re not like a natural only company because natural is better and dadadada.
We think that natural is like a better experience but we’re also kind of scientific jurymen. We’re not doing natural for the sake of natural. Does that make sense?
SRS: Yeah, it has to be better. It’s the quality thing. If you want the best quality, if you need a certain consistency or a certain output, then maybe the artificially derived thing maybe actually be superior for the job.
EB: Yeah, so I think what happens is it’s funny because in the beard, there’s like beard growth pills, beard growth oils, which are like pseudoscience and it’s all anecdotal evidence. It’s essentially like penis pills, or a lot of like, in my opinion, a lot of like natural hair growth things. There are scientifically proven options out there right now.
SRS: What are those?
EB: It’s like a Triple Play. It’s a drug called Minoxidil, a drug called Finasteride and a shampoo called Nioxin. Something like that. I’m bad with words.
SRS: We’ll add a link on the website so people can see.
EB: So Minoxidil, you’ll probably know by the trade name, Rogaine. It’s the big player out there and that’s going to be like a, I think it’s a fast code dilator. I’m not a doctor but it affects the blood flow and increases blood flow to your scalp which allows the hairs to be healthier. But it’s not like a DHT blocker. That’s what the Finasteride is. Finasteride, by the trade name is Propecia. What that does is, it’s an oral medication that will affect your hormones to kind of lower and block the DHT. And then the shampoo is more of for like, the way I interpret it, is like a dandruff type of thing. You’re gonna get a dry scalp when you use Rogaine and it’s gonna help with that and kind of keep the hair healthy in a sense. When you use all three of those in combination, that’s gonna be your best strategy to minimize hair loss or kind of stop it, or to slightly regrow but it’s not really gonna bring it all back. It’s more of like slowing and stopping the progression of your hair loss.
SRS: Sounds like the key is as soon as you notice some recession in your hair line or in your crown, you should start right away. It’s much easier to maintain than to grow it back.
EB: Absolutely. And then if you ever grow it back, then that’s when you’re gonna be looking into hair transplants where you kinda relocate the hairs from this part, which you don’t really lose, to your crown, to your temples and stuff.
EB: Yeah there’s a whole industry and you know, I’ve been a big fan of – These are tools that are available to you, and we’ve talked about this earlier and there’s no shame in using the tools. Just like you use a styling product to get your hair to look a certain way. Your hair doesn’t look like this when you wake up. You use a styling tool to get to where you want to go. There’s no shame in using that styling product. There’s no shame in using Rogaine or Finasteride to get you to maintain your hair at the level that you want it. Don’t mask it. Don’t disguise it, just be like “Yeah of course! I do it because that’s what I wanna do.” But I think a lot of guys have insecurities with losing the hair and they wanna hide, and they’d be like “No, I don’t use Rogaine.” or “No, I don’t do beard or hair transplants because this is what I have naturally”. No dude, it’s cool. You know it’s cool to use this tool. Heck yeah, I’m doing it. Heck yeah, I’m fighting for it like I want to keep my hair. You know and own it.
SRS: Exactly. So I mean, you know a lot about beards and hair and obviously, you know what’s going on your head. So what do you think is the next step for beardbrand, should you have more grooming products or hair products. Where are you heading?
EB: Yeah, like I said, my story started with a beard and kind of went out from there so our product offering is gonna start that way. You know we have great beard care products. We’re growing into hair care products and we have a styling balm, we have a sea salt spray which is great for giving you a variety of hair styling options.
SRS: It’s very popular in the women market. My wife, she looks at things and what is this and it’s like beach hair, oh beach hair.
EB: But it’s great for guys because with guys and especially if you’re thinning, it’ll give you that volume and that texture that you’re not going to get from like maybe a pomade or it’s really gonna way your hair down. How do you see your scalp or sea salt spray is gonna give you that volume in that natural look.
SRS: I mean sea salts are like popular, right? Sea salts, caramels, what not. To me, at first glance sounds more like marketing scheme. Is it actually sea salt from the sea or is it just made up?
EB: I mean, with a sea salt, it’s just kind of saltwater right?
SRS: Maybe with some kind of algae and some other things.
EB: So our sea salt spray, almost everyone has figured out how to bottle the “sea water” right? They got salt water formulation down but what they forgot in where our products are different than everyone else is we bottled the beach. So when you go to the ocean, and you’re surfing, and you’re boogey boarding and you’re crashing into the waves, that sand gets tossled up and that’s what also get in your hair. So we put some clay in our sea salt spray all set on the bottom. You give it a shake and you makes waves in the bottle and then you spray it in, then you’re going to get a lot more authentic type of beach hair if that’s the look you’re going for versus maybe some of the alternatives on the marketplace.
SRS: Alright, I’ll have my wife check it out.
EB: Yeah yeah, get you some bottles.
SRS: Awesome. Yeah, I think my hair’s a little bit too thick. I have very thick hair
EB: You can get a very nice fro going on, man.
SRS: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe. It seems like on your Instagram, you have lots of different guides and posts. It’s a good kind of inspiration for people.
EB: Yeah we try to show that not everyone has the same beard style, not everyone has the same hair look, the same wardrobe style. What are those options and how can you tie your beard in? With a style like yours, I think there’s a lot of guys now who are of Wall Street who are finally getting a confidence to rock a beard too. It’s like how can you pull that off in a very classic, dignified, quality way?
SRS: With a three piece suit.
EB: Yeah, and I think a lot of guys are figuring out ways to do it and we post a lot of those photographs.
SRS: That’s cool, to have just the bandwidth of things rather than just have one kind of beards man.
EB: Yeah. People look at me, and they’re like, “Ah, you’re right he’s a hipster, everything’s hipster.” and I’m like, I did kind of play in that hipster look, but reality is I’m a businessperson, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a finance guy.
SRS: You’re a libertarian like you’re not a hipster to me at all once I get to know you, but you’re right.
EB: Yeah, but if you look at me at the surface, I get that I look like it, but I would say that, I’m not living at my mom’s basement, I don’t think I’m pretentious when it comes to coffee, I mean slightly but.
SRS: We all have our own things, and it’s all about quality, right? I mean, it’s okay to have a quality coffee, or a quality hair product, or a quality pocket square or tie. It’s all about what goes into it, and once you touch it and feel it and use it, you’re like yeah, this is both lamb leather but this one is so superior to this one, and it feels heavenly and it’s same with most things in life.
EB: It’s like you and your belts, man. You love just like fine leathers, I don’t know anything about belts.
SRS: We’re making them right now, they’re like, “Hey, what’s out there in belts and what do people use?” and oftentimes they use, they all call it the top grain but in fact it’s not. It’s coated, and then there’s a middle layer usually to get the belt a little more volume, and nice edges or angles, and that’s usually not leather, and the inside leather is the cheapest leather you could get, and they have the thread and stuff and the buckles, it’s not solid brass or sterling silver, it’s a lower grade material, it just doesn’t age as well, the plating is not so thick and it comes off, and all those things. A belt seems so simple but there are many ways to screw them differently. Alright, if people want to learn more about beards, where should they go?
EB: Beardbrand, is the ultimate source, we’ve got a youtube channel, Beardbrand.
SRS: Since when?
EB: Since 2012, is when we launched the community. I think we are the company that created the industry of beard care, like before us it just didn’t exist, and again man it’s Beardbrand Youtube, Instagram, twitter, our website, of course Beardbrand, we got a blog there, all that, and of course me, I’m Eric Bandholz.
EB: Yeah, thanks for having me.
SRS: Thanks, Eric.