"I've been using these products for the last four months and I've never looked back. I've been going beard gang strong".
We spoke with black men’s grooming hair and beard products with the founder of Aaron Wallace. This is the very first black-owned grooming brand in the UK specifically tailored to black men.
As always, we start with a quick fireside round of questions to get to know the person behind the brand. So….
- Tattoos or piercings? Tattoos.
- Kevin Hart or Eddie Murphy? Eddie Murphy.
- I’m buying, what you drinking? Dark rum and coke. If I’m having a chilled night, Disaronno and cranberry juice.
- What is the thing that makes your day better? Right now, at this point in time is very important to be looking after your mental health. I find that when I make sure that I squeeze in a workout and a meditation session. Those two things really help me a lot and have a compounding effect on the rest of my day.
Tell us more about rebranding from Shear & Shine to Aaron Wallace
Myself and my co-founder, Lina started as Shear & Shine. We started from the barbershop and Shear & Shine was born out of just me having conversations with so many of my clients. Questions such as:
- What should I be doing with my hair?
- What should I be putting in my hair?
- Where can I get products for my hair?
Finding the shop is the first part of the mission and then knowing what products to buy is the second part. So, I thought as the barber it makes so much sense if I have something to offer my clients.
So, we started Shear & Shine products, then we grew the company. However, we were a little bit limited before on all the stuff that we could do. We were able to get some financial investment and that’s when we were able to go back to our preferred manufacturers and rebuild the whole range again from scratch. Now we had a bit more flexibility to make sure that all the products were 100% natural and pick every individual ingredient that goes into the products.
We’ve done a lot of research into what the most effective ingredients are for black hair. So, we wanted to make sure they had black seed oil, coconut oil in and shea butter. After rebuilding, it made sense to rebrand, which took almost two years. The new packaging, branding and look, has been really well received. Now we have more of a system, so it takes the whole, what should I do and how should I do it out, of the equation? Instead, it’s one, two, three.
What’s that perception of male grooming for black men and what sort of challenges you face?
In the early stages, I always used to have this conversation where people would say, “men don’t care about their grooming”. I would always challenge the idea because I always felt that black men always took pride in their grooming. The key difference with black men that I’ve found, is that they don’t go out of their way as much, to find out what they need. So, for example, when giving someone a haircut, I might say to the client, your hair is quite dry. The client would accept that’s how his hair is rather than looking for something to make his hair softer. However, if I recommend products that soften it, most of the time they will try it because it’s been put in front of them.
Also with the beard care movement, men who are trying to grow their beards, are more conscious of hair maintenance. They’re learning to nurture a healthy beard and it just translates to the hair as well. So, I don’t think that men are not into grooming, it just hasn’t been highest of priorities but that’s changing.
What sort of challenges do you face in explaining the importance of male grooming?
I wouldn’t say I faced that many challenges, most men that I encounter are already familiar with beard oil. Most men use something and the conversation I’m usually having with them, is explaining that we’re not just focusing on beard oil but how you have healthy hair, to begin with. Beard oil is really great at making it glossy, shiny and looks good. However, you also want to make sure that the hair itself is being well taken care of, is strong and healthy so that it can grow full. Once you look after the roots, then you use the beard oil to seal in moisture and add shine. It’s about educating on the best practices to use the products and best order to use the products.
The mango butter and black seed oil shampoo doesn’t have any sulphates or parabens. It’s a fully natural shampoo that has shea butter, coconut oil and our entire range contains black seed oil and mango butter. Black seed oil is one of those ingredients that has so many medicinal uses. When I first started research on black seed oil and all of the benefits, I knew it had to be across the entire range. For instance, black seed oil helps reduce inflammation, it’s good for hair growth, cleansing and so many other things.
When you use our shampoo, you won’t get a lot of foam if your hair has a lot of products in. That’s because you have product build up and your hair is attaching to the dirt. Once you wash it the first time and the hair is now relatively clean, go in with the second rinse and you’ll see that it lathers up more. Also, there are no sulphates in the shampoo and that’s what creates that big lather, which we didn’t want. We wanted to keep it very natural, especially with black hair, too much lather is taking away all of your hair’s natural oils as it’s kind of over-cleansing the hair. Your body then starts to produce more oil to compensate for the oils that you’ve lost. Therefore, we wanted to have something that cleans but isn’t chemical.
It’s not super common for men to use conditioner because they don’t know what it does. Conditioner improves the condition of the hair. Think of it as a rope. Imagine you have a big, thick rope and you drag that along the ground, and it gets wear and tear, the outer layers of the rope will begin to fray. What the conditioner does is smooths those outer layers down and makes it easier for you to comb through your beard, it detangles and improves the health of the hair.
The third step is the moisturiser. Now, with Afro hair because of the coils, sometimes our body’s natural oil [sebum] cannot always reach the end of the strands of the hair. So, our hair is very prone to drying out and breakage. So that’s why we have a simple moisturiser. We recommend that you shampoo and condition once or twice a week and you can use the moisturiser every day just before you comb it to soften the beard and to add hydration into the hair.
Oil is a sealant. The moisturiser is water-based, so once you’ve added the water source of moisture into the hair, then you put the oil on top to seal it all in. As afro hair is quite coily, the oil doesn’t always reach the end of the strands of the hair. Which means that the end of the strands of the hair is more prone to breakage, especially when you’re combing. So, once you’ve put the oil on, you’re basically nourishing your hair.
Tips for growing a beard
Primarily, it’s about your routine, consistency and maintenance. It’s no different from going to the gym. You go on day one and workout, you stand in the mirror and you don’t see the difference. But after a few months, you start to notice the difference because you’ve been keeping that routine and maintaining it and it’s the same with hair maintenance.
Can you tell us more about the new products that you’re creating? We are looking at skincare, something for ingrowing hair. Whilst we are in lockdown, I’m experimenting with pomades because a lot of men want to get the waves. I’m trying to develop a system on how men can get waves in their hair.
What’s the long-term vision for your brand?
I want Aaron Wallace to be like the first point of call when a black man needs something grooming wise. Whether it’s hair or skin or something for his body or he has eczema, or he wants a really nice aftershave. I want them to think of Aaron Wallace first in terms of black men’s grooming, but not just black men’s grooming quality, premium black men’s grooming. We want to create a range that is on par with anything that you’ll see in Selfridges or Liberty.
Why is Aaron Wallace just for black men?
We’re not even saying that you can’t use it if you’re a white person and you have particularly coarse or curly hair. By all means, use the products. However, when we develop our formulations and develop our products, we’re focusing on the needs of black men and the needs of people with Afro hair and skin. It’s quite obvious that Afro hair is different and therefore we all have different needs and requirements.
If you go into your local supermarket, most products will have no impact on Afro hair. So, rather complain we have a solution. We’re just trying to please the people who our product is for.
As a manufacturer, it’s difficult to get your products into supermarkets. Even though you explain to them that we’ve got a huge demographic that is underserved, it’s difficult to even get in there. But thankfully, now we have the Internet that removes some of the gatekeepers because you can reach your customer directly.
Recap on the Aaron Wallace black men’s grooming range
- Shampoo with the Aaron Wallace: Hydrating Afro Hair and Beard Shampoo.
- Then condition with the Aaron Wallace: Mango Butter & Black Seed Beard Conditioner.
- Follow up with the daily Aaron Wallace: Hair & Beard Moisturiser with Mango Butter & Blackseed Oil. To apply, use your fingers to get full coverage and rub it in. You’ll see an almost instant softness and it combs through a lot easier. You don’t need to use a lot, however, the amount does depend on how long, thick or how dry your hair is.
- Finish up with the Aaron Wallace: Hair & Beard Oil. You don’t need to use a lot of the oil as is very light. The hair and beard oil mimic your body’s natural sebum oil.
Any advice for beard growth promotion for men with less hair?
The entire range has black seed oil, which stimulates the growth of the hair. The beard oil contains caffeine which has been known to stimulate hair growth, especially for people that have a little bit of hair, to begin with. Also, brushing. So even if the hair is in its early stages, still brush it because you’re stimulating the follicles each time you brush. Use a comb if you feel that your beard is a little bit tangled. A combination of brushing and combing. Combing is to style, to arrange all those little hairs and get them into the direction or the style you want them to go in and then afterwards, you go in with the brush.
How often should someone brush their beard?
Brush daily but don’t use a hard brush because you’re damaging the skin and your face might start to feel sore after a while. I recommend a medium brush.
Do you recommend the micro needle roller?
I have heard of the micro needle roller, but I haven’t used one personally, so I can’t recommend it. From the research I’ve done, they are stimulating the follicles to start producing hair. However, be careful if you have sensitive skin, because you’re pricking the surface of the skin that may cause irritation. Also, if you have oily skin, you might lead to ingrowing hairs because those pins are going to open up the pores a little. If you’ve got oily skin, you seep into the pores and cause irritation and ingrowing hairs.
Thank you to Aaron and Lina, co-founders of Aaron Wallace black men’s grooming range. We’re still open and shipping orders even during lockdown so you can get the best grooming products for black men here.
"This is like the best male grooming range".
Black Men's Hair & Beard Grooming Products by Aaron Wallace
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